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Aforce AL33 alloy rims borrow carbon design for affordable, durable aero road wheels

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Aforce AL33 aero alloy road bike rims and wheels

Jan-Willem van Soest has been building wheels with carbon rims since he was a junior racer, first for himself, then his trainer, and then more and more friends and others started asking for them. So, he started a business out of it, building wheels that were laterally stiffer, stronger and lighter than what those folks could find off the shelf. Five years after lacing his first wheel, he’s launching a unique, fully proprietary lightweight alloy rim.

“I was looking for an aerodynamic solution similar to carbon rims, but wanted to make it light,” van Soest told us via Skype. “We couldn’t find something under 550g that had the strength and stiffness we wanted, which in my mind was too heavy. So, we switched materials, and that let us get the rim weight under 500g with a 465-475g target weight.”

It has a toroidal shape, with dimensions very similar to several popular brand’s carbon rims, is tubeless ready outta the gate and is built into laterally stiff wheels thanks to some unique builds. Interested?

Aforce AL33 aero alloy road bike rims and wheels

The wider rim design lets it match the lateral stiffness of carbon, but you retain the compliance of alloy so the ride and traction are potentially markedly improved over carbon. Van Soest says that becomes really evident in the high speed cornering found in cries and on the cobbles of Roubaix, where they were tested.

Aforce AL33 aero alloy road bike rims and wheels

The clincher is optimized for tubeless, and they worked with Schwalbe to ensure good rim/tire compatibility.

OK, but really, why alloy? Price is one, but they were also able to make weight comparable while giving you better wet weather braking performance than carbon. And to boost that even further, they’ll offer a full ceramic coated rim to further improve wet braking, especially compared to carbon. The ceramic coating has three benefits. First, is the improved braking by increasing friction. Second, it adds durability since the coating should last for up to three years, after which you’re then braking on the regular aluminum. Third, it uses carbon-compatible brake pads, so if you’re switching back and forth between alloy “training” and carbon “racing” wheels, you won’t have to change brake pads. Although, as far as they’re concerned, you’d be just fine doing both on the AL33s.

Aforce AL33 aero alloy road bike rims and wheels

The complete wheels will also be somewhat unique. They’re laced with a 2:1 pattern, similar to Campagnolo, but he found that just using 8:16 (non-drive:drive) spoke counts wasn’t enough to make it adequately stiff, so they used thicker 6.5g spokes on the non-drive side versus 4.5g spokes on the driveside. They also used an offset lacing pattern at the rim, letting the spoke angles slightly criss-cross each other. So, the driveside spokes hit the rim slightly on the non-drive side.

Aforce AL33 aero alloy road bike rims and wheels

For complete wheels, they’ll use internal nipples to keep the aerodynamics as clean as possible. That, and they say those spokes and nipples test 25% stronger than external ones. For aftermarket rim-only sales, they’ll offer rims prepped for both internal and external nipples so the builder can choose. They’ll have 20, 24, 28 and 32 spoke counts for traditional lacing, and for 2:1 radial lacing they’ll offer 24 and 27 hole rims.

Trued to 0.05mm and spoke tension within a 5% maximum difference, which they say is very precise and takes 2-3 hours per set to build. So, even though internal nipples make adjustments more time consuming, they say their race testers have only had to fix or true a wheel if they’ve wrecked on it.

Aforce AL33 aero alloy road bike rims and wheels

Rider weight limit is 100kg with a standard build. They’ll also offer heavy duty build that uses thicker spokes (and adds 80g to the wheelset) and bumps rider weight limit up to at least 125kg.

After initial prototyping in Holland, they found a rim manufacturing partner in Taiwan that was experienced working with 6069 alloy. That company provided input on the design, and they also had the best weld quality of any other vendor they looked at. Now, they’ve finalized the rim design and are ready to start production using a slightly modified, proprietary alloy called AF9X, so they’re turning to Kickstarter to fund the first run.

They’re looking to raise just shy of $20,000 and have several stretch goals that’ll allow them to do some extra things. They’ll offer it as plain ($135 retail) and with a ceramic coating ($160), but you can nab a pair at a deal in the crowdfunding campaign.

BelleBikes.com

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VeloCity
VeloCity
7 years ago

> you retain the compliance of alloy

Wheels are not vertically compliant to any significant amount.

Any claims that they are should set off the BS meter.

Dinger
7 years ago
Reply to  VeloCity

Wheels do have vertical compliance. It’s a flaw that requires wheels built with lower spoke counts to use higher spoke tension and thread locking solutions (preps, nipples with nylon inserts) to prevent nipples from loosening when spokes reach zero-tension.

Wheels flex quite a bit. If they didn’t, spokes wouldn’t break, rims wouldn’t crack at the spoke holes. Both happen because of fatigue caused by flex.

