Wonderfully stiff and competitively lightweight, the Cole C40s really didn't disappoint. Great in a sprint, confident in the corners and decent on the climbs, there's not much to dislike about this wheelset apart from the price tag. At £1,700, it's potentially a deal breaker for most.
As a regular user of super shallow or box-section rims, it’s always a great feeling to jump on something a bit deeper for that extra bit of stiffness and speed you immediately get.
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While the Cole C40 Lites aren’t overly deep, at 40mm as the name suggests, they definitely don’t disappoint in their first impression.
I tested them during some pretty poor weather on a trip to Mallorca (it snowed!), but I really thought they performed well and held up in some difficult conditions.
There were some wobbles during particularly high crosswinds, but in general the 40mm depth meant that even lighter riders shouldn’t have too much trouble in average conditions.
They didn’t give that flying feeling that you might find with the 60mm version, but the C40s offer some aero advantage as well as light weight and stiffness on the climbs.
With a weight of 1,430g, 640g at the front, 790g for the rear, they sit very competitively in the market for weight for a carbon clincher even if they are a little pricey.
As a fairly heavy rider, I prefer responsive wheels as much as a super lightweight set and was intrigued about how they’d feel with a fairly low spoke count (16 front, 20 rear).
Cole uses its own ‘Dynamic Spoke Alignment’ (DSA2) that allows for very high spoke tension, taking out the J-bend of the spokes, using straight-pulls which will apparently make them stronger.
How much effect this had on the feel of the wheels, I couldn’t really tell you. But what I did feel is that the C40s have decent lateral stiffness. In some short sprints or uphill bursts these felt nicely rigid and really lent themselves to aggressive riding with good acceleration.
On longer climbs they still held their own, and flew excellently through the sweeping corners on descents. The rim width also made cornering feel more confident, with Cole following the trend of providing wider rims so tyres like the 25c Vittoria Corsa G+ sat really nicely.
It’s difficult to maintain such good stiffness and keep the wheel super comfortable, and there were points on rougher roads that these didn’t soak up much of the buzz. That’s a small niggle though, and I’d happily accept the small amount of road buzz for the way these performed.
One of the most common sticking points on lightweight carbon wheels is the braking, particularly in wet weather.
I really found the braking on the C40s to be pretty good when combined with the pads provided from Cole. I’ve just come off using Mavic wheels with Exhalith brake services, which I think are really great, but it didn’t take much adjustment for me to get used to the C40s braking.
Cole uses ‘Heatshield’ technology to minimise heat build-up when braking, and I certainly didn’t experience much of that classic carbon surface delay to braking I’ve had on previous wheels.
They felt a bit unstable on a really treacherous descent, hairpin after hairpin, with some really serious braking needed. It wasn’t unmanageable though and they held up really well on other technical descents like Sa Calobra.
Even in the wet (we’re talking torrential downpour) I felt fine and confident on the C40s. There are better braking carbon wheels out there, again I’ve felt Mavic has upped the game on this one, but I would be really content with the braking here if I bought these wheels. Admittedly, I haven’t had the chance to test these in really hot conditions.
I really love the look of these wheels too; there’s no big logos strewn across the rim with Cole giving them a really subtle black design that would look great on pretty much any bike.
What can’t be ignored here is the price though. At £1,700, this is a hefty investment for an upgrade, approaching prices you might find for a set of Zipp or Enve road bike wheels.
While the C40s are definitely up there in the performance stakes, there’s definitely some comparable wheels like the Cero RC45 Evos which are a similar weight, scored a nine with our tester and come in at under a grand.
However, I really can’t say anyone who coughed up the cash for the C40s would be left disappointed, I’ve definitely enjoyed riding these wheels and felt the benefits for sure.
Unfortunately it’s hard to look past the fact there are more affordable options at a similar spec out there.
Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.
An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).
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