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by Matt Wikstrom
October 17, 2016
Photography by Matt Wikstrom
TECH NEWS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BIKEEXCHANGE
Boyd Cycling has been quietly developing its wheelsets since 2009, diligently refining its rim profiles to be competitive with the market leaders. The company describes its 60mm carbon clincher as the kind of wheel that “95% of racers will use 95% of the time” and in this review, Australian tech editor Matt Wikstrom reports on his experience with them.
Boyd Cycling takes its name from its owner, Boyd Johnson, who created the company after retiring from his professional racing career in 2009. His hope was that he would be able to parlay decades of racing experience into a range of products to support the next phase of his life.
Johnson’s scope was initially quite broad, hence the company was called Boyd Bikes, and he had framesets and accessories in addition to wheels in his catalogue. By 2011, it was clear that the company needed to focus its efforts, and as a devout wheel-junkie, Johnson chose wheels and renamed the company Boyd Cycling.
With a fresh focus, Boyd set out on a lengthy phase of product development that came to fruition in 2013. It wasn’t enough to come up with wheels that were competitive on the basis of price, Johnson was intent on creating racing wheels that were reliable and robust that also offered a high level of performance.
While some small wheel manufactures take advantage of open-mould products, Boyd Cycling owns the moulds for all of its carbon rims having developed its profiles with the help of CFD analysis. And rather than use 3D-printing to produce prototypes for wind-tunnel testing, the company opted for machined alloy rims instead so that the spokes could be properly tensioned and a tyre fully inflated.
“We take those prototypes to a lot of the trade shows,” said Boyd Johnson. “It’s pretty comical watching people picking up a 15-pound wheel when they’re not expecting it! It also kind of validates the fact that we produce our own rim shapes, since a company’s not going to go through the expense and hassle of all that only to pick out a rim from a catalogue and slap a sticker on it.”
Those prototypes served the company well since wind tunnel testing for the various profiles demonstrated that Boyd’s rims are very competitive, matching (and sometimes exceeding) the performance of market leaders. And rather than dazzle buyers with low spoke counts and novel lacing patterns, Boyd builds its wheelsets with an eye on durability rather than marginal weight savings.
Boyd Cycling’s catalogue comprises alloy and carbon wheelsets for road and MTB. The alloy road wheelsets all feature low-profile clincher rims with a choice of standard or disc brake hubs. By contrast, there is a much wider range of options for carbon road wheelsets: clinchers or tubulars, standard or disc brake hubs, and four different profiles: 28mm, 44mm, 60mm, and 90mm.
For this review, I spent a few weeks riding the 60mm carbon clinchers with standard hubs courtesy of Boyd Cycling.
Boyd Cycling’s 60mm carbon clincher rim is 60mm tall, 27mm wide and has a 19mm rim bed. The company is a strong believer in road tubeless, hence the rims are tubeless compatible, and customers have the option of buying the wheels fitted with tubeless tape and valves.
According to testing at the A2 wind tunnel, Boyd Cycling’s 60mm rim profile matches or exceeds that of Zipp’s 404 Firecrest when fitted with a 25mm tyre. Living near the A2 facility makes it easy for the company to have their wheels tested, but the costs are still quite large.
“We are still a small company,” said Johnson, “so I don’t want to spend days on end in the wind tunnel. The graph we posted is the result of one run, full yaw sweep at 2.5 degree increments.”
For several years, Boyd Cycling was using a Taiwanese factory to produce its carbon rims but switched to a Chinese factory a couple of years ago.
“The quality has been much better, supply chain problems have been eliminated, and we couldn’t be happier,” said Johnson. “The owner of the factory has been involved with carbon fibre and resins for decades now (since the 1970s). They actually produce their own resin in house, roll their own UD [unidirectional carbon fibre – ed.] from Toray carbon, and make pre-preg there instead of ordering large rolls of pre-preg that then have to be stored in a freezer until being used.”
Given the wealth of experience within the factory, Boyd is happy to defer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for constructing the rims.
“For me to come in to the factory, ignore the decades of expertise, and try to tell them how to make carbon fibre rims, what layup should be used, or how to form the carbon structure would be silly on my part.
