I have had this wheelset now for almost a year, so I felt that I ought to give my opinions on it. Not exactly what you’d call a catchy opening line; but that’s all your getting today!
My road bike came fitted with Shimano R500 wheels. Tough and reliable but a bit heavyweight and not tubeless ready or compatible with 11 speed gearing. So following an April bonus from work last year, I decided to upgrade.
I’d picked out the Campagnolo Zondas a couple of months earlier and was waiting for a sale or price drop, which came just at the right time. The 2-way fit versions have a slightly different rim design and so will fit tubeless tyres and seal reliably, they also come with a pair of valves and valve core removal tools (keep these handy if your doing tubeless). Having run tubeless for a couple of years on my mountain bike, this was a feature that I was looking for.
The Zondas are an aluminium rim construction rather than carbon and don’t have deep rims like many of the high end wheels do these days. I guess in that respect they are a bit less showy. Although they make up for that with the spokes. Featuring bladed aero spokes; the front wheel has a pretty minimalistic sixteen spokes, while the rear has an unusual pattern with seven sets of three spokes. The idea of the rear spoking is to have two spokes on the driveside for every one on the non-drive side. This way stiffness is maintained where beneficial and weight is reduced where possible. Something Campagnolo refer to as G3 geometry.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I fitted these wheels about a year ago, just before the Tour of Cambridgeshire. Did they make me ride faster? Possibly. I certainly rode the Tour of Cambridgeshire at a pace I’d never managed before, but I don’t know how much of that can be put down to the wheels. At that time I was still running inner tubes and a pair of Michelin Pro4 Endurance tyres so it wasn’t tubeless that made the difference that’s for sure.
What I did feel as a definite difference between the Zondas and the R500s was that I felt that I could maintain a better pace at the end of long rides more easily. Like my ‘tired pace’ had improved. Maybe when you are tired and out of energy little differences become amplified.
Since those early days of riding on these wheels, I’ve bought and fitted tubeless tyres; Hutchinson Fusion 3 to be precise. These are a struggle to get on and off the rims, I find that I need tyre levers and am glad of the quality of the Topeak ones that I bought. However because you don’t really get punctures with a tubeless setup it’s not so important. You fit the tyre once and then forget about it.
Being aluminium rims, braking is very good as you’d expect, in both wet and dry conditions and at all stages of pad wear. Also you don’t get any of the nasty squealing noise that riders with carbon wheels often have to endure. I haven’t considered rim wear, but I’ve done a year of riding including plenty of winter conditions and I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of life left in them.
While considering wear, it’s probably worth mentioning the hubs now. Extremely smooth. So far they seem to have only got better and better. When I spin my front wheel with my bike off the floor in my garage it just seems to go on and on. I can go, make a coffee and come back and it’s still going. Almost rotating perpetually. And this, like mentioned already, is after a winter of regular riding. For me this is not my summer bike, it is my only road bike and so comes out in all conditions.
The freehub on the rear wheel has performed faultlessly too. It has a nice clacking noise when freewheeling and I’ve always felt that the power that I put through the pedal transfers well to the tarmac. I started off using the included spacer for my 9 speed Shimano Sora setup but have since upgraded to SRAM Rival 22 so have dropped the spacer and fitted an 11 speed cassette. Both have worked well.
I think with many products you can rate them by considering one simple question. Am I glad that I bought them? In this case, it’s a yes from me. I think they look fantastic on my bike, with the fancy spokes and colour scheme that happens to match. They’ve also opened up for me the opportunity to switch to tubeless and to switch to 11 speed without having to do so all in one go. And of course, I feel that I am indeed able to ride faster, even if only a little.