The disc wheelset has pretty much arrived now. The dearth of choice is finished. Regardless of discs ability to cut through skin, shoes and hardened steel they look like sticking around for a while. And they’re not just the preserve of the commuting or CX bike now. No, the premium and even super hyper premium disc brake bike really is a thing. Whether they make their way into the Peloton again (and in, and out, and in, and out again) remains to be seen. But discs make an awful lot of sense in the UK. And, if you care for them, they should last for ages given that you’re not sanding down a rim constantly. Last for ages, hmm, I wonder if the manufacturers have thought that through?
Choice? Well, yeah, there’s a lot of choice now. But there are still gaps. So, the CX, commuting and general purpose wheel is alive and well. Pay more, get lighter. My Fulcrum Racing 5 Db are still going strong. Those are circa £300 now and not especially light. Up the price a bit, get to £450 or so and you have a 1500g aluminium wheel, jump to £900-£1000 and you have the Fulcrum Racing Quattro disc and the Hunt Aero Carbon. So, despite the existence of the premium disc brake sportive or aero bike, there’s not really much in the middle of the market.
When I reviewed the Bax Carbon 60mm wheelset last year I was impressed. They came in at sub £500, were in the ballpark for weight at that price and made my bike quicker and better looking. They were durable, good on the mountains and the flats, and very effective at what they set out to do. In terms of value, they were excellent.
In thinking about that review and considering what to write for this one, I started to consider what the best depth of wheels is. Can 60mm ever be said to be an every day wheel? Almost certainly not, though they look very fine. 50mm is probably a better balance overall. Slightly lighter, almost certainly as fast, a little cheaper. And, if you’re climbing all the time, then 38mm might make a better choice. But it’s complicated, because if that all transfers quite well to a rim braked road bike, is it equally applicable to a disc braked bike?
Well, there are different considerations. It would be easy for Bax to offer the 38, 50 and 60mm rims that they already did and just add a disc hub. But we need to consider the type of bike they’re being used on. And while the rocket ship aero disc bike does exist I do think that limiting choice, for now, to 38 and 50mm is probably right way to go.
I’ve been testing the 38mm version. These are a pre production model. If you pre order then the 38mm will be £575 and the 50mm £595. Deliveries start in June. After that the prices go up to £699 and £729 respectively. Even after the price ‘rise’ these will be cheaper than similar offerings from the established brands. There will be some changes so, for example, the slight ridge that appears in the photo (where the brake track would have been) will be deleted and the graphics will extend to that section as well. Other than that, they will be the same.
So you’re getting the following spec:
- Material – Toray T700 Full Carbon – U-shaped Aerodynamic Profile – UD Matte Finish
- Width – 25mm
- Depth – 38 mm or 50mm
- 38mm Wheelset Weight – 1674 +/- 30g 50mm Wheelset Weight – 1745 +/- 30g
- Rear Hub – 135mm axle, Shimano/SRAM 11 speed freehub, 24 straight pull, Pillar,Aero bladed spokes.
- 6 bolt disc standard. Front Hub – 100mm axle, 24 straight pull, Pillar, Aero bladed spokes. 6 bolt disc standard. Spacer provided for 9 & 10 speed compatibility
- Free 5mm Quick release skewers
- Free 12mm Through Axle converter end Caps, to convert from 5mm quick release set up to 12mm through axle.
- Free Rim Tape
- Free Valve extenders
- Warranty – 1 year
The rims are full carbon and, as discussed, on the production version that brake track will go. So they’ll be a smooth U shaped profile with no bumps. It’s a wide rim so you’re going to get a better profile with wider tyres. In terms of fitting on your disc brake frame, given the nature of most of them, clearance should not be an issue with 25c tyres.
They’re compatible with 10 and 11 speed cassettes. A spacer is supplied for 10 speed along with a shed load of other bits and pieces such as valve extenders etc. QR skewers are supplied and the wheels are QR as standard. But they are convertible to thru axle and all the necessary parts are present for that, though you will need to obtain some thru axle skewers if that’s your thing. They’re also tubeless compatible. You will need to fit your own tubeless rim tape. They still have a hooked rim but that’s fine. There’s a move now towards hookless rims on some tubeless wheels. We’re a way off from that being a new standard.
The hubs are Powerway CX32. That’s a 24 hole straight pull hub with 4 seal bearings. There’s the option, if you wish, of sticking some ceramic bearings in there but, really, they spin ‘forever’ as it is. Spokes are once again supplied by Pillar and are made by Sandvik. As I previously noted those are the same spokes as on my Pro Lite Revo and, 1 1/2 years later, they are still going strong. Out of the box the wheels are true and spoke tension appeared uniform. I’ve used them for over 1000 miles to date and they’re still in the same condition as they came out of the box. In the event that you break a spoke, sourcing a new one should be relatively straight forward. Bax have now branded the hub with their own design which adds a little to the overall look. Aesthetically they are good looking hub.
The weight is pretty much as expected. My pair came out at 1681g. I’d imagine the production version will shave a few grammes off that. In terms of weight, that’s not bad. My Fulcrum 5 DB are 1715g and only 27.5mm high. Fulcrum’s similarly profiled Racing Quattro save you about 75g but the RRP is £1199. These are even lighter than my Racing Quattro which, despite being in excess of 1700g are very rapid indeed. In short, weight isn’t everything.
