Last night I bought about 3K worth of carbon rims for my team. We purchased 20mm, 38mm, 50mm, 60mm, and 88mm in Tubular and Clincher.
We'll be building them up on stock hubs (chosen produced, MoYon labeled) and with DT Aerolites.
We've had access to phenomenal equipment for years and we're currently sponsored by Colnago and Easton and SRAM and Giro and Fizik etc... Suffice it to say we have tons of toys at our disposal at a SIGNIFICANT discount.
That said let me explain our logic if for no other reason than I just finished a big cup of coffee and am rearing to type!!These are facts about our team's particular situation:
1.) we race crits- a lot of them- upwards of 50 crits per year plus countless rides and other races. We're hard on our equipment and we don't often race on perfect tarmac or in perfect weather. So it goes without saying that we destroy equipment... sometimes through our own faults, sometimes as accidents and sometimes due to someone else's foolishness... Crashing in crits is something one just has to accept.
2.) we spend a lot on racing- 50 races at $30+ each... travel to races, hotels, airfare, food etc... It's sickening to think just how much so we try not to tally up the total... These are facts about equipment (these may not be true for everyone but in 6 years of racing as a team these facts reflect our experience, so for us these ARE facts.);
1.) All equipment breaks the same. The Treks cracked the same as the Orbeas, my Zipp 404's shattered the same as my teammate's Edge wheels. Easton wheels have nipples pull through just like Ritchey carbon hoops... The brand name doesn't guarantee against failure. So whether the equipment cost $100 or $1000 it still breaks the same. If a piece of equipment fails while I'm racing it's irrelevant who made it- I still go down.
2.) Warranty and crash replacement is a pain in the butt. Replacing my Zipps cost me $380 per rim, shipping and the cost of rebuilding them at Zipp. So it goes. My teammate's Easton carbon wheels that had to be warrantied cost him $250. In both these cases and often in others, the turnaround was about 3 weeks. That's 3 weeks without equipment.
3.) Off the shelf equipment is off the shelf. there's little customization when buying from a brand... if you want X spokes or blue nipples, or a certain lacing pattern you're often out of luck... Having to make compromises is part of life and certainly when our equipment is free we accept compromise, but when we have to pay, it is a hard pill to swallow....So, given those sets of facts:
1.) China carbon rims cost about ~$300 per set, about $86 for the hubs and $130 for the spokes (we build them ourselves). That's about $500-$600 for a set of carbon wheels that weigh (sub 900g for the 20mm, sub 1100g for the 50mm) less than brand wheels, are laced how we like with the equipment we want all for the price of most decent aluminum wheels. Financially, China carbon wheels win over any brand wheelset.
2.) While there are reports of failures with China carbon, those are anecdotal. Certainly these rims fail. That said, there is no empirical evidence that these rims are any better or any worse than any other rim out there... Until there is a collection of validated facts regarding the quality and performance of these rims, everything is shop talk. And certainly opinion and experience are worthwhile to consider, but for every tale of failure, it seems there are 10 tales of success... so it's a numbers game- we don't pass on a race because someone said the course is dangerous- we race it for ourselves and then decide. If we were to condemn a product based off forum chatter then the comments on WW alone about Edge clinchers would see them a black sheep. so the argument that these rims are inherently a lesser product is not one I can accept as anything other than heresy.
Further- when we speak about aerodynamics- opinion and anecdote rarely hold water- we go to the wind tunnel tests, the hard facts... so why here, when we speak about China carbon do we only seem to rely on anecdote...?
3.) The China rims take about 3 days to arrive (my first pair did). If I trash a rim while racing it'll cost me less to buy a new rim than going though a crash replacement with a brand, and it'll take significantly less time.
So that's the logic that my team used to get to where we are. FWIW, I sold a set of Eastons, and they'll pay for my 20mm, 50mm and half of my 88mm China wheels. 3 for the price of 1...
I'll be sure an leave my opinions on these wheels throughout the upcoming season- sure, it's just my opinion but it may be insightful. But take it with a grain of salt, everyone should develop their opinion on their own, through personal experience gathered by ones self... not by reading forum posts... Really, how many people who have chimed in on the China carbon debates (rims, frames etc...) actually have used these products...? Think about that next time you read someone's post...