Life from an outsider's perspective…

Spinergy Stealth PBO 650c wheelset review.

Bikes of the art world. Bicycle Sculptures.First a brief word about 650c wheels – it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of 650c wheels. They fit smaller riders better. There is no toe overlap. And of course they can be built lighter and stronger than 700c wheels (or else with fewer spokes). So it’s disappointing to see Mavic, Shimano, Campagnolo, Easton, Reynolds, LEW racing, X-Treme, among others, all abandon the idea of 650c. Even zipp has all but halted their 650c rim production (only applying their latest technologies to their 700c lineup). So if you’re looking to buy a factory-built 650c wheelset, that basically leaves Spinergy, HED, Nimble and Corima (full carbon rims only). Zipp make two models, while American Classic and Rolf each make just one model of 650c wheel. Otherwise you will need to go the handbuilt route – or else there’s ebay. It seems the worst thing going for 650c wheels at the moment is lack of choice… Kudos to Spinergy for continuing to manufacture 650c rims and complete wheels.

Spinergy 650c and 700c wheels.Spinergy also supply their factory-built wheelsets in both 700 and 650c and with either shimano or campagnolo compatible freehub bodies. I doubt that the latter combination exceeds 0.1% of the market. Even so, they cater for it.

Every PBO spoke contains over 30,000 strands of polyphenylene bensobisoxazole fiber, delivering 3-times the strength of stainless steel at just half the weight.

Kestrel 500 EMS with Spinergy Stealth PBO 650c campagnolo wheelset.On with the wheels… I bought the PBO 650c sized wheelset from Mrazek Cycles back in 2007. Firstly, I noted that the quality of construction was excellent. The rims were true straight out of the box. The carbon fibre fairing looked to be good also; not the “handmade” look of zipp rims (keep in mind I’m a former Materials Scientist). The aluminium brake track is machined, hence braking is smooth and consistent. They were built with 16 radially laced spokes on the front wheel and 20 crossed spokes on the rear. Spinergy includes a stylish yet functional pair of quick release skewers with their wheelsets, an aluminium spoke/nipple key and red rim tape – a nice bonus!

Spinergy quick release skewersDespite the low spoke count, these wheels are strong. They are also suprisingly quiet & comfortable for a deep-dished wheel. I didn’t notice any lateral flex in the short time I used them… they were everything I had come to expect in a great pair of wheels … well “what happened” I hear you ask?

Spinergy Customer Service:
Spinergy has been criticised for their customer service in the past & so I thought I’d share my positive story. I accidently over-inflated the front rim (120psi), and the rim walls splayed out upon a sustained braking effort shortly afterwards (I suppose there was pressure increase from the descent). Now I’ve bought a lot of stuff in my life and only ever claimed a warranty once or twice because it’s usually never worth the hassle. However, things like this are difficult (impossible) to replace here in Tenerife. So after a visit to the local bike shop who said that they couldn’t be repaired in Spain, I sent Spinergy USA an e-mail.

After a brief discussion about what caused the rim failure, they told me that the wheels were still covered under their one-year parts guarantee. I was suprised when they gave me a return authorisation number the next day. Lucky for me! According to my records, I sent the wheel from the Canary Islands on the 6th of June. It got there okay, was repaired and on it’s way back again 11 days later (they paid the return postage and all labour charges were gratis!).

Unfortunately even though local Spanish post office here in Tenerife received the wheel, they held on to it for ages & then sent it back all without telling me it was in their possession (that’s twice they’ve done that, with no re-imbursement!!). Anyway, I explained what happened to customer service agent at Spinergy. When they finally did receive my wheel again, they sent it back out a second time immediately. Now here’s the commendable part: even though I admitted to them it was directly the Spanish post office’s fault, they paid the postage on the wheel a second time. In a world full of hidden service charges, I think that’s fantastic. Would zipp do that? I think not.

Spinergy is one of those companies who don’t copy designs; they innovate. They introduced the first fully composite wheel with tensioned carbon fibre spokes, the original Rev-X (at a reasonable price) in the mid 90’s. And they’ve done it again this decade by producing the first-ever wheel with replaceable polyphenylene bensobisoxazole fibre spokes (I was going to say composite spokes, but there is no resin matrix present so technically they are not composite spokes). Moreover, Spinergy is able to do all that without breaking the bank and without all the marketing & sales hype like many other wheel manufacturers… perhaps for that very reason, I think Spinergy is often overlooked / under-appreciated but I’ll definitely keep them in mind for the future and recommend them where possible. Thanks, Spinergy!

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