Karbon Speed carbon fiber bicycle wheels for lower prices and free trade in program

Karbon Speed is a new company, formed in 2012, but their founders are hardly freshmen in the industry. Two of the three main guys (Brian and Glen) also own XTerra wetsuits, the other (Justin) started his career with Oakley.

As friends and triathletes, they were frustrated by the cost of aero wheels and thought there had to be a more efficient way to get quality carbon fiber wheels. They combined their manufacturing experience and triathlon industry knowledge and started Karbon Speed. Development started in fall 2011, and the company went live with products on September 5, 2012.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, they took existing research on aerodynamics and braking surfaces and looked at how to bring all that to riders for a better price. That said, they’re using their own molds, not just catalog items. The rim profile was designed by an aerospace engineering firm with experience in high tolerance carbon fiber designs intended for high speed production.

The rims are made of Toray T-700 carbon fiber and stick with a slightly modified V-shape. They did give it a bit of shaping at the leading edge and widen the rear a bit to add a bit of crosswind stability. Aero test data is available on their website, along with plenty of test videos.

Two depths are available, 50mm and 88mm. Both are clincher and have 21mm widths.

The brake track has a bonded on basalt surface. Basalt is a naturally occurring inorganic compound that comes from volcanoes and has really good heat dissipation. They mix it into the resin and carbon at the braking surface, which helps the rims handle much greater heat without having to add an alloy braking surface.

The wheels use Novatec hubs and 20/24 bladed spokes. Claimed wheel weights are 708g (front) and 870g (rear) for the 50’s and 874g and 1018g for the 88’s. They’re available as single wheels or sets, and you can mix and match the sets. Front and rear combos are $2,200 including shipping directly to your door. Wheels are rated for riders up to 230 pounds, though they say they’ve tested with heavier riders (250lb) with no issues.

“We’ve taken a lot of time to develop our wheel,” says co-founder Justin Li. “But convincing the market that our products are quality even though they’re made overseas isn’t isn’t something we’re going to fight with words. We believe in our products and are willing to put our money where our mouth is.”

Instead, they’re offering a trade in program where you can send in select models of Zipp, HED, Reynolds, ENVE or Mad Fiber wheels. It’s a straight up trade, you only cover the cost of shipping your wheels to them, and the new Karbon Speed wheels are yours to keep. The program will run indefinitely through the end of 2012, and the point is to get people on the wheels and just try them. They’re hoping this proves that the wheels are just as good and just as fast as the bigger name brands. Trade in form is here.


  1. In the same model I am now willing to accept late model exotic Italian sports cars in exchange for a new Kia Rio. Acceptance is solely at my discretion.

  2. We will trade out used wheels from Zipp, Mad Fiber, HED, etc. for brand new Karbon Speed wheels. The valued of those used wheels is less than the MSRP of a brand new set of Karbon Speed wheels.

  3. I hope they expand the program to include the development of carbon fiber frames. There will be a long line of guys looking to trade in their Cervelo R5ca and a McLaren Venge for a shot at riding Karbonspeed’s take on an “affordable” non-branded carbon frame. These guys might know wheels.. and they could be fantastic.. but.. they should probably befriend a buddy who works in marketing.

  4. Less expensive aero wheels sounds good. Their trade-in program must be targeting riders who have almost worn out their old wheels, because I can’t imagine anybody willing to swap a pair of new, proven and tested wheels for an unknown set.

  5. Aside from the comedy of the trade in program, is $2200 even considered cheap for china wheels?
    Hasn’t deep v rims been pretty well surpassed by toroidal rim shapes as well as the new wider, blunt styles?

  6. i bet there pricing is the same as xterra site high retail and 60 percent off codes. i saw on their site about 2 months back these wheels for 900 for the pair

  7. What’s even funnier… is that the difference between even a zipp and one of those $450 ebay wheels is still only a few percentage points better. You really wanna spend a few extra g’s to get only a few points better?

    everyone is just nieve and brand crazy… I bet you couldn’t even tell the difference if you tried

  8. Is this some sort of Halloween prank? Yeah let’s trade in some madfibers for A set of alibaba Chinese wheels……

    I’m sure they will find some suckers though.., they are going after the triathlon industry after all ^^

  9. lets see.. china open mold wheels with the standard china novatec hubs for wayyy too much money. See farsports.cn or light-bicycle for the same wheels at 1/4 the price.

    What a joke! These are straight up alibaba wheels. Their website is even more hilarious.

  10. I will trade you these Karbon wheels at no cost for your really nice wheels, except you must pay the shipping. The Karbons are great! We have old designs but they are made by really awesome people on the other side of the Pacific.

    Additionally, if you have friends that are interested in used carbon wheels please direct them to my Ebay store where I hope to sell Mad Fiber, Zipp, Reynolds and Enve wheelsets.