“It would also be rude of me to pretend like we are responsible for all the technology that goes into the manufacturing of the rims and cut out credit to the factory. They are responsible for getting us rims that are consistently high quality, and we are grateful for that!”
This experience provides Boyd Cycling’s carbon rims with a textured brake track that promises to improve braking while a high temperature resin is used to reduce the risk of heat damage. At the same time, the company offers its own brake pads to keep heat generation to a minimum.
Boyd Cycling’s standard carbon wheelsets are built with the company’s Prime hubs that have CNC-machined shells and cartridge bearings. In creating the design of these hubs, Boyd paid particular attention to the geometry of the hubs and the position of the bearings. Thus, the distance between the flanges of the hubs has been maximised, as has the distance between the bearings, and is most obvious for the front hub. The former improves the lateral stiffness of the wheel, while the latter promises extra stability for the hub.
Looking more closely at the hubs, class 5 Enduro angular contact bearings are used front and rear in conjunction with oversized hollow alloy axles. For the front hub, the end caps thread into the axle; for the rear, a collar threads onto the axle for adjusting the bearing pre-load with a pinch-bolt to lock it into place.
Widely spaced hub flanges add to the lateral stiffness of the front wheel.
The difference in the size of the hub flanges for the rear hub evens out spoke tension but it is still twice as high for the drive-side spokes when compared to the non-drive-side spokes.
The bearings in the front hub a positioned close to the dropouts of the forks to provide plenty of stability.
Shallow end caps maximise bearing spacing but there’s not much protection from the weather.
Like the front bearings, the rear bearing on the non-drive side of the hub sits close to the dropout of the frame.
Four pawls on leaf springs are located on the freehub body…
…and engage with a 32-tooth internal ratchet to drive the rear wheel.
The freehub body is made from 7075 aluminium alloy and buyers have a choice of an 11-speed Shimano/SRAM or Campagnolo freehub body. As for the internal mechanism, four pawls activated by leaf springs engage with a 32-tooth ratchet ring.
All of Boyd Cycling’s carbon wheels are built with Sapim CX-Ray spokes. A radial lacing pattern is used for the front wheel while the rear spokes are laced two-cross. The spoke count is varied according to the weight of the rider: for those riders weighing less than 82kg/180 pounds, Johnson recommends 20 spokes for the front wheel and 24 spokes for the rear; for riders weighing more, 24 spokes for the front and 28 spokes for the rear.
Interestingly, Boyd has noticed a trend towards extra spokes even when the buyer is below the weight threshold.
“More and more people in the 160 pound (72kg) range are choosing the added durability of a few extra spokes,” he said. “I think a lot of riders have seen the disadvantage of trying to ride a super low spoke count wheel. I also see that more and more people are getting carbon wheels for their everyday wheels, and so it’s not so much about the super low weight or aero performance of taking out a few spokes.
“They want the wheels to be strong and last, and they want to use them everyday.”
It is worth noting that there is a weight limit for the 60mm carbon clinchers. When laced with 20 spokes front and 24 spokes rear, rider weight is limited to 100kg/220 pounds. This increases to 113kg/250 pounds when the wheels have 24 spokes in the front wheel and 28 spokes in the rear wheel.
Boyd Cycling builds all of its mid- and high-profile carbon wheelsets with external brass nipples (Sapim) rather than alloy nipples. It’s a purposeful choice that has little to do with saving costs.
“With the brass nipples, it just makes a more durable wheelset,” said Johnson. “I have never been a fan of getting wheels as light as possible by sacrificing durability. People are riding in all types of conditions, and when you have people riding in corrosive areas it can chew through the nipples.
“The 30g difference between brass and alloy nipples is so small that it can’t actually be felt or add up to a difference in performance.”
Boyd Cycling’s preference for durability over marginal weight savings extends to the skewers that are supplied with the wheels. The internal cam design provides a light closing action and promises to be harder wearing and less susceptible to the effects of weather than a lightweight skewer with an external cam.
As mentioned above, all of Boyd Cycling’s carbon clinchers have tubeless-compatible rim beds. The company believes in the potential of road tubeless, so it has gone to the trouble of producing its own tubeless valves with lengths to suit all of its carbon rims. It also created an ingenious wingnut to secure the valve that is easy to tighten and loosen by hand.
