Initial Impression: Xentis Squad 5.8 Silver Line Carbon Clincher Wheelset
The aero trend is in full swing. Helmets are getting slipperier, Specialized built their own wind tunnel, and it would seem that most major manufactures are dropping and/or refining aero road frames. One of the most popular aero upgrades comes in the form of deep carbon wheels. The amount of options on the market is staggering. You have everything from the industry standard high dollar Enve and Zipp wheels, all the way down to factory direct Chinese hoops on the cheap.
The Xentis wheels featured here definitely fall in the high end range. The feature rich carbon clinchers have an MSRP of $2799. Whoosh past the page break to see what make these wheels stand out from the crowd.
As mentioned, these wheels are loaded with features. They start life by being handmade (including the carbon layup) in Austria. Once completed, the rims are laced to hubs using straight pull Sapim CX-Ray spokes with hidden nipples. The silver lines spin on ceramic bearings (Update: Our review wheelset is not the silver line series. The difference being the rim on a silver line series has a uni-direction carbon finish and the hubs have ceramic bearings. Our review set has a 3K finish and is rolling on steal bearings.) The valve sleeve is molded into the rim, and includes a rubber washer inside that keeps rattling at bay. Also molded into the rim, opposite the valve sleeve, is a wheel magnet. These features help to keep a nice clean look to the wheel, as they eliminate the need for tape around the tube’s valve and a wheel magnet. External rim width is listed at 21mm, and my measurements averaged out to 20.8mm on both wheels.
Externally, the rim features a wave pattern just below the brake track. This is designed to cause turbulation in the air coming off the wheel, and that in turn should reduce the negative pressure behind the wheel that causes drag. Is this just a gimmick? A few more rides should help decide.
Quality control is high at Xentis. They imbed an RFID tag inside each wheel that allows them to track the product around their factory during production . They also label each wheel with hand written runout measurements.
The real standout feature however is their patented brake track. During production, they machine off the top layer of resin, leaving just the carbon at the surface. This results in a brake track that is rougher, and it allows for the use of non-carbon specific brake pads. The buzz around town is that it yields superior braking as compared to other full carbon hoops (foreshadowing: it really works!)
When the wheels arrived, they were packed in a very nice double padded wheel bag. Upon unpacking them, I was impressed with the fit and finish of the set. They just have that quality feeling about them in your hand. Besides the included wheel bag, they ship with two valve extenders, Ti QR’s, a spacer for 10 speed cassettes, and the tool to remove a valve core. The rim strips are installed as one would expect. As soon as they were unpacked, I put them on the scale. The 5.8 Squad clinchers come in at 1520g with rim strips installed. That is very close to the claimed weight of 1496g.
Next came the tires. I had a fresh set of 25mm Michelin Pro 4 Endurance tires in the parts bin, so on they went. There were no issues mounting the tires, and I was able to roll one onto the front wheel without using a tire lever. I did have to use a tire lever to finish off the rear, but it wasn’t difficult. Next I put on the spacer and a 10 speed cassette with no issues and tossed the wheels on the bike. They replaced a set of Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheels. No brake adjustment was necessary, which was a very nice surprise. And thanks to Mavic’s quality brake track I didn’t even have to remove any metal from the pads.
With all the marketing talk about how great the brake track is on these wheels, I was very curious to find out for myself. My personal Easton EC90SL wheels leave a lot to be desired when it comes to braking. The first ride on the new Xentis 5.8′s proved that carbon braking doesn’t have to suck. Braking was every bit as solid as an aluminum clincher. That said, it is a heck of a lot louder. The use of stock black Shimano (non-carbon specific) pads yielded a buzzing noise when you first apply the brakes, and that noise quickly turns in to a howl and / or squealing as you brake harder. The plan is to try other pads to see if any work better /quieter. Xentis is producing their own pads now as well, so we’ll give them a shot too.
I kept the first ride short, at about 20 miles. It included 1000 feet of climbing, then 1000 feet of descending, along with a few flats. Going uphill the wheels were noticeably stiff, and while they did take a second to get up to speed, they didn’t feel like a boat anchor either. If you find yourself fighting gravity often, Xentis’ 4.2′s or their 2.5′s may be a better option for you. On the way down, and on the flats, the wheels felt fast. They are light enough to come up to speed quick. Descending, I hit 42 mph and everything was smooth and stable. Maybe I was just feeling fresh today, and there is always the excitement of new toys, but I did find myself cruising about 2 mph faster on the flats.
The change from aluminum clinchers and 22mm tires over to these carbon rims with 25mm tires (running 95 psi) made a huge difference in the ride quality of what is already a very great riding Ti frame from Sage Cycles. One section of my ride was on a sectioned concrete path where normally every seam is jarring. While still noticeable, the harsh jarring effect was gone with this wheel and tire combo. Off the path, the road just felt smoother as well. So far I am impressed with the setup. I’ll be putting a lot of miles on these over the winter, so expect a full review down the road.