Belgium-based Ridley Bikes makes no-nonsese bikes that are built tough. But, not only are they built to endure the rigors of riding in Belgium, they are also built with aerodynamics and speed in mind. Because of that, wheels are a critical part of enabling a bike to ride demanding terrain as fast as possible. Out of that has come Ridley’s new Forza R45-19C carbon fiber wheelset.
Forza R45-19C Carbon Clincher Features:
- Machine-woven carbon fiber rim design
- DT Swiss hubs
- Sapim CX Ray bladed spokes
- 100% sourced and built in Europe
- Available for Shimano/SRAM or Campagnolo (tested)
- Width: 18mm (internal) and 27mm (external) — actual
- Weight: 710 grams (front) and 840 grams (rear) — 1550 grams total with tape
- MSRP: Spec’d on Ridley complete bikes only (for now)
Machine-woven to perfection
When it comes to carbon fiber anything, there are two factors which makes the wonder material so expensive: material cost and labor cost. Primarily, carbon fiber frames and components are laid up according to a schedule by hand. A skilled worker follows the recipe that states exactly where each section of fiber is to be laid-up in a mold. That recipe includes variations in fiber types (typically referred to as modulus) and the entire process includes a certain margin of error due to the handmade nature of the product.
That margin of error adds necessary weight to compensate for minor discrepancies in material placement. Again, this layup schedule is done with precision and products are thoroughly tested, but certainly, there’s excess material built into the recipe to compensate for slight variations.
Bucking that trend, Ridley’s new Forza R45-19C wheelset is built entirely around a machine-woven carbon fiber rim. These rims are said to eliminate excess material and, more importantly, deliver consistent performance wheel-after-wheel.
Further, Ridley has sourced these rims with venerable DT Swiss hubs and Sapim CX Ray bladed spokes. The entire package is made and assembled in Europe. Knowing that the rims were woven in Germany, I initially suspected that they were manufactured by the renowned carbon experts at Schmolke Carbon. As it turns out, that is not the case, but Ridley has partnered with another German composites company who is building these rims.
Ride quality and performance
Carbon clinchers these days follow a similar shape. The snub nosed profile has been proven fast and wind-resistant. Depths and actual profile details vary, but the general philosophy is the same. With the R45-19C’s, you get a snub inner profile matched to a more angled sidewall. This curvature does offer a wide outer width for aerodynamics but, in practice, it also sheds crosswinds quite well.
Built smartly with DT Swiss hubs, these also feature center lock rotor compatibility. In my opinion, 6-bolt rotors should be sent out to pasture as center lock designs are easier to install and remove and always go on exactly centered. It was a breeze removing the Campagnolo rotors for weighing these wheels and just as easy to re-install them.
Styling is muted here with simple graphics that don’t scream out at you. That’s something that makes these particularly nice looking on the Ridley Fenix SLX Disc or on any bike you choose to equip.
Again, aboard the Ridley Fenix SLX, these wheels felt absolutely fantastic. Mounted with Vittoria Corsa G+ 25mm tires, the 18mm internal width (actual) allowed for a full 26.5mm inflated width. That width transitions perfectly to the 27mm external width of the rims for optimal aerodynamics.
Lateral stiffness is superb with no noticeable flex under load. They spin up nicely and have a nice-sounding freewheel. As disc wheelsets, you don’t need to worry about wearing out your brake tracks so I would expect these to be good for many years to come. The only bummer here are the internal nipples, which will cause extra work when it comes time to true them.
I would not hesitate placing these wheels on any disc bike as they are quite versatile and still respectably-light for the depth. 45mm is a good all-around depth, but Ridley will also offer these in a shallower 30mm depth as more climbing-friendly wheels.
One of the best features of these wheels is their ability to shed crosswinds without losing steering control. Over the course of many days riding in the mountains, I’m pegging these as some of the most crosswind-friendly wheels I’ve tested. Wind-induced steering wobble has been minimal. Certainly, the shape works without resorting to much of the trickery you may see with other, more expensive wheels.
Note: It appears that the original plan to sell these wheels separately is still pending. As of now, the only place to find these wheels are on select complete Ridley builds — not all of which are available in the United States market.
- Seemingly impervious to crosswinds
- Lightweight wheelset for the depth
- Good inner width at 18mm
- Machine-woven wheels look mesmerizing
- Can take abuse and hubs will be easily-serviced
- Internal nipples are more challenging when servicing
- Not actually 19mm wide (in spite of the 19C name)
- Not tubeless-ready out of the box
The Bottom Line: Ridley Forza R45-19C Wheels
Machine-woven rims may actually become more and more common over time. Until then, these remain a rarity and offer excellent overall performance in a versatile shape. Most notably, I love how well they perform in crosswinds with no steering issues at all in even the strongest of breezes.
More Info: Visit 4za.com (info coming soon… hopefully)