So $800 for a pair of 1200 g aero carbon tubular wheels (but not anymore - see update at end of post). That definitely got my attention. I was thinking some carbons would be nice for cross and I was considering running my Reynolds rims. I was sure they could take the stress, but the front one was out for repair after my unfortunate crit incident and I did feel a bit uneasy about riding them through sand. I was sorta happy with my Williams cross wheels, but they are heavy and I was hoping to lighten things up a bit.
The Boyd wheels are light - lighter than I have seen for these prices. Light enough to save about a pound over my Williams wheels (I have the older 1600+ g version). I figured they would make great training wheels for the road bike too. Looking around on the web, I couldn't find a bad review, although nothing much for in depth reviews either. Anyways I pulled the trigger. Took about 2 weeks to receive them (Boyd told me 10 business days to ship - sounds about right). Listed at 1204 g, mine weighed 1190 g (+10 g) without skewers or decals (I always peel off the decals and these were easy to peel off).
Fairly decent spin-down after a half-season of cross, eh?
So how are they? Both wheels were built with high spoke tension and were nicely trued. Not the unbelievable laser-beam straightness you see with Reynolds wheels, but very true. Check. The back wheel spun very smoothly in the hand. But the front wheel was very tight and had lots of friction. No Check. Basically, the bearing pre-load was enormous. Someone had really tightened down the nut thingys and I had to give a couple of hex wrenches a fair amount of twist to break them loose. When I took off the preload, the front wheel was better but still didn't spin all that freely. However, after I took it for a two hour ride, it loosened up lots and spins nearly as well as the back wheel. I assume the bearings had to seat themselves in better alignment with the wheel. These wheels don't really have seals, so they spin fairly well - no seal drag. In the hand, they are very smooth. Smoother than my Williams cross wheels which feel a bit rough when spun in the hand. The hubs on the Boyds certainly look more expensive than the Williams hubs. The skewers on the Boyds are definitely strong beasts, but they are pretty heavy too. I ditched them. Boyd needs a titanium skewer option.
The rims are 21 mm wide and have a deep channel. This is ideal for cross and seems to be the way to go these days. It is much better for getting a cross tire on straight than the Williams cross wheels which are only 19 mm wide and have a fairly shallow channel. It also provides a larger gluing surface to better prevent the dreaded tire roll. I had no issues with tire adhesion using my glue, tufo tape, glue method. Put em on and forget em. The wheels also have nice bladed Sapim spokes - no aero issue for cross, but those will be nice for training rides and club races where aero is a good thing. The rims have a nice aero shape, more like a zipp before they got all fat and not like the Reynolds which doesn't look very aero at all. A pleasing shape that looks expensive.
I used these wheels in about 10 cross races (and a couple of 2 hour cross training rides because I just couldn't resist taking them out). They have stood up well to the usual cross pounding. There was a little truing required - a couple of spokes needed a quarter turn on a couple of occasions. Easy to do because they use conventional spoke nipples. The truing was minor and just something I am pretty anal about because I was running the TRP CX9 brakes and they don't have much room for an out of true wheel. I figured the straighter the wheel going into a race, the more it could get knocked out of true without rubbing. But in fact, these wheels took all the hard knocks I dished out, including bottoming the tire against the rim at some point in most races. I also ran the rims through a fair bit of sand and could sometimes hear the brake pads grating on the rim the first corner after the sand. I hate that noise. But the rims only had very minor scratching. I did use the Swissstop yellow brake pads that Boyd thoughfully provides as an option with your wheel purchase and cheaper than you can get them anywhere else. And of course a couple of minor sliding crashes thrown in for good measure had no effect on the wheels.
So what's the verdict? For $800 these are amazing wheels. They are not $2000+ wheels, but they are close enough that its hard to tell, except with your bank account. They are $199 cheaper, 180 g lighter and have Sapim bladed spokes when compared to the Williams 38 carbon wheels which I have never seen in person (or spun their hybrid ceramic bearings). They really are "high performance wheels you can afford" at "marriage saving prices". Based on my cross experience, they are very durable wheels as well (rated for 200 lb riders, I weigh 155) and will be excellent for the road next spring. I like em and just wish I had known about them a couple of years ago. Dang, I have a lot of wheels. Better start selling some.
October 20, 2012 Update - Cross season, road season, another cross season and nothing seems to phase these wheels. I used them for my road training wheels all summer (put on a set of Tufos - they have no inner tube, add sealant and voila! Tubeless tires without that embarassing burping) and at the end of summer I only had to give the back wheel a quarter turn on 2 spokes to true it up again. Then the cross tires went back on and no issues to date. Very happy with these wheels given the low cost. Although they are no longer $800 they are still worth every cent.
January 27, 2013 Update - Boyd has completely revamped their wheel offerings. The new wheels are the new wider profile type. And apparently the hubs are improved. That's the good news. The bad news is the increase in prices - quite a big jump. Still cheaper than the big brands, but not the astonishing value they were before. Takes them out of the range of wheels potentially considered for training. Hope it all works out for them, but I would have kept the old line too for cheapskates like me.
If you hurry, you can cash in on the old style wheels for even cheaper than usual.