Flux Carbon 350R Road Wheels
May 2nd, 2017
May 2nd, 2017
Paddy is Bikesoup Test Team's Junior XC rider, but he sits comfortably in the Elite pack. A handy and powerful rider that loves anything on two wheels, with a particular taste for weight weenie stuff.
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You may not have heard of Flux wheels. I certainly hadn’t before I got sent this pair, but it won’t be that way for long. They’re a brand spanking new British company, specialising in carbon wheels, just road ones for the moment, but they’ve got big plans to expand into the mountain bike market soon. The 350R's are a mid-depth all rounder, at 50mm on the rear, and 45 on the front, with a choice of several high quality hubs, strung together with Sapim CX-Ray spokes. You can also specify the colour of the graphics, for ultimate bike-geek colour matching. I’d been sent a set on DT Swiss 350 hubs, the cheapest option at £999, undoubtedly incredible value for a set of hoops using such proven components. In keeping with the company’s youthfulness, they’re bang up to date with the latest road trends, being fully tubeless compatible, with a crosswind-friendly blunt U-shape. Mine actually came fitted with Schwalbe Pro One tyres, set up tubeless, so I can’t comment on the ease (or difficulty) of getting a tyre to seal on the Flux rims, but they held up in test. Out of the box, the high build quality is obvious. I always give new wheels a once over before they go on the bike, and these didn’t even demand a quarter of a spoke nipple turn - they were literally perfect. The straight pull hubs and strong rims mean high spoke tensions are used in pursuit of ultimate responsiveness. As expected from DT Swiss, the hub bearings were (and still are) silky smooth, and the freehub purrs with an ‘expensive’ sound. I’m not completely sold on the graphics (three prominent white logos around the rim is becoming somewhat of a cliché), but they’re not offensively loud in white, and the wheels on the whole give an aggressive, focused look to the bike. On riding the 350Rs, the stiffness is immediately noticeable. I couldn’t get any power induced brake rub, no matter how hard I tried, and hard cornering presented no issues. They’re not harsh though, and have a usefully ‘damped’ feel, that seems to take the edge off potholes and road buzz, at least compared to the metal winter wheels I’ve been using for the past six months. The impressive width (27mm front, 26mm rear) boosts the width of tyres massively. The 25mm Schwalbe Pro Ones just about squeezed into my frame, giving a nice cushioned feel, and excellent stability in the corners. Old school 23mm lovers are out of luck though, 23 tyres just aren’t big enough to run properly on a rim of such breadth, not that you’d want to though, since bigger has been proven to be quicker. All of this stiffness, stability and grip makes for total control when the roads get twisty, and I had some serious fun pushing the limits of my bravery around the steep descents of the Surrey Pyrenees. The 350Rs aren’t exactly heavy at 1585g, but they don’t quite have the same snappy acceleration as ultralight climbing wheels, and the 18 tooth ratchet doesn’t engage particularly quickly when you need to get on the gas. To be fair though, these wheels strike an excellent balance between weight, comfort and aerodynamics, and it’d be unfair to expect much more speed of them when they tick that many boxes. As with all deep section wheels, you really start to notice the benefits once you get up to 20mph or so, when a speed that would have you pedalling pretty hard on a shallow set just feels like cruising. They make a brilliant noise too, which you’ve got to be wary with, as it’s all too easy to go deep into the red chasing the addictive speed-whoosh. I don’t have access to any proper aero testing facilities so I’m afraid I can’t back this up with data, but trust me, they really felt awesomely fast. Flux have made an effort to combat the crosswind stability issues that plague deep wheels, with a blunt, U-shaped rim profile and a shallower front rim. This does seem to take the edge off the crosswind terror, but it’s definitely still something you can feel. I was fine to take a hand off the bars to drink or signal on a blustery day, but riding around no-handed in the wind is unwise (obviously). With all this potential for speed at hand, it’s good that Flux have made provisions for when it goes wrong and you need to stop quickly, with a TG Basalt bonded braking surface and excellent Swisstop brake pads (provided). Braking was actually a lot more powerful than I’d anticipated, feeling a touch grabby at first, but with plenty of modulation at hand once you get used to them. In the wet they’re about on par with other good carbon wheels, with a fraction of a second where nothing happens, before the braking surface clears and the power arrives. As well as offering raw speed and performance, a wheelset needs to last the distance, and not turn into a pringle shape when the going gets rough. The 350Rs excel in this regard. I haven’t had to go anywhere near a spoke wrench during the test period, despite some rather careless riding. The bearings are still running smooth, and there’s no perceptible rim wear yet. Potentially thanks to a titanium reinforced bead, which is a nice touch.
Mid depth carbon wheels aren’t rare these days, so it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. Flux have achieved this in a quiet way, without gimmicks or loud graphics, but just by being excellent wheels. They’re undoubtedly fast, durable, stiff and smooth, as well as being bang up to date with tubeless compatibility and massively wide rims, so I’m willing to forgive a bit of wet weather brake delay and a slow free hub for what is a great balance between comfort, aerodynamics, durability and affordability. I haven’t really mentioned the price much, but be assured that it is a big selling point, undercutting the big players by at least £400 for a comparable wheelset. But I haven't mentioned it much for a reason; in nearly every aspect, the Flux 350R wheels aren’t just great for the price, they’re great wheels full stop.