Product Review - Vuelta Corsa SuperLite Tubular Wheelset
By Hunter Pronovost
It's cross season! So it would be silly to review Zipp's new Firecrest 808 wheel ( no, that will be left hopefully to the week of Interbike which starts in just a couple of days! )
Anyway, to take your cyclocross game to the next level, 2 things jump out as being very helpful to that end.
#1- Making the switch to Tubular tires.
Still wondering why? Next time you are at a cross race, see if you can spot an elite rider riding on any stretch of pavement... Notice how flat the tire looks? Nuff said!
#2- Having a set of wheels with tires specifically for very muddy conditions.
Why? Because having very aggressive tires pays huge dividends back in the mud races. Since true mudder tires have deep treads, they really shouldn’t be ridden and worn out more then necessary. Gotta keep those knobs sharp yo! As a side note, if your main set of wheels are carbon, you get another great reason to use the following wheels as your mud set. The alloy brake track will stop much much better in nasty conditions.
So those 2 reasons are why we are pointing out and testing the Vuelta Corsa SuperLite Wheelset.
Some facts about the wheels:
-Weight for the set is in the low 1400 gram range. Not as light as elite race wheels come but certainly very very close. If you are a Cat 4 racer, 1400 grams is probably 200-300 grams lighter then what most of your clincher riding competition is riding. So these are without a doubt, respectfully light. It should be noted that we were inexplicably sent wheels with 2009 decals. The 2010 decals are much sharper.
-Bladed spokes are nice.... Not really needed for cross, but if you ever needed to use these during the road season, they could make the crossover.
-Price for the set is currently $400 straight from Vuelta. You simply can't beat that. Williams has a similar set of pre-built tubular wheels for over $400 but those are 150-200 grams heavier.
So the price to weight ratio is great for these. But it all doesn’t matter if the wheels aren't strong enough to handle the abuses of cross racing. So let's get down to it.
Out of the box, the wheels are very true. Not 100 %, but pretty darn close. You would need to be some type of fierce masochist to demand that the wheels be more true. Staying true to my 2 main reasons for these wheels, I glued up a set of Tufo's Cubus tires on the Vuelta's. The Cubus is an aggressive mud tire that should go much better in the deep mud than say, a Challenge Grifo. My first ride out on them was the Rocky Hill Connecticut Cross Training Series. A dry race made up of mostly grassy fields and dirt roads. A good chunk of the race course is thru a corn field that is extremely rutty. In 7 years of cross racing, I don't believe I've come across so long and so bumpy of a section during a real race. So this would be a great place to test the durability of the wheels. I weigh 160 pounds had approx 45 PSI in each tire, more than what I should have had, but I was a little concerned with the fact that the glue had yet to cure a solid 24 hours, so I needed a little extra pressure on the rim. Yes indeed, the race was rough that day. The winner was running more like 28 psi and was riding much easier thru the rough sections.
After 45+ minutes of hard racing with little attention paid to avoiding bumps, I can say that the wheels are still as true as when I took them out of the box. Very impressive and a little surprising if I can be honest. The front wheel is radially laced with no crossing of the spokes. This is fine for lightweight road racing wheels but usually spells disaster when the rim and spokes takes some abuse. But the Vuelta's held up great. As for ride quality, they definitely were not as stiff as my Zipp 303's. I sensed a little extra give and sponge feeling. Nothing that would keep me from really liking these wheels though. They felt as light as the 303's during spin up. Bearings felt smooth out of the box and after the race as well. Braking quality was of course better then the 303's. I look forward to dropping the tire pressure next time out and enjoying a smoother training race. It will end up meaning less abuse for rider and the wheel but will expose the rim to potential bottoming out impacts. I will update this review with future news from using these wheels. To be sure, giving a wheelset the ol A+ after just 45 minutes is a bit premature, but with the season upon us and rainy races ahead, it's time to start planning now if you haven’t already.
Getting a set of alloy tubulars for cross racing when they are this inexpensive is a no brainer. If you are on the lighter side, or a medium sized guy with the finesse of a lighter rider, then the Vuelta's will make you happy. If you are closer to 180 pounds or more, then the Williams' wheels with the 2 cross pattern up front would probably be a safer bet for you. Or you could always build up a set from scratch to your exact specs.
Race #2 in the bag with these. Glue is holding... rims are strong.... Still true... Braking track seems to be taking some abuse.... But I've never known an alloy braking track to look good after use in cyclocross.. Wheel still stops well, just looks a bit scuffed up.
Update #2 -
I have had the chance to race a few times on these now along with many training sessions. They still are true. Great wheels. Light. strong. Stiff enough for cross.