The Lapierre Audacio road bike that we are using as a demo bike comes with entry level Shimano R500 wheels, whilst these are fine I wanted some better wheels to really bring out the ride quality of the frame . Specifically I wanted something stiffer and lighter that would transfer power better to the road. I did a bit of research and Velocity make some pretty interesting rims, having made a name for themselves in the fixie scene. Additionally many wheel builders now offer the Velocity A23 rim as a serious upgrade for cornering grip and cushioned long distance riding – more on this later. The hubs I had decided on were to be Hope as they’re made in the UK, bombproof and engage power input brilliantly thanks to their 4 pawl 24 tooth engagement mechanism. They also come in some nice colours!
The Velocity A23 rim is pretty different to most road rims out there. It is, as the name suggests, 23mm wide between the rim walls, as opposed to the standard 19mm internal width on most road rims. The concept behind this is that most 19mm road rims ‘pinch’ the tyre in at the bead so it bulges at the sides making the top of the tyre ‘flat’. This means more tyre is in contact with the road in a straight line and less when cornering – the worst of all worlds. Ideally you need ‘less’ tyre in contact on a straight line and more when cornering. So the A23’s are supposed to smooth the ride, run at a slightly lower pressure and make cornering really grippy. The A23’s have been said to be a ‘clinchular’ in that they ride more like a tubular tyre, which are rounder than a traditional tyre with a tube, and they therefore reduce road buzz and increase long distance comfort.
I’ve ridden the wheels I built up for a couple of weeks now and have to say the ride improvement was evident from the first few meters. They feel about a million times smoother than the R500s and they seem to ‘glide’ especially uphill maybe thanks to the super smooth Hope stainless steel cartridge bearings. Its over a longer distance that they really come good. WIth the slightly lower pressure (90psi) and 25mm wide Conti Ultragatorskins the road buzz is just not evident – even over potholes they seem better! One big improvement over the R500s is that when standing up pedalling uphill the rim does not rub against the brake blocks, so they are a lot stiffer than the old wheels.