Energy Labs 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…

Energy Labs affordable carbon clincher aero road bike wheels

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.

Energy Labs affordable carbon clincher aero road bike wheels

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.”

Energy Labs affordable carbon clincher aero road bike wheels - front hub detail

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.”

Energy Labs affordable carbon clincher aero road bike wheels - rear hub detail

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


  1. It really bugs me when companies lie about producing their own products, especially when it’s so easily found in forums. These are the new wider Hongfu rims (they even have the same rim profile images as from the Hongfu site), there is nothing designed or engineered in Canada about these wheels.

    The only thing engineered in Canada is likely the decals.

  2. Hmm

    a week ago I ordered a wheelset from The dimensions of the rims they sell are EXACTLY the same as these! The Price however is quite different!

    Is it the same rims, openmold, or just coincidence?

  3. Compelling wheels but… They spoke with shop mechanics and warranty guys and they STILL went with internal nipples? I just can’t fathom that there are any advantages to such a design, except slightly enter aerodynamics and aesthetics… Otherwise they’re a pain in the butt.

  4. The reason for the internal nipple was strength keeping in mind simplicity.

    couple measurements:
    spoke is 2mm
    Nipple at the wrench point 4mm
    Nipple at the head point 6mm

    With an external nipple on a carbon wheel that is only 2mm or 1mm circumference for a spoke hold to the rim. With the internal nipple you have 4mm of nipple to carbon relationship which was substantially stronger.

    When doing this we simply reversed the standard nipple and that was the difference for the shop mechanics because its a common tool and the home mechanic can pick the wrench up for $15 to $20. By doing this we also did not have to re-engineer or us a proprietary nipple that would drive up the consumer cost.

    Your right if it was a priority nipple when we have seen in the past shops having to buy a little wrench for $100+ which is not the case here.

  5. Internal Pawl on Rear Hub – It’s interesting that our internal pawl system is something Easton is moving towards. Easton has been plagued with hub problems and their solution is an internal Pawl system which I put as a testament to our design team.

  6. Not really a pain on a clincher. The aero advantage is probably worth putting them inside (never on a tubular though). I really like how 3T does it though, you true the wheel at the hub.

  7. most studies have shown that putting the nipple inside is NOT worth it.
    inverting the nipple isnt new. been done on lots of carbon wheels before. some FSA/vision more recently. internal hex nipples are far from proprietary these days. are you dragging the nipple’s screwdriver flat right on the spoke bed? or is it smooth there, and therefore NOT an off-the-shelf item?
    misleading-that their wheels are built in Canada. i’m gonna assume the wheels are assembled there. and when they state that the hubs are their own, it means it has a particular set of dimensions and options that their hub vendor does not supply to anyone else yet.
    so they chose a symmetric toroidal shape. great. did they model it with CFD in 3d in a rim shape? did they tweak the shape to best suit the intended purpose? why did they choose this shape in particular?
    …and these are final products, yet to see a wind tunnel. it’s a bit too late for validation.

  8. Greg is right There is an editor error as these are not made in Canada. They are designed and engineering in Canada. The inverted nipple isn’t new but definitely smart. We have seen several complained do patents and re-engineer nipples causing problems for the bike shops to do repairs quickly.

    Regarding the hubs you will see that we do an internal pawl system. Until recently we look to be the only designer of this but I understand that Easton has dome this to fix hub design problems. Interesting that we went down this road early on. We also went to a 6 pawl over a 3 pawl. Both of these options made the power quick responding and reliable.

    Regarding the Hubs we designed them again from problems see in other hubs. We wanted to prevent side bearing pressure that has plagued some other wheels. One thing that really was driven home was spoke replacement. Did you know that spokes often need to be bent to feed into straight pull hubs with a small hole! Think about that… You have to bend a 2mm spoke to feed it into the hub potentially weakening its metal? Smart, I think not.

    The intended purpose was to make a solid and reliable rim that was effective. This is why we did the 4 layers of UD. Early on we did some tests with 3K but didn’t like the test result. They looked good but failed. Check out the tolerance tests on the web site

    CFD is cost effective and done at the UofC. The reason we are doing testing in Canada is the low spped wind tunnel has the capability of bringing into the equation humidity. Molecular flow is going to potentially have different attributes in higher humidity then lower humidity. So air flow in Arizona is potentially going to be different then in Hawaii…. Will it be substantial? We will have to wait and see but it will be a first.

