Upgrading wheels on an entry level road bike? Thinking about Mavic Aksium or Easton EA50 Aero...



CyclinYooper

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Jan 9, 2011
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I've got a pile of redeemable gift certificates from work (for cycling purposes, they are redeemable at REI or Amazon). I'm considering using them to upgrade my wheels.

Max price I'd be looking to spend is ~$400. In that range, it seems like the Mavic Aksium or Easton EA50 Aeros would be the best options? I know people on here have touted LBS custom wheels ... but I couldn't redeem my gift cards that way.

Anyway, Mavic Aksiums seem to be standard equipment for many of the ~$2k, carbon frame, Shimano 105-level bikes, so they seemed like a good place for me to start. However, I've read many reviews about the spokes breaking, crashes resulting from spoke failure, and difficulty in maintaining the wheels due to proprietary spokes.

The Eastons are more expensive ($400 vs. $250 for the mavics), but I haven't found any bad reviews. The prior version EA50s were criticized in one review for being very difficult to perform tire changes. Not sure if that would be the case with the new Aeros.

Any thoughts? I've really like the great feedback people on here provide.

I love climbing hills in Albuquerque, and I've read that new wheels will really help. I currently have a GT GTR Series 4 with Alex R500 rims (no idea on hubs, skewers, etc.)

Thanks!
 

dabac

Well-Known Member
Sep 16, 2003
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Originally Posted by CyclinYooper .

..I'm considering ..to upgrade my wheels.

Max price I'd be looking to spend is ~$400. In that range, it seems like the Mavic Aksium or Easton EA50 Aeros would be the best options? I know people on here have touted LBS custom wheels ... but I couldn't redeem my gift cards that way.

Anyway, Mavic Aksiums seem to be standard equipment..., crashes resulting from spoke failure, and difficulty in maintaining the wheels due to proprietary spokes.

..I love climbing hills in Albuquerque, and I've read that new wheels will really help...
Thanks!
...
Aksiums(as most low spoke count wheels) run rather high spoke tensions, so yeah, things are more prone to happen.

But regarding "LBS custom wheels", well it depends on the LBS and what you think of as "custom". Many would probably consider J-bend, round spokes in cross patterns and decent numbers to be less custom than a low-count aero build. Anyhow, build quality usually have a greater impact on wheel durability than parts quality - so it's down to the skills of the specific builder.

And even if it's all placebo, faster is still faster....

But seriously, anyone who's claiming huge improvements from replacing one fully functioning, reasonably suitable component with another fully functioning component is doing so mainly to justify his/hers spending.
 

vspa

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Jan 11, 2009
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yes proprietary spokes are a nightmare, its the only item i dislike on my Aksiums. 2 pair of wheels is the best upgrade you can treat
yourself with. its like clothing, everybody needs at least 2 pair of shoes/trousers/shirts in the closet.
 

tafi

Active Member
Jul 31, 2003
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I will ask some judicious questions:

Do you race?
Do your wheels have stuffed bearings?
Do they break spokes on a regular basis?
Do they regularly go out badly of true?

If you answered No to these then there is no need to buy a new set of wheels. If you want to save weight for climbs then try some thin tubes and light tyres. I have never met a wheel which has made riding the bike more enjoyable (beyond the initial curiosity over what they are like to ride).

If you are still set on new wheels (or if you answered yes to any of the above) then I would still urge you NOT to buy proprietary wheels in this price range. You might be getting a 400 dollar set of wheels for some vouchers but you could easily be spending more than their original cost over the next 24 months just to keep them going. It's a false economy.

If I were you, I would prefer to invest my own money in some wheels hand built by someone who knows what they are doing (you only need to budget about $100 more for more reliable and lighter wheels than Aksiums) and put those vouchers towards a more substantial purchase at a later date or towards some nice kit. Nice clothing definitely makes riding more enjoyable.
 

maydog

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Feb 5, 2010
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Last year I bought a pair of Aksium wheels for a steal at Nashbar. They were returned items.

I bought the wheels because I was having issues with an older traditional 32 cross wheelset and had a bit of the "wanna-get-a-new-bike-itis." The wheels updated the look of the almost 9 year old bike. Performance is good, they spin smoothly and I dont notice any more or less flex on them.

When I got the wheels, they were a tad out of true - perhaps that was the reason for the return. I trued them up myself, which is harder for a straight pull bladed spoke because the spoke wants to twist and put the bladed edge out of alignment. Since then I put approximately 500 miles on them, I kept them as the "nice" wheels for my older bike. I used them on a charity ride where I rode 300 miles in 4 days and I also used them on my old bike for a triathlon.