The wheelset sent for review weighed 1,703g (front, 757g; rear, 946g) with rim tape and tubeless valves but without the skewers. As such, these wheels compare well with other high-profile carbon clinchers such as Zipp’s 404 Firecrest clinchers (claimed weight of 1,690g sans tape and tubeless valves) and Irwin’s 58mm carbon clinchers (actual weight 1,773g sans tape and tubeless valves), both of which make use of alloy nipples.
Boyd Cycling can supply its tubeless-compatible clinchers with its own tubeless valves without the need for an extension. The ovalised locknut makes it easy to tighten and loosen it by hand.
Boyd Cycling has gained UCI-certification for its 44mm, 60mm and 90mm carbon rims. Thus racers will be able to use any of these wheelsets at the highest levels of competition. This applies not only to the clinchers but the tubular versions as well.
The asking price for Boyd Cycling’s 60mm carbon clinchers with Prime hubs is currently US$1,550 (~AUD$2,020), while the tubular version retails for US$1,450 (~AUD$1,910). In both instances, buyers can opt for White Industries T11 hubs (black only) for an extra US$350 (~AUD$455).
Each wheelset is supplied with skewers, a pair of rim strips, two pairs of Onyx brake pads, and a choice of eight colours (ghosted, white, red, blue, orange, green, yellow and pink) for the logos on the rims. For those buyers that intend to run tubeless tyres, the company will install its tape and tubeless valves for another US$26 (~AUD$34).
There are a couple of options for buying a set of Boyd Cycling’s wheels. Online shoppers can buy direct using the company’s website, but will have to pay extra for shipping and any relevant taxes and duties associated with the importation of goods.
Alternatively, buyers can visit a retailer. At present, Boyd Cycling’s retail network is largely restricted to North America however the company is endeavouring to expand on a global basis. At present, some retailers have demo wheels available for road testing while others are custom wheelbuilders that are able to tailor the wheels — including the choice of hubs and spokes — to meet the needs of the buyer.
Boyd Cycling offers a two-year warranty against manufacturer’s defects for its carbon rims. The company also offers crash replacement discount for rims that are damaged out on the road, with the final cost depending upon the rim involved and shipping that is required. In most cases, Boyd Cycling will work with the nearest custom wheelbuilder in its network to resolve warranty claims and attend to crash replacements.
For more information on the 60mm carbon clinchers and any other of its products, visit Boyd Cycling.
For this review, I fitted Boyd Cycling’s 60mm carbon clinchers with tubeless tyres, specifically 23mm Schwalbe Pro One in conjunction with Stan’s sealant (~45ml/tyre) and Boyd Cycling’s tubeless rim tape and valves.
The tyres were a reasonably tight fit, not necessarily demanding tyre levers but they certainly made installation easier. Once inflated, the tyres snapped loudly into place and I didn’t have any trouble seating them. Likewise, the tyres sealed quickly and I didn’t have any issues with leaking or burping.
At 70psi, these tyres measured 26.5mm wide, a generous width given the nominal sizing that is produced by the relatively broad rim bed. The extra tyre width comes at the expense of height, which I’ve found increases the risk of a cut in the sidewall when riding rocky, unpaved roads.
While I occasionally ventured onto unpaved roads during the review period, I spent most of my time riding paved roads, albeit it in various states of repair. Overall, I found that Boyd’s 60mm carbon clinchers were smooth, sturdy, and comfortable without any of the harshness that can characterise a high-profile carbon rim.
In many ways, Boyd Cycling’s 60mm wheelset was unremarkable simply because it rarely interfered with my riding. I was generally able to ride wherever and whenever I pleased without a thought for the wheels. Indeed, the wheels proved to be quite versatile and while there were a few small shortcomings, they were the kind that are to be expected for any high-profile carbon rim.
For example, strong crosswinds were difficult to contend with. I can remember a time when high-profile wheels were terrifying to ride in the wind, but that has passed. I suspect it has as much to do with my conditioning as it has with improvements in rim design. Nevertheless, Boyd Cycling’s 60mm rims behaved predictably in the wind, such that mild and moderate crosswinds never troubled me. Powerful gusts, however, could still catch me unawares.