  11. Wow, not at all what I expected from the article title. I’d totally go for Boyd or Williams before these, and they are half the price.

  12. The trade in program is a JOKE!!

    “Rather than reinvent the wheel, they took existing research on aerodynamics and braking surfaces and looked at how to bring all that to riders for a better price.” .. in other words NOTHING NEW OR INNOVATIVE… JUST CHEAPER! So… tell me again why I should trade in my Zipps for a set of these?

    sounds like someone is running a wheel laundering scam here. straight up trade MY A$$! I’m sure they can turn around ad sell your HED or Zipp wheels on ebay and cover the cost of four of their wheels… That’s how they’re making the real money!

  13. “Save time. Save money.
    tires, tubes and install for less than your bike shop
    We’ll install the tube, valve extention and tire on your Karbon Speed wheels. Then we test for flats, punctures and leaks so that when you get your wheels, they’re ready to inflate and ride. See how to mount your own tires here.”

    + 140$ for Conti GP4000S


  14. They have really nice shipping box! All tested :)))
    Ok if someone buy wheels for that price get at least nice box and wheelbags

  15. 2200 is not a good price. I would rather pay 500 more for a pair of zipps. Or, better yet, find some closeout model wheels for way less than 2200. Just silly.

  16. Heavy, machine built, made in China, old technology…for how much? The selling point is they will take my lighter, hand built, made at home, latest tech wheels I own….what?

    Happy Halloween…TRICK I think.

  17. It’s not April 1st is it? If this isn’t a joke, then it’s scam. I too was deceived by the title of the article, lost cost carbon clinchers? $2200 for the equivalent of a Chinese carbon wheel? I agree with those who said that they’d go to Boyd or Williams, they may be peddling Chinese wares, but at least they’re priced accordingly. I’d rather have a a busted pair of Zipps than these overpriced insult on our intelligence.

  18. RP… your comments are in ignorance, there is a massive difference in the way that Zipp’s, HED, Reynolds ride and Chinese carbon wheels. Believe me, I know first hand. The Chinese wheels are light, almost too light in most cases, and ride extremely harsh, even with a 25mm at lower pressure. I’d take a heavier Zipp or HED any day over a light overly stiff carbon wheel any day. I always knew that Zipps and the rest were better, but I wasn’t sure if they were 4x the price better, now I know, they really are.

  19. 2 Enve 65mm Rims: $1640
    Pair of Novatek “ultra-light” Hubs: $130
    ~50 Sapim CX ray spokes & nipples: $100
    2 Wheel build labor @ LBS: $100
    TOTAL: $1970

    ….Am I missing something? What about these wheels are affordable? Silly triathletes

  20. Yeah, what they said. I can get a custom set of wheels with Enve/DT/Sapim from Neuvation or Psimet for about that. Or I can get a set of Neuvation’s carbon 45’s or Williams 58’s for about $1K.

    Did you guys do *any* market research beforehand or did you just go with the old Oakley “charge ’em $200 for $5 worth of plastic in a nice box and they’ll love it” strategy?

  21. ” Karbon Speed is roughly five seconds slower than the same competitor over a 40km race distance, but at 40% of the cost.”
    Either someone forgot to edit every page before the $1300 price bump or they think $5500 wheels are standard pride.

    At least their “rim shape is supersonic.”

  22. Roflol after looking at thier site…the videos are can’t miss. I love how they compare tubulars vs. clinchers and say clinchers are better because tubulars cost more and you can carry more tubes in your pack if you get a flat…lol ” Like three or four…” roflol….lolololololol

  23. LOL @ how they’re on about other brands hiding information. Freehub cassette compatibility was one of the “non-disclosed” categories based on what Karbonspeed could find. Really now?

    No disrespect as I’m pursuing an engineering degree myself, but looking at the data report and overall presentation they, this looks more like a school final project rather than a legitimate professional operation. The engineer’s introduction leaves me (and perhaps anyone) insanely unconvinced/not confident the price is going to be justified. Test setup was just the upside-down fork test, and references are limited. We’re really supposed to believe THAT can yield $2,200 wheels?

    And to think: they’re all skeptical of how brands like Zipp (who’ve worked in collaboration with Cervelo and ProTour riders) are developing their products? wow. All this + the joke of a trade-in scheme….what are these guys doing?

  24. What a SCAM. Hey bikerumor… You guys know bikes right? You know a little about wheels as well, no? So why are you giving these guys any PR? I’m afraid these Karbon fools aren’t the only ones losing credibility with this garbage.

  25. FYI, it appears these wheels are not open mold. That said, their pitch isn’t very convincing. I’d rather spend the extra dosh and get a set of ENVE S.E.S 6.7’s with hubs of my choice. They’ll be much lighter, and Enve at least went to the wind tunnel with similar wheels from some big competitors.

