Cycling, like most sports, has crazes and fads that come and go. There are constantly new tech features or trends that are marketed to appeal to the cycling addict. We’re always looking for marginal gains, be they aerodynamic, weight based, nutrition or secret training techniques. We’re suckers for them, and a lot of the trends fade as quickly as they rise to prominence. One of the more recent trends is the increase in rim and tyre width. This has been accompanied by many claims of increased performance including but not limited to aerodynamics, stiffness, rolling resistance, compliance, grip, handling and braking. Sounds pretty amazing right? But is it all marketing fluff or will this be a lasting trend?
Pro-lite have pitched their new Merano A25 wheelset as an economical way to evaluate the validity of the wide wheel phenomena. The A25s are an alloy clincher wheelset boasting a 25mm rim width. A standard rim width is around 19 to 21mm, and the increase to 25mm is immediately apparent when looking at the bare A25 rim. Once mounted with a set of 25mm tyres, the wheels look attractively chunky. At around 1700g, these wheels aren’t super light but the weight is on par with their price-point competitors and all while often providing a higher spoke count (20 front, 24 rear). The reasonable weight figure is also impressive given that the rim itself is 20% wider than normal, thus requiring extra material.
Another interesting feature included on the Merano A25s are braces at the spoke crossover points on the rear wheel. This is presumably to increase strength/stiffness or at least to stop the noises sometimes created when spokes rub under high load. It is impossible to tell during a test such as this if there is any validity to their use, but it is another feature that gives the impression of very good value for a low price point wheelset.
All these features are null and void if there is no benefit out on the road. So the question is, how did they ride? The answer: very well! The most immediate noticeable difference was in the handling. I was using the same 25mm tyres which I use on my own standard width rims, but the road feel was chalk and cheese. The Merano A25s exhibit stunning road feel. The broader road contact area created by the wider mounting of the tyre gives a confidence inspiring feel as the bike leans into corners. Riding 25mm tyres mounted on 25mm width rims really was a pleasurable experience. There certainly is increased cushioning courtesy of the larger tyres, but the wheels still feel fast, especially during cornering and under braking. When climbing, the A25s felt much as you would expect a wheelset of their weight to; not sluggish but not as zippy as their lighter competitors. Once pointed downhill, however, these wheels performed as well as any others I have used. The braking surface was fantastic too, but this could be said of most brand new alloy wheels with a grooved sidewall. The real test would be to review the braking after a couple of thousand kilometres of use.
The aerodynamic advantages which have been suggested about wide rims were impossible to gauge subjectively during a road test, but the Merano A25s didn’t feel slow at high speeds by any means.
The Meranos run Sandvik 2.2mm double butted stainless steel aero spokes, 14 gauge alloy nipples and sealed cassette bearings.
The Merano A25 wheels were a pleasure to ride. They are an excellent value wheelset, offering reasonable weight, combined with a high level of stiffness and superb handling. These are not just wheels that should be seen as a way to evaluate the wide rim craze, but a good option for all round training and club race use.
RRP: $ 399
Distributor: Pro-Lite OZ www.pro-liteoz.com