Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Neuvation R28 Aero4 Wheels

The great pitfall of equipment reviews comes from reviewing those items that are most desirable. Generally, manufacturers want to be portrayed in the best possible light, and understandably, they tend to send their very best products for review. Consequently, many products pricier than the Average Joe’s cycling budget support most of the ink.

Of course, the manufacturers aren’t exclusively to blame. Reviewers should be credited with the lion’s share of the blame. If you’re going to try something out for two months, no one should be surprised that you’d like to wear silk rather than polyester. Getting reviewers excited about budget-oriented gear can be difficult as well. Often, the most affordable parts are just inferior versions of the good stuff. Ho hum.

That’s what makes Neuvation wheels so different. Relatively light in weight, hand built and rolling on high quality precision bearings, they cost a fraction of what the competition runs. Our test set weighed 1640g, about 20 off of the claimed weight, which is a very respectable margin of error. I checked the wheels to see if they were true and found them very straight and spoke tension very even. The rims have a machined braking surface that is a few millimeters wider than many competing rims, making brake shoe adjustment simple, or at least less critical.

Neuvation included quick release skewers with the wheels and while they were certainly of high quality, the cam action graduated very quickly which I wasn't wild about. Open to close was a turn of less than 45 degrees, though the wheels did seem secure enough. I'm accustomed to the 90-degree turn closure of Mavic and Shimano quick releases; they are still my gold standard.

Our test wheels have a suggested retail of $499 because Neuvation sells consumer direct. Given these wheels reliability, weight and bearing quality, they are a steal at this price. They are stiffer laterally than my daily wheels and I have enjoyed that extra firmness when I stand on the pedals. Now here’s the kicker: Neuvation sometimes runs specials. Special pricing can turn these great deals into seemingly accepting-hot-property affordable.

The economics behind Neuvation’s business model are simple enough: Product is sourced overseas and then sold directly to consumers. Neuvation’s brain trust has a single Social Security number: John Neugent’s. Neugent was the head of Sachs here in the U.S. and his skill set is unusually broad; the guy has done everything from CAD drawings to sales and marketing, but relationships being what they are, Neugent’s most important asset is his 25 years of experience sourcing product in Taiwan. And if you’ve ever heard anyone haggle with a Taiwanese businessman then you know that garage sales are for the faint of heart.

It’s true that his web design isn’t too exciting and the graphics on the wheels aren’t exactly sexy, but that’s really the point: You purchase Neuvation wheels not because they have the allure of a Victoria’s Secret model, but because anyone gainfully employed has the coin for a set.

That the wheels are as good as they are is no mystery. The pricing is no mystery, either, but it’s a bit like a magician showing you his trick. Even after you know what’s in his left hand, you’re still scratching your head. A wheel this good is just supposed to cost more.



noel. said...

I've had a set of M28 Aero wheels from Neuvation for a bit over a year now, and they were an incredible deal. I paid less than CDN $300 for 'em, and they're reliable and bombproof. Rode 'em daily through the crappy snowy weather of Calgary, and also did a fair bit of CX on 'em.

Bang for the buck they are probably the best bit of kit that I've owned.

Anonymous said...

I own two pairs of Neuvation wheels. The R28 Areos and the R28 SL's. The SL's have been great for me, but the R28 Aeros have been a nightmare. There may have been a defective batch of rims, but twice the rims have cracked right around the spoke nipple. John Neugent has been great about support, mailing out a new rim each time, but in terms of reliability, this is terrible. My friend also had a pair of R28 Aeros and had the same problem. If you read user reviews on various websites, it turns out this is a common problem.

I guess the old addage is true:

Light, cheap, and durable: pick any two.

josh said...

there is a reason you see plenty of them in the collegiate peleton...cheap, light, and good service. mine have been (knock on wood) trouble free.

Anonymous said...

Someone has to say this. . . For that money, you could easily have a set of wheels built on DA or Campy hubs with any number of high quality rims at the same or less weight--plus you'd be able to repair them with off the shelf parts.

I know most shops don't build wheels anymore because it's easier and more profitable to sell stuff like this, but it's still a pity.

Anonymous said...

What happened to this blog? PRO?

Anonymous said...

didn't i see you on a set of the carbon tubulars too?

the other/local noel

spiff1 said...

My friend also had a set of the R28. They lasted 800 miles. He also broke a spoke on some American Classics the first day he road them.

Tim Jackson said...

Pat- Awesome review! See, this is exactly the type of review that is very rare these days. Not just the fact that it is about a below the top shelf product, but the frank honesty. So many reviews now read like an advertisement- and usually the product (or brand) IS advertising in the publication.

And yes, the Neuvation wheels lack a little sex appeal, but they are great for the money. Even knowing who his suppliers are (since I work w/ many of them too), the wheels represent a great value.

And yes, Andrew Karre, a good set of custom wheels is also a great all-day value. And yes, most shops have stopped providing that service (or just don't know how anymore). The Neuvations just represent a value and a "humble" upgrade for many folks or just a nice set of back-up wheels. But I do agree with you- I still have a set of wheels I had built with D/A hubs back in 1992 that ride like new. God bless'em.

Again, great review Pat.

C said...

Maybe I'm just getting old but $500 for a set of wheels isn't my notion of a bargain. I can understand dropping $2,000+ on a made to order frame but wheels are assembled from mass produced parts and are pretty simple to build. I'm floored that there are Cat 3/4/5 posers out there who claim to "need" $700+ wheels let alone all the non-racer types I see rolling along on Zipps, Ksyriums, etc. Even worse when you consider many of these wheels probably won't last more than 3-4 seasons.

