In the heart of cyclocross season now, we’ve spent months dreaming of mud, but mostly riding on hardpack. As colder, wetter weather looms for the rest of the CX season, lets look at the standouts we are racing on now. At the top of that list are some lightweight carbon tubulars from Duke Racing Wheels. With a mid-depth, blunt-nosed & respectably wide asymmetric rim profile, the Duke Baccara 35T Disc wheels have delivered a solid platform in our hunt for ultra low pressure grip.
Duke Baccara 35T Disc carbon cyclocross tubular rims & wheels
As much as tubeless has dominated mountain biking, and even road stalwarts are finally coming around to tubeless, when you look to the acme of cyclocross racing, tubulars continue to dominate. We’ve spoken with pros, pro mechanics, and leading tubeless tire & wheel manufacturers, and elite-level CX tubeless is indeed getting closer to reality. But for now, when we are talking about running tire pressures at or under 20psi/1.4bar, nothing compares to the confidence and grip you can eke out of a supple tubular cross tire securely glued onto a high quality rim.
So after seeing Duke’s French built wheels on a number of pro bikes, and their light carbon rims hanging in some of our most trusted wheel builders’ workshops, we reached out to see about testing the Baccara tubulars. Designed for everything from road racing to cyclocross, Duke’s Baccara carbon rims are offered in three main variants – the extra light tube type Baccara C SLS clinchers, the tubeless clincher Baccara C, and the tubular Baccara T. Then each interface type is available in rim brake or disc brake specific versions, and there are six different depth profiles from 25-88mm deep rims.
To build lightweight but durable wheels primarily for cyclocross racing, we opted to test the 35mm deep, disc brake tubulars. And to get a sense for how the rims would work out for a wide range of crossers, we got a pair of loose rims to lace up on our own. Plus, Duke also sent us a set of complete Baccara 35T Disc wheels hand-built in their workshop.
Duke Baccara 35T Disc – Tech details & Actual weights
The Baccara 35T Disc uses an asymmetric rim shape, with both more material and spoke holes offset 2.3mm from the centerline to deliver more even spoke tension. Rim brake versions use a separate symmetric front rim. But disc wheels get offset away from the cassette in the rear, and away from the rotor up front. The 35T Disc is 35mm deep overall. It is 25.5mm wide at the large radius tire bed, well suited for 28-35mm tires, with a max rim width of 26.3mm about midway through their profile.
The blunt, U-shaped profile seems to be designed to offer stable aerodynamics. And we haven’t experienced any negative performance riding in strong winds. At only 35mm deep they don’t feel like they cut through the wind any better or worse than other similar mid depth wheels, but that U-shape might come more in handy if you opt for the deeper versions in the Baccara family.
The 3k carbon weave Baccara 35T Disc rims retail for 330€ a piece, and have a claimed weight of 350g per rim. Our test samples clocked in a tad heavier at 358-361g. Disc brake rims are available individually with 24 or 28 spoke drilling (ours were 28 hole) or down to 20 hole for rim brake versions.
Duke offers a number of different complete wheel builds for the Baccara 35T Disc. We picked DT Swiss 350 hubs for their modular axle & freehub options, and of course their unquestioned durability. We said we would race cross with them, so Duke built the wheelset up with a mix of 24 straight pull Sapim CX-Ray & CX-Sprint spokes, then tied & soldered them for a bit of classic style, added durability & extra stiffness. With DT 350 Centerlock hubs, the complete wheelset retails from 1224€, including VAT.
The final Duke Baccara 35T Disc wheelset with DT 350s weighed in at 614g up front and 759g out back. Not bad for a respectably priced carbon tubular cyclocross wheelset at a real weight of 1373g complete, and ready to get beaten up off-road.
Duke Racing Wheels are available from a number of independent bike shops and through many custom wheel builders. Or you can order most of their built-to-order wheelsets and their own rims consumer direct from their parent company JP Racing Bike 1.
Duke designs and owns all of their own molds, and has both their alloy and all carbon rims contract manufactured exclusively for them in Asia. All Wheel building is then completed in-house in France.
Duke Baccara 35T Disc rims & wheels – First Impressions
Our first impression with the individual Duke Baccara 35T Disc rims was that they were round and true, and laced up easily into our own wheelset. Spoke holes are drilled cleanly and straight (not aligned in the direction of spoke pull), and are just oversized enough to work smoothly allowing our DT nipples to align nicely.
