October 16, 2020 at 5:00 pm

The Strade is a new tubeless-ready, aero carbon wheelset from British wheel brand Parcours, aimed at road cyclists looking for fast wheels that don’t cost the earth.

Though Parcours initially made a name for itself by offering high-value carbon wheels that used open-mould rim shapes, the new Strade wheelset marks something of a step-change for the British brand.

With new, proprietary rim shapes, created during 12 months of research and development, the Strade is a much more progressive wheelset.

Similar to wheelsets such as Roval’s new Rapide CLX and Enve’s SES 5.6, the Strade has different front and rear rims, designed without the limitations of a rim braking track.

Parcours says the specific rim profiles are a result of testing performed in collaboration with the sports engineering department at Nottingham Trent University, which showed that bicycle wheels experience higher average yaw angles at the front, compared to the rear.

This led Parcours to optimise the front wheel for higher average yaw angles and the rear for lower yaw conditions. The result is a 49mm deep, 32mm wide, U-shaped front rim and a 54mm deep, 30mm wide, more V-shaped rear wheel.

Parcours also benchmarked the Strade against a Fulcrum Racing 5 wheelset and its previous all-round aero road wheelset, the Passista Disc, at the A2 wind tunnel in Mooresville, North Carolina.

All wheels were tested individually (front and rear wheels separately, without a bike or rider), using Continental’s GP5000 TL tyres, and the results from each wheel were combined to give overall figures for the wheelset.

Parcours said it didn’t test the wheels with a bike or rider because these add unwanted variables from the interaction between the bike, the wheels and the rider. Furthermore, it said the results from testing on one specific bike wouldn’t apply to other bikes on the market, and that it wasn’t feasible to test every bike on the market.

However, bicycle wheels aren’t much use without a bike and, likewise, bikes aren’t much use without riders.

Enve, for example, uses bikes and dummy riders in its wind tunnel testing and performs aero testing out in the real world using on-bike aero sensors when developing its products. Its testing has also shown that there are significant challenges in making aero wheels that interact well with a wide array of bikes, indicating it’s not something you can simply ignore.

Of course, Enve’s wheels are considerably more expensive than Parcours, but Hunt (another value-focused British wheel brand) performs at least some of its wind tunnel testing with its wheels mounted to a bike.

American aero behemoth Zipp also recently abandoned the wind tunnel in favour of testing with on-bike aero sensors, while developing its latest aero wheelsets (including its sub-£1,000 carbon aero wheelset, the 303 S).

None of this necessarily invalidates Parcours’ specific results, but it does call into question whether or not they are representative of what riders will experience in the real world (although this is arguably somewhat of a problem with all wind tunnel testing).

Putting questions about testing protocols aside though, the results of Parcours’ testing showed the Strade wheelset is, unsurprisingly, substantially more aerodynamically efficient than the shallow-rimmed Fulcrum wheelset with 25mm tyres.

At a speed of 30mph (around 48kph), the Strade wheelsets saves 18.6 watts with 25mm tyres and 19.2 watts with 28mm tyres. This translates into a predicted time saving of 56 seconds and 58 seconds, respectively, over 40km.

The difference between the Passista Disc and Strade wheelsets is only 0.7 watts (just 2 seconds over 40km) when used with 25mm Continental GP5000 TL tyres, but the gap widens to 6.9 watts when 28mm tyres are used, saving you 22 seconds over 40km.

Though my test wheelset came with tubeless tape and valves pre-installed, the wheels actually ship with standard clincher rim strips. You’ll need to purchase a tubeless conversion kit separately (Parcours sells its own for £23.99), if you want to use a tubeless setup.

The wheelset is built around Parcours’ own hubs, with 24 Sapim CX-Ray straight-pull spokes, front and rear, with external nipples. The hubs ship set up for 12mm thru-axles, but a quick release axle adaptor is available separately, should you need that.

The logos on the hubs are aligned with the valve holes, which I’m reliably told means bonus wheelbuilding points, and the Shimano/SRAM 11-speed freehub has an anti-bite guard to help mitigate cassette bite (SRAM XDR or Campagnolo freehubs are available on request).

