Ritchey WCS Zeta Disc Wheels – WCS Shield Cross Tires: Getting Rolling

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Ritchey WCS Zeta Disc Wheels – WCS Shield Cross Tires: Getting Rolling- by Grannygear

When I was building up my Salsa Warbird frame set, I used the only set of wheels I had around that seemed to make sense, were thru axle, and disc brake ready. It was a standard 29″er MTB wheel set from DT Swiss. They were tubeless compatible, and likely a bit overbuilt for a gravel road application or even an adventure based bike. But the wide internal rim measurement of 22mms or so seemed right on target, fitting in with the trend towards wider rims for pavement and dirt riding. The increased tire volume and wider tire profiles that result from a wider rim are really nice to live with.

Zeta Disc Wheels
Ritchey Zeta WCS Disc Wheels in repose.

And….and WCS Shield Cross 700×35 tubeless tires.

Zeta Disc Wheels
Ritchey WCS Shield Tires

That wheel set from the MTB side of life, at nearly 1800g, was a bit heavy for racing or fast gravel riding. Tough enough? Oh yes. Overqualified? Probably. If I had been coming from a road or cyclo cross background, I might have had some wheels around that could have worked and likely would have been lighter, but almost certainly would have been narrower too.

What is the perfect wheel width, weight, build, and strength for a bike like the Warbird? That answer is likely to be “It depends“as rider weight and riding conditions will determine how beefy your wheels need to be. Then the tire size you can use is determined by how much room you have on your bike. How much weight can I trim from my wheels without breaking the bank, or breaking the wheels?

If we were to look for a set of wheels that would come from the road side of the tracks, one that would be welcome on the new crop of Adventure Bikes we are seeing, it just might look a lot like these Ritchey WCS Zeta Disc wheels.  These wheels are packing a lot of features for the gravel bike rider looking to shed some weight from his wheel set. I will be running these through the paces, So Cal style, so we shall see how they do.

From the Ritchey website:

The do­ everything aluminum race wheel is wider, lighter and stiffer than ever—and now available in a tubeless disc brake version.

Tom Ritchey believes in high quality aluminum road wheels—they offer incredible performance and durability that’s hard to beat at any price. The critically acclaimed Zeta is completely redesigned to be wider, lighter and laterally stiffer, yet still tough enough to endure gravel road rides and cyclo cross races that would chew lesser wheels to pieces. New dedicated disc brake version features new two ­piece forged hubs and disc ­only OCR rim extrusion.

• New forged and machined phantom disc hubs

• Disc ­specific, tubeless Zeta OCRTM rims are light, stiff and wide

• Forged, machined and staggered hub flange increases spoke bracing angle and builds a stronger, lighter wheel

• Centerlock compatible

• 1,560 grams (735g front, 825g rear)

•   Rims: WCS Zeta Tubeless OCR

• Proprietary Ritchey extrusion balances ride quality and aerodynamics

• Rear OCR® (Off Center Rim) design reduces wheel dish to balance spoke tension for a stronger, stiffer wheel

• Hubs: WCS Disc w/9mm standard QR

• Spokes: DT Competition 2.0/1.8 DB

• Nipples: Brass• Build: 24/2x

• Freehub: alloy

• BB black finish

Zeta Disc Wheels
Signed, sealed, delivered….well, you know the rest.

Getting these out of the box and into my hands, I can appreciate the understated graphics and low key look. Immediately the wide rim profile (I measured them at 21mm internal) catches my eye as does the sealed rim bed. The Off Center Rim (OCR) is an effective way to get a more even spoke tension and by that, a stronger wheel. The hub flanges look pretty trick too. There is a hang tag on each wheel that is signed by the builder of the Ritchey WCS Zeta Discs. It also lists spoke tension and spoke length, run out, and hop. Sweet!

Thanks, Kim and Jane.