    The shape was chooser for several reason, ride comfort, rolling resistance, easy of tire changing, better side wind (yaw) performance which lead to a winner for overall performance.

    If you are looking for a really snappy and precise ride this might not be your choice. I would recommend a tubular with a 18 or 19mm tire. But, you feel every rock and crack and its a great choice for the fondo or ironman rider.

  9. …So basically their magical Heat Disbursement Chamber is just the open space inside the rim that you can find on any other carbon rim as well? That’s clever. I’m going to start selling tires with a Advanced Damping Chamber in them that you have to fill with an inner tube and then pump up with air. Totally groundbreaking technology that is..

  10. Rims with latex bladders that are mot removed have problems in this area as well as imbalances int he wheel rotation at high speeds.

  11. Internal nipples are in compression not tension. This means a lighter smaller nipple is required. Smaller holes are required in the rim and you shouldn’t lose tension on the spokes as fast. Unless you’re running tubeless it doesn’t take long to remove your tyre and tube. That’s the advantages to such a design. Just for your info Aaron.

  12. They aren’t lying about building the wheels in Canada. They never said anything about manufacturing. Building a wheel to me means building a wheel out of components needed to built a wheel. Manufacturing is a whole different animal. Now if they had said we manufacture our won wheel they would have been lying.
    But I get what some of you are saying. I personally hate it when Bikerumors or other webpages post an article that says: A visit to the Rocky Mountain factory or something of that kind. What you mean factory they don’t make anything!? Assembly line maybe but factory no. You want to see the factory you need to go to asia.

  13. humidity and Molecular flow seriously ?
    tell me more so i can LMAO 2.8% more than with the “Heat Disbursement Chamber”

  14. They look nice; shouldn’t be a surprise, at this price, if the rims are made in China.

    But, holy crap, could y’all look up the words “disburse” and “disperse”?

  15. you can “design and engineer” in canada all you want but until your volume in china can afford a man on the ground full time, you are getting whatever they want to give you. thats just the law of economics in this ever expanding world of marketing companies that outsource and lie about it.

  16. Technology comes from the USA and CDN but some of the parts are made in China. Guess that’s why we don’t see Chinese cars. Parts are defiantly made there for the cars.

    What cycling company doesn’t have parts or assemble done outside of North America.

  17. Thanks bikerumor, lovely joke! I laughed hard!

    HD Chamber :D, wind tunnel testing with different humility :D, 40° Layup* 😀

    *4x 40° = 160°, so you are miss a 20° angle in which direction no carbon fiber can handle any load with full strength. Wired 🙂

  18. Hey Tylor, there is more to update 😉

    “The full carbon rims are their own design”
    “The full Carbon rims are bought from”

  19. EnergyLab has contracted staff in China with the lead living between China and Calgary. This is the only way to control manufacturing. Check out the spec controls at

    Regarding the rim profile you will find that the majority of China website are brokers and not factories. This is why you will find brokers dumping no name rims on eBay in the USAWe are checking into this Defung Bikes but I can assure you they are not from this eBay broker.

    If Defung is a reputable rim maker who else do they do rims for?

  20. This Defung company looks to an eBay broker doing knockoffs? Anyone know if they build rims for someone else. I see someone commented they purchased off eBay. Could Defung Hong Kong company be copying these guys? Defung site also has Cervelo frames?

    I know I can also buy Zipp knock offs on eBay? Are they from this Defung company on eBay?

  21. Looks like is a knock off good designs. Some really interesting designs especially on the frames and wheels.

    Is Ness a knock off company in the California as I do see their name on the Dengfu site?

  22. Oh guys,

    go to an exhibition and you will see a lot of asian companies with differnt nice products. Visit the same exhibition in the following year. You will see a lot of European, American (and now Canadian) companies, which printed their label on this items. Then they add some marketing buzzword stuff while they are ignoring physics and claim all is their design.

  23. Bending Spokes won’t harm them unless you lag of any fine motor skills. Most Hubs only need a slight bending of the spokes, which is reversible and so the material is not harmed at all.

  24. Spoke Bending, on some hubs can be substantial and why put the spoke at added bending if its not needed. It also allowed for different bladed spoke options without being limited.

    I have a feeling you are going to see more of this design and the internal pawl drive system that Easton and EnergyLab has adopted.

