Karbon Speed is a new company, formed in 2012, but their founders are hardly freshmen in the industry. Two of the three main guys (Brian and Glen) also own XTerra wetsuits, the other (Justin) started his career with Oakley.
As friends and triathletes, they were frustrated by the cost of aero wheels and thought there had to be a more efficient way to get quality carbon fiber wheels. They combined their manufacturing experience and triathlon industry knowledge and started Karbon Speed. Development started in fall 2011, and the company went live with products on September 5, 2012.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, they took existing research on aerodynamics and braking surfaces and looked at how to bring all that to riders for a better price. That said, they’re using their own molds, not just catalog items. The rim profile was designed by an aerospace engineering firm with experience in high tolerance carbon fiber designs intended for high speed production.
The rims are made of Toray T-700 carbon fiber and stick with a slightly modified V-shape. They did give it a bit of shaping at the leading edge and widen the rear a bit to add a bit of crosswind stability. Aero test data is available on their website, along with plenty of test videos.
Two depths are available, 50mm and 88mm. Both are clincher and have 21mm widths.
The brake track has a bonded on basalt surface. Basalt is a naturally occurring inorganic compound that comes from volcanoes and has really good heat dissipation. They mix it into the resin and carbon at the braking surface, which helps the rims handle much greater heat without having to add an alloy braking surface.
The wheels use Novatec hubs and 20/24 bladed spokes. Claimed wheel weights are 708g (front) and 870g (rear) for the 50’s and 874g and 1018g for the 88’s. They’re available as single wheels or sets, and you can mix and match the sets. Front and rear combos are $2,200 including shipping directly to your door. Wheels are rated for riders up to 230 pounds, though they say they’ve tested with heavier riders (250lb) with no issues.
“We’ve taken a lot of time to develop our wheel,” says co-founder Justin Li. “But convincing the market that our products are quality even though they’re made overseas isn’t isn’t something we’re going to fight with words. We believe in our products and are willing to put our money where our mouth is.”
Instead, they’re offering a trade in program where you can send in select models of Zipp, HED, Reynolds, ENVE or Mad Fiber wheels. It’s a straight up trade, you only cover the cost of shipping your wheels to them, and the new Karbon Speed wheels are yours to keep. The program will run
indefinitely through the end of 2012, and the point is to get people on the wheels and just try them. They’re hoping this proves that the wheels are just as good and just as fast as the bigger name brands. Trade in form is here.