Carbon Hoops from Canada are High Quality Performers
Blade Carbon Wheels is a Canadian company that started back in 2014 and produces both full carbon and carbon/aluminum hybrid wheels for the road and track. The wheels are hand-built and sourced directly from the manufacturer for cost savings. Blade is also the official race wheel of the Canadian national cycling team.
Their original full-carbon wheel line is the "Classic," and now they offer a new "2G" (second generation) version. I tested the Blade 45mm 2G wheels for three weeks this spring and was able to put them through their paces in conditions ranging from sunny and dry to downpours.
Not Your Typical Carbon Layup
Blade's Classic wheels use the traditional manufacturing method of layering woven or unidirectional carbon sheets with resin. The layering is done by hand and is a very time-intensive process. Each carbon sheet is made up of carbon filaments, like a piece of cloth made out of thread. These sheets are layered with very specific orientations to create properties like stiffness and compliance.
The 2G wheels use a newer manufacturing method called Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) filament winding. Instead of sheets, the individual filaments come on a role and are wrapped around a rim mold. As CNC suggests, the whole process is fully automated. Blade has a great video on the company website that shows the difference in manufacturing between the traditional layered and CNC filament methods.
One benefit of CNC filament winding is rim-to-rim consistency and quality because there is no chance for human error. The fibers are also wound under tension and laid down straight, not crimped in a woven cloth, which makes for a stronger rim. The added strength means the rims can be built lighter.
Everything is Customizable
It's somewhat of a tradition for wheel makers to "trick out" carbon wheels with large logos and graphics. Blade allows you to do the tricking out, customizing your hoops to match your bike, team kit, etc. Options for the 2G wheels include:
- Exterior Carbon Weave – Twill or Rattle Snake
- Finish – Glossy or Matte
- External Rim Width – 23mm or 25mm
- Rim Type - Clincher or Tubular
- Standard clincher or tubeless-compatible (25mm width only)
- Shimano/SRAM or Campagnolo
- Decal Color – 18 options
- Hub Color/Manufacturer – Blade (white, black, silver, black disc), DT Swiss, White Industries, Chris King, Extralite
The cosmetic options are great for creating a unique wheel (the Classic line of wheels also has spoke color as an option, the 2G line comes only with the excellent Sapim CX-Ray spokes in black) and the build options allow you to get a wheel that meets your technical requirements.
The wheels I tested were standard clincher, 25mm rim width, and Shimano/SRAM Blade brand hubs. White decals and hubs combined with a glossy twill finish made for a very good looking set of wheels.
On the Road – Stiff and Fast
The 45m rim depth and 25mm rim width (I measured 26.5mm at the brake track and 18mm internal width) combined with the CNC filament winding makes for a very stiff wheel. I ran my typical setup of 25mm Continental GP4000s II tires on the Blade wheels and found that the tire pressure I use on skinnier rims made for a very harsh ride.
The wheels are very stiff vertically, but thankfully the rim width allows lower tire pressures, which smoothed out the ride nicely and ballooned the 25mm tires out to 27mm. With wider rims it is important to note your frame clearances, and it is great that Blade offers a 23mm rim width option for frames that can’t handle the 25mm width.
The wheels I tested came with Blade brand cartridge bearing hubs, which were smooth rolling, with no lateral play. My short three-week trial was not long enough to assess bearing longevity, but I did ride in some nasty wet/dirty conditions without any ill effects on the bearings. Connecting the hubs to the rim are CX-Ray spokes that held everything straight and true for the duration of my use and winter/spring pothole abuse.
The moderately deep 45mm rims felt very fast and held speed well considering they are quite light at 1,540 g (25mm-wide clincher). The rim shape follows the industry standard of a wide and blunted round profile that offers good aerodynamic properties while remaining stable in crosswinds.
Testing in spring offered me numerous opportunities to ride the wheels in strong, gusty winds and steering input was very minimal. There was enough feedback from the rims to know it was windy, but I did not have to put in any extra effort to keeping the bike going where I wanted it to go. As a lighter rider, I am more susceptible to crosswind problems on deep rims, but I felt perfectly comfortable on these wheels in the wind.
When pounding the pedals, accelerations felt very snappy, and corner tracking was excellent due to the stiff rims. Dumping speed requires special brake pads (a set is included with the wheels) and dry braking felt no different than on aluminum rims, though there was a soft whirring sound. Wet braking was also very good, with only a single wheel revolution delay for the pads to squeegee the water before the brakes bite.
A common "issue" with many carbon rims is that their superb lateral (side-to-side) stiffness leads to brake rub, and the Blade wheels follow this trend. Under hard efforts like sprints I could hear and feel the rear rim contact the brake pads. I had to open my brake calipers quite wide to eliminate brake rub, but still had enough lever pull remaining to not bottom out on my handlebars. You waste energy bending aluminum rims, but the trade-off for stiff carbon rims is setting your brake pads wider.
In terms of quality and performance, the Blade 2G wheels are great. On the road they roll fast and ride nicely. The ability to customize the look of the wheels is a differentiating feature that you won’t find with most other wheels. Wheel weight is always a concern with deeper section rims, and the Blade wheels' CNC filament-wound rims help keep these wheels light enough to be used in the hills.
The Blade wheels are excellent in a sea of excellent wheel options, their distinguishing features being customization and reasonably light weight. And for high quality carbon hoops, they're reasonably priced, as well.
Brandon Bilyeu is an avid recreational roadie who lives in Portland, Oregon, and enjoys road, track and 'cross racing. He's also a year-round bike commuter and is a mechanical design engineer by trade. Click to read Brandon's full bio.