Corima Essentia 40 wheels review - a jack of many trades but a masterly performer on less-than-perfect roads

Designed to handle tires ranging in width from 28mm to 50mm, these tubeless carbon hoops are an all-road wheel to be reckoned with

Images shows rear wheel of Corima Essentia 40 wheelset
(Image credit: Luke Friend)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

Designed to work with a wide range of tire widths and across a plethora of surfaces, the Essentia 40 is a thoroughly modern and versatile carbon wheelset. Potentially in danger of being a jack of all trades but a master of none, instead it performed impressively both on the road and on off it. It’s better suited in its all-road guise than as an out-and-out gravel wheel but if you have a bike that you like to use on asphalt, byways, cobblestones and gravel trails, perhaps all in the same ride, then armed with the right tire it’s a very good fit indeed.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Comfortable over a range of surfaces

  • +

    Reliable hub with good engagement

  • +

    Versatile rim design can handle wide range of tire widths

  • +

    Attractive raw carbon finish

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    A tad heavier than some of its rivals

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Given the continued blurring of lines between road and gravel bikes - clearance for higher volume tire, disc brakes, endurance geometry - it's no surprise that some of the best road and gravel wheels are created to work across a range of surfaces and tire widths as a consequence. 

Designing a wheel versatile enough for on and off-road use has plenty of appeal for those who like to push their modern road bikes to the limits as well as those who use their gravel bikes on tarmac surfaces. Looking to help bridge this gap, Corima has released the Essentia 40; what the French brand describes as its “ultimate all-road wheel”.

Corima Essentia 40: construction

So what does a wheel that can perform on the road with slick 28mm tires and off it shod with 50mm slabs of rubber look like exactly? 

To address what might seem like a broad spectrum of needs, Corima has seemingly opted for technology that’s applicable to both disciplines while also focusing on elements designed to enhance the ride on specific surfaces at each end of the ‘all-road’ spectrum.

Road wheels typically focus on either being lightweight or aerodynamically beneficial. However given that the Essentia 40s are aimed at ‘all-roads’ there’s some compromise needed. The carbon wheelset weighs in at 1,600 grams, which is at least a couple hundred of grams heavier than a set of pure climbing hoops. Likewise, the 40mm depth and 28mm external width measurements don’t point towards a wheel that's primary goal is to reduce drag. 

Corima Essentia 40 wheels in the wild

(Image credit: Luke Friend)

Instead the weight and dimensions suggest a wheel capable of handling different riding scenarios as is their intention; light enough to still accelerate quickly and not hold you back on the climbs but sturdy enough for rougher terrain. And because they are designed to work with tires ranging from 28mm to 50mm, it’s really the internal rim width measurement that is more important. It measures 23mm, which again would seem like a sensible compromise if you’re trying to work across such a range of widths. 

Perhaps more interesting still is Cormia’s decision to use a hookless rim profile. It’s reasons are twofold. Firstly it says that the straight inner profile saves weight, while the removal of the hooks promotes a better interface between tire and rim, one that Corima believes results in better handling, greater comfort and an all around “sturdier” wheel. All three are desirable attributes for any wheel, but especially for one that’s designed for less than perfect road services.

As for the material itself, Corima has opted for a 3K carbon weave with structural foam inside the rim. It pioneered the technology in the ‘90s and allows for the integration of a carbon ‘torsion box’ that's designed to both offer superior stiffness as well absorbing vibrations and noise, which translates to a more comfortable ride. 

Detail of Corima Essentia 40 carbon rim

(Image credit: Luke Friend)

The hub is armed with Corima’s latest ratchet system that has 36 teeth and a 10 degree angle of engagement, which is pretty typical for an out-the-box wheel designed for all-road and gravel gearing, which tends to be on the lower side compared to traditional road set-ups. Corima says the mechanism is designed to handle higher levels of torque associated with riding on rougher roads and trails. 

Finally, the stainless steel spokes number 24 front and rear and are arranged in what’s described as a “Corima-specific pattern”. All told, it made for a good looking wheel (if you like a raw carbon finish) that I was looking forward to riding. 

Corima Essentia 40: the ride

I had a pretty small window of time with the Essentia 40s so decided to stick to using the supplied Goodyear Terra Speed tires, figuring that the 40mm width and mellow tread pattern would allow me to ride a range of terrain.

