In the last two years, wide-rimmed wheels have undoubtedly been one of the most popular topics in the world of triathlon equipment. Zipp and HED were the first two entrants in the wide-rim game, and I think it's fair to say that Zipp led the charge in terms of educating consumers about this kind of technology, and what it has to offer. But in the last two years, virtually the entire industry has shifted to ride the wave started by these two companies. Bontrager, ENVE, Flo Cycling and others are already selling wide rims, some companies companies have begun to develop wide-rimmed prototypes, and you can bet that just about everyone else is at least contemplating whether to take advantage of the market demand that has deveoped.
But in this aero arms race, the weight weenies have largely been forgotten. ENVE, whose narrow rims were previously so popular in part because of their class-leading low weight, ended up producing wide rims that were actually heavier than their competition. Riders who want wide and light were left out in the cold. Until now.
This is where Mercury Cycling comes in to the picture. I caught a glimpse of their lineup at Interbike, and have had the opportunity to review a set of their M5 wheels over the last few months. Sadly, I didn't log nearly as many miles I would have liked to, since the weather here has been rather foul. But nevertheless, I've got quite a bit to say about these wheels, and believe they take up an important place in the new pantheon of hoops. And moreover, these aren't mere concepts - Mercury's product is available right now.
The review set I had featured Mercury's M5 tubular rims, which are 55mm deep and 25mm wide. They were laced to a dazzling set of Dash's user-buildable Nikki-Monica hubset. The entire wheelset came in at a very svelte 1107g. That's about 150g less than what the competition weighs in at for rims at a similar width and depth. If you get the wheels pre-built from Dash with their lightest hubset, the Mira-Veronica, you can get the weight as low as 1000g depending on your spoke count. That's incredible, especially at this depth. Mercury also makes a 90mm rim called the M9, which would definitely be a better rear wheel for race day. You could use it as a front too, though I personally avoid that much depth up front unless you're expecting close to zero wind.
So what are these things? What kind of company is Mercury, and what are its goals? Well, to be perfectly fair, the rims were not designed in the wind tunnel. Nobody pored over this rim shape in a CFD analysis software. But Mercury isn't pretending otherwise. Rather, what Mercury has done is to take a popular design concept and marry it with ultra light construction.
The result is a wheelset that will appeal to the weight weenie who wants a wide rim. They're basically the opposite of Flo Cycling's offerings, which try to offer cutting-edge aerodynamics at the cost of high weight. In my opinion, both categories have a very real, very legitimate place in the market, because different riders have different priorities and preferences. Mercury took advantage of a big gap in the field, so to speak, and has delivered a product that fulfills the goals it set out to meet.
Hit the jump to read my impressions on this lovely set of hoops.