A Wheel Shame

I’ve been hesitating to write this article because I really don’t want to give anyone a bad name, but at the same time, I’ve posted enough about my bike and its various bits and pieces that I think it’d be wrong not to. My compromise here will be not to name the manufacturer – but that is also not too hard to figure out if you go back in my archives.

I think my unrequited love story with my front wheel is coming to an end and I’m still at a loss as to know why, really. A little background, if I can remember the long, sordid tale:

  • I detected a ‘wobble’ a little before Haute Route last summer and it showed itself to be pretty dangerous in the fast and wet conditions in the Alps. At some points on the descent of Izoard I thought the brakes would ‘catch’ for good on the place (actually there were two) on the rim which was bulging and I’d go over the handlebars and into the abyss.
  • I sent that sucker back after the event and they replaced it, saying they detected a .3 mm bulge in the rim.
  • The replacement wheel had a similar problem, which I got confirmed by my bike shop. Sent that bad boy back, too.
  • Oh, and that rim had a ‘cosmetic imperfection’ where the pieces of rim were joined. Here’s a photo.

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  • This time they sent me back the same wheel with those joints sanded down a bit and the rim trued some. They also included a little swag to appease me and make up for the cost of postage, I guess.
  • Crossing all fingers and toes, I went out for a ride, only to find the same damn problem, especially at low speeds (a ‘biting’ at one point each revolution). I took two videos of me spinning the wheel and compressing the brakes enough to show the ‘bulge’ and they asked me to send it back again.
  • This time they replaced the wheel (again) and sent me back another brand new one. Same problem as before. More swag came in the box.
  • I waited a while, in the hopes that it’d get better, but it didn’t. This time I was contacted by the boss (the first guy I talked to about another problem more than year before) and he advised me to sell the wheelset that I have because ‘you’ll never become friends’ with them. They offered to sell me a brand new set at a big discount.

For the record, I have tried looking at other possible causes of the problem, like running my alu wheel on the Colnago to see if it was the bike and not the wheel. I still feel like it could be something other than the wheel, but that is probably just me doubting my sanity. Every time I’ve sent a wheel back to them they’ve found a ‘bulge’.

I am kind of at a loss of what to do now. They’ve gone ‘quiet’ on the email front and I have to say that they’ve been at least helpful throughout the whole process (other than not giving me a true wheel, I suppose). I would never sell that wheel, – and I’m kind of shocked that they’d even suggest it – since I consider it to be dangerous when braking hard.

And I didn’t say this to them, but why the hell would I consider buying another wheelset from them if I’ve had three brand new wheels from them with the same problem? It defies logic.

I think what I’ll probably do is keep this for a winter wheel (when I don’t generally descend giant cols). So, I’m in the market for a good, straight, front wheel, readers. Any suggestions?


23 thoughts on “A Wheel Shame

  1. That is weird, and even though it could be found, I think you should name the wheel company in your post. Since ‘you’ll never become friends,’ there’s no harm in warning people to watch for similar issues in their wheels. Best of luck.

    • It’s the 1% of me that thinks it could be something other than the wheel, I think. Happy to give the name via email, though…but I doubt you’ll come across them in your part of the world, Aaron!

      • I wasn’t thinking about me, but I appreciate the offer. 🙂 and I get your predicament. Don’t want to trash someone on the off chance it isn’t their error, however unlikely. Respect.

  2. Gerry: to me, given three occurrences, this signals lack of consistency in manufacturing quality. Just as reference: is this a carbon wheel? Carbon brake strip? How much does this wheel cost ?

      • Is this a well known brand? I am not saying unbranded can’t be good (I have some great unbranded wheels), but it’s hard to believe such repeated defect would happen with a well known brand. (Even though they seem to have been good at sending you new wheels, yet with same problem )

        • Not very well known, no, at least by me! And yeah, this is the reason I doubt myself in with this case. I cant’ understand how all their front wheels could be so faulty!

  3. Hi Gerry, it is a shame that you are getting no satisfaction with the wheel (is that a song?). Did you test the true-ness of the rim before taking it for a ride? I don’t think I’d have any problem naming the company. You know, 3 strikes and you’re outed. If you go to sites like Wiggle, Chain Reaction etc, every product is reviewed and rated. In general, reviews should be taken as a positive in that the company can see what is and what’s not working.

    • No I never tested it without tube/tire on, or before riding. I know you’re right about the ‘name game’, but I just didn’t want to directly name them in a blog article, partly for fear that all this is my fault and not theirs!

  4. ‘Sell it’ is an appalling suggestion. We touched on this previously, and it’s a very long shot, but have you tried mounting a different tyre? Also, have you checked that the rim tape is on straight and flat? Yes, desperate suggestions, I know, but hey…

    And, no, if I were you, I would not buy another wheel set from them…

    • I’ve had a couple of different tires on it, but the same make. Rim tape has always looked straight and flat, yes.

