WTB CZR Wheels: Getting Rolling

WTB CZR Wheels: Getting Rolling – by Guitar Ted

Today information was released on a new carbon fiber complete wheel set called the WTB CZR Wheels. They are a carbon rimmed wheel set with traditional style, “J” bend spokes and WTB branded “Frequency” hubs. Riding Gravel has had a set rolling on a bike for almost a month already and I’ll share my thoughts on these WTB CZR wheels after a bit of an introduction.

A close up of the valve stem and stcker around it on the WTB CZR rim
The WTB CZR wheel set comes pre-taped for tubeless and is already set up with valve stems out of the box.

What It Is: WTB recently introduced an aluminum rimmed line of wheels dubbed the Proterra, which we reviewed here, but now a higher end, carbon rimmed wheel set is here based off of WTB’s carbon CZR rims. The CZR range will include trail bike wheels and these gravel/road wheels which we have in for testing. Focusing then on the gravel side, the WTB CZR wheels will feature an internal rim width of 23mm, reinforced spoke hole beds, and WTB’s “4D” spoke holes which aim each nipple and spoke out to the hub at an angle which removes stress on the spokes which typical straight holes in rims cannot do.

The WTB CZR wheels.
The WTB CZR wheels .

WTB claims that the new CZR wheels feature optimized rim wall thicknesses to achieve a more vertically compliant ride quality while not sacrificing strength where it is needed. The rim section depth is 24mm, which WTB claims helps with compliance and should help keep these CZR wheels more stable in winds compared to more aero, deeper sectioned rims. WTB also employs their new “Solid Strip” in the rim bed, which is pre-taped for tubeless usage, by the way, and this strip keeps air pressure inside a tubeless tire from pushing the rim tape downward into spoke holes. This prevents a possible failure mode which can afflict tubeless set ups that do not employ such a strip. The new CZR wheels also come with a WTB alloy valve stem pre-installed.

WTB CZR wheels are available in 24 (tested) or 28 spoke counts and in 12mm through axle front/rear standard only. The ‘winged’ Pillar spokes in the WTB CZR wheels are cold-forged, double butted, and laced with brass nipples to the new Frequency hubs. The hubs feature a low-drag set up with two sets of three pawls which engage alternately giving the Frequency rear hub an approximate 5° of engagement. WTB claims it torture-tested these hubs in Pacific Northwest wet and California dry conditions over a period of two years where their engineers were led to employ a new set of weather-proofing seals to better combat extreme conditions.

In a unique touch, WTB specs the Frequency hubs for gravel and road use with a “light” pawl spring set up to reduce drag, and this results in a quieter hub when coasting. The MTB versions come with a “Heavy” pawl spring set up for maximum torque handling and peak loading abilities, which typify mountain biking conditions. Should a CZR wheel owner desire the Heavy pawl option for their gravel/road set up, the springs are interchangeable and available from WTB. You will get the benefits of the Heavy pawls, but they will be a louder hub as well.

All together, in the 24 spoke example, WTB claims these wheels should weigh slightly less than 1400 grams with the Solid Strip, tubeless tape, and valve stems installed. I like this strategy as it reflects what the wheels will actually weigh in a ‘ready to use’ condition, and not stripped down to the bare rims, spokes, and hubs. Prices are set at $749.95 for the front and $849.95 for the rear wheel. (All prices USD) By the way, the MTB versions of the CZR cost the same. WTB says the wheels are available for purchase now from WTB’s website, but should start appearing in WTB dealer locations in the coming months. WTB hopes to have CZR wheels available in Europe by late September.

A close-up of the new Frequency hubs which are laced to the CZR rims
The new Frequency hubs have a quick engaging pawl system, smooth bearings, and are laced with double butted, ‘winged’ Pillar spokes.

First Impressions: getting a new wheel set in is always a fun time at Riding Gravel, but we get especially excited when the box feels like it hasn’t got much of anything in it. Such was the case with the CZR’s. Once out of the box, it struck me how subtle the graphics were. As in, almost not there. I was assured these were production spec wheels, so this should be how they come for you, should you opt for them. Basic black looks good on about anything, but for a high end carbon wheel, these look very under the radar.

Of course, we threw these on the scales of ‘Truth and Justice’ almost immediately and the weight of our test set was dead on at 1400 grams, so this seems consistent with WTB’s claims of just a hair under 1400 grams for a set of 24 spoke CZR wheels. Then it was on to mounting up a set of SG2 Resolute 700 X 42mm tires. These went on and aired up quite easily. We only had to use a floor pump. Once the tires were mounted and ridden in they ended up measuring at a little bit over 44mm at 38psi, so the 23mm internal width doesn’t seem to be too narrow here.

The Noble Bikes GX5 model set up with the new WTB CZR wheel set
Guitar Ted set up the new WTB CZR wheels with a fresh set of Resolute SG2 tires and installed those on the NOBLE Bikes GX5 test mule.

Ride Performance: Speaking of riding- The CZR wheels do many things you’d expect from a carbon wheel. They spin up nice and easily. They have a ton of lateral stiffness. The ride feel is somewhat muted in terms of what you feel, or rather- in what you do not feel. Things seem a but more ’rounded off’, for lack of a better way to describe how these wheels seem to feel over sharper hits and over chunky gravel.

The hubs feel pretty smooth and the engagement is right in the pocket. It isn’t as quick and instantaneous as some exceptionally quick hubs, but these Frequency hubs do not disappoint me in this manner at all. I feel they are more than adequate for the task at hand. Coasting revealed that perhaps there is something to the ‘Light’ pawl spring set these CZR wheels have. The ‘buzz’ is noticeable, but at a volume that quickly disappears into the background. I’d say it is about average. In my coast down test, the hubs allowed the Resolute tires to perhaps exceed what I would normally expect from those tires. Not by a lot, but neither did the higher engagement hubs slow me down at all. Good stuff there then.

I’ll have more riding in by the next update and at that time I want to have a decision made on whether there is anything to the claim of ‘vertical compliance’ over a longer ride. I have something planned soon that will put this theory to the test. Stay tuned for the next update in a few weeks then.

A detail shot of a CZR wheel showing the offset spoke bed and reinforced spoke nipple holes in a rural setting
WTB employs an offset spoke bed design in order to help even out the bracing angles and spoke tensions for a stronger wheel build on the CZR wheel set.

So Far… The new WTB CZR wheels employ the already amazing CZR rims that WTB offers and builds on that to make for a pretty intriguing package. At 1400 grams for the set with tape and valves, this wheel set is very competitive in the marketplace at a price of $1599.90. WTB does make some heady claims here which have to be verified in a longer term test, which is what will be happening over the next several weeks. But so far…..pretty impressive stuff.

Dust, wet weather, rough roads, and long rides should help with figuring out if the CZR wheels can measure up to these claims from WTB. This is a very competitive market, so the expectations are set pretty high. Can the CZR wheels meet those expectations? Stay tuned……

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.


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted 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 back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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3 thoughts on “WTB CZR Wheels: Getting Rolling

  1. Howdy, I have a set of Irwin wheels that I like very much – partly because of the low noise hub. I’d like to ask if you have an impression yet of the loudness of the WTB hubs in comparison to the Irwins?

    1. @Tom – The Irwin wheels are quieter. I have three sets of them and all are noticeably quieter than the WTB’s are. That said, I don’t think WTB’s “Light” pawl spring set up is annoying at all. YMMV.

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