Sunday, August 07, 2011

Velocity A-23 Wheels: Ride Impressions

For quite a while now, I have been running a set of Velocity A-23's on my Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" bike, and here are my thoughts on these pre-built wheels from Velocity U.S.A.

Minimalistic Front Hub!

First off, these rims and wheels are designed by Velocity to be used for road and cyclo-cross racing and riding. The rims are a bit wider at 23mm which seems to be the fad these days for road rims. (The rims get their name from the width, by the way) The rims, spokes, and hubs are all hand assembled and tensioned at Velocity's Grand Rapids , Michigan facility and each build is signed and dated by the builder. Nice touch.

Velocity offers the A-23's in a Pro or Comp build, but they will do custom builds as well. My set is somewhat of a custom set up based on the Comp wheels with a 28 hole front and rear set up. The front is radially laced to a very minimalistic front hub and the rear is laced radially on the non-drive side, two cross on the drive side to a Velocity branded hub. I have had these since May, and I have forgotten what they weighed in at! Velocity lists the Comp Build on their site at 1445 grams, and I think my set came in at a shade under 1500 grams, but remember, my set has more spokes in the front wheel than for the Comp Build on Velocity's site. Let's just say that for a Clydesdale class rider on gravel roads, these are reasonably lightweight wheels.

The A-23 comes in several drillings
As is typical with Velocity, the rim does not have spoke hole eyelets. The design compensates for this by being thicker in the spoke bed area. I have built with Velocity rims off and on since the mid-90's, and have not seen any issues with doing things this way.

The inner rim width is a bit wider than is typical with road designs, and so my big 29"er tires are just fine with the rims and sit well on the A-23. Narrower tires will see a different, wider profile on the A-23, and as I mentioned, this is getting to be a common feature on newer road rim designs. The rims also feature a very smooth machined brake track which my brakes feel like butter on. Finally, the A-23 has a soft, triangular cross section, which should help a bit on muddy cyclo-cross courses.

Ride Impressions: With several hundred miles of gravel and commuting miles piling up on these, I am amazed by a couple of things with regards to this particular build of the A-23's.

Lateral Stiffness: The wheels are remarkably stiff for a guy my size. I have only ever gotten the rear wheel to flex noticeably once during a hard cornering effort. The front has been rock solid. I wasn't expecting this from these rims.  To go along with this, the spoking pattern is something I wouldn't have ever considered for a guy my size, but it has worked really well. Radial lacing on the rear wheel just doesn't make a lot of sense to my mind, and I'm not a fan of it at all, really. However; it has not been any problem so far. Ay least Velocity did a good job of drilling the hub flanges so that radial lacing should not cause a hub flange failure.

I haven't been very nice to this wheel!
Toughness: The other thing that jumped out at me is the toughness of this particular build. I don't know how other A-23's are holding up, but this wheel build has been bounced, bunny hopped, and banged through rough terrain quite a bit with no apparent causes for concern at all. They still remain perfectly true, and the hubs and rims seem to be just dirty. No issues at all to report with the A-23's from me.

If there is anything at all I find fault with it would have to be with the skewers that were provided with the wheels. They are not very "hand friendly", and they don't hold the rear wheel in a horizontal drop out worth a hoot. I'd say get a different set of skewers, (which I did), and you'll be golden.

Conclusions: I can not see any reason why these wouldn't make great cyclo-cross wheels, or why they wouldn't be a great set of training/racing wheels for a roadie. For the gravel grinder, these also make a lot of sense. In fact, I have heard rumors that these set up all right tubeless with some sealing tape, like Velocity's kit, or Stan's. But I can't say for sure you'll get them to work that way, as I haven't tried that.....yet! If that would work out, I would rate the wheels a bit higher still.

As it stands, the Velocity A-23, which can be bought as a rim, or as part of a complete wheel, seems to be another really nice rim from Velocity.

Note: I own these Velocity A-23 wheels and was not paid, nor bribed for this review. I strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.


Velocodger said...

Hey- I thought you didn't like the term "Monster Cross"?

Guitar Ted said...

@Doug: I don't, but that is what Mike Varley named the BMC model I have, so.....

Velocodger said...

Sure is a nice looking bike, whatever we call it! I'm in the process of turning my 29er SS Blue Collar into a drop-bar bike...I'll let you how that turns out.

Brian100mph said...

Since March I have used these rims for my 29er by lacing them to WTB Laser Disc Lite hubs. I have been running them tubeless with great success. Velocity's kit has valves with flat sides to hold it secure while tightening the valve nut. I run a Kona King Kahuna with a rigid carbon fork. 21 lbs for the bike and 175lbs for the rider.