WTB CZR Wheels: Checkpoint

WTB CZR Wheels: Checkpoint – by Guitar Ted

The WTB CZR wheels have had a few hundred miles put on them since the introduction post, which you can go back and see here. In this update I want to cover how these wheels affect not only the handling of the bike, but how they affect ride feel as well. With big rides underneath these hoops done in two different states, I think I have a pretty good idea now how these wheels should work out for most folks.

Guitar Ted's Black Mountain Cycles MCD with the WTB CZR wheels mounted.
Here are the CZR wheels on the bike as they were used most up to this update.

Ride Performance & Feel: WTB makes a claim that the CZR wheels are ‘more vertically compliant‘ than many other wheels. Well, I am going to take a pass on that claim for now as I was running Redshift Sports’ ShockStop stem and seat post for an event preparation and in the event proper. Combined with lowered air pressures in the WTB Resolute tires, there was just no way to gauge the claim made by WTB. However; I was able to feel and notice how stiff laterally these wheels were, and to me, that is a much more important thing to have in a wheel made for gravel travel.

On looser, chunky gravel, sandy gravel, or in rutted dirt road situations, a laterally flexy wheel can be a handful. Of course, if you’ve never ridden a really stiff carbon wheel, you’d never know what you are missing. However; once you’ve tasted the better handling of a good carbon wheel, you’ll immediately fall out of love with your standard aluminum wheel set. Many people claim lighter weight is the number one thing to like about carbon wheels, but I think that is wrong thinking. It is the better handling, better tracking qualities of a stiff carbon wheel that makes the price worth the while. Light weight is secondary.

And the WTB CZR wheel tracks and handles magnificently well. I experienced a ride recently at Gravel Worlds, a race which starts out of Lincoln, Nebraska, and their typical gravel features deep, sandy, wheel sucking piles. Sometimes these run laterally down the road aside the main wheel tracks, sometimes they are perpendicular to you line of travel, especially at intersections, and then sometimes this sandy, deep gravel is part of a washboard section of road, which there are a LOT of around Lincoln. This is the sort of gravel that wants to impede your travel and resist your crossing of it. A flexy wheel, even a little bit flexy, will bend and give when hitting this sort of feature. But not The WTB CZR wheels. They tracked me straight and true through every obstacle there.

That’s a reassuring thing when you are bombing a hill at plus 30 miles an hour and you have to switch ‘lanes’, as it were, to pass someone. Those deeper, sandier gravel lines want to upset your bike, but the WTB CZR wheels allowed me to slice right through these obstacles with complete stability due to the wheel’s stiffness.

The pink Black Mountain Cycles MCD on a dirt road with the WTB CZR wheels mounted.
Guitar Ted mounted a different set of WTB tires on the WTB CZR wheels recently.

Back home on my local gravel this stiffness came into play as I rode over a lot of miles of freshly laid crushed rock which drives flexier wheels into an oscillation that becomes a headache to deal with after a while. I’ve written about this phenomenon before, and the WTB CZR wheels deal with this effect really well. Almost as well as the FLO Cycling wheels we tested last year.

After about a month and a half plus of using the WTB Resolute tires, I decided to swap over to a set of Riddlers in the 700c X 45mm size. My aim was to find out what the 23mm inner width would do on a slightly wider tire than the Resolute, which is listed as a 700 X 42mm size. In an unusual turn of events, one of my Riddlers was brand new and one I had already used before.

The mounting was a bit more difficult than with the Resolutes, and it did not matter if the tire had been used or not. They both had to be levered on. That allowed for an easy air-up by a floor pump. Once mounted and ridden a few times, the Riddlers measured out at a 45.3mm for the new one and 46.88mm for the used one. Just about what I would have expected. Besides that, the Riddlers were a bit difficult to get set up into their proper position on the CZR’s. I had to take both of them up to 60psi before the beads slipped all the way into place.

A close up of the WTB CZR wheel on a dirt surface

So Far… The WTB CZR wheels not only are light weight, very competitively priced, and super-subtle in looks, but have excellent lateral rigidity which enhances handling and reduces rider fatigue. The wheels have been rock solid so far in all kinds of high speed down hills, grinding climbs, and just for riding around on. Of course, the lighter weight makes them spin up easier, and that’s a good thing, but this is not at the expense of stiffness and handling.

I’ve been asked about the sound of the free hub during coasting. I’d say it is in the ballpark of an older I-9 hub, but with a bit more ‘clack’ at lower speeds. Actually these hubs remind me of our late Summer cicadas. Just not that loud. You are going to hear this hub, but it isn’t annoying. And by the way, this wheel set coasts very well.

Next up- I’m going to swap out the CZR’s to the decidedly rigid Noble Bikes GX5 and see about the claims of vertical compliance. When I’ve put in enough rides to figure that out, I shall return with my final verdict. But so far? So good!

For more information on these wheels and other WTB products see their website here: https://www.wtb.com/

Note: WTB sent over the CZR wheel set to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We are not being paid, nor bribed, for this review and we will always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

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Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004, he has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and backroad events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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2 thoughts on “WTB CZR Wheels: Checkpoint

  1. I’m impatiently waiting your final thoughts on these wheels. I’ve had my eye on the rims since I first heard about them this spring. I’m thinking these rims with a dynamo hub and an Onyx Racing rear hub would be a perfect wheelset for me.

  2. I appreciate your comments regarding the hub sound – I think I have a pretty good idea of them based on your description and I know that would bug me a bit. And it helped me firm up my decision to get another set of Irwins – the Aon 35s to go with the Arlos I already have.
    Thanks!

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