  26. Wow BikeRumor you guys really just lost credibility with this write up…..I mean even you guys should be have laughed at this company and what they’re doing. The “trade-In” program??? come on Bikerumor, did they send you some free wheels in exchange or just pay you straight up for the write up. Tisk tisk… Karbon Speed is really already the laughing stock of the local bike scene in their home town….I kind of feel bad for them.

  27. Easton EC90 Aero and TT wheels are less expensive, equipped with better hubs, lighter weight, and are reliable. When I heard affordable, I was thinking 1400 from a “new” company “looking to make affordable aero wheels”. There are cheaper new makers on the market who are also obscure, and also uses their own molds.

  28. The “Specifications” and technology sections were written by someone with zero understanding of the subject matter. They assemble terminology in an utterly misplaced and nonsensical fashion. “High TG carbon fiber” anyone?

    The videos are comedy gold, except that some people may actually mistake them for facts…If “Pablo Bravo” is a real person I do not think his future employment prospects will be enhanced if anyone saw him endorsing this stuff.

    I find it slightly asinine to wish them ill, but what they are doing is unethical and they should stop and reconsider.

  29. You HAVE TO WATCH THE TEST VIDEOS. Their carbon wheel outlasted their 2×4 wood stud test fixture!! I bought three pair based on that video alone! And I sent them 5 pair of Zipps! Man, these guys know the secrets to success!

  30. This is the best website I have seen in ages. I’ve watched the video’s and am still left wandering why the engineer is looking in my eyes? Either these guys are keen but naive or are out to scam the unsuspecting. Is there any word on warranty or if they are going to be UCI approved? lol

  31. I applied for the wheel “trade in” program just to see what they would respond with.
    I listed I had a set of Reynolds Assault wheels & they emailed me back saying they would take $1200 and my wheels plus shipping for a set of their $500 wheels that you can buy on ebay… HAHAH!

  32. Lame. Open mold, ‘chinese wheels’ may not be for everyone, but I don’t think anyone can argue that they’re not priced accordingly. But, taking wheels that are VERY likely open mold carbon wheels, and spec’ing them the exact same as the eBay open molds, but selling them for stupid high prices? boo hiss.

  33. Lots of hate for some people trying to do something positive….

    My trade for custom Enve .45 tubulars laces to Alchemy Elf/Orc was accepted. If anything I can ride these wheels everyday instead of looking at a pair of wheels that were only used for 500m in 2 years.

    I am aware the hubs are generic, but they have a good track record. What has my interest is that they used their own mold and claim to be quite aero. Would have been nice to make them at least 23mm wide to aid in cornering.

    Should be fun trying these next season.

  34. What a joke/scam.

    There are better options out there for carbon wheels at a better price like Boyd wheels (http://boydcycling.com/) Handbuilt wheels with Taiwanese rims. The rims, I believe, come from the same manufacturer as FFWD. They’re not Zipps but they are quite a bit cheaper and a lot more thought out than this Karbon Speed junk.

  35. I like hearing that people are coming in and creating new products for the market, but so many of these new companies preach the same info that they’re trying to offer a more affordable product, yet put similiar price tags on their stuff?

    what gives?

    Personally i’m most impressed with companies like Neuvation, or Planet-X. Both offer awesome products they back up, at a fairly low price. I like new companies and competition between products, but randomly producing a huge MSRP for a cheaply available wheelset is not going to work

  36. In defense of Karbon Speed, they did say that the mold is not an open mold. People keep missing that part, ignoring, or failing to understand what that means. Similarity in cross section doesn’t mean much in aero rims since with evolving technology, things start to look the same (aero solutions drive in that direction). It’s why airliners tend to look alike. If as Karbon Speed claims the mold is not an open mold and is their proprietary mold, it’s not cheap to have a molds made. That cost has to be paid off and results in prices higher than open mold wheels. There certainly are not a lot of open mold hybrid aero rims about, and that makes it easier to believe these are not open mold wheels.

    None of that, though, makes these an easier sell. They’re veritable barges when it comes to weight, so I think that will limit their sales to primarily tri folks. They either haven’t done a lot of testing or aren’t very open about it, at least compared to Zipp, Enve, and HED. Sure Mavic’s not very open, but Mavic is well established in the field and has a good rep.

  37. Why create your own mold with no R+D? They might as well have used an open mold of a tested rim and have, most likely, a better rim at a cheaper price.

  38. im running the November wheels 50mm depth and they are fantastic… at least their are honest with WHERE they buy the rims and exactly all the parts they use

  39. Are most of you criticizing because a 2000 dollar set of wheels are out of your price range? Whats the big dea? So what if they cost more than you think they should. There are plenty of wheels out there all ready that fill that niche (Zipps come to mind..)