VeloKitty
VeloKitty
7 years ago
Reply to  Dinger

> Wheels flex quite a bit. If they didn’t, spokes wouldn’t break

Sorry, your reasoning is incorrect. Suppose an infinitely stiff rim. The spokes would still get stressed and de-stressed.as the wheel rotates.

mateo
mateo
7 years ago
Reply to  VeloCity
VeloKitty
VeloKitty
7 years ago
Reply to  mateo

Ummmm… the video proves my point. The rim does not flex a noticeable amount (until the metal form hits it.)

Jose
Jose
7 years ago

Reminds me of John Neugent wheels, excited to see how these perform. Stoked to see wider rims gain such steadily popularity.

Jim E.
Jim E.
7 years ago

These sound sweet! Glad someone is still pushing alloy rim design as I frickin’ hate carbon rim brake wheels. Curious how they’ll compare to Velocity Quills or Kinlin XR31T.

DB
DB
7 years ago
Reply to  Jim E.

Look pretty similar to the Velocities, critical difference being Quills are only 24.5mm deep but about 50 grams lighter (assuming claimed weights). I have a set and absolutely love them. I imagine these AL33s will be a hair more aero, but can’t see it being anything you’d notice on except on a clock or would negate from holding your head a few degrees higher.

I got the Quills to replace my Zipp 101s (warranty axle, sold the replacements). The 101 rims were pretty similar to these AL33s in dimensions, however they were heavy at 550 grams. AL33s best of both worlds? However, a direct comparison between the 101s and the Quills, the Quills blow them out of the water. Much, much more responsive, hubs are light years better (WI T11s), and even at sustained 25 mph+ I don’t notice any difference in aero between the two. Though both are/were certainly an aero upgrade from the box section beaters I have.

Personally I think the difference in aero gains between these and the Quills are mostly going to be in your head and on a stop watch (which in a TT or Tri setting you could make an argument for). Also, unless you’re already have on a skin suit, aero helmet, dialed fit, and shaving your legs, there’s better and cheaper places to look first then your wheels.

That being said, these do look sweet. If I was in the market right now, I’d seriously consider them.

Andrew
Andrew
7 years ago

I’m intrigued….. only problem is I wanted to buy wheels in August and I’d have to wait for these until November! :S

postophetero
postophetero
7 years ago

Great idea, I love my H+ Son rims but their lack of tubeless compatibility is a weakness.
This ‘kid’ seems quite professional and I wish him and his company great success.

VeloCity
VeloCity
7 years ago

Despite my negative comment, these are interesting.

But a lot of calipers can’t handle a rim that wide. And the ceramic coating will wear off if you use normal pads? It seems like these will be better suited to disc brakes.

If you want something now, DT Swiss has their RR 511 rim.

Robin
Robin
7 years ago
Reply to  VeloCity

A good point about brakes. What brakes would be compatible with this rim: Shimano, SRAM, Campy?

Jan-Willem van Soest
7 years ago
Reply to  Robin

All modern brakes from the big 3 should be fine. Let’s say the 11 speed Era.

If you have older parts, you can just see how wide you can get them. Yesterday I installed a carbon wheel (similar width) at a quite old campa Groupe and it fitted fine.

Jan-Willem van Soest
7 years ago

Thanks for the compliments,
If there are any questions i’ll be glad to answer them here.

Tom
Tom
7 years ago

looks very similar to the Flow rim. I have some skepticism about ability of a rim that big and relatively light to resist spoke hole cracking. Good thing they are building with internal nipples on that account. Also skeptical about their claims of better compliance than carbon.

Bikemark
Bikemark
7 years ago

Nice specs.

“They’re laced with a 2:1 pattern, similar to Campagnolo, but he found that just using 8:16 (non-drive:drive) spoke counts wasn’t enough to make it adequately stiff, so they used thicker 6.5g spokes on the non-drive side versus 4.5g spokes on the driveside.”

Yes, this is true of that lacing pattern. So if 8 spokes that are 50% heavier weigh about the same as 12 CX-Ray spokes, then why not just build a conventional 24H rear wheel?

traildog
traildog
7 years ago
Reply to  Bikemark

@Bikemark Because the tension remains balanced with the 2:1 pattern on a highly dished hub.

Bikemark
Bikemark
7 years ago
Reply to  traildog

And even tensioning does what? Does the wheel stay truer longer? Does the rim live longer? Are spokes less prone to failure? Is the wheel laterally stiffer?

Jan-Willem van Soest
7 years ago
Reply to  Bikemark

With traditional lacing (1:1) spoke tension at the drive side is 2 to 2.5 times higher compared to the non drive side.

It doesn’t really make a huge difference if a wheel is tensioned at 100kgf or 110 kgf. But if tension drops below a certain point, it gets fully distressed when used. Meaning more metal fatigue.

Giving you a situation where at the non drive side (opposite to cassette) the tension is too low, and at the drive side a tension which is at the upper limit, or too high. Increasing risk of cracking the rim (if tension is too high, wich happens faster in 1:1 rear wheels to get nds side tension up), failing nipples.

