Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
A few months ago, I wrote a story about ICAN Cycling’s Chinese carbon wheels, the Aero 40s. These 40mm profile Toray carbon tubeless-ready aero clinchers weigh only 1,314 grams and cost only $640.
Lots of roadies looking for inexpensive carbon wheels have discovered that they’re widely available on eBay.com. While at RBR, we knew this, we hadn’t actually tested a pair until ICAN contacted us offering a pair for review.
Because I have built wheels professionally for a long time, we thought it would be interesting to get a pair so that I could evaluate the hoops with pro tools and expertise. We were also eager to hit the road with the featherweight carbon wheels from China.
To read the full backstory, learn all the specs on the Aero 40s and watch my unboxing video, go here: https://www.roadbikerider.com/ican-cycling-aero-40-carbon-road-wheelset/.
Today, I’m going to describe the extensive “pre-flight check” I put the Aero 40 wheels through – a proper quality control inspection as we perform it on our custom wheels where I work. It’s only ten checks but a few special tools are required to do them all correctly and to get accurate results.
The Ten Wheel Checks
- Trueness (lateral / side-to-side rim runout)
- Roundness (vertical / up-and-down rim runout)
- Rim centering (how well the rim is centered over the axle – so that it is also centered in the bicycle)
- Spoke length (too short or long usually results in problems down the road)
- Spoke tension (loose or uneven spoke tension causes wheel problems)
- Spoke twist (the Aero 40s have bladed spokes, which should not be twisted)
- Stress relieved? (stress on the spokes, nipples, hubs and rims during wheel building should be relieved)
- Rim strip fit
- Tire installation
- Tire removal
Overall, the Aero 40s received high marks (A-, A or B) in tests 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 10. Those are challenging tests to pass – especially spoke length, tension and centering. If you’ve ever owned wheels that make it nearly impossible to remove a tire on the road, you’ll especially appreciate them scoring an A in ease of tire on/off, too.
The only issue of real concern was spoke twist. The wheels are built with Sapim CX Ray bladed spokes, which require the wheelbuilder to pay attention to the orientation of the spoke when truing and tensioning.
If the wheel whisperer doesn’t do this, the flat surface of the oval spokes can get twisted too far. If that happens, instead of the spokes’ aero edges slicing through the wind, the wide faces actually block the breeze increasing drag.
On both Aero 40s, most of the spokes were twisted putting the flat surfaces into the wind. It isn’t a major job to correct the spoke orientation, but it does take some skill. The spokes need to be untwisted and at the same time, the wheel trueness, roundness, centering and tension need to be maintained.
Even with the spoke twist issue, I’m impressed with these wheels and looking forward to finally riding them. I’m going to fine-tune them to fix the twist, mount a new pair of tires and an 11-28 cassette. Then I’ll put the provided ICAN carbon-compatible brake pads on my Dura-Ace brakes, and take flight on the Aero 40s. I’ll let you know how well they perform in a future Tech Talk.
Watch My Entire QC Inspection
Because it’s better to actually demonstrate all the checks, I made a second video showing all these tests, the tools used, how the QC checks are done and how the ICAN wheels fared. It resulted in a longer video, but I hope you find it interesting.
Ride total: 9,324
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.