By Joshua Cohen
Maybe like you, I don’t have an endless budget. Each dollar spent on cycling gear has to count. However, quality is essential, especially when safety is riding on it.
When I shop for components, I look for parts with proven reliability that can stand up to daily training, yet not slow me down in weekly club events. I’m also a strong proponent of supporting U.S.-based cycling companies, particularly those with a reputation for product quality and good customer service.
It all comes together in the $499 R28 Aero3 wheelset from Neuvation Cycling, a small but ambitious company founded by industry veteran John Neugent. His line of affordable wheels is intended to match the quality and ride of more costly hoops, and the wheelset I tried delivers.
The R28 wheelset has a claimed weight of 1,600 grams (710 front, 890 rear without quick-release skewers), well within the range of many race-ready, pre-built wheels that can cost twice as much. The rims have a 27-mm-deep, 19-mm-wide, semi-aero profile with machined braking surfaces.
Neuvation uses 16 bladed spokes up front and 20 in the rear, laced one-cross. The spokes are made of 4.5-mm-wide stainless steel with a standard J-bend head for easy replacement. The bends are oversized (2.3 mm) to add durability at this high stress point. In addition, the spokes’ larger diameter makes them a bit stiffer. The combination of alloy nipples on the rear wheel’s left side and brass on the drive side further improves strength and durability.
The Neuvation-brand hubs incorporate six cartridge bearings and are easy to maintain due to their straight-forward design. Clear, step-by-step instructions with pictures can be found on the Neuvation website. Customers can upgrade to ceramic bearings at a surprisingly low price — currently only $60 for the R28 wheelset.
How is Neuvation able to provide such value in wheels? “Low overhead,” Neugent replies, “and I focus on giving the best value instead of being different. Threading in a spoke, straight-pull spokes, and nipples in the hub add a lot of cost but very little value.” He adds that selling directly to consumers also helps hold down costs by eliminating the middleman.
The securely packaged wheels arrived with quick-release skewers and a packet containing two spare spokes of each length (six total) along with extra spoke nipples. You need to provide rim strips because they’re not included. I prefer the long-term security of the cloth type.
The wheels came out of the box true and tight. Mounting Michelin Krylon Carbon tires was more difficult than on my other wheels. I was forced to use a tire lever to seat these clinchers. Other tires may or may not fit easier, given manufacturing differences.
At 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds, I’m a fairly average-size rider. Although I don’t abuse wheels the way heavier riders might, I still put this wheelset through the wringer via rough country roads, fast group sprints, and frequent bunny-hopping over debris and potholes in town.
The first noticeable difference (compared to standard 32-spoke wheels) was the stiffness. These wheels transmit more road vibration, but not so much that I considered it a negative, just a difference. This stiffness definitely translates to faster acceleration and response. When you put power through the pedals, the energy transfer is crisp and efficient.
The wheels spin smoothly, even without the ceramic upgrade, with none of the play that sometimes can be found in lower-cost hoops. On the flats, the aero spokes and smooth bearings help the bike move almost effortlessly. Braking was beautifully smooth and quiet on the exceptionally machined sidewalls. The rear hub coasts quietly. it’s not silent, but its whir was hardly loud enough to scare off a few grazing deer I passed.
At 1,600 grams, the R28s are quick, but they aren’t intended to be superlight climbing wheels. R28’s definitely look fast. They’re available in black or silver. The black version will remind people of another aero, low-spoke-count wheel by a big-name brand.
The Neuvation R28 Aero3 wheelset is a good buy for $499 and competes well with hoops costing much more. They’re fast but also strong enough for daily riding and hard training. Their no-nonsense construction makes them a smart choice for heavier riders who want the advantages of aero wheels.
Anyone considering new wheels will do well to take a close look at R28 Aero3’s before spending twice as much (or more) for a wheelset with an expensive name.
Joshua Cohen is a physical therapist and designer of the Kontact Saddle. He wrote his graduate thesis on male ergonomic bicycle seat design. Then, distilling his voluminous scholarly research, he wrote Finding the Perfect Bicycle Seat and, more recently, The Illustrated Guide to Bicycle Seats. Both eBooks are available in the RBR eBookstore.