The bike and the HongFu wheels after a post-race bath.
Mini review of my HongFu 56mm depth x 27mm wide tubular wheelset that arrived in March, 2014. I've only done one ride on them: a hilly, wet, dirty and hard-riding (though smooth surface) 112km road race. My comparison is to a previous set of 2011 Zipp 808 tubulars, 2013 Specialized Roval 60mm clinchers, and some stock aluminum Fulcrum clinchers. Rode them on a stock, new 2014 Tarmac SL4 Expert (though I never tried the 808s on the Tarmac, I did try the Rovals and the Fulcrums). I'm riding very similar tubulars to what the 808s had: Corsa CX 25mm ISO compound (vs. my older Corsa Evo CX 23mm tubs). I do believe it's 90% psychosomatic feeling small differences in equipment—tires and pressure have the largest bearing—so take the following with that in mind. In the end I want wheels that at least try to be aero, durable and all-around reliable race machines.
Wheels feel great, feel fast, tension seems even, they're still true. Some potential water damage / roughness in cassette body bearings, though. But overall worth the $600 CDN all-in price.
After a hose spray, but before soap washing: example of only some of the grit that accumulated in the race.
The weekend's race was wet and dirty with slight (20–30kph) crosswinds. Lots of winter road grit and sand and a fairly fast descent, with some moderate braking on two sharp corners, and a very steep 2-3 minute switch back climb and lots of race attacks and 100% accelerations. Smooth roads for the most part. After 10km of racing I had full confidence in them, and pushed them harder and harder in the corners as the race went on. Was glad to have them while pulling and attacking the breakaway.
After a wash, a view of the braking surface. Looks fine, felt fine.
Positive: braking felt good: no pulsing, no roughness, no squealing. Slightly better than my previous Zipp 808s. Was using Swissstop yellow carbon-specific pads (with previous wear on them) instead of the stock no-name pads the wheels shipped with. Depth of the rims seemed ideal for the conditions: I'll race these in any condition. Wind up and sprinting was good. Even used the suspiciously light skewers and seemed fine. Whole wheelset shaved nearly 1-pound over the stock Fulcrum training wheels. Front hub still felt super smooth after the race. Rim shows very little wear after a fair bit of dirty grit braking. Minimal water accumulation inside the rims after.
Negative: did notice some flex in the rear with some brake rub when attacking out of the saddle on the climb. Could run the brakes a bit more open, but not much more open. I had the same rub, though slightly less, with my old 808s, too, though don't notice it with the Rovals. Need more tape on the front valve extender to keep it from knocking like a metronome in the rim valve hole while riding. The rear hub axle bearings felt somewhat rough to the touch two days after the race. Pulled the caps and cassette body off and it felt smooth again, and pinpointed the roughness to the cassette body bearings. Not impressed with the seals, though which seal is weak is harder to determine: the cassette-body-to-hub-flange seal, or the outboard cassette body seal near the cassette lock ring? Gonna be difficult getting at those bearings to either repack or replace. Note the hubs are "Chosen" brand. Finally, felt a very slight give to the freehub the first few jumps on it: inspection shows very little 'dig' in the aluminum splines of the cassette body, so maybe it was settling in, and / or the pawls settling in.
Front wheel weight of 939g, including Corsa CX 25c tubular, valve extender, and stock skewers. No glue (maybe add 15g for glue).
Rear wheel weight of 1085g, including Corsa CX 25x tubular, valve extender, and stock skewers. No glue (maybe add 15g for glue).