The hubs feel like they engage fairly quickly and removing the free hub by hand (ala DT Swiss) shows a row of notches machined into the free hub body and a set of six pawls set into the hub shell, wide enough to catch the entire notch they interface with. The hubs converted quite easily from the way I received them…9mm QR…to 15mm front and 142×12 rear. I did this by hand with only a set of needle nose pliers to assist in grabbing the end caps.

I weighed them at 825 rear and 728 front with no valve stems and in the 9mm configuration. That is 1553g, pretty spot on with the claimed weight. And 1550gs is pretty darn light too. The retail of the Ritchey WCS Zeta Disc wheels is $799.90 for the pair. That is quite a very good price for that weight, and what with the wide rim, the tubeless ready-ness, and the convertible, easy to service hub…not bad so far.

Zeta Disc WheelsI also have a set of WCS Shield tires in the 35mm size (as big as they make) to go along with them. I weighed them at 384g/380g (about 100g less than the tires I run now) and mounted them tubeless on the Zeta discs with no fanfare at all. They installed by hand and aired up with the first few strokes of a floor pump, seating easily. As a nice surprise, they measured to be 1.45″/36.83mm wide with maybe 35 psi in there just as a guess. I imagine I will need to run higher pressures than I typically do with a 40c tire, so I will have to experiment with that. They have a very, very, supple casing. It has me wondering how durable the sidewalls are, but the tread pattern looks like it should punch above it’s body weight as far as traction for a 35mm tire.

From the Ritchey website:

Our race­bred cyclocross tire just stepped up to the next level: now with a tubeless ready casing allows for lower pressure for a smoother ride and even better cornering.

• Low­profile tread pattern provides perfect all­round qualities with incredible traction and control

• Side knobs employ VFA design for consistent traction at all cornering angles

• WCS version features dual compound – softer side enhance cornering, firmer center section rolls faster and is more durable

• 120tpi

• 35mm casing width

• Tubeless ready bead

• 398g

Hefting the wheel/tire package…no rotors yet…they feel very light. Tough enough? We shall see. The wheels I am running now are only 24 spoke F/R as well http://twentynineinches.com/fsa­afterburner­mtb­off­road-wheels/ and have been quite good for my Warbird, but they are heavier at 1764g and only slightly wider internally.

My plan is to run the Shield tires first, but really, a 35mm tire (even a plump one) is just too narrow for my needs. I will pop some 40s on those Zeta wheels at some point so I can get a truer feel for the performance in ‘like’ conditions. I’ll be back.

Note: RidingGravel.com was not paid, nor bribed, for this review, and we strive to publish the sincere thoughts and opinions of our writers throughout.

Discuss and share your questions or thoughts about gravel bikes, gear, events and anything else on the Riding Gravel Forum


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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5 thoughts on “Ritchey WCS Zeta Disc Wheels – WCS Shield Cross Tires: Getting Rolling

  1. Hi, do you have an update on these (you indicate in the review that you’d “be back”)? I’m just about to get some new wheels for my gravel/cross bike, and I’m really interested in these. I think I’d be a tad concerned about durability with a 24-spoke rear wheel, so I’d be curious to know how they’ve held up, if you’ve put them through the paces.


    1. Hi Ted,

      I was looking for some more information on these wheels. It has been over a year since this initial posting, I looking for a solid cross wheelset for a reasonable price. These fit so many of the criteria i’d like for my new set. Especially like the freehub body with 3×2 pawls for solid and reliable engagement. Do you have any additional information or a longer term review for these now one year on?


  2. To anyone who comes across this review: I’ve been riding my Zeta discs for almost two years. They are fantastic wheels that, in my case as a 175lb Norcal gravel rider, have never needed truing.

    The alloy freehub body is my only point of concern. Because it’s allow it gets gouged by steel cassettes. Because I frequently swap cassettes depending on my ride or event, I have also managed to start cross-threading the lockring threads.

    These things happen. I would definitely buy the wheels again. At 1550 grams, I’m not sure they can be beat for their price.

  3. Top wheelset. Very very solid, stiff and light. You can’t expect so much more from a alloy cross Ws.
    Its an do it all ws and better/more solid than a fragile 1000 € carbon entry level ws…

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