Rim brakes are dead, right? Or at least that’s what we’re told. The contemporary outlook on braking performance is now heavily centred towards hydraulic disc-brake actuation but there’s still a good number of rim-brake-equipped bikes on the market, not to mention a huge complement of enthusiasts and professionals still riding such machines. The Ineos Grenadiers and their rim-brake Pinarello Dogma F12s are a case in point.
While many wheel companies have chosen to ignore this end of the market in an effort to future-proof their wheelset strategy, Irish company Scribe is still offering a smorgasbord of rim-brake options, carbon and alloy included. For Scribe, this end of the market is important and the company reckons they’ll keep supporting rim brake enthusiasts despite the industry’s propensity to push the disc-brake agenda.
“Although there is a growing shift towards disc brake wheels, many riders are still on rim brakes and while this exists, we’ll continue to make sure these riders aren’t left behind,” said Dean McDowell – Marketing Manager, Scribe Cycling.
The wheelset pictured here is the Scribe Race, which has been designed to shave off unsprung weight, improve acceleration and responsiveness without thwarting stopping performance and handling. We put them through their paces to establish how they stack up against the best lightweight wheels.
Design and aesthetics
Visually, there’s nothing fancy on offer. Apart from the Scribe and Race logo – located on opposite sides of the rim – they’re pretty non-descript in appearance but that’s more to do with the lack of rim depth real estate than anything else. At 26mm deep, they’re on the shallower end of the rim-depth spectrum – the brake track, which makes up more than a third of the profile, exacerbates this fact.
The minimalist design cues, however, will find favour with purists or riders looking to forego the rolling billboard-like graphic design currently adorning many contemporary wheelsets. Looking deeper into the design architecture you’ll see Scribe’s trademark Ratchet Drive hub – a noisy-yet-visually pleasing system that is underscored by a metallic-lime-green hub body. The hubs themselves are finished in a gloss-black treatment which does well to bolster the visuals of the entire wheel system.
The wheels are manufactured using a hardened alloy that is both durable and competitively lightweight – Scribe claims 1,454g for the wheelset. On our scale, we recorded 1,527g (720g front/824g rear, skewers included). Even more impressive are the lightweight skewers included in the box which can save you up to 75g for the pair – Scribe’s quick-release skewers weigh just 29/38g F/R (measured against standard Vision skewers 70/79g F/R). It’s worth noting that these skewers – while light and stiff – do require a deliberate push to tighten them securely in the wheel dropouts.
LIke rim brakes, alloy as a wheel material is considered a technology of a bygone era but there are still benefits to be had. Not only is alloy cheaper to manufacture (which has a positive effect on final pricing) it can be as light as the carbon-fibre equivalent. Scribe doesn’t see the alloy market going anywhere, anytime soon. “Alloy wheels are getting lighter, deeper and wider with each passing year and cyclists always need that ‘winter’ option,” McDowell added.
In terms of wheel specifications, there’s a lot to like. An internal width of 19mm keeps them in line with modern standards (24mm external) and pairs nicely with 25 to 28mm tyre options. I elected to test them exclusively with inner-tubes for two reasons. Number one, the target audience will likely set them up this way and, number two, tubeless wheels tend to weigh more and the whole point of these wheels is about weight reduction.
It’s worth noting that tyre fitment is a breeze – no levers, nothing. The ramped rim bed also features what Scribe calls ‘bead lock’, a clever addition that prevents the tyre from coming off the wheel at low-pressure usage – something I experimented with in-depth during the test duration.
For the spokes, Scribe has stuck with the robust Sapim CX-Rays arranged in a 20/24 front/rear configuration. These spokes are known for their hardy nature and resistance to perishing – even after years of use. They also happen to possess aerodynamic properties, too.
Performance and handling
The first attribute you’ll notice when pushing off for the first time is the rear wheel’s response to pedal inputs – it’s immediate and encouraging. The lightweight nature of wheels means they’re reactive but also incredibly stiff with little in the way of flex, which makes for a confidence-inspiring riding experience. Most of this comes down to the spoke pattern at the rear wheel which is laced in a 2:1 configuration. This pattern, while stiff, has remained true and held up well to road imperfections, expansion joints, and potholes.
Where the Scribe Race wheels excel is in the hills and mountains where their lightweight properties can be exploited to the max. Hub pick-up is pretty quick at 10 degrees, so power is efficient. How do they behave in windy scenarios? Well, the shallow rim architecture ensures stability in side winds adding an extra layer of predictability to the package. The shallow rim profile does little to affect overall top speed, however, momentum through rolling topography is not as proficient as wheels measuring 40mm and upwards. That said, you can still have a blast at a local crit and mix it up with the big boys (and their deep carbon hoops), thanks to the stiffness and response leaning in and powering out of corners.
In terms of tyre pressure, I experimented in-depth with trying to find the right balance. How low can you go? Well, that does depend on your weight but the internal rim width of 19mm and bead lock technology does help when it comes to lowering pressure. With the Scribe Race wheels, I went as low as 70psi front/rear but found 75psi the perfect compromise for this 62kg rider – soft enough to take the edge off but also hard enough to stave off pinch flats.
And what of the noisy ratchet-drive hub? Well, you will find yourself freewheeling more often than not as the wasp-in-a-tin-can-like soundtrack is very addictive and satisfying – especially when backpedalling. Like the Scribe Aero Wide+ 60D wheels we tested earlier this year, the Race wheels utilise the very same internals – a 36T single-disc ratchet ring which can be upgraded to a 54T (a future option).
As it stands, there is still a place for rim-brake-equipped bikes in the current landscape – in fact, our entire tech team all still own at least one rim-brake bike. Whether or not the braking performance is less adept as their disc-brake brethren is still up for debate by many, pro riders included.
The Scribe Race wheels are a great all-round option for riders of all abilities. For starters, they’re super-lightweight and you can feel this when putting down the power and accelerating. The braking performance is superb, too and the alloy brake track adds longevity to the package.
The kicker here, however, is more the price. At $520 / £360 / €410, there’s nothing else on the market that comes close to it for value, especially when you consider how little they weigh and how well they perform. They’re a must-have for any purist still using a rim-brake-equipped bicycle.
- Temperature: 0 to 24-degrees Celsius
- Terrain: A- and B-roads
- Mileage: 409km
Tech Specs: Scribe Race wheels
- RRP: $520 / £360 / €410
- Weight: 1,527g (720g front/824g rear, skewers included)
- Depth: 26mm
- Internal width: 19mm
- External width: 24mm
- Spoke count: 20/24 front/rear
- Tyre format: Clincher, tubeless
- Brake: Rim