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Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Review: Neugent Cycling A422TwoX wheels

The thing with ball bearing wheels is that I learned that I can't be bothered to overhaul them myself. While it's possible to do the overhaul --- I'm actually decent at disassembly, I discovered that the amount of faff involved in adjusting bearing preload was such a pain that I avoided doing it and always end up paying someone to do it. That costs about $60/year.

Neugent Cycling's A422TwoX wheels on a black friday special cost $350. That's about 6 years of bearing overhauls on a set of wheels that's lighter than I could build myself (at a claimed weight of 1400g). Even more importantly, I can't buy the parts to make them --- the idea behind the rear wheel is that it uses 16 spokes on the drive side, with only 8 spokes on the non-drive side to equalize the tension between both sides. This makes a lot of sense --- one reason I had to over-tension my Primato Syntesi wheels was because the non-drive side would come loose over time!  Even better, Neugent claims that the drive side has washers so the high tension wouldn't cause the rim to break. You can do the same when you build a pair of wheels but then you'll have to make allowance for the required extra length when calculating spoke length. Just buying parts for a new set of wheels cost more than what John Neugent was charging, so I bought a pair.

Let's get the negatives out of the way first. The front wheel had a rattle that indicates a loose spoke nipple that's in the rim. I'd have to take the rim strip out to shake it out. It makes an annoying noise at low speed when the centrifugal force wouldn't keep the nipple from knocking around in the hollow section of the rim. Secondly, I noticed that tires were much harder to mount on the rims than I expected. Neugtent pointed me at his article for mounting tough tires. It turns out that he made his rims tubeless compatible and now even those of us who have zero intention of going tubeless have to pay the price by having difficult to mount tires! Having said that once I used this system (installing the valve stem part last!) I could get the tire mounted without massive pain. Finally, after a few rides I had to true the rear wheel --- the tension still isn't high enough but with the assurance of having washers inside the rim I just basically added tension. With time the wheel should settle out.

Now for the good news. The wheels are light! The first time I bunny hopped the wheel I felt like I'd gained an extra inch! Now I'm used to the wheel but they still feel light. I'm not any faster than with my older wheels with more spokes, but that was never the point. Light wheels are just more fun. The other interesting things is that the rims are wider, so my 700x25 GP5000 tires actually measure 28mm on the rear wheel! On the front wheel, my 28mm GP5000s measure 28mm, so the rear rim must be wider than the front. That means that you can size your tires one size down from what you'd normally run and get reduced weight.

I was going to wait longer to write a full review after abusing the wheels a bit, but after my recent ride in the snow I realized that I've abused these wheels far more than most people will do so in their lifetime. I wouldn't recommend them for the novice with no ability to true wheels up, but for any one else these wheels are cheaper than anything you can build yourself, and come with everything you would want --- spare spokes and nipples, etc. And for the price they can't be beat!

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