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Knight Composites 65 wheels review

Knight 65 wheelset review
25 Jun 2015
Verdict:

The Knight 65s are super fast carbon clincher wheels that could be the ones to usurp the Zipp 404.

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,648
For 
Great when up to speed
Against 
Freehub wear gave us concerns

Even in the jaded world of bike testing we still get a very particular joy from hearing the hum of deep section carbon wheels. It’s rather difficult to describe the sound in prose. We do a fairly good impression, but it’s written something like ‘wuummhh wuummhh wuummhh’. Some say it’s the sound of the bearings amplified by the large echo chamber created by the hollow carbon rim - we say it’s the sound of speed and if we were to measure our speed entirely by sound, then the Knight 65s are some noisy wheels.

Although Knight Composites are relatively new players in the aerodynamic wheel market, the people behind the brand have considerable experience. The two partners, Jim and Beverly, have over 30 years of composites work between them including time spent at Reynolds, where Jim helped produce the Ouzo fork, and ENVE respectively. Kevin Quan is also involved with Knight having worked for Cervelo, where he designed the P3C time trial frame, as well as others such as Parlee and Neil Pryde.

The Knight 65 rims are bang on trend with the fatter rounded profile favoured by many of the bigger brands. This is supposed to be more aerodynamic than previous designs although it’s not without its problems. The brake calipers on the Record groupset we used to test the wheels were right on the limit of how wide they could go to accommodate the rims. 

Vs Zipp 404

Knight claim that the rim creates 20% less drag in the wind tunnel than its nearest competitor, and 10% less when fitted to a frame. We’re guessing its nearest competitor is the Zipp 404 so it’s worth drawing the comparison with them (it’s also one of the most common aero wheelsets we see around). Straight up it’s important to note that the Knights are 7mm deeper than the 404s (65mm vs 58mm) so it’s not unreasonable to expect the 65s to perform better.

Knight 65 wheelset rim

Knight put their aerodynamic gains down to the quality of those who make their rims. Knight knew that there was greater technology out there with carbon fibre, so sought to apply it to composite wheel manufacturing. The brand hasn’t gone for any aerodynamic gimmicks or unique design features, but rather claims that the precise shape of the rim is fundamentally more aerodynamic at all angles of yaw.

Knight doesn’t produce any of their own hubs, instead opting to partner with various manufacturers. The set we had on test came with DT Swiss 240, but they’re also available with the lighter and faster rolling 180 hubs. Our set of 65s weighed in at 1,610g (without rim tape), which is 10g lighter than a pair of Zipp 404s. If you consider the fact they’re 7mm deeper too it’s a very impressive headline figure. With DT Swiss 180 hubs they drop down to 1,573g and an insane 1,377g with Aivee SR5 hubs. Then there’s the price of course – the Knight 65s with 240 hubs are £1648 compared to the Zipp 404s £2679. On paper at least, it’s hard to imagine why you’d choose anything else, but what about off paper and on the road?

The ride

Knight 65 wheelset carbon

Testing aero wheels is always difficult because your speed can be affected by the environment - that said, we don’t know anyone who goes for a ride in a wind tunnel so it’s perhaps the most appropriate method. Out on regular roads the Knight 65s roll along nicely. Acceleration changes are always the first thing you notice on new wheels and the Knights accelerate well, but they’re not outstanding. They’re plenty stiff enough but at the end of the day they’re deep section carbon wheels so are a bit heavy at the rim.

Climbing on them is fine, they don’t slow you down but they don’t give you a boost either. To really get the best out of these wheels you need to get them up to speed. There’s a long straight road that we like to finish our rides on and with the 65s on, tearing down it at our usual speed was noticeably easier. It can be quite gusty on that stretch of road, and we’ve had some worrying moments with deep section wheels, but the Knights were perfectly behaved. There was still the odd gentle push but we don’t think it was any more than you could expect on a pair of shallow wheels. Braking on the 65s was par for the course with carbon fibre, although they did have a tendency to squeal under really heavy braking.

Knight 65 wheelset review

The big test we gave to the 65s was to take them to a time trial. It was a bumpy, twisty circuit so perhaps not the ideal testing ground (compared to an A road) but it did have a long straight section to give the wheels a chance to get going. Accelerating out of the corners and up the hills, we found ourselves wishing we had 1,000g super light wheels but as soon as we got onto the back straight the wheels came into their own. We were able to comfortably cruise at 40kph+ and it’s where we made most of our time. It’s hard to tell what that was, either the aerodynamic qualities of the wheel or the flywheel effect of the heavier rims but we’ve never felt so comfortable maintaining a fairly high speed.

There are a couple of minor blips to go with the wheels though. The included skewers are really stiff and it was sometimes difficult to get the tension right, and get the wheel in. We often found we’d set them too loose because the skewer was just so stiff. The other problem is with the hubs, and although that’s not Knight’s fault it was still a pain. By the end of the test the sprockets had cut badly into the freehub body making it very difficult to remove the cassette so we had concerns about the longevity of the DT Swiss freehub.

On paper these wheels are a great purchase and they’re still a great purchase in the real world. 

Contact: velobrands.co.uk

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