When it comes to wrapping up product tests sometimes it is easier to say goodbye than others. Sometimes the products are good and we enjoy our time with them, but other times they are just great and we wonder how we can make them a more permanent addition to our garage. The Mad Fiber clinchers without a doubt fall into the latter category.
But before we dive into what we loved about this wheelset lets cover that facts that make the Mad Fiber clinchers stand out. As we mentioned in our fist article (http://aerogeeks.com/2013/03/19/mad-fiber-clinchers-first-look/) there are two numbers that immediately stand out with this wheelset; 1300 and 2889. 1300g (1299g recorded by our scale) represents the weight of the wheelset (not a single wheel but the entire wheelset). For comparisons sake a set of Zipp 404 FCs will weigh in at 1525g for a 58mm wheel set (the Mad Fibers are staggered 60/66mm). The 2889 represents the $2,889 price tag of this wheelset ($3,099 for the set we tested here with the upgraded ceramic bearings). This represents an increase of $164 over the Zipps.
Mad Fiber is extremely proud of the technology it created to build such a lightweight wheelset. Mad Fiber calls its production philosophy “Carbon Optimized”. This is their recognition that carbon is good for many things, but where many wheel builders today have just substituted carbon where aluminum had traditionally been used, Mad Fiber wanted to design a wheel from the ground up using the strengths of carbon and recognizing its weaknesses.
The wheels are constructed as three pieces; a pair of full carbon sidewalls, and an aluminum tire seat. When constructed the sidewalls cover the tire-seat including the brake track leading to an all carbon appearance. The pieces are then bonded (heat-activated commercial aircraft-grade structural adhesive) together. The spokes are five-ply carbon ribbons, just .7mm thick yet have a load capacity of 4,500 lb. (part of the reason that the wheels have NO rider weight restrictions). During the review process we had a number of other riders take a look at the wheels and have concern that anything that gets caught in those wheels at speed is going to be chopped right off, we are happy to report that the spokes do have some flex, and can twist up to 90 degrees, though we didn’t get the opportunity to test them out since we don’t think companies will appreciate us trying to destroy their products.
Riding the Mad Fibers
As we mentioned in our first article, we had some initial concerns about how these wheels would perform. Mad Fiber’s own data had shown that these wheels did not necessarily perform as well as others at low to mid yaw angles. Considering the regular cross winds we are used to down here in sunny Florida we weren’t sure quite what to expect. Yet in the month we rode these we never experienced any of the usual concerns with aero wheels in crosswinds. They were never twitchy and while they did let you know the wind was pushing against you, it was never a concern. Our favorite moment was racing them when we were passing another rider and they mentioned how bad the cross winds were, and we hadn’t even noticed them.
But starting with the crosswind abilities does these wheels an injustice. First and foremost, these wheels are amazingly quick. Starting from a standstill or coming out of a U-turn you realize just how light these wheels are, and how easy they are to spin up to full speed. Once you get them to race speed, they want to stay there, and as we mentioned, cross winds are not going to be an issue.
For the first time on aero wheels, you will actually be looking for opportunities to climb. These wheels are lighter than a set of Zip 202s (by 75g) yet are a full 30mm deeper. We took them to our favorite climbing location (which as we mentioned in the FLO60 article happens to be a former garbage dump) and were shocked that for the first time we felt like it was the weight of the frame holding us back, not the weight of the wheelset.
Climbing however is where we saw one of our two concerns with the Mad Fibers. Putting a large amount of weight over the front end as we climbed, we could hear brake rub starting. Our suspicion was that the skewer may have been allowing some flex. The Mad Fiber rear skewer is titanium and weighs in at a ridiculous 22g (a Reynolds skewer we have on hand comes in at 60g) and we believe tends to have a little flex to it. When we swapped out for another skewer we had in the AG garage we found much of the flex had gone away. If you decide to go with the Mad Fibers and feel a little rub, try swapping out the skewers.
The other issue we had come across was braking performance. The Mad Fibers perform as one would expect from a carbon surface, however knowing there was an aluminum wheel bed underneath, we could not understand why Mad Fiber had not just gone with the aluminum bed as the braking surface. We spoke with Ric Hjertberg, the owner of Mad Fiber and this was his take on carbon versus aluminum: “The rumor that carbon isn’t a good brake surface comes from sad episodes of poor heat management by some brands. And those woes concern the whole structure, not just the brake surface. So far, many competitors have finished their 3rd CCX season on our wheels with no apparent brake track wear. Could never happen with aluminum.” We were however just not impressed with the cork pads that come with it. No matter how many times we readjusted our brakes, we could just not get a good strong braking feel from the pads, they just have too much give. If we were to own these wheels ourselves we would likely have looked into other possible brake pads that might work better with these wheels.
A Mad Fiber Disc?
One of the interesting things to consider with a wheelset this light is what would happen if you added a wheel cover. More importantly, how light a disc would you be able to create. We spoke to Wheelbuilder.com, their AeroJacket comes in at 305g, or 1068g for the whole package. To compare, the Zipp Super-9 Carbon Clincher comes in at 1175g. Yes there are lighter tubular disc wheels out there, but we doubt you will find a clincher disc that will weigh in less than this.
Last week we had a reader ask us what set of FLO wheels we would recommend for IM Wisconsin (considering the elevation changes). While we think a FLO 60/90 set will do great for them, when it comes to a “money be damned” answer, the wheelset we would most want under us would be the Mad Fiber Clinchers. They may not be the cheapest option but they are tailor made for TT style events that have some (or lots) of climbing. Don’t get us wrong, we are not typecasting the Mad Fibers as a climbing only wheelset, the Mad Fibers are an incredible wheelset, and will do fantastic in just about any race, but when there is climbing they will absolutely excel.