A Year with Lightweight Wheels: Video and Review
Back in November 2014, Team Health Warrior p/b RK&O proudly announced its product sponsorship with Lightweight Wheels of Germany (“Lightweight”). Given Lightweight’s rich heritage at the highest levels of the sport (e.g., World Championships and multiple Tours de France have been won on Lightweight wheels), the team was very excited about having the opportunity to use the industry’s finest hand-built wheels for both training and racing in New York City, as well as several other venues throughout the country. For those who have been wondering what verdict was reached after riding what many consider to be the bike industry’s most state-of-the-art handmade carbon wheel technology, we discuss the experience in this post.
Lightweight Wheels Review by Team Health Warrior p/b RK&O
First, with its cutting-edge production, Lightweight Wheels offer unparalleled performance and durability across an array of rim depths. Among the various options, for the 2015 season, Team Health Warrior p/b RK&O primarily utilized the Meilenstein Obermayer (“Meilenstein”). According to Lightweight, the Meilenstein reflects the culmination of years of carbon design and the best manufacturing and materials, which results in a great all-around wheel. This was ideal for the team, as the wheel was tested in flat, four-corner crits, hilly circuit races, and mountainous multi-day stage races.
As one would expect from Lightweight Wheels, the Meilenstein’s are full carbon, from rim to hub and down to the spokes in between. Despite the state-of-the art full carbon bonded construction, there is also something authentically and characteristically homemade about the wheels. This is perhaps most evident in the hand-stamped Lightweight logo that graces the 47.5mm deep rims. The wheels themselves are feather light, weighing in at just 935 grams, and making them appreciably lighter than other competing carbon wheel-sets on the market. The profile of the 16/20 count spoke blades is almost knife-like, which serves as a constant reminder of the wheels’ ability to slice through the wind and deliver top-notch aerodynamic performance. In terms of accessories, the wheels come equipped with brake pads, skewers, a valve extender, tire tools, and a very handsome black wheel bag that helps ease the logistics of transporting the wheels to out of town races and training camps. The Meilentein’s can accommodate tire widths ranging from 19mm all the way up to 27mm. Somewhat predictably, the team was typically riding 23mm or 25mm tires throughout the season, with the occasional exception made for a race like Battenkill.
For performance on the climbs, Richard Scudney, arguably the team’s most prolific climber having recently secured 3rd overall at the 2015 Green Mountain Stage Race, remarked, “These wheels feel like pure artistry with every pedal stroke. They are without a doubt the stiffest climbing wheels I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding. They want to go forward, very fast. I’ve spent a lot of time training on Bear Mountain this year, doing repeats, and I can recall several times on the 20-minute climb to the summit where I danced as hard as I could on these wheels to try to make them flex. Impossible. The only thing that happened was I flew up the climb. Not only that, but I didn’t ever have to adjust my rear brakes with the Meilenstein’s. I have had other carbon wheels where I’ve had to open up the rear brake due to flex. The power transfer was always rock solid and silky smooth, and the ride quality was out of this world.”
When put to the test in crits, Roger Parmelee noted, “The rate at which the wheels can accelerate is amazing. They spin up super fast. Plus, the stiffness Lightweight has achieved is something that’s impossible not to notice. The power transfer feels immediate and almost instantaneous. It’s as if not an ounce of energy was being wasted.” Another of the team’s veteran crit racers, Johnny Buenaventura agrees, “They are the most responsive, most direct wheels I’ve ever accelerated. Before I started riding the wheels, I was a bit concerned as to whether the spoke count would be enough. Given how hard we corner in crits and accelerate out of the turns, there was a question mark in my mind about the spoke count would be robust enough. Having pushed the pace in tight corners and having put down the power coming out of a final turn countless times during the season, I can say that it’s never been an issue. The Meilenstein’s live up to their all-rounder reputation beautifully.”
In terms of braking, with is a common point of concern with carbon rims, Lightweight put a great deal of focus in the development phase addressing the issue of brake heat. This has given the team a great deal of confidence in riding the wheels. Richard Scudney remarked, “Going uphill very quickly is one thing, but that usually means you have to negotiating a hair-raising descent as well. Knowing your brakes will perform going downhill is important. That means a lot to me.”
The Meilenstein truly is a remarkable all-around carbon wheel. Their speed, stiffness, responsiveness, aerodynamics, and braking easily put them at the top of our list.