Wheels have always been my favorite part of a bike. No other single part (do wheels count as a single part?) can effect how a bicycle performs as much as a set of wheels. My personal preference isn’t always to go lighter however. As I am a larger guy, and the majority of my riding is spent commuting, reliability is most important. That’s why my personal wheels are usually a traditionally built 32 whole, 3 cross build. That said, lightweight and low spoke count doesn’t have to equal a finicky or fragile wheel.
In searching for a reliable, do-it-all wheelset that would shave weight and add performance to the bike, I came across the A23 complete build from Velocity. The low weight, wider 23mm rim, and great price point had me wanting a set. That want turned into possession, and with close to 1000 miles on them now it’s time to share my experiences. Click through for the full review.
First, the specifications. Velocity will sell you a set directly from their website, and they provide options galore. First, you have your choice from one of two builds, the Comp and the Pro. The Comp wheelset is the more stout version, and being a larger guy who planned on using the wheels off road, that is the set I went with. You get DT Competition spokes numbering 24, radially laced, up front. The rear gets 28, laced radial / two cross. DT brass nipples lock them to the A23 rim, and Velocity specs their own brand Race hubset. Cassette body options are available for both Shimano and Campy. Weight comes in at 1580g claimed. Want to shave 20g per wheel? Upgrade to alloy nipples (price depends on color). Speaking of colors, Velocity has a wide range of rim colors to choose from so you can get all matchy matchy if you’d like. Stock, the wheelset runs $549.
The Pro build drops the spoke count to 20 radially laced front, and 24 spokes laced radial / two cross in the rear. Sapim CX-Ray spokes are used to keep weight down, along with DT alloy nipples. Weight for the complete set comes in at a claimed 1400g, and costs $799.
Out of the box, the A23’s were true and needed no special attention. Velocity also sent along a package of their VeloPlugs, so rather than a rim strip, I snapped the plugs into place and mounted tires. I then mounted up a cassette and put the wheels on my road bike. Being that the rim is 23mm wide, and I had been running a more narrow rim, the brakes did need to be adjusted beyond what the barrel adjuster would allow for. Once set up and working, I headed out for a ride. I noticed right away that the wheels spin up quickly, thanks in part to the low weight of the a23 rim (426g claimed). The hubs roll smooth on sealed bearings, and the braking performance was exactly what you would expect from a machined sidewall on an alloy clincher rim. That is to say, the Kool-Stop salmon colored pads being used gripped like champs, even in the wet.
The first ride impressions were high. But was this just the joy of a new, lighter wheel on the bike, or were these wheels really the business? After a couple months of use, and a hundred plus miles of commuting on them, I can officially say I was still very pleased with the wheels. No weird issues had cropped up at this point.
I decided to start experimenting with different tire options, as well as play with different tire pressures. At first, I went with my normal commuter set up, using a 25c Continental Gatorskin tire at 110psi. I noticed no real ride difference when compared to the more narrow alloy clinchers the A23’s replaced. I then dropped the pressure to 90psi and found my sweet spot. The 20 psi drop, as expected, makes for a much more comfortable ride, and I prefer this set up when commuting.
The next tire I wanted to test out was the set of Challenge Grifo cross tires I had laying around. I moved the wheel set over to my cross bike and mounted up the knobbys. I set the pressure at 55psi and hit a limestone and gravel trail, with a few mud sections here and there. Just coming off a set of Rolf Prima ECX Tubulars (also using a Challenge cross tire) I was worried the alloy clinchers were going to disappoint. That wasn’t the case however, as the wider rim and lower pressers do a good job of mimicking tubular ride qualities. Come race day, a tubular set up is still preferred, but for training, and all other conditions, this is a fantastic set up.
Finally, I swapped out the knobbys for a set of Fyxation Session 23c tires to fit underneath my fenders for a bit of wet weather commuting. The 23mm rim stretched the tire out to more of a 26c, and with 90 psi again, the wet roads were no issue. This has officially become my preferred commuting set up.
Several months in now, and still no major issues with the wheels. The sealed bearing hubs haven’t needed any attention. The front wheel is as true as it was when it came out of the box. In fact, the only thing needed so far has been a minor truing of the rear wheel after around 500 miles. That’s to be expected as you break in a new hand built wheelset however.
After all this time spent riding this wheelset, across both road, commuting, and cross, I can easily say that the A23 Comp build is an excellent all-rounder wheel. It’s proven to be low maintenance, fast, and fun. The best part, it’s a 1580g wheelset that only cost $549. The price to performance value is high, making this one of my top recommendations to anyone looking to upgrade their wheels.