Review: Swiss Side Franc Wheels

Review: Swiss Side Franc Wheelset

By guest writer Richard Gearing. Bike wheel reviews are often a heady combination of clichéd adjectives. As a reviewer you generally try your very best to avoid them at all costs whilst not actually being able to ignore any of them at all. It is impossible to review a set of wheels without thinking of ‘lateral stiffness’ and ‘vertical compliance’. I’ll do my best with this new brand as I feel like they deserve the opportunity to shine without the groans that such comments will endure…

Swiss Side are probably not the first wheel company you’d think of. In fact being as new as they are might mean this is the first time you have heard of them. You should seek them out though — I’ve been quietly impressed with their ‘Franc‘ model that I’ve spent my last few hundred kilometers riding, and it looks like there’s more goodness in their range, not to mention what’s in development.

Review: Swiss Side Franc Wheelset

First Impressions
Wheels for me are a component that I need to get absolutely right visually. I’m a fussy bugger, and it’s fair to say that when I first mounted this Swiss Side Franc wheelset onto my bike I really wasn’t sure. Interesting, yes. Pretty? Debatable. The two red spokes on each wheel are a nice touch of visual interest though.

Otherwise all was well — a nice double wheel bag, a set of generic-but-well-functioning good looking skewers, plenty of stickers and some spare spokes.

Review: Swiss Side Franc Wheelset

I’m not a weight-weenie and that’s certainly not what Cycle EXIF is here for, but it was only right that I attempted comparison with the published weight of 1570g. I was too lazy to remove the rim strips, but the 1720g reading makes me believe that 1570g isn’t too far from the truth. Just to be clear, we’re talking about a 30mm deep aluminium clincher rim with fairly wide aero spokes — to me that makes this weight pretty reasonable, especially when the price is listed as only €415 (£345 / $635 AUD / $565 USD at the time of writing).

Review: Swiss Side Franc Wheelset

The Ride
In short, and for the price, there’s nothing to fault here. The wheels felt rock solid from the off, and – as someone who runs their brake pads quite close to the rim – I never once heard or felt any brake rub, even in the hardest of out-of-the-saddle efforts. Mounted with Continental GP4000S tyres and Schwalbe tubes the Franc wheelset made for a decent training wheel or cheap race wheel option, and coming to these from a set of Mavic R-SYS makes me believe they truly hold their own against some much more highly priced alternatives.

The brake grip was plentiful as you would expect from a machined aluminium rim. The wheels stayed true, and the spokes made no noise which made me believe there mightn’t be any issue later in life (it’s fair to say the test period was perhaps too short to know for sure, but I’m definitely giving the benefit of the doubt here — and remember spares are included anyway). There was no vagueness in the feedback from the wheels through turns, and the wheels weren’t uncomfortably rigid — even despite running 23c clincher tyres when I usually run 24 or 25c and regularly run tubulars.

Review: Swiss Side Franc Wheelset

At certain speeds during some turns I did get a bit of a whistle from the wheels. It didn’t happen often enough to worry about, or to identify how or why it was happening (frankly it could easily have been wind noise), but it was enough to make me take notice when it occurred. I am fairly certain that this isn’t a real issue as such though.

As I say, for the price (and whistling aside) they’re hard to fault. Thankfully their looks eventually grew on me, and I even bagged a Strava PR on a favourite local climb for the first time in over a year (which obviously could be coincidence, but still…)!

What Else?
One thing worth noting is that these wheels, despite their cheap price point, are built with Sapim spokes. That might not be a big deal to you, but I was impressed. Sure, by comparison the skewers might ‘only’ have been a generic model with Swiss Side branding, but they have a very solid feel, smooth action and look plenty good enough.

Those spokes are mated to some pretty tasty looking hubs too. There’s no ceramic bearings at play here (how much do you want for your money?!) but if sleek looks are up your street then these will fit the bill. Swiss Side have stuck with the 19mm rim width rather than adopting the newer 23mm+ that many clincher rims now offer — although there aren’t many other factory clincher wheelsets that offer that yet.

Probably my only criticism is that the wheels are only available as standard with a Shimano 11spd freehub (they do come with a spacer for 10spd use). If you run Campagnolo you have to pay extra for the freehub and swap it yourself. However, do note that I ran these with an 11spd Shimano cassette on a Campagnolo setup with absolutely no issue (for what it’s worth I do the opposite on my other bike too [I know — the logical thing would have been to run these wheels on my other bike, but it was out of action!]).

Review: Swiss Side Franc Wheelset

If your budget is a bit less or a little more then the rest of the Swiss Side range is definitely worth a look. As a small team of passionate cyclists with backgrounds as F1 engineers they certainly seem to be bringing some solid wheels to the marketplace, albeit in limited formats at the moment (there’s only one depth of carbon tubular wheel for example). There looks to be some interesting developments on the aero side of things with their ‘Hadron’ Aero Project too should that be what floats your boat — not to mention some tasty skewers and other kit to top out their offering.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I was going to like these wheels. Actually I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. Their ‘Matterhorn’ carbon tubular wheelset looks right up my street too…

Well, well, well — not one mention of ‘lateral stiffness’ or ‘vertical compliance’. See, it can be done!