From Cycle EXIF’s technical correspondent, Richard Gearing. Back in July 2014, Wheelworks sent us a set of their wheels to review. Not long after this, and unbeknown to most, they began developing their very own rim. That new rim — dubbed ‘Maker’ — is now available. Wheelworks have, once again, sent it our way.
This new Maker rim is a very similar format to the November Rail 52 in that it’s a 50mm deep, carbon clincher rim with a wide rim bed, running external nipples. Why have Wheelworks gone to the extent of designing their own rim? To begin with, they decided solid braking performance trumps marginal aero benefit so angled brake surfaces used by other brands to enhance the aero benefit of their wheels were shelved in favour of parallel brake tracks. Designing rims that would build into dependable wheels was a priority, which meant maximising the factors that allow for that to happen. This drove the decision to go with angled spoke holes to minimise the stress on the spoke and spoke nipple — a feature which is made all the more robust by internally chamfered spoke holes, designed to cradle the spoke nipple where it is seated inside the rim. They have also maximised easy tyre installation without impacting the security of the rim-tyre interface. As an extra option, these new rims are safe to run as a tubeless setup with rim tape to seal the spoke holes and an appropriate tubeless valve installed. Finally, Wheelworks also designed a new skewer to complete the package.
As he did when he sent us the Rails, Tristan was keen to ensure the graphics on these new wheels matched the bike they were going on. Owning one gunmetal grey bike, two bikes with exposed raw metal, and with other bikes coming and going that these wheels might end up on, I opted for something fairly neutral in a grey & silver scheme with black hubs and spokes — save for the two contrasting white spokes which have become a Wheelworks signature. Compared to some of the builds Tristan has done this feels a little low key, but it turned out to be plenty striking enough in its own right. Paired with the new Wheelworks skewer design, this makes for a great looking package if nothing else.
Built into the oh-so-trustworthy White Industries T11 hubset with DT Swiss spokes (still the only spokes Wheelworks will build with), this new wheelset weighs 1528g. Compared to 1557g of the Rail 52s, this difference is nigh-on negligible — although it is definitely positive to see that this new rim design didn’t result in a weight increase.
Back when I first tested the Rails I ran them with a set of Grand Bois Blue Cerf 26c clinchers as they are a tyre I have used extensively. I did the same with these Makers so that I could be sure any feedback was coming from the wheels, rather than being influenced by anything else. With no harshness or instability to report, all I can say is that the ride quality is spot-on. I also ran the wheels with larger volume 27c Challenge Paris Roubaix tyres and with a set of the slightly smaller volume 25c Schwalbe ‘One’. Whilst the higher volume Challenge tyre made for a super-cushy ride on the wide rim bed, the 25c Schwalbe were not noticeably less comfortable, and their inflated width matched the rim width well — if ‘aero’ is your thing then 25c is probably the way to go. What a pleasant change it makes to have rims that ease the tyre installation process too. All of these tyres went on and came off without using levers, and I know that’s not always the case. Should you get a visit from the P*ncture Fairy, this is something you will be truly grateful for on the roadside.
Once the brake pads and rim surface had spend some time getting to know each other, the braking of these new rims showed a definite improvement over the Rails. This could be partly attributed to the supplied pads being less ‘grabby’ than the Swissstop Black Prince can be, but those parallel brake tracks and the brake surface of the rim — which uses an obviously different carbon finish — certainly seemed to help. Brake pads are supplied by Wheelworks, not only at the time of purchase but for the life of the wheels — both of which are a very nice touch that few companies can attest to.
The one area where the Makers couldn’t quite seem to edge out the Rail rim is their stability in crosswinds. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say that I felt I was being blown all over the place – it’s more that the Rails are particularly well behaved for their depth in this respect, whereas the Makers seem to be distracted by the wind a little more. The Rail is a slightly more bulbous shape and has more focus on the aero benefit so it is perhaps no surprise that there is a difference here. I have ridden shallower depth, ‘big name’ (and big money) wheelsets that handle crosswinds much more poorly, though, so this should not be a concern if the Makers are of interest to you.
Performance-wise, there are certainly no concerns. Rims of this depth on hubs of this quality, built straight and true and shod with decent tyres are effortless to ride on most roads (and are an absolute hoot on gravel roads, if your frame clearance allows). At pace they’re like sails and they don’t even make life particularly hard when the altimeter starts ticking over.
By knowing the intricate details of their own design, Wheelworks are confident enough to offer a lifetime guarantee on manufacturing defects and workmanship. Cause damage yourself and you’re on your own, but that’s pretty much as small as their ‘small print’ gets. They want, and expect, you to get 50,000km out of these rims — something those free brake pads should help towards. At $2250 (with the WI hubs), they’re very competitively priced too.
With external nipples for easy truing and the dependability, versatility and ease of maintenance of the White Industries hubs, this is a wheelset designed to last and perform. If you’re in the market for a set of wide format, deep section carbon clinchers then this 50mm Maker rim should be on your shortlist. For someone on the lighter side, or perhaps seeking a more ‘all–rounder’ wheel, the 35mm depth Maker would fit the bill.