In my opinion the most ideal solution would be having asymmetric hubs, (just add 2cm at the drive side. But you would have to redesign the full bike for that.

Using a 2:1 lacing pattern, evens out tension, drilling spoke holes 2mm offset (criss-cross) increase spoke angle a little and also makes tension balance even better (wich is good for lateral stiffness and comfort) and making the spokes at the non-drive-side thicker. Adds stiffness here to compensate for only 8 spokes at this side.

Jan-Willem van Soest
7 years ago

@tom.

One of the major benefits of this material we use, it is less prone to cracking, Also the thickness at the nipple hole is 2,1mm, as some competitors go back to 1,8mm.

External nipple holes are therefore no problem, However our philosophy is removing less material on stressed parts (nipple holes) is always the better solution. Especially on clincher/tubeless rims were removing a tire is an easy job.

I think it is best to compare to different spokes, Some lightweight spoke are more fatigue resistance than heavier counterparts. because they were butted, rolled etc. And the interesting thing about metal is that it gets stronger when working on it.

This involves the alloy used, but also the heat treatment the rims receive, Also design optimisation is crucial.

Greg
Greg
7 years ago

internal nipples with tape sealed rims is a bummer. Provide a snap-in tubeless rim strip and the complaint is mooted.
Regarding the rim shape, someone not too long ago tried to offer an aluminum, full toroidal (including the machined brake track) rim. It was the Zipp 101. Most cracked. SRAM went through three vendors over the course of production, trying to get the issues sorted. The rims were significantly heavier than these, and weights fluctuated a lot. 530-580g.
Good luck.

goridebikes
goridebikes
7 years ago

@Bikemark not sure if trolling or not.. “And even tensioning does what? Does the wheel stay truer longer? Does the rim live longer? Are spokes less prone to failure? Is the wheel laterally stiffer?”

Tension above a certain point has no relevance to stiffness – but a balance certainly prolongs life of the wheel, durability (true longer), etc…

So yeah the 2:1 is a superior system sofar as it balances the tension between the two sides of the wheel.

Perhaps you could argue that it loads the rim unevenly or some other such, but I’d need to see lots of science..

I’m not stoked on this product, as I think alloy and aero have no place together in wheelsets, and find the different spoke gauges a major service inconvenience… but… 2:1 lacing is legit.

Jan-Willem van Soest
7 years ago
Reply to  goridebikes

Please note that spokes might have a different profile and different stiffness in the middle section, they use the same wire Tap. So standard inverted nipples will always fit.

Also we offer 6 spare spokes for each wheel (2 front/2ds/2nds)

Alex - Hermes Sport
7 years ago

This looks like a really interesting, well-thought-out product. Well done! I’d be interested to hear how you machine those angled brake tracks.

Jan-Willem van Soest
7 years ago

Brake tracks are CNC machined, quite some test rims were needed to get it aligned perfectly, as we did want the smoothest possible transition

Dex
Dex
7 years ago

How durable is the ceramic brake surface? My friend has a pair of Mavic wheels with ceramic coating, which are still susceptible to wear.

Jan-Willem van Soest
7 years ago
Reply to  Dex

The Ceramic coating is really durable, nothing like an anodized wheel. However it is a coating, and will wear eventually, Keeping the brake-track clean and use optimized included brakepads will help a lot.

Martijn
Martijn
7 years ago

I own a pair of these. After just 900km, of which 120km in december 16 and 136 km in januari 17 the ceramic coating on one of the rims is more or less gone.Huge dissappointment. Normal wear says Aforce. No guarantee. Durable? I beg to differ. I would think twice.

Birdman
Birdman
7 years ago

Pledged! Hope you guys hit your goal so I can get my rims 🙂

No idea on how to communicate drilling option though.

Jan-Willem van Soest
7 years ago
Reply to  Birdman

Thanks for your pledge, it is looking good so far.

We will contact everyone after campaign ends to ask for drilling options. don’t worry.

Miro
Miro
7 years ago

I have I great project wich I wonna do with someone who is ‘crazy’ just like me about the wheel building. This isn’t seen anywhere else and I think that we could do it together.

Birdman
Birdman
7 years ago

Just received the rims. The actual weight is slightly disappointing… 501g for 24 holes and 499g for 28 holes. The ceramic coating looks fantastic though!

VeloKitty
VeloKitty
7 years ago

> Wheels flex quite a bit. If they didn’t, spokes wouldn’t break

Sorry, but that’s incorrect. Suppose an infinitely stiff rim. The spokes would still get stressed and de-stressed.as the wheel rotates.

millcitycycle
6 years ago

I received a pair of these (ceramic) and built them up per the heavy rider specs. I am a wheel builder. Put them up for sale, but they wound up on my own bike. They are awesome. They have a unique ride quality and characteristics, which has to be experienced. I’m a believer. I hope more people get to try these.
@customwheelsmpls

Guy
Guy
6 years ago

dont send them any money Jan will promise he has sent them (two lots now) and they never arrive. cannot even give a tracking number for the package

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