Kinlin rim, DT Swiss wheel review
BY Emiliano Jordan
Along with launching our new website, Oregon Cycling Action is adding technical reviews of cycling related products. We are working hard to bring you factual, unbiased, and informative reviews from the wide range of products on the market. Our first review is of a hand built wheel set from Fairwheel Bikes. This wheel set weighs in at a scant 1423 grams and features Kinlin rims laced to a DT Swiss 240 hub using DT Swiss Aerolite spokes. There are two different versions of the wheels with varying rim depth; a lighter 27mm version and a stronger 30mm version, the one chosen for this test uses the slightly lighter Niobium XR-270.
When doing this review I ran across a major challenge. As a web designer, Fairwheel Bikes is my largest client and I therefore didn’t think I could offer an unbiased review. My solution: I sent out an email (to the OBRA list serve) and recruited five racers to test ride the wheels for me. Following are the results of three individual experiences on a set of white wheels.
Kelly Wieber – It was with some curiosity that I took the offer to review the Kinlin wheels, not to mention a little skepticism. First, a little background and point of reference. With 24 years of riding, the first 15 or so making my way from that Cat. 4 criterium at the University of Oregon to Pro, 1/2 races across the country and a couple summers in Belgium, I’ve ridden almost every kind of wheel set up on every kind of road. Being a bigger rider, even at my lightest and fittest, light wheels were never the choice for me, both in terms of performance and durability, hence the bit of skepticism.
For comparison, the wheels I ride on regularly include the bomber training set up of 32 hole Mavic MA40′s on Dura Ace hubs with stout double butted spokes. For races or those training rides where I need to keep up with riders much fitter than me, I have a set of Dura Ace clinchers that are lighter and much more aero. And, there’s a set of Ksyrium SSC tubulars and Specialized Tri-Spokes for those special occasions.
To ensure a good comparison I fitted my training tires to the Kinlin’s. Vittoria Rubino Pro on the rear and a Specialized Mondo Pro on the front.
First reaction – before the wheels were on the bike: As advertised, they’re light, especially for something to train on. Also as advertised, they’re white. I’ve ridden a lot of wheels, but none that were white, so that added a little something and went nicely with the lettering on the bike. Tires mounted easily, normal cogset installation.
Out of the driveway reaction – have to say the first thing I noticed was the weight. They definitely provided that race wheel feeling I look forward to each time I take the training wheels off and put on something lighter and faster. The small hill right down the street was the next test, would they be soft and squishy when I stand up. Nope, solid, with a little zip, or hop in the pedals. The real test would come once I hit the climb up to Council Crest and found some corners to jump out of and a good descent. Sure enough, the light weight was even more evident during a sustained climb and when finally on the flats and in the big ring I was able to stomp on them and enjoy their responsiveness and zippy acceleration. Never did I get that sensation of a soft wheel taking away the energy I was putting into the bike. For someone that does most of my riding on heavier training wheels these wheels were super fun, uphill, downhill and through the corners. The truest test of the wheels came on a ride that included an epic climb up Lolo Pass. It was here that I really got to enjoy all aspects of the wheels. This was especially the case going up, the lighter weight and responsiveness of the wheels made up for some of my lack of fitness. The long descent was also a great test of the wheels. The wheels felt great at high speeds and complimented the handling of the bike through the corners. That particular descent was also where my one area of dislike came from. The freehub of the DT wheels is equipped with the high decibel version of pawls making things pretty loud when you stop pedaling. At 40+ mph it was very noticeable. Also in regard to the freehub, removing the cassette was a little tricky. The teeth of the cassette had dug into freehub splines a bit, making the cassette stick a little and require a little extra work to remove.
Over several rides the most notable features of the Kinlin wheels was the their light weight, smooth ride and responsiveness. In their category of fast training / entry level racing wheels I rate them very highly. The quality of the materials, especially the smoothness of the hubs, and the workmanship also make them a strong value in their price range.
