We spend a lot of time talking up our flagship products. This is the natural consequence of obsessively living, eating, sleeping, and dreaming about how to improve the cycling experience for everyone – from weekend riders to the most demanding pros. So, when Julian Alaphilippe puts a set of Rapides on the podium, we want to shout to the world about it. It’s a Big Stage validation of everything we set out to do.
The thing is, we put everything we make through the same process from design to delivery. We ask hard questions at the outset – who is this for, how will it improve their ride, what makes this better? We prototype, test, destroy, repeat. We test in the lab, the Win Tunnel, and the real world. We test in every imaginable weather, for every imaginable situation. And eventually, when we think we’ve got something that can genuinely deliver what we set out to do, we stamp our name on it and set it free. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about the most advanced aerodynamic road wheels in the world or a do-it-all mountain bike wheelset, the arc is the same.
But much as we expend the same painstaking energy on everything we make, some products grab more headlines than others.
The C38 here is a perfect example of this headline shyness. Away from thousand-camera finish line glory, during those long months of base mile training, rain or shine, this is the wheel that our sponsored pros reach for the most. It offers a perfect balance of performance, ride quality, and durability that makes it a trustworthy long-haul training partner, and it has a lively ride feel that makes those miles go down a whole lot easier.
Starting with the rim, we developed the C38 to offer legitimate but sensible aerodynamics; the 38mm rim depth and 26.6mm outer width pair perfectly with modern wide tires, creating a good aero pocket while also remaining settled and undisturbed by crosswinds. In a general sense, the C38 rims aerodynamically outperform many deeper section, dedicated aero rims, but without suffering the compromised stability of those other, allegedly aero rims. Light enough to be a climber’s dream, strong enough to crush gravel all year round, surprisingly slippery, this is a rock star of a rim.
Then, in order to emphasize the “real world” aspect of real-world performance, we lace these rims to super dependable DT-Swiss 370 hubs. The DT Swiss Star Ratchet mechanism is a legendary freehub ratchet. It offers rapid uptake, smooth performance, tool-free maintenance, and a level of durability that is unbeatable. As for the spokes that hold this hub and rim together? DT Swiss again. Traditional J-bend spokes, no less. Opting to use J-bend spokes instead of leveraging the scant weight advantage of dedicated straight-pull spokes was a decision we made in order to stay true to the real world. In the event of an unforeseen spoke breakage, J-bend spokes can be found at almost any decent bike shop. DT-Swiss spokes are a whole lot less likely to break in the first place than the generic spokes found on most OE wheels, but if by some chance you do break one, it’s easy to find a replacement. Out in the real world, this is what matters.
These are legitimate “go anywhere, do anything” wheels, offering proven aerodynamics and incredible ride quality at a competitive weight. That’s why the pros are so happy to ride them when they aren’t setting up for a sprint or trying to crush everyone up Mont Ventoux. That’s also why these are the perfect upgrade for riders looking to improve their bike’s performance and durability without having to sacrifice a firstborn child or take out a mortgage on the house.
To that end, there are a ton of really amazing mid-price road bikes out there these days. They have the same cutting-edge carbon fiber frames as their top-dollar siblings, and many of them have brakes and drivetrains that are value and quality packed. But in order to hit accessible price points, the manufacturers have to make some hard decisions. Sadly, OE wheels are one of those areas of cost savings. There are so many amazing bikes out there rolling around on generic, heavy, fragile wheels. Cheap rims, brittle generic spokes, crunchy no-name hubs. A set of C38s would make many of these bikes feel better than brand new. They may not be grabbing headlines, but a set of C38s represents a revolutionary upgrade. Pro-level performance wrapped in a real-world value proposition. Food for thought.