  25. GearHead – Many hubs use or have used this design, including (just what I can remember) Rolf/Bontrager, Reynolds, Mavic and Easton. Probably dozens more, as well. Anyway, as Max said, bending a spoke, especially a steel one, is absolutely not a problem. As a mechanic, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a spoke break at the head, and I’d wager that every one of those broke for a reason other than the initial bending of the spoke.

  26. I have looked at these wheels personally and they surprising. Hub design is logical and easy to pull apart and bearings are well seated and supported. Freehub is very similar to Easton’s new design and should do quite well. What makes me laugh is everyone talking about Dengfu and whether Dengfu is the manufacturer or not. Who cares? most bikes are made by 3rd party and we never have issue with that. What are you going to do with your Dengfu rim if it has a warranty issue? send it back? Wait who knows how long for a replacement? What you have here is a company willing to put their name on some decent stuff that they have helped design and develop with a 3rd party(more than likely) and take a bunch of risk for the consumer to have an inexpensive performance wheel set with good support. Sounds like a good idea from a consumer standpoint and a shop standpoint cause I sure don’t want to deal with a company overseas! And to pay for an exclusive rim was probably not in the budget… so whoever the 3rd party may be I am sure they are going to try and take advantage of the design and sell some rims(probably all the seconds), Dengfu or not.

  27. tricycle – Gearhead doesnt work with Energylab yet, but we are going to carry the product in our shop. I think Bart summed it up perfectly.

    The wheels fit a consumer market that we as a store havent been able to provide to our customer.

  28. Gang,
    you don’t like said product on BR, then keep your fingers to yourself and move on.
    You want to buy products w/o warranties, then have at it, see you in the hospital.

    I like the wheels/hubs and designs. Nice work Energy Labs.

  29. @Chris,
    i asked this earlier as well. i guess it’s to see that, although the actual numbers may vary due to humidity, drag versus other wheels/shapes is proportionally the same. sounds like a high school science fair project to me.

  30. Wheel aerodynamics or any aerodynamic design could not have progressed without CFD. Its not 100% accurate science but is more effective on several levels. You can read time after time CFD being validated in the LSWT.

    During the design stage we created two models prior to the 3rd and final model. The previous models failed for one reason or another. One of the models was exceptionally fast but unstable at a specific speed and yaw. It was dangerous when these two conditions were present in a ride.

    The final model was using available data with a few adjustments to allow for better control overall and at high speeds, which is when most problems will magnify themselves.

    Net result is something that was real world tested and an amazingly versatile ride. This rim might not be for the rider who needs the extra 2 min over 180kms ride for the prize money. But, I can guarantee that the age group rider who wants performance, versatility, comfort and a few dollars in their pocket has found the right wheels.

    We look forward to post our lab results when completed, as the idea for humidity is interesting and yes nerdy. Any techno-winnie (yes some of the staff fit in this category) will be interested in the results simply because its makes any open-minded designer or engineer interested.

    Comments are opinions, the tests are results and I have a feeling several people will be quietly interested in the end results.

    Thank you to the supporters….Eh!

  31. Internal nipples are not cool on anything but race wheels. On several occasions I’ve seen friends have a spoke break which has meant that the wheel goes out of true and rubs on the chainstays. Since the nipples are internal there is no way to true the wheel on the road to get going again. This has become more prevalent with wider rims and wider tires because chainstays haven’t gotten much wider. Bad, impractical idea.

  32. Article in VELO NEWS on limitation of Wind Tunnel. New Technology Meter captures air temperature, pressure, and HUMIDITY.

    Companies using the new technology include BMC, Giro and Zipp (they might know something about air flow dynamics from their high school projects).

    Technology is at Los Angeles / Home Depot Velodrome…. these Canucks again? Please dont hate Canadians its just not neighborly.

    Velo News:


  33. Not a good experience with this wheels, first cracked on the rear wheel just by pump air before my first ride. They replaced no questions asked.

    Then, had couple rides and when to my fondo ride, after the fondo 2 lose spokes. I am 237lb rider and initially they had a weight limit on their website of 245lb and recently they lower that to 225lb.

    That tells me they didn’t test it properly.

    Now, to be fair, without the issues, I loved the wheels, they were fast, responsive and very comfortable ride. I guess they are just not for me yet…

  34. Both my wheels failed when braking (rim deformation and craked). Unfortunately they do not stand behind their poorly designed product. Their argument: brake pads not properly adjusted… ??? How is that possible. Please do not purchase if you intend to use your brakes.

What do you think?