Revolution Wheelworks is a two man operation based in Pennsylvania founded by Jonathan Kahler and Andrew Rose. Kahler and Rose were frustrated by the fact that race wheels were getting increasingly expensive while relying on proprietary parts that make repair and servicing difficult. They decided to start RW, carefully spec’ing quality components to meet a reasonable price point. Kahler hand builds each and every wheel. Prices are kept low by restricting marketing efforts to a website and an informative and plain spoken blog (and buying ads with test wheels). They sent us a set of Rev-50’s to review.
The Rev-50 is a tubular wheelset with 50mm deep carbon rims, similar to the Zipp 404, my point of reference for this review. Our wheels came in at 1359 grams (1 gram under the claimed weight), 109 grams heavier than 404’s. With 20/24 spokes, each wheel has 4 more spokes than the Zipps. Our test wheels came with Pillar spokes but moving forward RW will be using Sapim’s exclusively. This will bump the list price for the Rev-50’s from $900 to $960, which makes the set still cheaper than ONE Zipp wheel ($2280 list for the set). The wheels arrive complete with 92 gram skewers with hollow steel shafts, 3 replacement spokes (front, rear drive, rear non-drive), valve extenders, and brake pads. Zipps, by comparison, come with relatively porky 112 gram skewers, valve extenders, but no extra spokes and no brake pads.
The hubs are fairly standard, with conventional flanges. The bulk of the weight differential is at the rear hub. Conventional j-bend spokes might be more prone to breaking than straight pull spokes, but finding a replacement is a whole lot easier. Hidden nipples are used so that the rims are drilled with much smaller holes. The nipples have a plastic insert to hold the adjustment in place, but Kahler uses a threadlock compound as well.
Out of the box the wheels were very true, and spoke tension very even. Each wheel comes with a small handwritten tag that attests to the fact that they were genuinely hand built for you. I did a quick rotational inertia test (see below) before gluing up the wheels and found them to spin up 5% slower than the Zipps. Of course, this doesn’t mean they’ll make you 5% slower to accelerate. 800 grams of rim weight is only about 1% of the total bike + rider weight, so we’re talking about 5% of 1%, or a .05% penalty. Even if you count it twice (since it’s rotational weight) it’s still negligible.
A friend of mine did some wind tunnel testing for a wheel company (not Zipp or RW). They found that Zipps performed the best of all, the least likely to stall in a crosswind. There wasn’t a huge difference between the other wheels for a given rim depth. My guess is that the Rev-50’s, with their less refined rim profile, perform much like most 50mm wheels – slower than Zipps in a crosswind.
I started out using Kool Stop black pads and the wheels squealed and howled like mad. The honking on the front end was strong enough to vibrate the bike under hard braking. A change to SwissStop yellow pads (to be included with the wheels moving forward) fixed the problem. Braking was smooth, consistent, and powerful. In the wet the pads would take a split second to squeegee the rims before slowing, but once they got a grip braking seemed as good as in the dry.
Glued up with speedy tires, the wheels give you that giddy feeling of speed the moment you hop on the bike, seemingly giving you one or two gears right off the bat. They withstood several hundred miles of training with no ill effects, and I managed to drill a pothole in a race hard enough to elicit a very loud crack (probably the axles slipping in the dropouts). Having recently cracked two Zipp 404 rims on a slightly deeper pothole at a slightly higher speed, I was very relieved to find no damage to the Rev-50’s.
These wheels are maybe 95% as good as Zipps, for 42% of the price. Unless you’re lighting cigars with twenty dollar bills these babies are hard to beat.
Rotational Inertia Test
I balanced the wheels with some putty, then attached a nut to each rim with more putty. An electromagnet held the nut in place at about 2 o’clock. When the magnet is turned off, the weight of the nut spins the wheel. I counted the number of frames as the nut traveled between two fixed points. At 30 frames per second, the Rev-50’s averaged 90.4 frames, the 404’s 86.