Found: Energy Labs Unique, Affordable Carbon Clincher Aero Road Bike Wheels
Developed and built in Calgary, Alberta (Canada), Energy Labs aero road bike wheels use a few interesting and unique designs and build techniques to bring things in at an affordable price.
Energy Labs is a relatively new company, having started and developed and tested the wheels over the past 12 months. Using feedback from pro triathlete Simon Whitfield and drawing on the area’s wealth of engineers, they’ve just launched 60mm and 90mm deep wheels, and 40mm options are coming soon. The full carbon rims are their own design. The hubs are their own, too. Both were developed with durability and price in mind by making shop mechanics and warranty managers their first source of research. By learning what was failing on other brands, they could reverse engineer solutions to overcome braking heat failures, hub failures and other common complaints.
The result? Full carbon rims with unique brake track placement and internal heat disbursement chamber, all covered by a three year warranty. Roll down to see how it all comes together…
The rims use a symmetrical toroidal shape, a common aero shape that they say provides good aerodynamics and stability in crosswinds. The layup is four layers deep, each at 40º to each other to improve strength in all directions. What separates it from others are three main things: A taller braking surface area, the internal “Heat Disbursement Chamber” and inverted spoke nipples.
The brake track is a very tall 15.5mm and it’s beefed up with a bit of additional material so there’s more “stuff” to absorb then diffuse heat build up. It’s also machined during finishing to remove any residue from the molding process that could reduce brake pad bite.
The large open space inside the rim is their Heat Disbursement Chamber. Basically a large open space that gives excess heat one more place to go, not unlike most other rims. During construction, the carbon is laid up over a solid surface, with the bladders underneath. This provides a smoother, more uniform internal finish with no concern that parts of the bladder will be leftover in the carbon. All of that material is removed after curing, so there’s nothing extra left to add weight (which could unbalance the wheel) or affect heat build up/diffusion.
The rim bed is dropped lower than normal to reinforce the sidewall where the brakes clamp down. These pictures show how deep it gets, which also means higher air volume. That, plus the rim’s wide 25mm external stance at the top, should make for a pretty comfortable ride. They’re designed around 23c to 25c tires.
The other unique design trait is something you’ll hopefully never see. Inside the rims, the spoke nipples are inverted. The internal shape is designed to cradle the larger “mushroom” top shape of a spoke nipple, which they say improves the carbon-to-spoke surface strength by 152%. In other words, there’s more contact area between nipple and rim to better distribute the forces and help things last longer.
Kelly Zwarych, who works with Energy Labs parent company and Canadian distributor Kazak Group, says the idea behind all of this was to “build savvy and bullet proof products at an affordable price. Early on we mandated that EnergyLab build their rims to target the person who is becoming more passionate about cycling and triathlon but has to work within a budget, but doesn’t have to sacrifice any thing in quality of product.
“Simple ideas like flipping the nipple saved dollars over a unique property nipple by keeping costs down, increased the spoke strength to carbon relationship and made the shops happy because they could easily service the wheels. No special tools needed. It’s working so well, we’re even testing these wheels for cyclocross.”
Along those lines, they also include extra spokes with the wheels. Zwarych explains:
“Another great idea that came from the warranty managers was include a spare spoke for each length in the wheel set. This was driven by economics as most shops have to buy a box of spokes and often end up charging the customer a small fortune or basically write off the other 49 spokes in the box of 50. Rider enjoyment was also important with short riding season in some areas the idea of a rider being back on the road in a couple days compared to weeks was powerful. Not all shops stock all the length and need to order which often takes a couple weeks.
“This idea of the extra spokes really hit home when I went to race in Cozumel. It’s a great time but I didn’t realize the local scuba shop is also the bike mechanic shop and tequila bar. Limited…. I mean limited parts, spokes good luck. If you popped a spoke training the course you’re not doing the race. Its easy to stick the spares in your luggage with the sun screen and enjoy your racing vacation.”
The wheels all use bladed straight pull spokes with easy, drop in installation at the hubs. The rear hub uses six pawls with 12 points of engagement. They’re compatible with current 11-speed drivetrains, including Campagnolo freehub options.
The 60/90 wheelsets should ship at the end of July 2013 and are sold direct via their website while they set up bike shop accounts. The 40′s should be out by mid-September. They’ll have both Canadian and US distribution centers. Expected MSRP and claimed weights:
- VC40 – $1,299 – TBD
- VC60 – $1,399 – 1757g
- VC60 front / VC90 rear – $1,499 – 1807g
- VC90 – $1,599 – 1857g
Zwarych says they’ve booked time at the University of Calgary wind tunnel. He says initial testing shows they’re competitive, but the upcoming tests in Calgary will allow them to test at various humidity levels, which should provide some interesting data all on its own.
Check ‘em out at energylab-sports.com.