Irwin 58c Carbon Wheels Review
If you haven’t heard of Irwin Wheels yet, we suspect you will start seeing more of them in the coming year. Irwin Wheels have recently established distribution links in Australia and Asia Pacific and are quickly gaining recognition. Founded by Engineer Michael Chen, who has nearly 20 years wheel building experience, they are better known in markets outside of Australia.
Without a doubt, the large appeal of Irwins are the price. At almost half the cost of some better known carbon wheels, they potentially offer great value. According to the Irwin team, the lower prices are attributed to a small marketing spend, in comparison to other brands. Of course, cheap means nothing if they perform poorly. So how did they go with testing?
In the showroom
The starting point for our review was the contact with the Adelaide based distributor. We were impressed with the service, as our new wheels arrived in Melbourne within 24 hours after Peloton Cafe first making contact. Packaged well and with specific brake pads for the carbon rims and spacer for our cassette, we were set to go.
On first impressions they are great looking wheels. Simple, yet stylish decals along with the familiar sound of ceramic ball bearings. The 58mm carbon wheels we tested offer two sealed cartridge ceramic bearings at the front and four at the rear.
The quality and number of bearings is an important consideration when investing in a new set of wheels. The whole Irwin range offer hybrid ceramic bearings with ABEC 3 Si3N4 balls (Grade 5). These bearings are used in some higher end wheels and lighter in weight when compared to steel bearings (up to 40%). The weight is useful to learn, but the reduced friction is the key thing to remember here. Something we were eager to test.
The 58mm front and rear wheels have a 26mm wide rim, which are better suited to 25mm tyres (we used Continental 4000s). The bladed spokes are a common site on wheels these days and are known to perform well in the wind. The wheels are completed with external squared nipples which allows for easier self maintenance should you need to tinker with tension down the track.
Irwin strongly promote their investment into testing and associated technology for the development of the carbon rims. A big selling point is the improved braking performance during heavy braking conditions. Another feature we were eager to test.
During the ride
We were fortunate to have the wheels for a few weeks to test in various conditions, and that we did! We were able to race them in criteriums and a very windy triathlon and also take them down some of Australia’s longer descents at Victoria's High Country.
It took a ride or two for the hubs and bearings to warm up but once settled, they rolled very well. This efficient rolling was most noticeable through gentle inclines that would usually require time out of the saddle.
The current range of Irwin Wheels use a six pawl and sixty ratchet system in the rear hub, which means when you stomp on the pedals, the rear wheel engages, quickly! This was most noticeable during the criterium race where you are constantly attacking, or in our case, trying to hold on to attacks.
Of all the features of the wheels, we were most impressed with the strength. The sturdy build gave good confidence when sprinting in race conditions. We were even faced with the odd pot hole and gutter that jumped out of nowhere and had no hassles. Irwin suggest the wheels are suitable for people up to 120kgs, but the strength during testing gave us confidence that they’d perform well for larger body types.
One of the more vulnerable positions a cyclist can face is when you’re stretched out on a time trial bike and riding in strong cross winds. Under these circumstances the Irwins performed very well, managing to keep a steady line. The 26mm rim with 25mm tyres assisted here, along with a nice weight (1755 grams) that found a balance between being light, but not too light to allow you to fly off in the wind.
In an ever competitive market where larger brands rule and custom builds are gaining popularity, these Irwins offer great value for money. From our perspective the pleasing features are the strength, good rolling thanks to the quality bearings and overall performance in windy conditions. The only fault we could find was the noise in the hub which disappeared within a short distance during the first ride.
Whether you are in the market for your first set of carbon wheels or an upgrade, you’d be silly not to consider Irwins. We were told 38mm and 26mm profiles are due in Australia mid May, 2015.