I’ve fitted three types of tyres to the Bax and they’re a pretty normal wheel in relation to fit. Conti Gp4000ii S went on by hand, ditto Schwalbe S-One (now the G-One speed) with only the Schwalbe Pro One needing a little teasing, fluid and the use of a lever (that’s pretty much the case with all wheels I try them on). Obviously you will need to use the adapters to extend the valves or buy longer inner tubes. If you want to go tubeless you will need to look at your tubeless valve length. I’ve not tested these with tubeless tyres (I ran inners in the Schwalbe) mostly because a) they need to go back and b) it was easier to keep swapping the tyres over to get a sense of what the wheels were like with a larger variety of tyres.
And, once they’re all happily set up. It’s time to add the discs, of course. These are the 6 bolt standard so I partnered them with a set up Shimano XT rotors in 160mm diameter. With all that done, let’s take a look at how they look, for that is, surely, for many, a very important consideration!
They’re a pretty purposeful looking wheel. Obviously, if you plump for the 50mm version then the effect is a greater one. For me, given what a disc brake is generally all about, I think that the 38mm version makes the most sense. But, if you have an aero disc braked bike (and yes, that’s fast becoming a thing) then the 50mm version adds a mere 75g. From my experience with the 60mm rim brake versions I have to say that overall weight is far from the issue that you might expect. I set one of my fastest climbs up the Rhigos on the 60mm versions. Much depends on what you plan on doing. For every day riding the 38mm are probably the sweet spot but without testing them back to back with the 50mm, it’s hard to say. Given that the 50mm add very little weight, are probably slightly faster and will look exponentially nicer(!) I might be tempted to plump for those.
The wheels arrived about 2 weeks ago with the express purpose of doing an 85 mile sportive around the hills and dales of Newport and Monmouthshire. I don’t have a disc ‘sportive bike’, but two CX ones, the SuperX and a CAADX. Now, clearly, for such an ‘endeavour’ one must put the good wheels on the good bike. This presents an issue of comfort. CX bikes really aren’t intended to be comfortable for such long distances given their aggressive set up. But it’s a tidy test to carry out nevertheless, given the mixed nature of the surfaces and, most importantly, some pretty steep descents. I wanted to test a number of things really, comfort, climbing, durability. The sportive provided all of those things so it was a very useful introduction.
So, we had the short, sharp climbs, the flaky surfaces but also some of the good stuff too, long sections of fresh, black tarmac. And the wheels coped with everything that I could throw at them. They were sufficiently fast on the flat, easy to keep up to a very decent speed. Good on the hills with no sensation of being held back, good when out of the saddle with absolutely no perceivable flex. In terms of comfort, very good indeed. The SuperX is a bit crashy, where my Supersix has a much plusher ride. So the wheels took a bit of a sting out of the ride overall. I hit about three hidden potholes with no issues caused. On the downhills, naturally, they fly and where those downhills really pitch steeply there was no twisting or torque of the wheels under pretty hard braking. They did what they said on the tin, stiff but comfortable. Oh, the freewheel is a loud one too. Campag level. Very useful on shared paths for telling people you’re coming. I finished the day with a number of Strava PR’s (the previous ride having been carried out on a Canyon with Ksyrium wheels).
With that ride done, I put them to other uses. Over my 18 mile each way commute with 25c tyres on, they were fast and comfortable. Swapping them out for the 30c Schwalbe S-One saw comfort levels increase further, the vibration damping combination of the carbon wheels and greater volume tyre working well. There was still a little bit of harshness with the SuperX over the absolute worst surfaces but less than with comparable aluminum wheels and the same tyre setup. They’re probably not the last word in outright dampening but still good overall. Then I swapped the wheels onto the CAADX to see how they dealt with the aluminium frame and that created a very nice setup indeed. In some ways the CAADX is a less harsh frame than the SuperX so the added damping was welcome. I’ve used them in the rain too, with mudguards. It does create a very interesting looking bike, particularly since the wheels are worth more than the bike!
I’ve not tried them for CX. The conditions don’t warrant it (it’s absolutely bone dry) and there are no events at the moment to try them on. I have tried them on some short off road surfaces and they handle that too. But, here’s a thing. There’s no reason, cost aside, that you couldn’t use these for CX. Being tubeless you can run tyres at a lower pressure so the only issue is whether you’d ding or dent the rims if you hit the inevitable stone. Being laterally stiff they will be very effective for CX. There’s also the added advantage that deep section rims may track better through mud and sand, chiefly because the section will remain above the surface of the mud or sand and cause less drag. I say may because there are competing theories that the added weight and the greater surface area to which mud can stick, will slow you down. On this matter, the jury is out. For CX I’d probably say no. But for a long, off road gravel type event? Yeah, I don’t see why not. But, as I say, if you do take a chunk out of them, you might be a bit upset. I think the natural home for them is as the sportive disc brake wheel.
Overall? They’re very good, particularly at the current price. So if you want to jump on that, jump on now. They’re still very good at the more expensive price but that does move them into the territory of other brands there. Still cheaper, clearly, but verging into “for £200 more…” I’ve stuck a very decent amount of miles onto them and they’ve come out well. As a sportive wheel, they’re excellent. If you’re TT’ing on a disc brake bike then the 50mm are well worth the investment. Sure, you’re still getting drag from your disc brakes, but you’re offsetting what the previous wheels did or did not do. And, quite clearly, the 50mm are very sexy beasts.