- That freehub is a little loud
- Freehub body a little soft
- Great roll, very smooth
- Zip – they do get up and go when you want them to
Kelly Wieber lives in Portland, Oregon and rides for the Fred Meyer/Lakeside Cycling Team. After several years of racing in the US, and a few in Europe, he enjoys early morning rides and riding with friends on the weekend, but still sneaks out to try to keep up in a local race from time to time.
Joe King – The world of bicycle wheels has grown a bit out of whack over the past couple of years. Wheel manufacturing big boys have masterfully sowed the seeds of insecurity amongst amateur racers. Anyone ‘serious’ about bike racing, whether a hapless Cat. 4 or the 1/2 local hero owns a pair of super deep, $2000 carbon hoops.
In the world of wind tunnels, yaw angles and those truly capable of pushing the limits of what is possible on a bicycle, those $2000+ wheels may provide that winning edge. But in the world of carpooling to weekend races and day jobs, how about a nice pair of lightweight wheels that feel great and clock in under $1000?
So, here we have some (white) Kinlin Rims laced to DT Swiss 240 hubs with DT Swiss Aerolite spokes. Hand built 20f/24r, with an MSRP around $800.
Kinlin is one of the most ridden, but least known, names in the bike biz. American Classic, Rolf, Rol and Reynolds and American Classic are just a few of the companies that have sourced rims from Kinlin. And for good reason. The 30mm semi-aero profile makes for a lightweight, reasonably stiff rim.
DT Swiss 240 hubs, on the other hand, are some of the most ridden and most known hubs in the bike world. Also, for good reason. They are the best. Hands down. Light, durable, amazingly smooth bearings. The Hugi hub mechanism is still the standard for rear hub performance. Pro level race bike stuff.
To give the real durability test, I took them on an MTB ride on my cross bike in good ol’ forest park. All the good points that shone through on the road were similarly apparent on the trail. I really couldn’t see a downside, though I have no way to gauge the long term durability.
Very few nits to pick. Under larger riders, the resilience I felt may turn into a noticeable flex. DT Hubs are a bit loud when freewheeling, but don’t bother me a bit. I even thought the white rims looked good, kind of a cruiser bike/white-wall looking deal. Though I still wholeheartedly believe that white components only look pro, if you are in fact a pro.
Bottom line, these wheels are great. They feel good, they’re light, my guess would be that they’re even pretty aero. Rather than spend $2000 on carbon fiber race wheels, I think most amateur cyclists would be better off with these, and spend the money they saved on some proper coaching and regular massage.
Josh Liberles – I’ve been riding Kinlin rims for a while now – they’re an incredible deal, only about $60 retail per rim. Their 27 and 30mm options are deep enough for a little aero advantage, they’re light, durable, and perform great. I’ve been racing the Kinlin PowerTap setup for my entire season. The wheels were awesome for Death Ride. I was able to rip the descents with confidence and these babies are light (1423 grams for the Kinlin/DT Swiss wheelset.) The hubs spin super-smoothly and were definitely helping me to keep the speeds high.
Although carbon wheels have more of a wow-factor, I love the braking performance of a good aluminum rim, that I can race and train on these without too much concern of trashing them, and that if I do damage a wheel, the rims are inexpensive to replace.
Josh Liberles lives in Portland, Oregon where he splits his time between racing bikes for Ten Speed Drive, talking about bikes, and writing about bikes, the environment, and whatever strikes his fancy. His latest project is the CycloCross Build training plan.
Thank you to the testers for taking time to work with us on testing these wheels. If you would like to test an upcoming product please fill out our contact form with a little description of yourself. Legal: Fairwheel bikes is a client of mine, as such I purchased these wheels at my employee cost on behalf of Oregon Cycling Action in order to complete this review. The parties involved in the actual review of the Kinlin wheelset were not compensated in anyway and returned the wheels after testing.