We do a lot of repairs here at XLR8. It seems the jobs your local bike superstore has no idea how to deal with, we’ve usually seen and fixed before. We also take on the jobs they have been unsuccessful with.
So what do you get when you order a Chinese carbon wheelset from eBay, Alibaba or directly from the “Trading Companies” that appear in the internet?
It’s a good question, and the answer is varied. Here is the story of one of those experiences.
We were presented with a replica Campagnolo Bora Ultra wheelset, sourced via the internet, and landed in Australia for just a shade under $700. But like so many things, you do get what you pay for.
Apparently the first couple of months riding were plagued with snapping nipples. In diagnosing the problem, we counted 4 alloy nipples replaced on the front and 3 on the rear, all by a local bike shop. The owner had become well known by the shop, which had suggested he “dispose” of the wheels, as they were “too much trouble”.
Looking at the 50mm deep section carbon rims, it was evident that these rims were made using the older tech bladder/mould method, using several pieces of carbon fibre sheet for each layer of the build. Nothing really wrong with that, but this certainly explains why they were not expensive (or that light). Most higher quality carbon rims use single carbon sheet construction (ie single rings of carbon laid upon each other) being lighter and stronger. The “Champagnolos” also still had some bladder material left within the rim, which is just a rattily annoyance rather than anything else.
They had been finished with a glossy clear gel coat, under which lay some die cut vinyl replica Bora Ultra decals. They did look nice from a short distance, but were clearly not the real thing. They would fool the unwary from the café table, and maybe on the road. However, anyone who rides a bit, and knows their gear, would pick up the fakes pretty easily.
The wheels had been specced with bladed spokes, and whilst this may be seen as a positive, they were a lower end flat spoke from China. Serviceable, and reliable on a well built wheel, but certainly not performance enhancing, and heavy as they are made from a plain gauge spoke. That said, they build a stiff wheel.
Alloy nipples are often found on these Chinese wheels, and seen by some as a “premium product”. They are lighter than brass, but a definite “no-no” on carbon rims. The effect of alloy corrosion is accelerated, and we have seen nipples turn to alumiuim oxide powder in half a dozen months.
So, they were completely disassembled down to rims, hubs, spokes and nipples and fully rebuilt – replacing the rear driveside spokes with DT Swiss, and ALL the nipples with Sapim brass. Tensions are now within a much tighter tolerance than as originally supplied.
And since the rebuild, these have been perfect – not one issue (including podiums in some local club racing, and some serious gravel grinding).