Warranty woes

Over the past two plus years I built and sold a lot of custom wheels built around the Pacenti SL23 alloy clincher rim. The SL23 purported to be a wonderful new rim from American Kirk Pacenti. Co-developed by Fairwheel Bikes, the SL23 is a wide tubeless ready alloy rim with many attractive characteristics, including weight, braking performance and wide comfort and handling. I recommended it for good reasons. I rode them too, for the past two years.

This is what Fairwheel Bikes had to say about this rim in their alloy rim roundup:

In the interest in transparency in our reviews I think it’s important to say we contributed to the design of this rim, producing what we feel is the most balanced rim on the market.

And here’s what one of the reviewers said about  the then new Pacenti SL23 version 1 rim after riding it for a while:

Eric: I’ve been riding a pre-production rim for a while now and I’ve had no issues. It’s a new rim on the market, but very well designed and I have a good feeling it will test more aero than any other rim only option here.

I felt the same way about this rim. But after a year of riding it, approximately 4000km, the rim developed cracks around the nipple holes.  Then, on a regular basis every single rim I sold that was built for a rear wheel came back to me with cracking around the nipple holes.  The tension was always slightly below the recommended maximum tension, around 110 kg of force.  Pacenti and his distributors were good about replacing them at first – sending out replacement rims having shown photos and serial numbers of the cracking rims.

Then in April 2015, Kirk Pacenti introduced the Pacenti SL23 Version 2 rim. This rim was meant to address some of the criticisms of the version 1 rim including addressing but not directly acknowledging the cracking by increasing the thickness of the alloy at the nipple bed to increase durability (well, to be more honest, to obtain durability).  Here’s what Fairwheel Bikes said about this new version:

In April 2015 Pacenti released the first update to the rim to make three small changes to further improve building and riding. The rim is now 2.3mm wider internally — while only increasing .5mm externally — and has lower bead hooks further supporting the tire and increasing tire volume. The bead well is deeper making installing and changing tires easier. Finally the spoke bed is thicker allowing wheel builders to use higher spoke tensions and improving overall durability of every SL23 wheelset.

The downside of the Version 2 is its incredibly shallow brake track. While it works fine when pads are setup just right, some riders have complained it is just too narrow. Additionally, the some riders having ridden on version 1 rims that failed on them, had commented that the braking wasn’t as good on the Version 2 rim.

As of today, 5 months after ceasing operation of Zed Wheel Works, I continue to be dealing with cracked Pacenti SL23 rims with little over a year’s use. What’s worse, I am now also dealing with failed sleeves, on Version 2 rims and some cracking at the nipples on Version 2 rims as well. The sleeve is the metal shim that is peened at the rim joint. Pacenti suggests re-peening as a cure, but I’ve seen a few of these sleeves fall off completely, an indicator of quality issues.

No rim is perfect. I recently had the rarity of dealing with a cracked H Plus Son Archetype rim.  But failing Pacenti SL23 rims, especially the version 1 rim was a pandemic. Any supplier in their right mind of ethical conduct would have recalled these rims or at the very least continued to honour the warranty, even extending it where rim cracking was occurring. Kirk has done neither. In a recent email conversation with him, he has announced that the warranty on all version one SL23s is no longer honoured.  This is terrible for the retailer and customer alike.

For all of my former customers who selected Pacenti SL23 rims, I am sorry. You put your faith in me and I put my faith in Pacenti. This warranty nightmare was a large contributor to the decision I made to stop running Zed Wheel Works.

For your future rim choices, I have had great luck with HED Belgium C2 rims. I’ll be running these rims on my own bike very soon, replacing Pacenti SL23 Version 2 rims as I simply do not want to send the false message that I continue to endorse Pacenti SL23 rims.

The odd thing is that I have seen zero issues with the  similar Pacenti SL25 disc rim, which is based on the SL23 rim brake rim, and I’ve built up and sold many of these too. Likewise, the TL28 disc mountain bike rim is also very good. No issues.  You don’t have to stop riding Pacenti rims, but I would choose H+ Archetypes or HED Belgium C2s over Pacentil SL23 version 2 rims.




What disc hub for cyclocross?

In the era of 11 speed hydraulic disc brake/shifters from SRAM and Shimano found on cyclocross bikes, like my very own Focus Mares CX 2.0, the bicycle manufacturers seem to be charging ahead of most aftermarket hub manufacturers. This makes it challenging when you’re looking for a custom, lightweight, wheelset for cross racing.