Last fall, I built a triathlon specific bike and currently have the wheels mounted on it. Since then I have only done a few training rides on them. They perform well enough and are fast enough for me.

It is too early to comment on the reliability. I weigh 225 pounds and ride hard so spoke breakage is a concern. I regularly break spokes on handbuilt 32 and 36 spoke wheelsets. I carry a few round straight pull spokes in the seat tube so I can repair just in case. Replacing a straight pull spoke in the field may actually be faster than a Jbend.

..so far I like the Aksiums

In that price range, you may also find a set of EA70 wheels. I have a set of velomax circuit wheels on my group ride bike. I have had 0 reliability issues with these wheels and I have ridden them 3 or 4 seasons with probably over 6000 miles of hard riding. I did damage the rear when my sons pedal got stuck in it. I ordered replacement spokes from easton and replaced the bent one myself - it wasn't that hard. I believe the EA70s are the same as the velomax circuit.

.... I read the first post again and think I should add that the best performance upgrades for an entry level bike would be: clipless pedals, shoes, saddle and maybe tires. Don't expect speed or climbing miracles from a set of wheels.
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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Originally Posted by maydog .

I weigh 225 pounds and ride hard so spoke breakage is a concern. I regularly break spokes on handbuilt 32 and 36 spoke wheelsets.
You need to change your wheelbuilder. That said, if you're replacing that many spokes you'll have a fresh set of spokes in the very near future ;)

At 225lbs you should have no issues with a well built 32 or 36 spoke wheel. When I got back on the bike after a decade of beer and BBQ and was just under 230, I hammered my wheels uphill and down dale without an issue - plenty of rough roads and fast descents were ridden.
 

dhk2

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Aug 8, 2006
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Maydog, I've also had great service from the Velomax Circuits; over 28K miles and no truing needed. The rear wheel has just a bit of lateral in it now, but I'm resisting the urge to tamper with the even-tension from the factory. The sidewalls are getting worn from braking; figure in another 10K miles the "wear indicator" grooves in the rim will disappear; that's when I'm planning to replace them. The EA-70s do appear to be the same wheelset. Actually I'll buy EA-90s when I need to replace the old Circuits since I like the twin-threaded spoke design and Easton's careful build tensioning.

Agree with swampy that a well-built 32 or 36 spoke wheel shouldn't be breaking spokes unless you've got the wrong rim or spokes for your weight or road conditions. A good LBS-built wheel is still hard to beat. If you have to ride in rainy or dirty conditions, I think the "used-to-be standard hubs" with cup and cone bearings and real axle seals are an advantage too.
 

Eichers

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Sep 17, 2010
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Hi CyclinYooper, these are much better than Aksiums
http://www.pro-liteoz.com/store/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=19
http://www.pro-liteoz.com/store/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=13

and probably even these ... http://www.pro-liteoz.com/store/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=61
or Williams 19 or 30 wheels
 

maydog

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Feb 5, 2010
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I don't want to derail the thread into a wheelbuilding discussion. I am aware of the reliability claims of handbuilt wheelsets - mine have been ok, but not bulletproof. Generally after a thousand miles or so, I will break a spoke. I have never had a front spoke break and have never had a spoke break due to rough roads. The breakage is due to cyclic fatigue after miles and miles of riding usually at the spoke head or at the nipple. After the first pops the interval between subsequent failures is more frequent.

The best luck I have had is with a rear I built up myself. It was nothing special, shimano tiagra hub, DC-19 touring rim and 36 sapim double butted 14ga spokes. I laced, tensioned and trued the wheel myself. It lasted maybe 1500 to 2000 miles before a spoke popped. Interestingly enough, the sapim spokes break right at the beginning of the threads at the nipple - I haven't has one break at the head yet.

My point is that I have had the best luck with the Velomax/easton wheelset and perhaps it is just that - luck.
 

Camilo

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Apr 5, 2007
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It's too bad you're limited to those two sources. For $400 you can get much lighter, but good quality wheels from Soul, Neuvation or Bicycle Wheel Warehouse, not to mention companies like Williams or Reynolds (i.e. the Solitude). If you can somehow manipulate the funds (buy something else from REI or Amazon and free up the cash), you should do that, IMHO. I would personally buy something from BWW, either a set of the super light Blackrace, or some DT Swiss/ Ultegra wheels from them. But I have a set of <$400 Reynolds and they are reasonably light wheels and have proven tough for me.

