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Rolf Prima ECX Tubular Cyclocross Wheelset Review

Rolf Prima ECX Tubular Wheels Logo
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Rolf Prima ECX Tubular Wheels Logo

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 ECX Tubular Cyclocross Wheelset

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.

Rolf Prima ECX Tubular Wheels Front Hub

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.

Rolf Prima ECX Tubular Wheels Rear Quick Release

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.

Rolf Prima ECX Tubular Wheels Rear Hub

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.

Rolf Prima ECX Tubular Wheels Spokes

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.

 

Full Specs:

Wheel size: 700c 

Cost: $599

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

Hubset: TdF2.4

Freehub: forged aluminum – Shimano or SRAM

Category: Cyclocross

 

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10 Comments
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Taras
11 years ago

Seriously? Commuting on fast-wearing tubular knobbies? With internal nipples?

I seriously doubt somebody would have enough money+time to blow on reglueing tubulars every time they wear out, that’s if you don’t get a flat or hit a nasty pothole first. Bike reviews are generally disappointing, but this must be the least applicable one I’ve seen in a while.

Uri
Uri
11 years ago

The internal nipples are a deal breaker for me on wheels designed for cx. I like my Williams.

h2ofuel
h2ofuel
11 years ago

@Taras
I’m guessing that you decided to pick a random sentence from the review and write what you thought about it, without reading the rest?

Cory
Cory
11 years ago

Seriously though, removing a cross tubular to true the wheel is maybe acceptable on a super-light or carbon wheelset, but certainly not reasonable on a 1600g+ aluminum rim.
It doesn’t really make sense why Rolf would build in such a limitation.

Jeff
Jeff
11 years ago

I love these reviews. To you dopes who (I can always count on) take the time to complain about how it was written, or the product itself on every freaking article. STFU already.

dangit
dangit
11 years ago

Cool, a review by a guy who has little to no cx experience, or any sort of tubular experience, diddnt even have to glue them his self (rim bed glue surface is a very important factor when considering sew ups) got free wheels to commute on.
Busch league. Does the reviewer even understand why tubulars are preferred by those who race cx? So much lack of objective. So incredibly mis-reviewed, this product.

Uri
Uri
11 years ago

@Jeff

So are you saying you disagree with the criticism of the internal nipples on these tubular wheels designed for cross, or the concept of criticism itself?

schmoodle
schmoodle
9 years ago

I put about 50miles on a set of ECX tubulars. Rolled a tire in the first lap of the first season. Not high speed but in a bumpy corner. Might’ve been the glue job. But read on. Raced again yesterday. The wheels felt a little squirrelly during warmup, but I thought it was my Challenge Grifo XS file tread. I’m used to more tread and stiffer casings (Tufos). During the first lap, I couldn’t hold a line off-camber. The rear wheel felt like it wanted to taco or veer off randomly every time I tried to pedal hard. I switched to my B bike and rode as hard as I wanted/could to the finish.

After the race, I checked the glue. No issues. BUT… I can flex the rim laterally by hand about 1.5 inches! With no real effort!! I don’t know wheels but I’ve never ridden anything so sloppy or disappointing.

I weigh 185lbs. I’m a mid to front-mid pack Cat4 racer. Not overly powerful, but not a wimp. I ride normal spoked wheels without issue. These fancy Rolfs just don’t measure up. I hope they have a solution. Gotta strip the tires if they’ll warranty them. Gotta strip the tires if my LBS will even try to tension the spokes. Not cool to start the season with equipment trouble.

schmoodle
schmoodle
9 years ago

Well, I’ll be jiggered. Cancel my above criticism of the ECX tubular. My real issue was tire pressure, not the wheel design or build.

I took the wheel off, laid it on the ground, grabbed the rim and leaned hard. My full body weight couldn’t flex it! I think the wheel may be stiff enough that I notice flex in my rear triangle, which I didn’t notice before. I need a swank carbon frame to really test this out.

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