Black Inc teases five-spoked carbon road wheels with retro vibes
Is it #throwbackthursday already? Black Inc, the sibling component company to Factor Bikes, has just teased a new five-spoke disc brake wheel with a shallow rim depth. The solid-spoked full carbon fibre wheel was spotted on the bike of Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) on the first rest day of the Tour de France.
Expected to be named the Five, the new road wheelset aims to be extremely light, super fast, and look like it too. However, don’t expect to see this wheel in the peloton because, as per UCI regulations, such wheels can’t be used in mass-start competition. Still, the product does offer a striking visual for use in uphill time-trials or just general non-UCI-governed cycling (aka, riding bikes).
Not trying to be a new idea
Such solid-spoked wheels are not at all new to cycling. The one-piece design language was seen in the Tuff wheels that took BMX by storm in the ’70s and ’80s. Then a focus on aerodynamic efficiency saw a similar concept make it over to the road and track cycling markets.
By the ’90s the road market was buzzing with wheels sharing a similar aesthetic: the HED 3, Spin, Aerospoke 5 Spoke, and Spinergy’s Rev X were all big successes. However, by the early 2000s the UCI had stepped in to protect the
history of the sport safety of riders and such wheel designs have been somewhat niche since.
Today similar wheel designs are commonly seen in professional track racing and in the occasional road time trial event. And those keen on Cross Country Olympic (XCO) mountain bike racing would have seen the unmissable Bike Ahead Composite wheels at the pointy end of the women’s field over the past few seasons.
Black Inc’s version
Black Inc’s new Five wheels are said to draw on design elements from the automotive industry with weight being a key basis for much of the decision-making.
Said to weigh 1,290 g for the pair, the new Five wheels feature a hooked rim design that’s intended for use with either tubed clinchers or tubeless. The rims feature a relatively shallow 30 mm depth matched to a modern 20.7 mm internal width and 28 mm external width.
Black Inc’s more traditional-spoked wheels have long used NACA-based aero rim profiles and the Five doesn’t shy away from such commonly used shapes. In this case, the spokes feature a full airfoil at the spoke tip, which then moves to a truncated shape along the length of each spoke. While it’s assumed the wheel will be faster than a traditional metal-spoked wheel, no specific aerodynamic figures have been shared.
According to Black Inc, the hubs feature both a mechanical and chemical (bonded) attachment to the carbon fibre construction – a vital element given the braking surface is mounted to the hub. Those hubs feature centre-lock brake mounts while the freehub mechanism is assumed to be the same three-pawl system as Black Inc’s other road wheels.
There’s little hiding what inspired Black Inc’s new wheels: the Bike Ahead Composites Biturbo Road wheels offer a six-spoke design, a 34 mm-depth rim, and a 20 mm internal width with a hooked bead for both tubeless and tubed compatibility. These German-made hoops are claimed to start from 1,249 g.
Assuming you’re not interested in mass-start road racing, then a pair of Black Inc Five wheels will set you back US$3,500. That price is a little less than the approximate US$4,000 that a pair of Bike Ahead Composites Biturbo Road wheels will set you back.
A competitive weight figure, low drag, and a likely direct feel are desirable qualities in a performance road wheel, but arguably the most important and differentiating feature here is one of aesthetics. Personally, I don’t love how these wheels look on the pictured Factor Ostro, but hey, I also hate the taste of Camembert and there are likely hundreds of millions of people who’d disagree with me on that.