I have a set of Aksiums and they are fine, durable wheels. I don't know about the Eastons. But the Aksiums are pretty heavy wheels for the price and probably wouldn't give you a speck of performance upgrade from what you have. If you want to really "upgrade" in terms of weight, and that's your budget, you should try to find something in the 1450-1600 gram range from a reputable company (see above). I can't think of any reason to buy Aksium wheels, in that weight range. They're probably not any tougher than what you have and while they might be lighter (maybe not), they aren't light enough to consider that an "upgrade" you'll be happy with in the long run. I think the sell so many because of the name and the look.

Another thing I really don't like about the Aksiums are the bladed spokes. I don't like the looks, but that's a minor issue. I really don't like how they push me around in a cross wind. My Reynolds have a 30 mm rimmed wheel (deeper than the Aksiums) with round non-proprietary spokes and they handle much much better.
 

alfeng

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Jul 23, 2005
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Originally Posted by CyclinYooper .

I've got a pile of redeemable gift certificates from work (for cycling purposes, they are redeemable at REI or Amazon). I'm considering using them to upgrade my wheels.

Max price I'd be looking to spend is ~$400. In that range, it seems like the Mavic Aksium or Easton EA50 Aeros would be the best options? I know people on here have touted LBS custom wheels ... but I couldn't redeem my gift cards that way.

Anyway, Mavic Aksiums seem to be standard equipment for many of the ~$2k, carbon frame, Shimano 105-level bikes, so they seemed like a good place for me to start. However, I've read many reviews about the spokes breaking, crashes resulting from spoke failure, and difficulty in maintaining the wheels due to proprietary spokes.

The Eastons are more expensive ($400 vs. $250 for the mavics), but I haven't found any bad reviews. The prior version EA50s were criticized in one review for being very difficult to perform tire changes. Not sure if that would be the case with the new Aeros.

Any thoughts? I've really like the great feedback people on here provide.

I love climbing hills in Albuquerque, and I've read that new wheels will really help. I currently have a GT GTR Series 4 with Alex R500 rims (no idea on hubs, skewers, etc.)
FWIW. Instead of a new set of wheels, consider using your gift certificates for a TRUING STAND + a Black (DT nipples) and/or a Green (most other nipples) PARK/Pedro/etc. spoke wrench(es) + other bike specific tools on an as-needed basis ... I know REI used to carry that "stuff" so they probably still do.

Consider getting some type of WORK STAND ... for most of the work you will do on your bike, you just need something that holds the rear wheel off of the ground.

Consider getting a copy of ZINN AND THE ART OF ROAD BIKE MAINTENANCE

Consider replacing the hubs which are on your wheels with EITHER some Shimano hubs OR DT 240 ([COLOR= #808080]better![/COLOR]) hubs.

  • Campagnolo hubs are superior, too; but, your bike has a Shimano drivetrain.

  • Formula hubs must be "okay" but I don't know how long their bearings last

BTW. I apparently can't say this often enough ...

People who want to upgrade their 8-speed OR 9-speed Shimano drivetrains will [COLOR= #008000]get the most bang for their buck[/COLOR] by buying a set of 10-speed, NON-QS Campagnolo shifters ....

  • The Campagnolo shifters will index to 8-and-9-speed Shimano drivetrains with zero-to-minimal effort, respectively.

  • Campagnolo shifters work more efficiently when your drivetrain is under load -- N.B., when you start riding up EITHER South OR North 14 you may find the chain momentarily skating across the teeth before engaging the next cog or chainring if you continue to use the Shimano shifters which are currently on your bike but the shift will be much cleaner with Campagnolo shifters

I presume you can buy some NEW, 2011 10-speed Campagnolo shifters via Amazon if REI doesn't carry them (obviously, I have't been in an REI for a few years!) ...

If not, you can certainly buy a set of used-or-new 10-speed Campagnolo shifters for between $100-to-$200(US) on eBay ... you can pay more!

  • you can recoup some of the cost by selling the Shmano shifters which are currently on your bike.
 

ambal

Well-Known Member
Oct 15, 2010
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Originally Posted by swampy1970 .

You need to change your wheelbuilder. That said, if you're replacing that many spokes you'll have a fresh set of spokes in the very near future ;)

At 225lbs you should have no issues with a well built 32 or 36 spoke wheel. When I got back on the bike after a decade of beer and BBQ and was just under 230, I hammered my wheels uphill and down dale without an issue - plenty of rough roads and fast descents were ridden.
To right, if he isn't jumping up gutters a well built set of 32 spoke wheels should last a few seasons.
 

maydog

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Feb 5, 2010
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I second the work stand and truing stand, even though they are necessarily performance upgrades.
 

CyclinYooper

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Jan 9, 2011
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Lots of good information in this post! I appreciate the help!