As standard, the hubs contain EZO steel cartridge bearings, but upgrade packages for Kogel ceramic bearings, custom colour hubs and rim graphics are also available for an extra cost.

The wheels arrived true and stayed that way throughout testing, and the finish on the stock wheelset is subtle and premium in a way that belies their relatively low price.

Servicing the hubs is relatively simple too. The hub end caps can be removed by hand to access the bearings, and the rear axle can be disassembled with two 17mm cone spanners.

While some wheelsets are going hookless, the Strade wheels have standard hooked rims. This means they’re compatible with both tubeless and standard clincher tyre setups.

Claimed weight is 1,520g without tubeless valves and rim tape, and my test wheelset weighed 1,570g with those two things in place, so that seems about right.

That’s in the same ballpark as Zipp’s similarly-priced 303 S wheelset, but 120g heavier than the previously mentioned Roval Rapide CLX wheelset. Unlike the Roval’s though, the Parcours wheels are tubeless ready and, crucially, almost half the price, so it’s more than a fair trade-off.

Set up was easy, both with 25mm Vittoria Corsa clinchers (and latex inner tubes) and 28mm Continental GP5000 TL tubeless tyres, even for a tubeless noob like me with a standard track pump.

With an internal width of 22.5mm, both 25mm and 28mm tyres plump up slightly wider than their marked size, with a nice, round shape that makes for a healthy contact patch on the road. Those with older frames will want to check there’s sufficient tyre clearance for this, though.

I’m not in a position to validate Parcours’ specific aero results, but the setup does conform to Josh Poertner’s ‘Rule of 105’ when used with 25mm or 28mm tyres (which states the rim width should be 105 per cent of the tyre width in order for the rim to be able to effectively recapture the airflow off the tyre), so the transition between the tyre and rim is very smooth.

I do think they feel fast, especially compared to the previous 42mm carbon wheels I was using (on which the rim/tyre transition is much less smooth), but there are too many variables – tyres being an especially big one – for me to be definitive.

I can confirm they handle well for a wheelset around 50mm deep, though. The front wheel remains stable even in blustery conditions, or on days with consistent crosswinds, where riding past gaps in hedgerows and being buffeted by strong gusts can often be an unnerving experience.

This is impressive considering I’m tall, gangly and (at around 64kg) reasonably lightweight, and would normally be quite susceptible to being blown around on windy days.

Having an aero wheelset you’re confident using in all conditions is important because you won’t get any gains if you end up choosing to leave the aero wheels at home whenever the wind picks up.

With 24 spokes front and rear, they’re very solid under braking and hard efforts. This means they feel nice and direct when sprinting, climbing out of the saddle or diving into a fast corner.

Being designed around 28mm tyres is a boon too, especially in the UK where road conditions are generally poor. The wide internal rim width (which effectively increases the inflated tyre size by a couple of millimetres) means you can drop the tyre pressure a little bit compared to narrower wheels too, and extract a little more grip and comfort.

That you can have excellent comfort from the generous tyre volume and aerodynamic efficiency, without any trade off – or possibly even a small gain – is fantastic.

Parcours’ Strade wheelset impresses with its modern design, and its premium looks wouldn’t be out of place on a wheelset costing much more.

Tubeless setup was easy and they’re respectably light for aero wheels too. On the road they perform well, especially when it comes to handling in blustery conditions.

A few years ago, £999 would have represented fantastic value for a set of progressive carbon aero wheels, but with ever more brands now offering similar wheelsets around the £1,000 mark, they stand out from the pack slightly less.

However, those looking for a solid, all-round aero wheelset optimised around larger tyres that has wide tyre compatibility and doesn’t cost the earth are unlikely to be disappointed.

Simon is a writer and photographer who has been riding bikes for fun since he was a kid. He took a deep dive into road racing, crits and time trial culture in his twenties, but as a person of very little talent, he always looks to tech to compensate. He loves nothing more than finding a smart (preferably cheap) hack that others hadn’t thought of. His stable of bikes isn’t the most extravagant, but they’re all customised to meet Simon’s particular tastes and kept fastidiously clean.

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Source: https://www.bikeradar.com/reviews/components/wheels/wheel-sets/parcours-strade-wheels-review/

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