      I’m revving up the credit card now….

  5. Gerry, I have the same problem. Replacement wheel is exactly as bad as the first one. I know it’s not the bike because I have had another wheel on while the old one went back and the new one came in. Bought them from a guy in Sydney who imports them so it’s a real pain to courier them back to him (from Brisbane). Have had a gutful and am about to chalk it up to experience and buy some different ones

    • I’m surprised anyone out there has had the same trouble, but ‘happy’ to hear it! Sorry to hear about your woes, though. Can I ask what brand they were? I think it’s safe to say here in the comments, so here goes – mine are EDCO.

  6. Hi Gerry

    Wow, what a story. And it doesn’t have a happy ending. Unfortunately, I’ve heard this story many times from some of the most popular brands. What a bummer.

    For what it’s worth. You know how many bikes and wheels I’ve had over the years and for the past six years I’ve used the same custom wheel builder out of China. They’ve been rock solid and the service has been excellent during the custom design, component selection, ordering and delivery process. I’ve had many sets of Zipp, Mavic, etc etc and my China wheels have been the best. There’s certainly a stigma associated with wheels from China, but hearing another story like yours about a person buying a known brand that ended up with problems,

    I think I’ll stick with my China wheels that are custom built for a fraction of the price that are very reliable. Good luck with the wheel replacement hunt.

    • I’m starting to lean in that direction now, Coach. I still have all your China contact details in an email thread, so may take advantage of it in the end.

  7. To be frank that´s just plain piss poor on the part of the company to suggest you sell it on to some (presumably) unwitting punter. Personally though I´d tend to steer clear of carbon clinchers in the high mountains (I think it is a clincher from the looks of the picture) …. having ridden in a few sportives and weeks in high mountains I´ve seen one actual and three very close calls when carbon clinchers have overheated and blown under hard and constant breaking on long descents…..personally I think they´re dangerous and stick to either tubulars or an aluminium rim like a fulcrum racing zero or something. (also a lot better if it rains up there as well!) ….good luck with it.

    • Lee, point well taken on the carbon clincher / descending. I have seen and heard many of the same things (esp. in last year’s Marmotte…40C does that!) as you. I think I’m safe, though, in terms of ever overheating. I am very light on the brakes and never ‘hang on them’ on descents. That being said, I prefer my alu wheels for braking, definitely.

      Thanks for the comment and ‘piss poor’ is exactly what I was thinking. They must not think there’s anything wrong…

  8. Hi Gerry,

    I have noticed the same kind of pulsating on a number of different carbon rims, most recently on a pair of Mavic Cosmic Carbon Ultimate (price 2800€), that the same bike shop you visit lent me. It’s not the first time I try CCU’s, and they all (in my limited experience) have the same pulsating braking.

    I have had the same experience with Zipps (202’s, 404’s) of older generations. It’s manageable, but not anything that is very confidence inspiring in sudden situations. New Zipps have brake tracks that have been milled in one way or another for better braking.

    The one brand of wheels that gave me the taste for smooth braking on carbon rims has been Campagnolo. I had Bora Ultra Two’s a few years ago on my S-Works Tarmac SL2 with Campa brakes, and the cheaper Bora One’s on a Cervelo S5 with SRAM Red brakes. Both rock solid and smoooth braking.

    I never knew why certain wheels had that pulsating feel, as it really makes braking in high speed very sketchy.

    Then I read an article on cyclingtips.com where the technical editor was testing a Taiwanese pair of Irwin wheels. In the comments section, he said that the pulsating feeling was bound to be found in different degrees on any carbon wheels where the brake track hadn’t been machined after the wheel being manufactured.

    That process probably requires more material at the rim in order to not risk the structural integrity of the wheels -> heavier wheels. As cyclists are so picky about wheel weight, a lesser known brand has little chance of selling any wheels if they prioritize anything else except light weight.

    Making a long story a bit shorter… If you are in the market for a new pair of wheels, you can’t really go wrong with the new Campagnolo Bora One 35 wheels. Nearly the same price as your Edco’s, but with “eternal” Campa bearrings and guaranteed smooth braking.

    • Sakari, this is VERY timely because I’ve been shifting my attention to those very wheels! I’ve got Campy alu wheels and they are perfect still after 5 years. Same thing with all my Campy groupsets, so I think that’s the reason I was going in that direction. I’ve priced out the front wheel and I think I can afford it if I break open the piggy bank.

      Don’t suppose David has any used ones lying around the shop…?😉

      • Lucky timing. 🙂

        David doesn’t have any lying around… I have been waiting for a while to see if someone would trade in a pair, but owners of Bora’s almost never part with the wheels.

        He does have a pair of Fulcrum Racing Speed 35, that are practically the same set of wheels, although they are tubular and not clincher.

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