Schmolke SL 45 Rims – First Impressions
After anticipating the arrival of Schmolke’s line of carbon rims with great excitement (and finally getting a chance to ride them), here are some of our first impressions:
First off, the finish quality was very much in line with the other Schmolke components we’ve carried over the years: less like the commonly-seen glossy bling and more like something military-grade that has been optimized to the last gram. The matte weave looks fantastic on a stealthy modern carbon bike. It’s stunning to behold something manufactured on this level – a rim woven continuously out of uninterrupted carbon fiber – and it’s difficult to imagine the machines that can produce these rims in this manner with such a high degree of precision.
The shape is going to be familiar for anyone who has seen modern high-end wheels of late, with a rounded crosswind-friendly profile. The 30mm deep rims feature an outer width of about 25mm, while the deeper 45mm rims are a touch wider at 27mm. So far, we have been using 23mm clincher tires on our test 45 SL wheelset, and they seem to produce an optimal aerodynamic transition with the brake track. Note that the 27mm+ actual tire width of this setup may be beyond the limits of tire clearance of some bikes, usually at the rear stays and under the brakes, mostly on bikes more than a few years old.
One of the top questions we get asked with new carbon rims is braking response. So far in our experience, Schmolke rims perform at least as well as similar carbon rims with non-textured braking surfaces, and possibly even a little better. Like nearly all top-end setups on good calipers today, the issue is more with tire traction at the upper limit of braking force and the tendency for brakes to grab hard at low speeds. Schmolke differs from almost every other carbon rim manufacturer in that they don’t include brake pads with their rims, and aren’t actively recommending any particular manufacturer’s pads – this is perhaps the one serious criticism we can offer in this initial review. The brake pads we’ve been using and feel comfortable recommending are Ashima’s carbon-specific pad inserts, though most aftermarket pads (such as SwissStop’s Prince or King compounds) should work as well.
A minor drawback for the wheelbuilder, but a benefit for the end user, Schmolke rims do require a few extra minutes of care installing nipple washers between the spoke nipple and rim bed. The washers add a great deal of strength to the rim/nipple interface, and our wheelbuilders have come up with a few tricks (but there’s definitely a steep learning curve with the first build), so it’s hard to be too upset about this feature. Our 20/24 spoke wheels have shown impressive spoke tension balance and good lateral stiffness – even under some 200lb+ riders – but we are pleased to have the option of 28 hole rear rims to offer our big sprinters and Clydesdales.
We are offering Schmolke SL and TLO 30s and 45s as individual rims, or as complete wheels using our wide selection of hubs. Our lightest race build has been the 30mm TLO tubulars with Extralite Cyber hubs and CX Rays at 975 grams. However, one “sweet spot” combination we like for price, weight, and convenience is SL 45 clinchers laced with Sapim CX Ray spokes to Carbon-Ti SP hubs. This wheelset is priced at $1790 with a weight just under 1270 grams. At the time of this writing these are in stock and ready to hit the road.
We’re planning a follow-up report on the long-term durability and heat resistance attributes as our local high-mileage riders rack up hundreds more miles on their Schmolke wheels, but so far the feedback has been positive. So far, the wheels we’ve built with Schmolke rims are terrific options that beat most premium competitors on both weight and price by wide margins.