Cyclocross Wheel Review: Rolf VCX/Cross Wheelset
Specs: 31mm deep alloy rim, 16 paired spokes front and rear, 14 gauge (14/15 gauge on VCX) front and rear, titanium freehub body. 190-lb weight limit.
Weight: List: 1580g listed, 680g front, 900g rear. 530g rim, 72g front hub, 259g rear hub. Measured: 1590g, 700g front, 890g rear.
In the box: Steel skewers and reinforced rim tape
Tester(s): Andrew Yee, Tim Langlais
Spin-free test: The $999 Rolf Cross wheels (now replaced by the nearly-identical VCX wheelset that offers double-butted spokes) present an interesting option for cyclocross riders looking for a strong clincher wheelset for racing. Rolf took their proven, paired-spoke technology and applied it to wheels specifically built for the rigors cyclocross.
With a 530g rim, these wheels feature the heaviest rim in these tests and are not the best choice from gram counters looking to shed rotational weight. But Rolf uses its technology to build something the company believes will be stronger and more durable in cyclocross use. And for racers looking to shed weight from an entry level bike, the 1590 grams will likely still be quite a bit lighter than stock wheels, even if the weight savings is mostly from the lighter hubs.
The American-made front hub has flanges spaced 85mm wide (29 mm more than a Dura Ace hub) for improved lateral stiffness, both hubs offer sealed cartridge bearings with preload adjustment, and the Sapim bladed spokes are anchored to internal nipples sitting in a nylon jacket. While truing the wheel is a minor pain, because the clincher tire is easily removable, it’s not quite the ordeal it would be if these were tubular wheels, and it may be worth it— the internal nipples are used for both increased strength (the nipples are loaded in compression instead of in tension) and improved aerodynamics (should you use the wheels with narrow road tires).
When accelerating, compared to an ultralight race wheel, you can feel the extra mass at the rim, but on trail rides, without the constant accelerations of a ’cross course, they rolled just fine. One thing immediately evident is that these wheels are quite stiff both front and rear, a great thing for botched remounts and bigger riders. Set up with tubes or tubeless with a Stan’s strip, the wheels were unfazed by not only the normal roots and rocks, but also a few intentional and unintentional curb hits.
If you’re used to trashing heavy OEM clincher wheels and don’t want to be bothered by gluing tires, the Rolf Cross wheels are definitely worth consideration. We think they’d be the perfect big-guy wheel, but unfortunately the company’s conservative weight limit suggests riders over 190 pounds stay clear. $999 is a lot to spend on wheels, especially clinchers with a heavy rim, but the newer VCX sheds a few grams with double-butted spokes, and with their durability shown in our tests, these might last you long enough to make it a sound investment.
Country of Origin: USA
For more info: Rolf Prima