I have always been attracted to cyclocross, but never had the chance to own a proper ‘cross bike. Well, that changed this season as I was able to snag a nice secondhand Cannondale CAAD9 X. The only issue, it was rolling on some super heavy Fulcrum 8 wheels. So when Rolf Prima offered up a set of their new ECX tubulars for review, I jumped at the chance.
The kind folks over at Rolf were nice enough to send the wheels with a set of Challenge Fango tubulars already glued up. I was very happy about this, as this is my first time riding a tubular of any kind. The tires have proven to be good in a variety of different conditions, but to see how the wheels perform you’re going to have to click through.
Rolf Prima is marketing the ECX tubular wheelset as a cost effective do-it-all wheelset for your ‘cross needs. It’s constructed using a 30mm deep, 22m wide single cavity alloy rim. The brake surface is CNC machined. Weight is listed at 1620g for the tubular set. Should you go with the clincher version that gets bumped to 1660g. The clincher version comes with reinforced rim tape installed, and both versions come with steel quick releases.
I have always been a rider who prefers the 32 hole, 3 cross set up on my wheels. Until recently, the majority of my riding was commuting. My first experience with lower spoke count wheels was with Rolf Prima’s P-Town wheels set on my single speed. After commuting on that wheelset last winter with no issues (and loving the wheels), my expectations of the ECX’s were high.
Setup out of the box was fairly straight forward. Pop a cassette on, then mount the wheels on the bike. The only slight hiccup was that I had to adjust the brakes out a bit more since the rim is wider that what came off the bike.
The ECX’s roll smooth on White Industries manufactured hubs. Update: This wheelset actually uses a Rolf Prima propriety hub that is not made by White Industries. This has been a shorter review period, and as expected, I have not had to preform any maintenance on the hubs. While the wheels aren’t in the super light category, they spin up fairly quick. The performance difference between these (1620g claimed) versus the Fulcrum 8’s (1800g+) was very noticeable. Off road these wheels feel fast, and riding tubulars over a very rocky trail was much more enjoyable that my old set up. In the mud I was able to play with air pressures, and once I found the right amount for the terrain, the wheel / tire combo worked well in the mud too. Breaking performance was solid on the machined sidewalls using salmon colored Kool-Stop pads.
As the weather has taken a turn for the worst, I decided to try commuting on my cross bike for a few days as well. On the road the wheels work just as well. The ECX’s feel plenty stiff both on and off road, and I would have no problem switching these wheels over to my road bike come the warmer weather.
I did not have to true the wheels out of the box. And, since Rolf Prima seems to do a stellar job with quality control, I didn’t even have any pinging or noises from them the on the first ride. That said, if you do have to true the wheels, you will be taking off the tire to get at the nipple, then re-gluing it. The bright side is that the higher tension paired spoke design shouldn’t need truing very often.
Brook over at Rolf Prima sent us this comment the other day when asked what wheels would work for heavier riders:
When it comes to a wheel there are many factors to consider than just the spoke count. With our paired spoke technology we are able to built up to three times the tension in our spokes than a traditionally laced wheel. What this means is as the wheel rotates and comes in contact with the ground, each spoke is going from full tension to less or even a negative tension number, causing stress on the spoke, rim and hub flange. If a wheel starts with higher tensions you do not stress these parts as much in the fluctuation of tension as the rim rotates. Heavier riders then can benefit from our higher tensions as well.
I, myself am a heavier rider at about 200lbs. These wheels have held up fine underneath me. Based on the time that I have had with the, I would expect they would hold up over the long haul just fine. The ECX’s feel like a quality product.
So, did the ECX wheels live up to my high expectations. Yes. These wheels make a good all-rounder option for those on a budget. They feel like a highend wheelset at a budget wheelset price point, making them a darn good value. If you are going to own one wheelset for ‘cross, give the Rolf Prima ECX serious consideration. If you are truly going to own one ‘cross wheelset however, you may want the clincher. The ECX would also make a great backup wheelset to keep in the pits should you already have something a bit nicer.
|Wheel size: 700c
Weight: Clincher 1660gm set [700gm/960gm]
Weight: Tubular 1620gm set [680gm/940gm]
Spoke count: bladed 16F/20R
Rim: 30mm deep alloy tubular or 31mm deep alloy clincher
Freehub: forged aluminum – Shimano or SRAM