High-profile rims will always weigh more than low-profile ones, and hence will always suffer from extra inertia. This was something that I could feel when taking off from a standstill or while trying to accelerate on a moderate or steep slope. As with crosswind susceptibility, this is something that is not especially surprising, but these wheels could disappoint some buyers hoping for a wheelset that is as lively as it is aerodynamic.
Once the wheels were rolling, Boyd Cycling’s 60mm carbon clinchers were easy to keep going, delivering the kind of speed that should satisfy racers. At the same time, the wheels were remarkably quiet for a high-profile carbon rim, and since the tubeless valves were anchored with locknuts, there was no rattle from them at all.
Having ridden a variety of high-profile wheels (e.g. Irwin Cycling 58mm carbon clinchers, Wheelworks Maker 50mm carbon clinchers, and Black Inc Black Fifty carbon clinchers) in recent months, I’ve yet to notice a tangible difference between any of them. They are all perceptibly faster than low-profile wheelsets, but for those aero-geeks worrying over a handful of grams of extra drag, it can’t be felt in the real world.
Be that as it may, buyers should be encouraged that Boyd’s 60mm carbon rim offers the same kind of aerodynamic performance as Zipp’s Firecrest 404. In the past, the premium associated with the market leaders could be dismissed on the basis of cutting-edge rim design, but the gap to smaller wheel brands has narrowed considerably in recent years. Now there is room to wonder why racers would choose to spend more when there is a product like Boyd’s 60mm carbon wheelset on offer.
I’ve already mentioned that the wheels were sturdy without being harsh. To this, I would add that I never noticed any brake rub while riding Boyd’s 60mm wheelset. At 75kg with modest sprinting capabilities, I never challenged the lateral stiffness of these wheels, and while I can’t be certain, I don’t expect heavier and more powerful riders will have much trouble either.
The quality of braking with Boyd Cycling’s Onyx brake pads was adequate in the dry. The pads didn’t offer the same kind of bite as other brands (e.g. Swissstop’s Black Prince pads), so more effort was required to bring the bike to a halt. Once wet, the rims would slide through the pads, but it was only for a moment and then the brakes would start to bite. While both aspects might unsettle the uninitiated, once accustomed, I don’t expect experienced riders will ever feel like they have to wrestle with the brakes to control their speed on these wheels.
During the first week or two of riding, the freehub would occasionally emit a “clunk” after freewheeling as the pawls struggled to engage the ratchet. That this disappeared by the third week suggests that the pawls were sticky with fresh grease and simply needed some time to be run in. Otherwise, the wheels were trouble free and were still perfectly true and round after several hundred kilometers of riding.
I will leave it to the individual to decide the appeal of the bold logos on the rims, but it’s worth noting that the ghosted logos are painted on the rims so they will be difficult to remove (for those opting for coloured logos, Boyd applies vinyl stickers to the top of the painted logos to finish the wheels). I’m still waiting for wheel manufacturers to do more with the space that high-profile rims offer, but for now, most are content to display enormous logos.
Boyd Cycling has done a fine job in creating its 60mm carbon clinchers. These wheels are reasonably light with a modern wide rim profile that behaves quite predictably in the wind. At the same time, they are stiff without being harsh, are UCI-approved, and boast the same kind of aerodynamic drag as one of the market leaders, yet the asking price is much more attractive.
There are other features that I consider as adding to the appeal of Boyd’s carbon wheelsets, such as a commonsense approach to the build that favours durability over marginal weight gains. I also like the long list of options that Boyd is able to offer its customers such as the choice of clincher or tubular rims, standard or disc brake hubs, and the opportunity to work with a custom wheelbuilder to create a bespoke product.
That doesn’t mean the 60mm carbon clincher is a wheel for all riders. These wheels are more demanding to use than a low-profile wheelset and the benefits don’t really come into play until the bike is travelling well over 30km/h. Put simply, this is a racing wheel, and while it may have been built to withstand everyday use, it demands to be raced.