When I first saw the P-Town wheelset I was a bit confused. On one hand, they look sweet, and would be a nice weight-saving addition to my single speed ride. On the other hand, it’s a low spoke count wheel with a hefty price tag attached to it. Would it hold up on daily commutes? Is it worth the price?
The nice folks over at Rolf Prima were kind enough to lend me a pair so I could find out the answers to those questions. I spent the last two months riding these wheels and after the jump you can find my thoughts, as well as specs and pricing.
The P-Town wheel (named after Portland, OR) is designed for single speed use. I spent my time commuting on this wheel set, however the wheel would be at home on the velodrome, or for single speed training rides due to its its aero profile and lightweight.
The P-Town is a 700c wheel that uses a 34mm deep alloy clincher rim laced up with 14 paired spokes in front and 16 paired spokes on the rear. The wheels come with a reusable rim strip pre-installed. Should you ever need to true the rim, it must be removed to access the nipples. Rolf Prima has contracted White Industries to manufacture the hubs, and the rear hub uses a flip flop configuration. Compatibility shouldn’t be an issue as the P-Town can be had in 120mm or 130mm rear spacing. The 130mm version can also be had with a White Industries eccentric ENO hub to get that chain tension just right. Want to take it even further? You can purchase a ceramic bearing upgrade as well! When it comes time to bolt these hoops to the bike, you can use the supplied frame bolts, or quick releases (not supplied) depending on your set up.
One of the big advantages of this wheelset is the low weight. The claimed weight for a pair is 1595 grams, and should you go with the ENO rear hub they come in at a claimed 1655 grams. With rim strips installed, but no mounting hardware, my set came in at 1672.5 grams (3 lbs 11 oz). That is nearly a pound lighter than the wheels I removed. Losing that much rotational mass really was enjoyable!
The P-Town comes in either a silver or black finish. And if by the end of this review you think these wheels are for you, they will set you back $699 ($749 for the ENO version)
Once out of the box, mounting up tires (25c Continental Ultra Gatorskins) and getting the wheels on the frame was a piece of cake. I was able to roll the tire onto the rim without even using a tire lever, which is much harder to do with the stock wheels that came on my bike. Once mounted, I did have to adjust the brake pads a hair, and tighten the caliper so the pads were closer to the rim. The rims are fairly narrow.
Despite the gloomy winter weather, I bundled up and took the bike out for a short ride. I had just been out on the bike that morning, prior to mounting the wheels, so I would have a relevant baseline for comparison. With that ride fresh in my mind, I set out on the P-Towns. Instantly I noticed how much lighter they were. They spin up so fast compared to the 36 spoke count bomb proof wheels I had been using. My good old Giant Bowery felt much livelier, and spiriting from stoplight to stoplight downtown was much more fun. First impressions were very good. However, would I still feel that way after the honeymoon period ended?
One month in and several rides later I found my self thinking much more critically of the wheels. On every ride, wether it be down the street to the store, or a 10 mile trek into SE Portland, I was paying attention to how the wheels preformed. One month in and they still had yet to disappoint. They were still rolling true, despite my lack of effort in avoiding pot holes (though the roads I take are in pretty good shape). Mostly, this is due to the rigorous quality control over at Rolf Prima. These wheels are meant to go long periods of time between truing, and that is a good thing, because having to true the wheel means dropping the wheel, removing the tire, tube, and rim strip.
After two months of use, I still had no issues crop up. At 6’2″ and 220 lbs I am not the smallest guy, and had initially been worried about the wheels holding up under my weight. I expected a lot of sideways deflection when cornering due to my weight versus the low spoke count wheelset, but the wheels are stiffer than I expected and corner very well. Rolf Prima does not publish a rider weight limit for their wheelsets, and after talking to a representative about that, I was assured that they are strong enough to handle just about any rider. They even stand behind their wheels with a two year warrantee (details here).
So where does this leave us? Well, I am smitten with the P-Town wheels. They are light, fast, and they made a positive change in how my bike rides. In my use case, commuting on a single speed bike with a loaded backpack, these wheels proved to be very durable over the short term two month test. I have no doubt that they would be low a maintenance wheelset over their lifetime. I did not put these on my grocery getting steed however. I have no idea how they would ride on a bike with a rack loaded down with two panniers full of groceries. Based on my experience with them, I would assume they would work just fine, but if you are the type that commutes with a heavy load every day, these are probably not the best option for you. Would I buy these? That is a hard one to answer. While I do love the wheels, $699 is a bit steep. For that price you could have a set of Paul hubs laced up to Mavic open pros with money left over. They won’t be as light though, and for some that is a big deal. Plus there is the bling factor. These wheels really stand out. Put a set on your fixie and set yourself apart from the rest of your friends running deep v’s. For me, I have to say yes, I would own a set. The performance increase made my bike more fun to ride, and at the end of the day, that is what I want.