Originally Posted by tafi . Do you race?
Do your wheels have stuffed bearings?
Do they break spokes on a regular basis?
Do they regularly go out badly of true?
No, I do not race. I'm not sure about my bearings, I have not broken any spokes, and my front wheel has gone out of true once in ~500 miles of riding. How can I tell about the bearings? This is an entry level bike, so I'm sure they are cheap. I guess I've just got the bug to upgrade and "go faster."

Originally Posted by Camilo .

If you can somehow manipulate the funds (buy something else from REI or Amazon and free up the cash), you should do that, IMHO.
This is actually what my wife suggested (love her) ... she said, just give me the gift cards, and take the cash for whatever you want!

So, since this is certainly not urgent, I'm going to wait and think a little more. I definitely have some good ideas to ponder:
1. Update hubs only?
2. Update with another wheel manufacturer (I really like some of the other wheels posted in this thread).
3. Can the idea for now, and put the money into maintenance gear
4. Keep saving the money ... as upgrade ideas seem to grace my mind frequently.

Scott
 

maydog

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Feb 5, 2010
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If you want to go faster and climb harder, pedals and shoes should be your first consideration. If you don't already have them that is.

Upgrading hubs seems like a lot of hassle if your hubs are already smooth. I have built a few wheels with shimano tiagra hubs, which are very nice compared to what came on my stock wheels. In my mind, if you are going to change hubs, you might as well upgrade the whole wheel.
 

Motobecane

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Nov 5, 2010
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honestly, sell the vouchers. there are websites where you can sell your giftcards, you lose a small percentage but whoop de doo. I would absolutely be looking at wheels from bicycle wheel warehouse or neuvation before buying the mavics.
 

tafi

Active Member
Jul 31, 2003
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Originally Posted by CyclinYooper .
No, I do not race. I'm not sure about my bearings, I have not broken any spokes, and my front wheel has gone out of true once in ~500 miles of riding. How can I tell about the bearings? This is an entry level bike, so I'm sure they are cheap. I guess I've just got the bug to upgrade and "go faster."
The ideal is that the axle spin freely in the hub but have no play. If you can move the wheel from side to side when it is in the frame then there is too much play. If the axle feels rough to turn then you need a hub adjustment or service. Plenty of "cheap" hubs can be made to work really well by having them adjusted (they usually come too tight).

This applies only to cup and cone bearing hubs (Google is your friend). Hubs with separate bearing units usually need to be disassembled to check each bearing unit properly.

In any case I would doubt that 500 miles of riding is going to have done harm to your wheel bearings (you never said in the OP how old the wheels were).

One re-true in 500 miles is no problem.


Of course I can second the suggestion of reading into bike maintenance more.
 

wotnoshoeseh

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Jan 15, 2011
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Originally Posted by CyclinYooper .
........... I currently have a GT GTR Series 4 with Alex R500 rims (no idea on hubs, skewers, etc.)

Thanks!
I have the same bike and same wheels and have approx. 800 miles on it. I broke a spoke yesterday on the rear wheel.

I brought it to my LBS and the mechanic who fixed the spoke told me to expect to break some more. I'm about 210 lbs. I asked if it was my weight (getting paranoid..) and he claimed poor quality spokes.
I'm a bit concerned now over this.
Anyone else with a GT Series 4 have wheel issues?
 

o1silver4

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Nov 24, 2012
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Man look my bike came with alex dc19 wheels. After 200mi they needed truing, i am 236lbs built. so my mechanic told me these are just poor quality and they put it on the bikes to keep the cost down. So to get to the point, i pull the trigger on some MAVIC KSYRIUM'S wheel set. and let me tell u night and day. the wheels are so smooth and effortlessly gets up to speed. Even dropping in a few pot holes and the wheels a still true, was riding somewhere that i have never ridden before. So i ran into a few surprises and the wheels a still true. with these wheels i feel like i can go further and faster with less energy my bike just glides along. BOTTOM line get u a good set of wheels. the MAVIC'S on my bike make my bike more even enjoyable to ride to me. MAVIC $650 alex dc19 $79-100 i guest u get what u pay for.
 

andersun16

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Nov 26, 2012
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Mavic Ksyrium Elites weigh in at about 1500 grams without cassette/skewers. That's probably about 500 grams less than your stock wheels. But, there's more at work here. Putting a $500 wheelset on a $1000 bike is questionable logic depending on your budget. I've seen the Easton EA50's going for as low as $349 a set via Amazon. They make a good wheel. Either way, I'd sell the bike and put that money toward a new bike that already comes with better wheels and probably better everything else.