A semi-carbon clincher wheelset with a 52mm rim depth, extra spokes, spoke tool, rim strips, valve extenders and QRs.
Well...not much to complain about here, but we of course wouldn't gripe if this wheelset lost a little in the weight department.
A versatile, relatively inexpensive aero wheelset.
We all know that speed doesn't come cheap, but one of the best places to drop some coin when it comes to buying an aero advantage is with a proven set of aero wheels. That category has long been dominated by the big Z, but there are several brands that are making the wheel war a bit more interesting.
One such brand is Profile Design, PD threw their hat in the ring of wheel building a couple of years ago, and why not, they are makers of all things carbon, it made sense to us. If you have been around the multisport game for more than about 5 minutes you have probably seen or owned something from Profile Design. They make all sorts of carbon bike components from aero bars and brake levers to bottle cages and saddles to bling out your bike to your liking. So the whole wheel aspect seems like a natural fit to their repertoire.
The Altair lineup features rim depths of 52mm and 80mm, there's also a new Altair Disc wheel that we showed you from Interbike.
The Altair wheels are available as carbon tubulars, full carbon clinchers, and semi carbon clinchers. All the models feature hand built construction and Profile Design's proprietary carbon lay-up with Sapim CX Sprint bladed spokes with hidden nipples (shown below) to further enhance aerodynamics.
The hidden nipple from the inside, easily accessed with the provided spoke tool.
The Altair's also feature proprietary hubs and reliable sealed cartridge bearings that should give you many miles of trouble free riding.
Our test set was the Altair 52 Semi Carbon Clincher, which is what we requested for the review.
It seems like the full carbon race wheels get all the glory and hype. We have those type of wheels for our race days needs as well, but what about the guy who wants the benefits of an aero wheelset without breaking the bank? Or what if you want a nice set of everyday aero wheels to train on that do more than sit in the corner waiting for race day? The Altair Semi Carbon wheels might be the answer.
Our test set of the Altair 52 Semi Carbon clinchers, arrived with extra spokes, spoke tool, valve extenders, rim strips, and QRs, which is standard issue for all PD wheelsets (full carbon versions also include brake pads).
As the performance gap between the tubular and clincher wheel varieties continue to narrow we wanted to review a wheelset that was at home on the training course as well as the race course. The Altair Semi Carbon Clincher has the same features for the most part as the full carbon wheels in a slightly heavier, slightly less expensive package. The semi-carbon version combines a carbon rim with an aluminium bead and braking surface which should make for a very reliable and durable set of wheels with predictable performance.
We have taken the Altair's and made them our daily trainers for the last few months. You know how glamorous that training wheel role is...basically a continuous beat down, day after day we mercilessly beat the hell out of our daily trainers and they get very little in return. These wheels took all the punishment that we could dish out and didn't give us a minute of trouble.
The "everyman" design
The actual R&D process of bringing these wheels to the market was two years in the making. Profile used Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to design their rim profiles. In doing so, they also used real world data of wind speeds from actual Ironman and 70.3 courses and age group results to get an optimal rim shape for real world racing.
We like this approach, especially when you consider that the majority of people riding these wheels are not elite pros, but age groupers. A cool idea, what you might call an "everyman" design, that focuses on providing benefits for the age grouper who, let's face it, isn't going to maintain the kind of speeds that many wheel designs are using when touting impressive aero and drag numbers.
Rim width is 21mm which is kinda in the middle of the spectrum, meaning it's not the super wide rims we are seeing many manufacturers gravitate towards, nor is it the extremely skinny old school rim either.
We'd say that middle of the road approach defines this wheel's characteristics pretty well overall. They're not super deep rims, but adequate and very versatile. Not extremely light but very respectable in the weight department considering the depth of the carbon rim and mix of materials.
So how do they ride?
One of the nicest features of the Altair wheels is the structural carbon rim, there's no cheap flimsy carbon "fairing" on the Altair, these wheels feature a 52mm rim depth that allow for use in a variety of conditions. These are truly a versatile wheelset, the Altair not only looks badass it gives you plenty of depth for a nice aero profile. These wheels are stiff and relatively light, no doubt helped by the structural carbon rim. We noticed the wheels did a good job of absorbing the road and still giving a good feel for it at the same time.
For a relatively deep rim we felt like these wheels are pretty responsive and well suited for a variety of conditions and race courses. The weight is also a bit deceiving, obviously not the lightest wheelset out there, but we never felt like they were sluggish or were overly lagging in acceleration. The wheels also manage to pull off an agile feel that gives you more than adequate cornering ability and confidence. The Altair's versatility is truly their strong suit, we feel like these wheels will be up to the task on pretty much any triathlon course you'll encounter.
These 52mm rims handled very well in cross wind situations, if there's one thing we are all too familiar with in our part of the world, it's the wind. It's pretty much the one constant that we can count on with our weather. The Altair's excelled in this area of our testing, we've had these wheels in some pretty nasty winds and handling was not an issue. Yes, you will feel the winds with these wheels more than your 24mm aluminum training wheels, but given the depth we were impressed.
In terms of durability we had no issues whatsoever, granted our test period was not an extremely long period of time but we put a lot of miles on these wheels in that relatively short time span and at the end of the day we are impressed with the build quality.
The weight of our demo wheelset came in at 1867g (with rim strips installed).
A relatively inexpensive entry into the aero wheel market, but the monetary savings will come with a slight penalty in the weight department.
TriBomb Bottom Line
The versatility and price point of the Profile Design Altair lineup alone makes them an attractive option, add in the build quality and a 2year warranty and we think this wheelset is a winning combination. We like the semi-carbon option for a super sweet set of training wheels or as a respectable entry level race wheel that can handle the abuse of daily use.