If you ask around the pits, tubulars are still considered the best way to go if you’re racing cross. Tubeless is catching up, but tubulars are tried and true (if a little pricey and more labor intensive to change tires). Even though the basic tubular concept hasn’t changed much in years, tubular wheels are benefitting from similar improvements to those of their clincher counter parts.
Xentis wheels have already proven to be durable and include a great ride, but the last wheelset we tested had room for improvement. Specifically rim width and thru axle compatibility. We’re happy to report that the new Squad 4.2 Ultrawide Disc tubulars deliver on all fronts…
True to their name, for a tubular the Squad 4.2 rim is pretty wide. Officially, the rim measures 24.6mm wide at the outside of the rim (what would be a rim brake track) and 42mm deep. That gives tubular tires an excellent purchase and additional hold from the glue (or tape) for running low pressures. Xentis is still using their Active Turbulator lip design which is said to improve aerodynamics.
The rim also stays in tradition of using their built-in computer magnets, rubber grommets around the valves (no rattling, or tape needed!), and personalized wheel specs written right on the rim.
If there’s one bummer about the wheel design it would be the hidden spoke nipples. While possibly better for aerodynamics, when the tire is glued to the rim it makes it quite difficult to true the wheel if necessary. Fortunately, for the duration of the test zero adjustments were needed and the likely hood of a stiff carbon wheel going out of true is pretty slim so this may not be a deal breaker.
Rather than use traditional gluing methods, for this review we had a chance to use the new Carogna tape from Effetto Mariposa. Compared to glue, the tape sounds promising – universal use, super easy set up, and excellent performance.
Worth a shot.
We were given a sample of the 25mm Carogna M tape which meant that it was too wide for the 23mm-ish internal width of the tubular channel. That meant it had to be trimmed with a very sharp razor blade. It was a bit time-consuming, but not particularly hard. On installation, the tape made good on all promises – simply clean the rim, install the tape like you would a tubeless ready rim tape, install the inflated tubular, center, and then remove the red liner. You do have to be careful removing the red liner as ours wanted to split. Fortunately the instructions say to leave the tail of both ends hanging out which provides a second option should it rip.
Following the recommended 24 hour wait time, the tires were at least as solid as your average glue job.
One of the biggest drawbacks to the Xentis Squad 4.2 disc clinchers we recently reviewed was the lack of thru axle support on the hubs. Fortunately the tubular wheels include both standard quick release and 142×12 and 15×100 thru axle support. Laced with 28 straight pull bladed spokes front and rear, the 6 bolt disc hubs also offer a ceramic bearing upgrade for another $200. The non-disc version of the wheels sees 20/24 spokes.
Inside the well sealed hub is a 3 pawl free hub with a 32t ratchet ring which is easily accessed for tool free maintenance. Each wheelset ships with both the QR end caps (142×12/15×100 end caps sold separately), Ti QR skewers, and a padded double wheelbag. Wheels are available with Shimano/SRAM 10/11, SRAM XD, or Campagnolo free hub bodies and in 25 and 58mm depths as well.
On the scale without skewers, the wheels top out at 636g for the front and 748g for the rear making for a 1,384g wheelset. Not too shabby for a deep, disc brake wheelset.
Once Milwaukee Bicycle Co. offered to send their Mettle for review (more on that soon), it was an instant candidate for a wheel upgrade. The review build included a respectable aluminum clincher wheelset, but the addition of the Xentis Squad 4.2s was transformative. The bike handles well to begin with, but slap on a pair of wheels that carry the stiffness and weight of the Squads, and you have an instant octane boost.
While I was still unable to race due to my recent injury, I set up my friend Robert from Velofix Cincy to race the Milwaukee/Xentis combo for the last local race of the season. Robert just started racing this season, but the combination of his mountain bike skills and the performance of the bike/wheels/tubulars equalled his first win. On a somewhat technical course it was the tight corners and tech sections where Robert would make up ground without any issue from the tires, wheels, or tubular tape during hard cornering. Before and after the race we took turns making deliberately stupid sharp turns, just trying to make the tires roll without success. Also, in spite of finding the rim on roots a few times when running super low pressures, the rims have held up beautifully.
These wheels certainly seem to have a race worthy performance set, and deliver a ride that would compete with just about any wheelset on the market. The only drawback? The price of
$2,799 $2,199 (Stage Race Distribution just let us know that the price has dropped from when we first saw them at Sea Otter to $2,199) will be a tough-ish pill to swallow for many, but if you appreciate the finer things with a price-be-damned attitude, the Xentis Squad 4.2 Ultrawide Disc Tubulars are an excellent choice.