Ritchey Design and its eponymous founder Tom Ritchey have been in the bike industry for over four decades as builders and innovators. Ritchey got his start welding and manufacturing bikes, and his company continues to build steel bikes for cyclocross, mountain and road. We have recently reviewed the Ritchey Outback, which is one of the company's offerings in the growing gravel/adventure market, and the steel Swiss Cross cyclocross bike.
Ritchey Design also makes wheelsets to go with its steel bikes and as upgrades for other brands' bikes. The Outback and Swiss Cross bikes both come with the alloy WCS Zeta tubeless wheelsets, and Ritchey also makes a higher-end wheelset in the tubeless-ready, carbon WCS Apex 38 Disc Clincher.
The 38-mm deep, 19mm-wide WCS Apex 38 is a road tubeless wheelset that can be used for cyclocross and gravel racing while also pulling doubly duty as an aero road option.
Our team recently received sets of the WCS Apex 38 wheels for review. In this In Review spotlight, we take a first look at the carbon wheelset and give our initial impressions of the setup and ride quality. Stay tuned for a full review after further use.
Ritchey's WCS Apex 38 Tubeless Disc Clincher Wheelset
The carbon WCS Apex 38 rims have 19mm internal and 26mm external widths and a 38mm deep profile. Ritchey states the carbon rim was built with a carbon and resin system specifically the demands placed on disc wheels.
Since many of us use our wheels for more than one discipline, the 19mm internal width places the WCS Apex 38 as a wheelset that might be appealing for both road and cyclocross/gravel riding. We have reviewed several tubeless gravel wheels with wider rims recently, but the 19mm rim width provides support for ’cross and gravel tires and is not too wide for narrow 23 or 25mm road tires.
The hubs on the WCS Apex 38 feature offset flanges to increase the spoke bracing angle. The bearings are load-specific, with 28mm bearings on the drive side and 24mm bearings on the non-drive side.
The CenterLock disc hubs are two-piece WCS hubs, and the freehubs have Ritchey's patented 6-pawl, 12-point engagement system. The freehubs are compatible with 10/11-speed Shimano/SRAM and 10/11/12-speed Campagnolo splines.
The WCS Apex 38 wheels have 24 DT Competition 2.0/1.8 DB J-bend spokes laced 2x both front and rear. Got those out for remote adventures, this should be good news, as J-bend spokes are typically easier to find in shops than straight-up stores.
When we received our two test wheelsets, Ritchey shipped them with quick release caps. We converted one to 12mm thru-axle using end caps. Ritchey said new WCS Apex 38 wheelsets will be shipped with 12mm thru-axles front and rear in the near future, and it will offer a quick release conversion kit for $50.
The Apex 38 may cheat wind and shed mud, but it won't win over the most dedicated weight weenies. Our test set checks in at 800g front and 910g rear, for a total weight of 1,710g. This is a tad lower than spec, but closer to some of the alloy tubeless clincher wheelsets we have looked at recently and heavier than some other road carbon wheels such as the Bontrager Aeolus 3 and FSE EVO 35CD wheelsets.
Initial Setup and First Impressions
Tubeless tires and systems vary quite a bit, so when we receive a set of review wheels we like to try installing several different tires. We used a narrow rim tape that covered the center channel and left the rim surface exposed at the rim bed shelf, which helped facilitate easier setup.
Our Specialized Trigger 2Bliss 38mm tires snapped into place with some light lubrication on the tire and air from a floor pump. Schwalbe G-One tires also seated with a floor pump, but one of the tires fell off the bead shelf when we let air out to put sealant in the tire. This was initially a concern (an unseated tire us problematic in the field), but after letting the tire sit for a few days with sealant, the tire stayed locked on the bead shelf after deflation, even after riding while flat.
With our tires set up, we have already gotten a few hundred miles of mixed terrain riding in on the WCS Apex 38 wheels. The tubeless tires have stayed sealed over the varying terrain, and the wheels have stayed round and true despite some navigating some rougher trails and gravel roads.
Some look to carbon hoops to shed grams over alloy options, while others may prioritize reliability and aerodynamics in the formation of a dual-purpose wheelset for both high-pressure road and low-pressure cyclocross use. The Apex 38 spins freely in the latter wheelhouse.
Stay tuned for a long-term review of Ritchey's WCS Apex 38 wheels as we put them to the test on the road, gravel roads and maybe a cyclocross practice course or two as the ’cross season approaches.
For more on the wheels, see the photo gallery and specifications below.
Ritchey WCS Apex 38 Wheelset Specifications
Rim: carbon, disc-specific layup, 21mm internal/26mm external width, tubeless-ready, disc only
Hub: WCS two-piece hub, offset flanges, 6-pawl, 12-point engagement freehub, Shimano/SRAM and Campagnolo compatible
Axles: Front: quick release, 12mm/15mm thru-axle; Rear: quick release, 12mm thru-axle
Spokes: 24 DT Competition 2.0/1.8 DB front/rear; laced 2x
Weight: 1,710g (actual), 800g (actual) front, 910g (actual) rear
More Info: us.ritcheylogic.com