Even my gravel rides start with some tarmac and the Essentia was quick to accelerate on the road. Combined with the high-volume tire it meant my ride to the trails was both quick and comfortable.

The acceleration I’d felt on the road fortunately transferred off-road too. At 1,600 grams a pair, the Essentia 40s aren’t particularly light but they felt really zippy, with a level of stiffness that seemed to work well on both the aforementioned tarmac and the dirt paths I was now on. These were not strewn with large rocks, nor were they hellishly muddy, but some loose gravel, plenty of mulch derived from fallen leaves and a slew of tree roots meant that the wheel’s touted varied attributes would be put to the test.

Image shows rear Corima Essentia 40 wheel

(Image credit: Luke Friend)

From a comfort and handling perspective, the wheels delivered. While the trails I was on would never be described as technical they do meander enough that you need to be able to both change line quickly at times and then hold it and your speed around a few sweeping bends. Similarly they’re just rugged enough in places that you need both bite and comfort. Obviously the tire plays a considerable role here, but the wheels took the blows in their stride, with noticeable compliance that dulled heavier hits and provided a well-cushioned ride in general.

The gradients on these initial trails change regularly but without ever being too steep. Here the hub’s engagement proved to be ample, plenty fast enough in fact. To better test the set-up I took a detour that climbs steeply to another set of trails that sit high above the ones I was currently on. Again, the 10 degree angle of engagement was enough of a match for my 1:1 low gear (42t chainring matched to a 42t large sprocket), although plenty of slippage of the mulchy leaves made for a slightly sketchy accent in places. 

Given the all-road application of the Essentia 40s the 36t ratchet is probably a good match, but those using gravel bikes equipped with super-low mullet gearing might wish for a lower angle of engagement. As for the noise of the freehub, it was music to my ears. Not obnoxiously loud but a considered purr that was perfectly in tune with longer, freewheeling descents on the road.

Speaking of the road, I opted for a couple of asphalt-only rides too. After all, these are all-road wheels that need to be able to perform on the blacktop as well as the gravel.

Detail of Corima Essentia 40 wheel

(Image credit: Luke Friend)

Even shod with 40mm knobblies (albeit it pretty shallow ones) the wheels performed admirably on tarmac, just as they’d hinted they would do on my maiden voyage to the trails. On longer road rides they struck a nice balance between stiffness and compliance, and really held their speed on rolling terrain. This led me to believe that wrapped in 28, 30 or 32mm rubber they’d make for a lovely pair of endurance wheels, perfectly suited to a long all-day ride or a multi-day tour on less-than-perfect lanes.

My primary question going in was could a wheelset deliver across such a range of surfaces and requirements? Or would it mean that the Essentia 40s ended up having to compromise on road or gravel?

Despite my relatively short time with the wheels I’d say that Corima has done a stellar job of meeting its goal of producing a true ‘all-road’ wheel. 

If you’re only riding off-road you may well prefer to opt for either something cheaper that can take the hits without any due concern to damage, or a hub with more points of engagement that’s a better match for especially low-geared gravel bikes. 

However, if you’re after a wheelset for your all-road bike that can handle a range of surfaces and will excel over the lumps and bumps of well-worn roads, then the Essentia 40 is unlikely to disappoint. 

Corima Essentia 40: Value

Corima’s Essentia 40 wheels are priced at €1490.00, which translates to £1279 / $1570. 

For comparison, the newly released Reserve 25/GRs retail at $1599, but are lighter, just 1,339 grams a pair, and have a shallower rim depth. 

Zipp’s popular 303S wheels are similarly positioned as the Corimas, designed to work across a range of surfaces and with differing tire widths - and they’re hookless too. They retail at $1,327 / £1,031 a set, weigh a little less that the Essentia 40s, at 1530 grams for the pair, and have 45mm deep rims.

Corima Essentia 40: Specs

  • Size: 700c
  • Profile: 40mm
  • Rim width: 28mm
  • Rim width Internal: 23mm
  • Axle front: Thru axle 12 x 100mm
  • Axle rear: Thru axle 12 x 142mm
  • Weight front: 745g
  • Weight rear: 855g
  • Front Black Spokes: 24
  • Rear Black Spokes: 24

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Freelance writer

Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for over twenty years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He fell in love with cycling at an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a passionate follower of bike racing to this day as well an avid road and gravel rider.