Joining VeloClub not only supports the work we do, there are some fantastic benefits:
by Matt de Neef
September 12, 2013
3T is well known for its stems and handlebars but the company also has a range of wheelsets on the market. In this review CTech editor Matt Wikstrom looks at their Accelero 40 Team wheelset which features a 43mm deep carbon/alloy hybrid rim and retails for a little under $1,800.
3T was founded in 1961 by Mario Dedioniggi after serving 10 years in the Ambrosio factory. As mentioned, 3T is best known for handlebars and stems and was responsible for creating the first TT bullhorn bars that were used by Francesco Moser to great effect. Dedioniggi quit the business at the peak of its success but 3T has continued and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The current catalogue comprises a wide range of handlebars, stems, seatposts, forks and wheels in both aluminium and carbon.
3T offers two ranges of wheelsets: the Mercurio range comprises all-carbon tubular rims and hubs with high-end (so-called Ltd) specifications, while the Accelero range comprises clinchers with alloy (so-called Pro build) or alloy/carbon rims (Team wheels). As such, Accelero wheels are heavier and lower-priced than the Mercurio range.
There are three models in the Mercurio range (40, 60, 80) and two in the Accelero range (40 and 60), where each number refers to rim depth. All of 3T’s wheels use 23mm-wide rims, which is quickly becoming the new standard for road wheels, offering improved comfort and lower rolling resistance when compared to narrower rims. Overall, 3T offers at least one wheelset at every major pricepoint though the range is more performance-oriented.
The Accelero 40 Team wheelset comprises 43mm carbon/alloy hybrid clincher rims, Sapim CX-Ray spokes, and 3T branded hubs. According to 3T, these wheels are light, strong and aerodynamic, and thanks to the hybrid rim, more affordable than a wheelset with full carbon clincher rims.
The rim has an alloy rim bed and braking track to which a carbon fairing is bonded to improve the aerodynamics as wheel as well as the strength of the rim. The carbon fairing has a rounded profile that is quickly becoming commonplace for deep rims. There are 18 spokes in the front wheel (laced radially) and 24 in the rear (2-cross drive side, radial non-drive). Everything is held together with internal spoke nipples that are bedded in the alloy rim and have a Torx head for adjustment.
The hubs roll on oversized hollow axles and cartridge bearings. Servicing is a simple affair since the hubs can be broken-down quickly a couple of 5mm Allen keys and a mallet. The freehub body employs three-pawls that are readily cleaned and lubed once separated from the hub. 3T provides titanium skewers for all their wheels that have a simple and secure closing action.
The Accelero 40 Team wheels are available in two finishes: the standard finish features red highlights and white logos on the rims with a total claimed weight of 1,620g; the stealth finish features black highlights and logos and saves 20g to yield a final claimed weight of 1,600g. In both cases, the raw unidirectional carbon finish of the fairing dominates the presentation of the wheel making for another set of black wheels on the market.
A couple of things stood out about these wheels before I took them for a ride. First, the wheels come with a quality control report detailing the spoke tension and run-out for each wheel. The numbers demonstrate that the final build of each wheel has very even spoke tension and only minor deviations (around 0.1mm) from true. The second thing that stood out was the rear wheel whistled while I was spinning through the gears on the stand, the pitch increasing with the speed of the wheel. This is thanks no doubt to the spoke holes in the carbon fairing.
The recommended retail price for the Accelero 40 Team wheelset is $1,798 with a choice of 11-speed Shimano or Campagnolo-compatible freehubs. For more information, see the 3T website.
Viewed from afar, the Accelero 40 Team wheelset resembles high-end carbon wheelsets such as Enve’s SES 3.4 or Bontrager’s Aeolus 3 D3 save for the bright silver brake track.
The alloy rim adds at least 100 grams to the total weight of the wheelset when compared to a full carbon clincher but other manufacturers such as HED also employ the same strategy for their high-end wheelsets. 3T claim they used the results of wind tunnel tests for its Mercurio wheels to shape the Accelero rims and promise “outstanding aerodynamic performance”. In my view, the Accelero 40 Team wheelset fails to deliver on this particular promise.
Fortunately, this wheelset performs well in many other regards but 3T’s marketing deserves some criticism. Out in the real world, the Accelero 40 Team wheels are sluggish when taking off, and extra effort is required to accelerate once they are going.
However, once they get going, they like to keep going, and are satisfying to ride on long flat stretches of road and gentle descents. This doesn’t qualify as “outstanding aerodynamic performance” by any measure; rather, the design provides something of a flywheel effect instead of a reduction in aerodynamic drag.
The Accelero 40 wheels are remarkably comfortable and the 23mm wide rims work brilliantly to soften the ride. The wheels are also very sturdy, and overall, feel very robust. The wheels felt very stiff under load, but they never suffered from any chatter or skip. I expect that powerful and/or heavy riders that are frustrated with the suppleness of some low-profile wheels will appreciate the sturdiness of these wheels.
The rims catch the wind a little but their behaviour reminded me of Enve’s SES 3.4 rims since it lets go very quickly, causing only a mild deflection. Light riders may notice the deflection, but heavier riders can expect to be untroubled in all but the squalliest of conditions.
The Accelero 40 Team wheelset suffers from a mild gyroscopic effect that is noticeable when entering corners that slows the handling of the bike a little. Light riders will notice the difference as a loss of agility while heavier riders are likely to appreciate the extra stability. Add to this the flywheel effect mentioned above along with the confidence of an alloy braking track, and you get a wheelset that is well suited to riders that like to attack on descents.
What about the whistling? Out on the road, the wheels rumbled but they never whistled, no matter the speed.
After spending a couple of weeks on these wheels, I swapped them for a set of Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL wheels, which feature slightly deeper (50mm) carbon/alloy rims and weigh an extra 140g. If weight accounted for the sluggishness of the Accelero 40 Team wheels, then it should have been a bigger problem for the Mavic wheelset, except it wasn’t. There was no obvious flywheel effect, and indeed, the Cosmic Carbone SL compared well with my regular (and lighter) low profile wheelset in terms of acceleration and responsiveness on inclines.
The marketing language employed by 3T promises that the Accelero 40 Team wheelset will be a versatile performer however I doubt that all riders will find this to be true. I found no evidence of “outstanding aerodynamic performance” in this wheelset though the rim profile works well in resisting crosswinds. It should be noted that the distinctions I’ve made are relatively minor and for the uninitiated, the sluggishness will not be noticeable in the absence of a comparison with faster wheels.
It is much better to view the Accelero 40 Team wheelset as a robust and sturdy performer for heavier riders, and in this regard, is much better value for money. The recommended retail (near $1,800) places this wheelset in the upper end of the alloy clincher market, which is crowded with lots of options such as Shimano C50 and HED Jet 6 wheels.
At this end of the market, buyers can expect a well-built and reliable product, and I’m sure this applies to the Accelero 40 Team wheelset. Ignore the marketing hype and test-ride the wheels to determine if they’ll suit your needs.