Cyclocross Wheel Review: Williams Cyclocross Tubular Wheelset
Spin-free test: You may have noticed that there is a premium price for bike components painted white. A quick glance into the display case at your local bike shop will confirm that if it’s painted white, it usually costs more. Following this logic, a white rim wheel set should cost a fortune. But thanks to Williams Cycling, white rims on a tubular wheel set are well within the budget of even the most frugal racer.
Williams has brought to market a cyclocross specific tubular wheel set that is a strong performer yet durable enough for even the most aggressive Clydesdale. The wheels are built with stout 14 straight gauge spokes: 2-cross lacing on the front and 3-cross on the rear. The semi-aero, aluminum rim is robust, benefiting from a simple tubular cross section. The rims are completed with a brilliant white paint scheme, and their `cross-specific pedigree is emphasized by bold decals.
In contrast to the white paint scheme of the rim, the hubs, spokes and nipples are painted a deep, gloss black. Unlike other boutique wheels on the market, Williams has opted for a higher spoke count, choosing 24 and 28 for the front and rear wheels, respectively. The hubs use cartridge bearings that spin freely to the touch, but the dry Northern California climate kept me from putting the bearings through the extremes of rain and mud. Both Campagnolo and Shimano/ SRAM cassette bodies are available for the rear hub.
The gluing surface of the rims is painted with a gloss white finish. It was suggested by Williams to improve the surface adhesion by sanding the rim. I decided to live dangerously and forgo the sanding step. I used my preferred tubular mounting technique of glue and tubular tape. I have had a lot of experience using this technique and did not have any problems with the reliability of the bond during my testing of the Williams wheels.
I found the wheels to be solid and consistent. In cornering, they were stiff under my average, 160- lb weight and tracked reliably with no noticeable flex—a testament to their rigid construction. The wheels stayed true and round, even after hitting the usual Northern California bumpy and rocky terrain. However, the ruggedness of the wheels comes at a price. If you are used to the acceleration of ultralight road wheels, you may find the Williams tubulars a tad sluggish. But for most riders, these wheels will be their first foray into glue-on tires and, therefore, the low-pressure benefits will be a major upgrade.
Overall, the Williams wheels provide a good tubular option for the cyclocross racer. At a listed price of $369 (as of June 2011, $399 but lighter), they are an excellent value if you are looking for something that can take abuse and not require constant maintenance. And riders who are upgrading to tubulars will find the wheels a perfect starter set for their wheel arsenal.
Williams Cyclocross Tubular Wheelset
MSRP: $369 ($399 2010/11 model)
Rim: 25mm deep alloy rim, 19.5mm wide
Spokes: black 15 straight gauge spokes with brass nipples: 24 front, 2x, 28 rear, 3x. Alloy nipples front, Brass nipples rear.
Weight: List: 1669g wheelset, 729g front, 940g rear, 400g rim, 355g hubset. Measured: 1700g total, 740g front, 960g rear. (2010/11 model listed at 1590g: 671g front, 919g rear)
Weight Limit: 225 lbs
What comes in the box? Wheelset, skewers
Tester(s): David Pedersen
For more info: WilliamsCycling.com