Hoops And Dreams: Curve X Wheels Mfg X Skunkworks Review

Hoops And Dreams: Curve X Wheels Mfg X Skunkworks Wheel Review

From Cycle EXIF’s Technical Editor, Richard Gearing: When wheel reviews are done without any kind of technical or scientific testing, the review becomes one based on subjectivity, feel and perception. At times it can be tricky to distinguish differences from wheel to wheel, especially when many of them are built to similar specs.

A wheel that is ‘good’ usually presents a feeling of extra speed, better crosswind stability, sensations of being lightweight or positivity surrounding the levels of stiffness and comfort. A bad wheel might move around beneath you, be too harsh or exhibit poor braking, amongst other things. 

Riding on a wheelset which doesn’t offer much in the way of feedback can make them feel unremarkable. That is until you realize that actually, the complete opposite is true.

Hoops And Dreams: Curve X Wheels Mfg X Skunkworks Wheel Review

At 35mm, these Curve G4 clincher rims built into Alchemy-designed Wheels Manufacturing hubs are a depth that I consider to be the best all-round solution. 35mm is shallow enough to keep the weight down for climbing; to prevent the wheels from being too harsh to ride, and to avoid the effects of crosswinds; yet deep enough to offer some aero benefit. 

If you only have one bike and one wheelset, or if you travel with your bike and need a versatile wheelset, I believe 35mm should be your go-to depth. At 35mm I don’t expect to feel the extra boost in pace that a 50 or 60mm aero wheel can often feel like it offers, nor do I expect to be held back when the altimeter begins to tick over.

However, I do expect them to be ‘just so’, all of the time; perfectly adaptable to be well-suited for whatever ride or conditions I intend to use them for. That is exactly what these wheels are.

Hoops And Dreams: Curve X Wheels Mfg X Skunkworks Wheel Review

The G4 rim from Curve is their latest design and builds on the success of their ‘CC’ rims that came before it. The new rim design uses a slower, more refined layup and molding process and a high-temperature resin and 3K weave for an improved brake track.

The 3K weave continues over the surface of the rims, giving them a unique appearance. What is not visible beneath this weave is the uni-directional layers accompanying that distinctive outer layer – a process which Curve label as ‘Dragon Skin Technology’.

All of these updates combine to offer a lighter, stiffer and stronger rim; and, like the CC rims, these new G4s are also UCI approved.

Hoops And Dreams: Curve X Wheels Mfg X Skunkworks Wheel Review

Wheels Manufacturing come to mind as a company that offer bottom brackets, bottom bracket adapters, and replacement derailleur hangers. The hubs used in this build are a strong first entry into the hub game; and that is thanks to the basis of the design. 

Alchemy hubs have been around for a while, but Wheels Manufacturing bought up the design to offer them under their own label (rightfully, they do still give Alchemy all the credit for the design). 

An ultra-wide bearing stance front and rear makes for fantastic hub stability between the dropouts; and best-in-class flange spacing results in bracing angles which maximise strength for the wheel build.

This all comes at a very comparable price to the likes of Chris King and Industry Nine. They’re not the most fancy looking hubs on the market but, with engineering credentials like this, that’s a small price to pay.  

Hoops And Dreams: Curve X Wheels Mfg X Skunkworks Wheel Review

Being of a now-typical U-shape in line with current aerodynamic thinking, crosswinds were never expected to be a concern with these wheels. Sure enough, they weren’t. I didn’t expect them to be flexible, nor did I expect them to be harsh. Tick and tick. I wanted them to roll smoothly. They excelled in this regard.

If all of this sounds a bit “so what?”, let me just clarify a couple of points that might help:  These wheels – put together by Zak at Skunkworks in Sydney – weigh just 1305g. For a set of 35mm clinchers, that’s pretty damn good.

I weigh 85kg. That’s not light. Despite both of these factors, these wheels felt utterly bombproof. Even during my hardest efforts and most painful climbing drills, waggling the bike about beneath me as if my life depended on it, the wheels simply did not budge.

Hoops And Dreams: Curve X Wheels Mfg X Skunkworks Wheel Review

The braking on the rims was initially a concern but, once the box-fresh rims and pads (Swissstop Black Prince, in case you’re curious) had a chance to get to know each other, that concern became unfounded. 

The freehub engagement was quick and the wheels never made a noise throughout the review period – and that included no rattling from the valve in the valve holes, which was a pleasant surprise.

Hoops And Dreams: Curve X Wheels Mfg X Skunkworks Wheel Review

A wheel that is designed to be solid as a rock – even under a heavier rider – and which is built to be a great all-rounder may not particularly sparkle in any specific discipline; but that is precisely the result that should be expected.

As someone who doesn’t own stacks of wheels, I prefer to have one or two good sets that do everything very well. On that basis; and as I said after my first ride on them; if this set were tubs I would be working out how to keep them.

Great quality hubs combined with rims that work well and look great, perfectly built with dependable spokes and nipples. There is nothing to dislike in this package and everything to wholeheartedly approve of. A class-leading jack of all trades.

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PS: If you happen to be in Adelaide for the Tour Down Under, make sure you get hold of the Curve Cycling crew. They’ll probably be hanging around Ebenezer Place and will have pairs of G4s available for a demo.

Big thanks to Zak at Skunkworks for the photos.

Hoops And Dreams: Curve X Wheels Mfg X Skunkworks Wheel Review