First impressions count. We test some of the latest carbon wheels to hit the market, the Irwin 38mm Carbon Clinchers.
High performance, robust wheels, that on first impressions, look great and take on the bigger players.
Words - Glen O'Rourke Images - Andrew Clifforth
First impressions count. When I picked up the Irwin wheels for review I was immediately impressed by the presentation of the package. A very robust wheel bag that included a sleek looking set of skewers and a couple of sets of Irwin specific brake pads, valve extensions and rim tape all included. The wheels themselves have eye catching Irwin decals on the rims that give them an edgy professional look.
I have to say that if you haven’t seem them before then most people have to ask “what make are they?”.
The branding isn’t that obvious but I guess as they become more prevalent they will become more recognisable. At 26mm wide the rims hold a 25mm tyre at an optimum level to provide that reassuring contact with the road. At 1510grams they are light enough to be competitive with the opposition while ticking all the boxes in terms of quality.
I was testing the 38mm high rims for this review, so a nice all-rounder wheel set. Some more popular wheels of this kind can have a fragile feel to them and horror stories of smashed rims from potholes are common. On initial view the Irwin wheels have a very robust feel to them. The rim walls are nice and thick, and the braking surface has a nice little indicator to ensure you set the pads to ideal setting for braking performance. Installation is very user friendly and straight forward.
Irwin claim 1.51kg +/- 5% not including skewers or rim tape for the wheels, our set came in at bang on 1.5kg for the pair.
So the wheels look good but would they roll as good?
The first ride out was in wet conditions, I thought might be problematic for braking. Carbon braking surfaces generally don’t work as well as traditional alloy rims but I can tell you that using the Irwin wheels with the specific brake pads….. the gap is closing. The ceramic fibre composite reinforced braking surface worked wonderfully well. Even in the pouring rain!! They have one of the best carbon braking surfaces that I have tried.
If the decals don’t become instantly recognisable the sound of them will. The rear hub has a distinctive sound that is louder than usual. It’s all down to personal preference with this kind of thing and they may get quieter as they bed in and the reassuring ticking reminds you of the precision engineering of the hub. Fast freewheeling down descents and everyone knows you are coming! The ceramic bearings make the for a silky smooth roll that is comparative with with other more well known and expensive brands.
Irwin use their own branded hubs that have sealed ceramic bearings. The rear hub contains 60 ratchets and 6 pawls, and that is the significant difference with these wheels. As soon as you engage the pedal stroke you move instantly so you get a snappier more responsive feel. There is no pause while the ratchet engages, this makes a surprisingly big difference and we really liked it.
The Irwin wheels come in a 38mm by 26mm wide or 58mm by 26mm option, available with standard or 'stealth' graphics.
Irwin also make the wheelset available as a 38mm front and 58mm rear.
Pricing starts at $1,685 for the 38mm Clincher in standard graphics (as tested).
WHERE TO BUY
To check out the full range head to - www.irwincyclingoceania.com.au
These wheels are really smooth and they feel like you can use them as an everyday wheel. Admittedly I only had them for 3 weeks but they performed really well. There is a reassuring solid feel to them and at a realistic price point that provides great value for money. I would use them as training/racing wheel - certainly don’t need to keep them solely for racing. They are too good for that.
- 38mm tall and 26mm width UD finish full carbon clincher rim: UCI approved
- 1510 grams +/- 5% not including skewers or rim tape
- Aerodynamic profile design 38mm full carbon fibre rim
- Ceramic fibre composite braking surface rim to prevent overheating from downhill braking or heavy riding
- 6 sealed cartridge ceramic bearings (2F + 4R) reduce friction and maximize product longevity
- 6 pawls and 60 ratchets mechanism in rear hub increase wheel engagement and instant forward motion at the first application of pedal pressure
- Sapim CX-Ray spokes and Double Square brass nipples offer high strength and fatigue resistance
- External nipple design for easy maintenance
- Light and strong skewer sits “true” in the frame and fork
- Precision hand-built with maximum lateral tolerance of 0.3mm
- Includes 4 pairs of exclusive brake pads
- 48mm extended valve included