The sport is rapidly turning into a rich kids sport - I guess cycling really is the new golf. Personally, I'll stick to my boring 28 hole, Mavic/Fir rim, DuraAce/Campy hub wheels.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:29 - I think you have missed the point. PRO is not about the most expensive or most exotic.

Shit that works = PRO

End of story.

Anonymous said...

The comment about Kysriums is off the mark. I have 2 sets -- one from 2001 and one from 2003. Both are still going strong, bullet-proof for me. And, my other wheels with DT and Dura Ace hubs and DT rims are just as nice.
No need to slam the "non-racers." I don't race anymore but I did for 13 seasons. I still ride over 12000 miles a year and have been working on a streak of at least one 100+ mile ride a week that started in 2003. Some rides are over 150 miles. I appreciate good wheels.

Unknown said...

I guess I'm old too, because everything you say makes perfect sense to me. I had to go back and read the BKW article from Apr 11 titled "Tradition vs Technology". After sticking my toe in the technology pool, and then jumping in headlong, I'm ready to go back to tradition, esp. when it comes to wheels.

C said...

"The comment about Kysriums is off the mark. I have 2 sets"

2?? That's hardly enough to make a qualified statement. I worked as a race and event for several years and have worked on a LOT more than 2 pair of Ksyriums- probably more in the hundreds range. Mavic wheels are definitely **MUCH** better than most of the pre-built ultralight wheels (and I've had a few pair myself) but they're still far from durable. I've seen cracked hub shells, cracked rims, and cassette bodies seize up. Nice thing is they're extremely easy to repair/rebuild (I've also converted several sets from tubular to clincher)

Non-racers using ultralight racing wheels is poser territory. For starters, the vast majority of the people I see on these wheels could stand to lose 10-20 pounds off their body before they go dropping $1000 to drop 100 grams off their wheels. Oh and I say that as someone who could definitely stand to lose 20 pounds these days!

privateer said...

"For that money, you could easily have a set of wheels built on DA or Campy hubs with any number of high quality rims"

I've seen DA/Open Pro wheelsets for between 4 and 5 bills. If the wheels aren't handbuilt, simply tension and stress-relieve them upon arrival, et voila.

If you believe competitivecyclist.com, 32 cross 3 tied-and-soldered is the new carbon.

Anonymous said...

My experience with R28aero2's (older silver color) has been very positive. Over 2300 trouble-free miles they have been sharp handling & fast (smooth-running hubs and fairly aero). My other bomb-proof wheelset are traditional 32 spoke Ult/OP's which ride a bit more comfy but slow me down like a parachute over 22-25mph. FWIW- My newer Ksyriums (similar price point) have been a PITS: needed bearing readjustment and multiple truings withing their first 500miles.eb

Anonymous said...

Something to consider - I'm 6'3" and 220 lbs - I generate a fair bit of power and have been known to break chains, spokes, wheels, MANY spokes BB's, etc... For my money the Neuvation wheels are great because I CAN afford to replace them in the event I bust one, which I have yet to do.

the M28 Aeros are great for the big guys.

Anonymous said...

Thx to all of you for some incredible insightful comments; I've been shopping replacement wheels for a while (looked at American Classic 420s, Rolf Vigor RS's, the new 2008 Ksyriums etc.), and it's enough to make your head spin -- what with the "you gotta have zipp to zoom" crowd to the "whatever is round, rolls" old schoolers.

I am now finally about to hit "go" on an order of a pair of Neuvation's R28's, partly based on the incredibly (and almost exclusively) positive reviews I've found everywhere, but also because I just like the ethos of John's approach: one guy building good no-nonsense wheels and putting his name behind them -- a far cry from so many of the bloated brands that have to justify a ridiculous price point by making themselves appear sexy and otherworldly.

Anonymous said...

I've raced and trained on several sets of John's wheels for the past 3 years. M28, r28SL, c38 and c50. I'm 173 lbs and never had a problem other than normal wear and tear at all - never! I handled the wheels for my large race team that had 25 to 30 sets of Neuvations between all of the members and have dealt with John on several damaged/broken/defective wheels on behalf of team members who own Neuvations. John's honesty, customer service and support levels continue to be second to none. You'll always have different opinions in a blog like this, but I am totally sold on the overall value of these wheels - value includes price, performance and support. An occassional problem here and there, but no more so than any other whell manufacurer has for a similar model, and way, way better information and faster support when something does come up. Keep up the fantastic work, John -- your company is a breath of fresh air.

Anonymous said...

Anybody experience with M28 SL5s? I just ordered a set after I heard good things about the wheels in terms of price/value. Will use them for training and racing (triathlon, so no cornering, sprints etc.). Im 185 pounds and pretty. Hope they do not blow up and bang up my bike as the old wheels just did ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'vr had a set of R28 SL2s for three years. Trouble free for many many miles. Greatest deal on wheels around. Light, true and round. I've also own a pair of Campy mavic pros for 9 years which have also seen lots of duty. I prefer the Neuvations. If I had to buy one set of wheels, they'd be the Neuvations. (By the way, I took advantage of one of the $299 sales - even a better deal).

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the snobbery here. If you have money to burn, what's wrong with getting the best? ("poseur territory? - f.u.") Who cares if you look more like Flex Armstrong than Lance Armstrong? I think its great that people engage their passion for cycling by opening up their wallets. I've seen people mocking out-of-shape or older riders who wear pro team strips on their rides. At least they are riding and loving it. Would you mock someone who wears a Yankees/Raiders/ManUnited jersey to a bar?

Anonymous said...

I picked up a set of the R28 SL3 for my new bike. Paid less then $300, best dollar buy out there.