Right or wrong, necessary or not, we are in the new world of 11 speed cassettes married to hydraulic disc brake/shifter systems from SRAM and Shimano that are found on modern cyclocross and road bikes, some with modern through-axles and wide 142mm rear dropouts. The mountain bike market has fully spilled over into cyclocross. Why not use common axle standards found on disc hubs used in the mountain bike market? Today, it is very common to see 15mm through-axle front disc hubs, with 142mm x 12mm through axle rears on mountain bikes. Standard stuff, really. But on cyclocross bikes this is relatively new. Quick release axles, those standards found on almost every road bike since Campagnolo invented the QR are now becoming less common on new ‘cross bikes.

Today, in 2014, cyclocross bikes featuring through-axle (TA) hubs include the Focus Mares CX (15mm TA front, 142×12 rear), Norco Threshold (15mm TA front, 142 x 12mm TA rear), and the Giant TCX (15mm TA front, QR rear). In addition, ENVE and Whisky are making front forks with 15mm through axle fronts. But it is the deviation from the quick-release road standard in the rear that has created concerns. You see, not very many brands offer rear disc hubs with through axles that are compatible with 11 speed road cassettes. And if they are, they are often limited in their drillings, the number of spokes needed.

A ‘cross bike ain’t no mountain bike. It doesn’t come with mountain bike group sets, but rather with road group sets adapted for cyclocross – larger cassette ratios, and smaller front chain rings. And those road group sets are, particularly with hydraulic disc braking, 11 speed road groups. Many disc hubs meant for the mountain bike market with through axles do not support road HG Shimano/SRAM 11 speed cassettes. What about SRAM XD? It isn’t compatible with road 11 speed. The spacing is not the same.

Secondly, many disc hubs meant for the mountain bike market have higher spoke counts than is necessary for either road bikes or cross bikes. 28 holes is often the minimum hole count for disc hubs.  Only a few, but growing models offer 24 hole drillings, and fewer still when we add through-axles.

Your dream ‘cross wheelset might be a 24h front 15mm through axle, with a 24h rear 142mm x 12mm 11 speed compatible rear hub. You want light weight. You want colours. You want high-end. Good luck.

Only a handful hub of manufacturers have truly embraced the Cyclocross Moderne with its wide through axles and 11 speed road cassettes. Chris King is particularly slow to respond. If you own a ‘cross bike that uses a 142×12 rear and runs 11 speed shifting, Chris King has nothing for you. Not yet. Tune supports 11 speed for their disc hubs, but a 142×12 is limited to 32 hole drilling only. That’s overkill for a cross wheelset you want to race with.

There are a few brands that do supply what you need for your modern cross bike.  I’ve provided some estimated build weights for these with either Pacenti SL25 Disc rim, a new rim from Kirk Pacenti, or Zed Wheel Works 38mm deep, 23mm wide carbon tubular rim of the CrossRock CX custom build:


Brand Hub Model Front Specs Rear Specs Colours Weights
Weight Drillings Axle Options Weight Drillings Axle Options Freehub Hub set Wheelset: Pacenti SL35 Disc/CX-Ray Wheelset: WC38T CrossRock CX Carbon/CX-Ray
DT Swiss DT 240 SP Centerlock 118g 28,32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 216g 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano, Campy Black 334g 1492g 1298g
Industry Nine CX/Disc 110g 24, 28,32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 245g 24, 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano Blue, Black, Gold, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, Silver, Turquoise 355g 1513g 1320g
DT Swiss DT 350 SP Centerlock 130g 28,32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 257g 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano, Campy Black 387g 1545g 1350g
White Industries CLD 145g 24, 28, 32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 265g 24, 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano Blue, Black, Gold, Green, Purple, Red, Silver 410g 1568g 1375g
BHS (Bitex) MTB180 & MTB270 182g (15mm TA) 24, 28, 32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 267g (142×12) 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano Black, Red 449g 1607g 1413g
Hope Pro 2 EVO 181g (15mm TA) 28, 32 QR, 15TA, 20TA 306g (142×12) 28, 32 QR, 135×12, 142×12 9/10s Shimano, 11s Shimano Blue, Black, Green, Grey, Purple, Red, Silver 486g 1644g 1450g