During the 2017 race season, British manufacturer Au Wheels sent a set of their full-carbon Helium Tubular race wheels to the head mechanic of a well-known UCI Pro race team.
This Head Mechanic is a wheel builder of note and has taught wheel building at a world renown cycle skills training organisation.
In addition to his current role, he’s also worked with the world’s biggest wheel manufacturers and offered mechanical and technical support for several other brands.
He has also given mechanical and race support to various successful racers, national race teams, Olympic MTB medallists, World and Olympic road champions. It’s safe to say that this Head Mechanic knows what racers need!
To preserve his anonymity, through this interview we’ll call him “Frank”.
Read on to find out what he had to say about Au Wheels!
Au: How do you think the wheels look on first examination?
Frank: The design of the wheels was subtle but super-racy and I love the Au logo, it’s very unique. I’d call them minimalistic, but they look
comparable to other Pro brands.
When they arrived, the wheels were true and at correct tension. Very Impressive! The packaging was excellent with a really cool box.
Au: You weighed the wheels at 1340g in total, how do you think this compares with other wheels of this type?
Frank: They weigh within a few grams of our race wheels (£1800 retail) and are certainly lighter than a lot of the other major brands. Despite the light weight of the wheels they are super sturdy and we were really Impressed with their performance and durability.
Au: How true were the wheels when they were supplied? Have they stayed true?
Frank: The wheels were true to within 0.5mm on arrival. This is a great deal better than the 2mm we see with some other brands. You can really tell that there’s passion in the manufacturing. They have settled to 1mm after 2000km of our testing which, while it’s not perfect, it’s still within the
delivery expectation of other brands.
So, in context, it’s brilliant!
Au: Who else have you shared the wheels with? What was their
Frank: I’ve been busy making sure they’re well tested. The wheels have had a variety of riders on them! Unfortunately, due to sponsor conflicts none of the athletes can give a public recommendation, so we can’t name names. That being said; here’s what they had to say:
Our soigneur “James” used them first. He’s an 85kg racer; fast and powerful. He totally abused them on the cobbles in most conditions and loved them to bits!
He said the wheels were fast and handled very well. He loved the looks and said both the rims and hubs were totally solid for their low weight.
Next, we gave them to one of our team athletes who had this to say:
“They’re responsive, stiff and have super-low rolling resistance. I love the way they look. Can I have a pair Franky!!??”
Then, a previous U23 Women’s World Tour winner:
“These wheels blow my sponsor’s wheels out of the water!” She loved them on the climb. Likes the quick free hub engagement. Liked how unfussy they are. Very impressed!
We also managed to get them to a former CX Champ to see what someone from another discipline thought. Owing to the constraints of his sponsors, he couldn’t ride them, but he had a good look & play. He was impressed and wanted to know more about the manufacturer. He especially liked the Carbon/Aluminium hubs.
I saved the best for last and this was a real coup in terms of feedback!
A men’s Pro from one of the top 5 UCI world tour teams; I definitely can’t give you his name, or the team he rides for!
He really, really, liked them! He loved the design and was impressed with the rolling resistance. He genuinely thought the Helium Tubulars were one of the best wheelsets he’s ever ridden! He thinks that they would benefit from being wider, which would give a bit more stiffness for the pros, but this was a minor point for him.
Au: So it’s safe to say that the pro’s like them?
Frank: Absolutely! I’m surprised and really impressed as to how much positive feedback I got on these wheels and everyone wants to know where they can get a set!
Au: Where/how have the wheels been tested?
Frank: We have had them tested on road, on pavé cobbles, around the Ronde van Vlaanderen circuit, up the Muur Geraardsbergen, the flattest roads in Denmark and some steep Spanish climbs.
I think we are currently at about 3500km but we’re still testing so this will increase.
Au: How do you find the stiffness/power transfer?
Frank: Obviously, reflecting the feedback from the men’s Pro, the lighter riders found them better at transferring the power. The more powerful boys thought a slightly larger hub flange may help them, but for the weight of the wheels, nobody could fault them!
Au: What about ride quality? Did you find them a good ride?
Frank: Absolutely no negatives here. They’re smooth and stick well in the corners. “Confidence inspiring” was one phrase used. No dead feelings in the engagement of the freehub mechanism.
Au: Any criticisms at all?
Frank: I think they are a great quality wheel. I think maybe a slightly wider rim or larger flange to offer increased stiffness for the more powerful rider would offer a slight improvement. Having said that, I would happily buy a pair of these. Based on their feedback, most of the Pros and my colleagues would too!
Au: Given their retail price of £950, do you think they offer good value for money?
Frank: Exceptional! They’re great wheels even if you compare them to competitor’s wheels at a much higher price point!
I honestly don’t think anyone would be able to get better elsewhere.
Au: What’s your overall rating of the wheelset?
Frank: Honestly, I would rate these 9 out of 10. If you were trying to improve them I’d ask for a wider rim for better tub mounting & aero properties. We’d also be looking for a slightly larger hub flange, but; for the weight and price they’re truly exceptional!