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Deda Elementi SL38C wheelset

19 Dec 2017

Accomplished tubeless ready, semi-aero all-round wheels (well, you’d hope a wheel would be all round)

Cyclist Rating: 
Wide, aero rim profile, tubeless, ceramic bearings
Not the lightest, no tubeless conversion kit supplied

For only Deda’s second time around making wheels, the SL38s are a pretty big step. For years the Italian component outfit only made finishing kits, frames and forks, but in 2014 it got on the wheel wagon with a set of 30mm and 45mm carbon hoops. Those wheels were pretty good in themselves – relatively light and competitively priced. But there were drawbacks.

First, the spoke nipples attached at the hub flanges, the idea being to keep the rim area as light as possible to help acceleration.

It looked a bit weird to some, and servicing was a pain as spoke keys where hard to operate in such a small space.

 But the real drawback proved to be time, because since then only the widest, most tubeless wheels will do (or at least that is where the industry has headed).

The SL38s address both of these issues. The spoke nipples are in the ‘normal’ place, the rim is 38mm deep and the outer profile now bulges to 26mm and the internal width to 18mm, which is more on trend (although some wheels have pushed these numbers even higher now). And they are tubeless ready. 

As such 25mm tyres come up pleasingly wide, which meant I was able to run a pair of Vittoria Corsa tyres at 75psi for some excellent comfort and increased cornering grip. Both big pluses.

The hub design is relatively straightforward compared to the fancy-pants machining of Zipp and DT Swiss’s new hubs, for example, but within them are ceramic bearings from Enduro.

The jury is still out as to whether having ceramic ball bearings makes any difference at all if they run on metal races and cones (which the Enduros do, albeit specially coated), but regardless, the SL38s spin with exceptional smoothness, rolling in the earliest phase of acceleration with barely any effort at all. 

It’s tough to ascertain a wheel’s stiffness unless they are really, really stiff or just plain wambly, and since the SL38s were entirely unremarkable in this department I can only assume they are stiff enough.

Certainly they were good in the sprints and reactive to inputs, making my test-mule bike feel faster than before, replacing as they did a relatively new set of 30mm-deep carbon wheels of slightly lower weight but narrower, squarer rim shape. The tyres were the same in both instances.

Deda has designed the SL38s to be aero, but offers no data nor any CFD or wind-tunnel claims, so I can only assume that it has gone with considered wisdom and copied known fast wheel shapes as opposed to designing its own. The rim profile certainly looks familiar. But if they are fast, who cares?

To be really pernickety, I was disappointed to find you can’t run the SL38s as tubeless from the off, since they have drillings in the rim bed for the spoke nipples and Deda doesn’t supply tubeless rim tape or tubeless valves (although you do get regular rim tape, brake pads, valve extenders, quick releases and a wheel bag).

They also don’t have any special surface treatments like you’ll find on Enve, Zipp or Mavic wheels, for example, but then of course those exist in higher price brackets. Still, it does mean there is now a higher bar set for carbon rim braking, which, in the wet especially, the SL38s fall short of.

However, they are certainly perfectly OK across most conditions and I never felt unconfident when braking, which I can’t say for all the carbon wheels I’ve tested. The brake track was even and the modulation good, especially in the dry.

At 1,563g the SL38s aren’t particularly light, although it should be remembered these are 38mm deep, plus Enduro’s ceramic bearings help offset any weight issues by spinning so easily. The SL38s really do roll incredibly well, and hold speed as you’d expect from an aero wheel.

All-in the Deda SL38s are a cleverly put together package that perform well by most standards and very well for the money, and with the spec sheet as it is, they should be future proof for some time.

Also available in 30mm, 45mm and 80mm profiles, as well as a disc brake version, and for those who don’t like the red, black-on- black graphics are an option too.

Weight - 1,563g

Pair tested - Shimano/Sram hub

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