You guys ready for a novel on boring clinchers? Alright!
For unknown reasons, I've been wanting a pair of Campagnolo wheels. I don't know why, maybe because I think they look good, people speak highly of them and they have that Italian factor. While Bora's would be sexy, most of my riding is 'training' and I'll save the Bora's for another day.
With all the Tour themed sales going on, I decided to pick up a pair of Neutron Ultras from PBK. They were a little higher than Ribble, but PBK also had the seatpost I wanted to pick up so I went with them at about $675 for the wheels. I'm coming from a pair of Zipp 101s, so I was thinking the Neutrons might just replace them and I'll probably walk away about even or up some.
Mounted a new pair of Schwalbe Ultremo ZX last night, after reading that they would be easier to mount than many other brands, and that Campy wheels were a bitch to mount tires on. Well, they were a pain to mount, the wider Zipps spoiled me on ease of mounting. I was also disappointed the Campy's came with plastic snap on tape, although I suppose it does aide in mounting the tires. The 101s came with the same kind of rim tape, and at first I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Easy to get on, easy to adjust (on the Zipps, NOT on the Campy) and low profile. Well, after a few months of riding on the Zipps, I got a flat while the bike was sitting in my car. At a red light having just left the house and....PPPSSSSHHHHHH.
So okay, let's go back home to change the tire. Do that, no problem, get to where I'm going to ride at. Get all geared up, swing a leg over the bike and the OTHER wheel flats. So I go back to the car to take off my helmet and gloves, and the other tire flats. At this point I know something's up, and I call it a day. Inspecting the wheels when I get home, and that plastic tape had just crinkled up and hardened. I'm guessing from taking my bike to work and leaving it in the car. In Texas. With a few days at 107 so far this year. Anyway, some Velox solved that.
Back on topic, tires were harder to mount, nothing too terrible and didn't need to use tools. I did my first ride today, and while it will take some more rides to get a complete picture, the wheels felt great. Very very quiet, which is in contrast to the Zipps which were loud as hell. They did seem to get a little louder as the ride progressed, but I still foresee these as being fairly quiet.
The ride is smooth, a bit smoother than the Zipps. Maybe from more spokes, I'm not sure. They're both plenty stiff for my 5' 10" 145 pound self. I did a few intervals and some standing climbs, no issues at all.
Cross winds weren't an issue, of course, although the wind (15 to 20mph today) did catch the front wheel unexpectedly once. Again, much higher spoke count up front so maybe that's it. The Zipps aren't too bad in terms of cross wind either, only ever had a problem getting caught in the outskirts of a storm that was producing 30 to 40 mph winds.
Power transfer...so subjective. Well, I'll give it a shot. The Zipps fell like there's a tiny lag almost? You stomp down, slight hesitation, and they go. Not a huge deal, just a little demoralizing for half a second, and then you're moving. The Neutrons feel much more immediate. They remind me of my C24s when I was riding SRAM in that they do a great job of disappearing beneath you. If I knew anything about building wheels and lacing patterns, I could probably add a little more insight here. Or it could just be new thing-itis telling me the Neutrons have the edge.
The Zipps also feel like they have a bit more inertia behind them, which can be good or bad depending on what you're doing and what your fitness is. As lame as it sounds, I think the Neutron's look better on my bike, and if my impressions don't change, that will be enough for me to keep them over the Zipps.
Weight - both come in over weight. Neutrons at 1,549 (1,470 advertised) and the 101s at 1,629 (1,527 advertised). I'm surprised they were so close.
Build Quality - No complaints about either, although I did have to mess with the preload on the 101s a bit out of the box. The Campy have an edge though. Little inconsequential details - signed cards with each wheel for the inspection, great wheel bags included, exceptional packaging. The carbon fiber hub bodies don't look that cool though - it's a very glossy carbon fiber that reminds me of fake carbon fiber. Also, man that front hub is huge looking.
One last thought - why buy Neutrons over something handbuilt? Say, Velocity A23s with White Industry Hubs. I'd imagine they'd be close in most specs, come in lighter and have the advantage of being a wider rim. The answer is, I don't know why you would really.
One last LAST thought - the 23mm Schwalbe's seem closer to the brake track width on the Neutrons than the 23mm Vittoria's do on the Zipp's brake track. Weird. Probably the angle on the Zipp's brake track.