    Most of the comments here are just regurgitation of people who spend a lot of time on bike web-sites.

    I’ve never had a chance to ride Nova-Tec hubs. But I know from all the people that have had wheels built upon that hub that they are solid. So what if they aren’t DT Swiss, or Alchemy?

    So many of you are complaining, but why? No one is forcing any of you to buy the wheels. No one is forcing any of you to trade your wheels in.

    I doubt half of the posters here ride more than 50 miles a week; they would have no business with these wheels. Most cyclists I know that truly love the sport aren’t whiny (deleted), either…..

  40. Alex, it’s not because of the pricetag. I’d pay $2000 for a wheelset if it’s QUALITY.

    But when you can get the same wheels for $500 on eBay and those gangsters (aka KarbonSpeed) sell the same wheels for $2000 then this is worth pointing out and let the cycling community know.

    Example: Someone wants to sell you a KIA Rio and tells you it’s just as good and reliable and made of the same parts like an BMW 5 ….well, you gonna buy that Kia Rio for $40K or do you thin it’s suspicious???

  41. I heard about this little thread going from a buddy of mine – and frankly you’re all a bunch of ignorant idiots. I actually bought a set of Karbon Speeds when they first launched and they’re awesome. For everyone on here who has never even seen them, how in the world do you think you can make an accurate judgement about these wheels? Take it from someone who owns a set – they mean what they say.

    That little bit about Karbona… HA! you don’t think that every wheel company has their reject wheels being hawked out on ebay, alibaba or amazon. Those Chinese will do anything to make an extra buck. If you believe that they’re the same thing… you’re too dumb to ride and probably shouldn’t be investing in aero wheels in the first place.

    Oh and everyone makes their wheels in China except for Enve…. they may “assemble” them stateside, but make no mistake… all your precious expensive wheels (that probably none of you own) are made in the same 5 factories. If you think otherwise, you’re a dumb consumer who believed all the marketing hype.

    Finally, they may be $2,200 MSRP but there are plenty of deals on them out there, especially if you’re a member of any club or team…

  42. Cat 1, your link showed nothing but CF wheels. It didn’t show any cross-sections of the rims. Without as much you certainly cannot tell if there or the same rims or not.

  43. The jokes on anyone who buys these wheels.
    Novatech hubs cost Karbon Speed no more than $10-15 for the pair. The models they are using are the steel axle version because the alloy axle versions test super-flexy. Actually WATCH their engineering videos. They are a joke. Not one fact or figure concerning aerodynamic performance or comparable anything is ever discussed. I heard their engineer talk more about his baseball career at Stanford and how cool their FEA and fluid dynamic simulation software are than anything technical about the wheels. Even the box test is a joke. Any company wanting to ship any large amount of anything that is over a certain cost is required by UPS, USPS and Fed Ex to have these tests done to qualify for insurance. Fine, so the wheels ride great…who cares. This is about a company looking more like a scam than anything else. If the wheels are not open mold lets see some figures that show how it performed in standardized testing, comparison testing, aerodynamic performance…anything. These guys want us to believe them, and they are not very believeable. Say what you want about my ridding style, distance, what I do with my free time or what type of shoes I wear…i dont care. These guys smell funny. They are buying what amounts to a small amount of raw materials and having it painted and a sticker put on it. I’m not buying it and I feel bad for anyone who does.

  44. Surprise, the guy who paid too much for his generic carbon wheels (hammer), is breathlessly defending them.

    Zipp carbon rims are all made in Indianapolis. I’ve seen it in action. Mad Fiber does too.

    I’m a retailer, and I’m here to tell you that very few people pay retail for a pair of carbon wheels. I am a Zipp dealer, and I can’t remember the last time I sold a pair for anything more than $2000, and I sell high-end sh!t.

    Finally, unlike Joe’s Generic Chinese Carbon Clincher garbage, name brand clinchers from the major manufacturers won’t blow a tube when you come into a corner too hard. Everyone pretends like this isn’t a problem, because they want to believe that they’re not so stupid that they wasted hundreds of dollars on self-destructing rims, but set up a lawn chain at any tight corner on a hot afternoon criterium, and watch the cheap carbon wheels blow up. I guess it’s not a problem though, if your sports consists of riding in a straight-ish line (let’s be honest, when have you ever seen a triathlete hold his or her line?) and urinating on yourself.

  45. WoWWWWW! Thanks KkarbonSpeid! You guys really hit the nail right on the head when you realized that people were paying like, $2600-2800 on aero wheels…If only there was a way to save something like half a week’s salary –Oh yeah! MADE IN CHINA! What a great deal! If you want to save up to $500 you can just buy wheels from some marketing bro’s that have no idea what they’re doing. CAN NOT WAIT. I’ve got a set of ENVE Smart System 3.4’s just burning a whole in my pocket.

What do you think?