The wheelset built by Duke also had even spoke tension and was both round & true out of the box. I really appreciated the tied spokes which were unexpected. Whether or not it offers true performance benefits, it certainly illustrates an attention to detail & craftsmanship. Duke also provides one each of all spoke lengths for replacement, plus a certificate to track who built them in their workshop in northwest France.
The tire bed on the Duke Baccara 35T Disc rims seemed a great fit for both 33mm regulation cross tubulars, as well as wider road tubs like the 30mm Strada Biancas. 28mm tubulars would likely work well too. But smaller 25 or 23mm tires would probably not provide a good gluing interface, and anything larger than 35mm will need a bit more build up in the center of the bed.
Duke Baccara 35T Disc wheels – Riding & Racing Cross Review
Riding the Baccara 35T Disc wheels, we’ve had noting but excellent experience. The ride feel of trail riding on silk cyclocross tubulars is hard to beat. It isn’t for the faint of heart. (You have to be prepared to scrape a tire off and fit a replacement on with cold, muddy hands, and be willing to possibly eat the cost of a 100€ tire, if it comes to that.)
But the ride is excellent between 30-40psi, still with amazing grip. And if you are careful where you ride, tubulars are very resistant to regular pinch / snake bite flats. In fact, I bashed these poor carbon rims on a number of sharp-edged roots and rocks while riding mountain bike trails, routinely feeling that bottom out. And close to a year later there was no evidence of any rim damage (or any flat tires) when I pulled the tires off to glue new rubber on this CX season.
On the cross course, the Baccara performance was even more obvious. All those short fast race accelerations and up & downs wear on your quickly. So I really appreciated the lightweight of the Duke tubulars. There are a number of options for lighter tubulars. But at this width, with disc brakes, this cost, and as durable as these have fared, not much matches the Baccaras of CX tubular value.
Around 25psi for my first race outing on the wheels on mostly hardpack surfaces with a bit of soft sand, I could rail hard turns with the stiff wheels tracking incredibly well.
Running <20psi in soft sand and slick mud, the tires were able to deform to find grip, but the wheels still didn’t waver and were easy to control in deep ruts. Generally I practiced my basic philosophy of lowering tire pressure until I felt the rim at least 2 or 3 times per lap. In doing so I clawed as much grip as possible in a variety of cross racing conditions, yet I haven’t yet pinch flatted and the wheels look great (outside of a few minor, superficial cosmetic scratches.)
Duke Baccara 35T Disc – Crossing over back to the road
We wanted to test the Duke Baccara wheels for cross racing first, but even if you are a super serious cyclocrosser, CX season only lasts a few months. That doesn’t make it easy to justify buying carbon tubulars, even if they are reasonably priced (for light carbon) like these. So since the Baccara family of rims is already intended for road riding, we glued up a set of 30mm road tires as well.
With a wide, blunt-nosed aero profile and a versatile 35mm depth, the Duke Baccara 35T Disc wheels cross smoothly over to the (all-)road as well.
I started just using them as faster wheels on the cross bike to put in more kilometers for training and just for fun (note to self: the Stevens Super Prestige may be more comfortable this year, but it is still a stiff cyclocross race bike.) I later swapped them over to my personal Festka road bike that will fit 35s in a pinch, and was much happier. While I noticed lateral stiffness racing cross, overall stiffness was more apparent on the road.
High tire pressures (north of 120psi) yielded a bouncy ride on rough roads, but again this is where wide high-performance all-road (or rather Classics) tubulars shine. Dialing pressure down between 70-80psi in silk Challenge Strada Bianca tubulars was like riding on a fast cloud – comfy over the cobbles and washboard dirt roads, yet fast rolling on the tarmac.
The carbon Duke Baccara 35T Disc wheels have proved to be solid all-rounders. I’m not overly interested in wind tunnel optimized aero gains for the type of mixed surface, all-road riding I do for fun most of the time (but the blunt shape of the Baccaras probably do pretty well.) Yet the Baccara 35 tubulars have turned out to be versatile for both cyclocross racing and for modern mixed-surface road riding, and reinvigorated me to reach for tubulars for more rides year-round.