Vel 50 RSL wheelset review
A bread-and-butter wheelset which doesn't claim to re-write physics, but will do the job at a reasonable price
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A solid wheel choice with very little to criticise, at a price point that will appeal to those looking for an upgrade without unnecessary spend. Being available exclusively at Sigma Sports makes them a tasty choice if you're building up a bike with parts from the retailer. A sensible choice, with reputable hub and spoke selections, but perhaps not the most inspiring.
Rim tape fitted
There are comparable options from bigger name brands for the same price
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Vel launched in spring this year, with a selection of road and gravel wheelsets - following the direction of current tech fashions, with a disc brake only family of tubeless ready rims with wide internal tracts.
Whilst Vel aims to be a standalone brand, the wheelsets are available exclusively at Sigma Sports, and the brand’s website lists the Sigma HQ as its own address - Vel is its own incarnation, but this is clearly an inside job. And that’s no bad thing, with Vel able to leverage the buying power of a popular online and store retailer.
At £999, these 50mm wheels represent good ‘pounds per watt’ value, spending more on hoops generally represents an, albeit luxury, trip to the city of diminishing returns. However, there are alternatives from more established brands at a similar price - the Zipp 303S and Parcours Strade being high-profile examples. So how does Vel’s fledgling offering compare?
This test formed part of a five-part group test, going up against the Zipp 303S, Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO, Hunt 50 Aero and FFWD RYOT 55 - so expect full comparison reviews of each as we publish them, and check out Cycling Weekly magazine on July 29 for the conclusions.
Vel 50 RSL construction
Vel hasn’t broken any barriers with its moulds, opting for tried and tested techniques and accepted standards. Nothing revolutionary, but stuff that works.
This tubeless ready wheelset features a 50mm rim, made from Toray 24/30T carbon, the rim depth comes in at 20.3mm internally and 27.5mm externally, the aim being to smooth out airflow over a tyre 25mm to 34mm. On this rim, a labelled 27mm Challenge Elite XP tyre measured 29mm for me.
Vel hasn’t gone down the hookless route, so your tyre choice is unaffected. Vel uses the same rims across its RSL and, cheaper, RL range.
There’s no supplied white paper or wind tunnel data, the likelihood is that we can trust the wheels to provide an aero uplift due to their deep profile. There will be faster options out there, but these will usually cost a lot more and the additional gains will likely be marginal.
At the centre is a DT Swiss 240S hub, which is renowned for its reliability and longevity. DT Swiss says that the 36 tooth ratchet engagement represents the sweet spot in responsiveness. The hub deserves a review in itself, but suffice to say that it’s a go-to for many a wheelbuilder and for good reason.
Vel has opted for 24 front and rear Sapim CX-Ray spokes, which are readily available should you need to source a replacement at a later date, using brass nipples. They’re straight pull and use two-cross lacing.
The wheels arrive pre-taped and the brand double wraps its tubeless rim tape, this will offer greater security, but also adds to the weight - you can of course choose to replace this.
The weight of a naked wheelset comes in at 1,500g, our set with tape came in at 1,537g, they use a centre lock rotor fitting, the recommended tyre width ranges from 24 to 35mm.
Each set can be specced to requirements with spline compatibility to suit, and since Sigma Sports stocks tyres, sealant and everything else, if you’re local to the Hampton Wick or Oakham store, you may wish to enjoy the luxury of having them prepped for you in the workshop whilst you grab yourself a coffee.
Vel 50 RSL: the ride
I swapped the Vel RSL 50 tubeless ready disc wheelset onto a bike at the dawn of summer, replacing a pretty heavy Shimano GRX gravel pair (they do say train heavy, race light!).
The difference in performance between these and my winter training wheel of choice was huge - as you’d expect. So, if you’re currently running a stock wheelset and looking for a first upgrade set of hoops, you can’t go wrong with these.
The rims make for a stiff platform, there’s not a lot of flex in them, resulting in strong accelerations. Specced with a supple tyre and at a lower pressure, they’re not clatterey or uncomfortable, but they feel like they’re more suited to smoother roads, they don’t handle rough tarmac as well as others on test.
Heading into the corners, they’re well behaved with no misdemeanors among the crosswinds, either.
These wheels provide the uplift you’d expect when moving from a box section rim to a deep profile, and that’s a marked improvement. The hub choice is notably good and the spokes will be easy to locate and replace if needed - however, there’s nothing to necessarily take your breath away, and they’re not as smooth rolling as options like Zipp’s 303S with its wide internal rim depth.
Vel 50 RSL value and conclusions
The wheelset comes in at 1,537g, meaning that they do compare well against Zipp’s 1,544g at the same price, and not badly against Hunt's 50 Aero at 1,494g. Campagnolo charges £2,800 for a 100g saving at 1,435g (all weights are as measured at Cycling Weekly HQ, with rim tape and without valves).
Vel's 50 RSL is a quality wheelset at a good price, and a choice I’d recommend for a racer who wants to know they’re getting a watt gain without shelling out thousands for a component that is somewhat vulnerable in a crash (for which Sigma do offer a good looking crash replacement scheme, should the worst happen).
However, pricing these at £999, Vel has set itself quite a challenge at competing with the likes of Zipp, Hunt and Parcours, who develop their own rims, and can produce reams of test data to support them.
- RRP: £999
- Depth: 50mm
- Internal rim width: 20.3
- Weight: 1,537g - weighed with rim tape, without valves
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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.
Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor.
Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.
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