By Tony Gifford
Size: 700c clincher
Some say it’s all about the bike, but with a set of USE Road 2.4 Clincher Carbon wheels slotted into your dropouts and greedily eating up the hills, it might just be ‘all about the wheels.’
There’s no doubt that straight out of the box the USE Road 2.4 Carbon Clincher's are a beautiful looking set of wheels. The combination of matt braking surface, 3k carbon weave and Nano technology gloss finish, not only helps these wheels to slice through the air, but looks really classy too.
For the test I fitted these with my favourite Vittoria Open Corsa 25mm tyres which I ride regularly to get at true comparison. At 24mm deep and 23mm wide, the carbon 2.4’s readily accept the new standard tyre width with just the use of a single plastic tyre lever right at the end. Freehub body is Shimano and SRAM compatible only. Campagnolo aficionados might have to speak very nicely to the boys at Ultimate Sports Engineering.
Like you do when first picking up a wheelset, I spun the wheels through my hands, just to get a feel of the sealed cartridge bearing, but my arms began to tire before they stopped spinning. This wasn’t due to any weight issue, at 1435g, there isn’t a weight issue - they just kept on rolling. Nice!
Spoke count is 20 straight pull on the front, and 24 on the rear with the non-drive side being straight pull and 2 cross on the drive side. Spokes are polished and narrow flat-bladed CX-Ray Sapims, and the whole package looks sleek and totally performance orientated.
Off down the road and into a quick decent and the first thing I noticed was how smooth the braking is. The bite comes in gently and progressively improves as more pressure is applied. There’s none of the grabbing sometimes associated with carbon rims. My confidence in the USE 2.4’s was growing with every turn of the pedals.
For the main test ride I chose one my regular training routes, this included a number of long, steep hills which I’ve ridden and grunted up on many occasions. According to Strava, I’ve been up one of them 81 times - so I know that one well!
On the flat valley floor at low speeds the wheels spin nicely, the cartridge bearings simply reducing the force required and enabled the 2.4’s to pick up the pace with just the slightest increase in power. Crisp and sweet acceleration is my rewarded and encouraged me to push on.
But when the road ramps up sharply is when these wheels really come into their own. Without any doubt, the USE Carbon Clinchers are definitely a hill-climber’s delight. When the road steepens angrily and you’re up out of the saddle, the momentum simply carries through beautifully.
Leaving the defeated tarmac in my wake, my old adversary of a hill is easily accomplished. My 82nd ascent has certainly been much less of a challenge.
Another noticeable point is the lack of any discernable flex with the Carbon 2.4. Ok, the cornering around the test route may not replicate the switchbacks of the Alps or anything, but I feel a lesser set of wheels might easily been touching the brake rubbers at times.
Whilst the USE 2.4 carbon clinchers are super-stiff and transfer the power faultlessly, they’re certainly not uncomfortable, even with the Corsa’s pumped up to maximum. Like the USE website bumf states: the carbon 2.4’s would suit riders of day-long sportive events while reducing mountains to Mole hills (ok, we added that mountains to Moles bit!)
Meanwhile, back to the route, having ridden this many times, I’m used to climbing the hills at steady power and can honestly say these wheels rewarded me with Strava 4 PB’s. This may not be exactly scientific I know, but I’ll take that as pretty convincing evidence to the climbing performance.
There’s a very quick descent on this route too, with some tight corners but the USE 2.4’s felt sure footed and inspired confidence to always push on a bit harder. Cornering was often like riding on rails.
In summary: Given the combination of straight-line speed, sure-footed cornering and the superb climbing afforded, I am left without any doubt that USE’s 2.4 Road Carbon Clinchers are a great all-rounder set of wheels, whether you’re a hill specialist or not. I definitely want a set of these beauties for my wheel-based arsenal.