By Lars Hundley
Weight: 1260g claimed weight per pair without rotors
How obtained: Manufacturer review sample from Elitewheels
RBR advertiser: No
The Elitewheels Drive 40D carbon spoked road wheels are the first wheels I’ve ever ridden with both carbon rims and carbon spokes. After riding them for a few weeks, I’ve been extremely pleased with them.
Under 1,300 grams, under $1,200
I was initially surprised both by the low weight of the wheels and also by the low price. Most wheels in this weight range easily cost almost twice as much.
The low weight is the result of an in-house UNI carbon technology for the rims combined with laced carbon fiber spokes that can be replaced by a mechanic with a standard spoke tool and wrench. (They even include extra spokes with the wheel, in case you ever break one.) The rims are made from a proprietary mixture of Toray T800, T1000 carbon fiber and their own carbon fiber and resin. The wheels are UCI approved, which means they passed mandatory impact testing for safety.
Bring Your Own Centerlock Disc Rotors
Since road bikes often use a variety of 140mm and 160mm size combinations, the wheels do not come with rotors and you need to supply your own. I used a set of SRAM rotors I had at home. The wheels do include lockrings to hold the rotors in place. The lockrings are the type that require an external notch tool to tighten them rather than the type I usually use that are tightened internally using a standard cassette lockring tool. But I picked up a tool from Park Tool to add to my cycling toolbox, which also works on 16-notch bottom bracket tool fittings with an outer diameter of 44mm and it worked perfectly.
Tubes or Road Tubeless, Take Your Pick
I set up the wheels first with regular tubed tires and then again with a road tubeless ready tire and had no problems with either option. I was able to get the tire on with a single Pedro’s lever with both types of tires. I’ve had struggles in the past with other wheels or wheel / tire combinations, so it was nice to be able to get tires on and off and still hear the tire bead pop securely into place when I aired it up. The wheels included a set of tubeless valves that came preinstalled, so you don’t need to buy any if you’re going to run them tubeless.
One cool feature I really liked and noticed as soon as I took the wheels out of the box was how well the tires were pre-taped with a nice looking transparent tape. I emailed to ask about it and learned that they use a machine to tape them, which is why it’s so perfect and tight. This was a big plus in my opinion, because I’ve had to tape wheels myself and I’m not good at it. It’s not easy to get the tape in straight and totally airtight by hand, and if you do a bad job then the air can rush out of the wheel. Since they were pre-taped so perfectly, this was one thing I did not have to worry about.
I used a compressor to initially get the Panaracer road tubeless tire seated on the Drive 40D rim. Next, I let the air out, removed the Presta valve core, added sealant, replaced the valve core and aired the tire back up with my floor pump. I spun the tire to make sure the sealant coated the inside of the entire tire and then rode it around the block and put the bike away. The next day the tire was still holding air.
40mm Rim Depth is Aero and Light, But Still Safe in Crosswinds
I liked the 40mm carbon rim depth because the rims were shallow enough that they were extremely light and still felt safe in crosswinds, yet deep enough for aero benefits. They spin up and accelerate very easily with such a low weight.
The 21mm internal width of the rim is the sweet spot for road tires, where they spread out the tire a little better than a 19mm width, but aren’t so wide that you can’t run a 25mm tire. Granted, I don’t usually run anything narrower than a 28mm anymore, but it’s nice to know I could put 25mm racing tires on there if I wanted. Elite says you can run tires as wide as 38mm, but I did not try any that wide.
The Elite Drive 40D wheels come with ceramic bearings that use steel races — a hybrid set up that they say gives you lower weight, reduced rolling resistance and an increased lifespan. All I know is that the wheels spun just fine. I don’t think this is something that a cyclist would ever be able to perceive when riding with them, but it’s nice to know that they should theoretically last longer.
Shimano or SRAM XDR options
You have the option of ordering the wheels with hubs meant for Shimano or SRAM XDR cassettes. I run SRAM on my bikes, so I chose the XDR.
I always enjoy putting on a set of light, aero wheels. Whether it’s accelerating out of a turn, or standing up and putting down the watts as I climb a steep hill, I can actually feel the difference. Maybe some of it is just in my head, but light wheels make me feel faster. The Drive 40D wheels felt laterally stiff and aero, but still very comfortable on the road with the 28mm tires I was running. The freewheel engaged instantly as I pedaled, just as they should. I had no issues or problems.
The Elite Drive 40D wheels look great, rode great and are also lighter than any of the other wheels I own. I also liked how it was very reasonable to get tires on and off the rim with just a single Pedro’s lever, which is crucial when you’re out on the road somewhere and get a flat.