Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Alex A Class ALX300 wheels review

When you think of bulletproof "training wheels" what do you think of (other than your first bicycle of course)? 32 spokes, box section rim, handbuilt, Campy hubs. That's exactly what I specified when I built up my first racing bike. They cost me over $300. Unfortunately, they ended up being not so bulletproof, in addition to being heavy. After multiple truings of the rear wheel, broken spokes, and warnings that the wheel probably won't stay true very long (indeed, it wasn't even true when they were done with it!), I decided it was time to get some new wheels. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on training wheels, and it would certainly be nice to have something lighter! Trouble is, it's hard to find Campy wheels on the low end. Fortunately, I found some cheap Campy compatible wheels from Alex's complete wheel division A Class. I got them from Greenfish Sports for the paltry sum of $125. This is amazingly cheap. Some online reviews were not particularly complimentary, but since I'm lighter than the posted weights of the riders posting these reviews, and given the price, I thought I'd take a chance.

So far these wheels have seen a lot of miles in nasty spring training conditions. They've been ridden for over a week straight on bone-rattling Texas chipseal for 70 miles a day, and on salt and chemical covered potholed Minnesota winter/spring roads. In other words, I've given them a good break-in period.

The wheels are paired-spoke, 24/28, 750g/1020g, sealed bearing 7075 aluminum hubs. This is pretty light, especially with that many spokes (which made me feel better about their durability). I think they're attractive wheels, with the paired spokes and the dark gray anodizing. Most importantly, though, they've stayed true this whole time, and I've had no issues so far. I've even crashed and bent the derailleur hanger a smidge, causing a bit of pinging in the lowest gear from the derailleur cage bumping the spokes a bit. Still no issues. These are not racing wheels of course - they flex a bit out of the saddle, and are pretty forgiving during long days in the saddle. Pretty much what you'd want in a training wheel anyway.

On the negative side, the wheels did not include the Campy lockring. Lockrings are supposed to come with the hubs in the Campy world, and these did not. Requests from the vendor and A Class have resulted in nothing but an unfulfilled promise to send one. The box section rims and round spokes are not very aero. Also, according to reviews I've read, if you're a heavier rider, you might not have the best luck with these wheels.

So far these have proven to be great training and general purpose wheels. They're available for Shimano and Campy. I would recommend them with the caveats above.

Update 8/8/08: I bought a Shimano freehub body, hoping to be able to use these wheels on a TT bike I'm building up. The entire Campy hub is different on the Campy version of these wheels; you can't just swap freehub bodies. After shopping around for a while, once again these wheels seems like the best value, especially since I'm building this bike up from parts I have laying around and don't want to spend a lot of money. I ordered the Shimano version, as the Campy wheels are still going strong.