Actif is a relatively new name in the very competitive aftermarket wheel market, offering a range of carbon fibre clincher wheelsets in differing depths, from 30mm to 88mm. They're all hand-built in the UK to order, and you have a choice of hubs, spoke counts, spoke types, colours and nipple colours.
We tested the Actif 5.0s with 50mm deep section carbon fibre rims. The wheels are undoubtedly fast, with the Hope Mono hubs providing a very quick engaging freehub and the wheels displaying a high level of stiffness that makes them a delight to ride hard and fast.
Through corners the Actif 5.0 wheels reveal a commendable level of stiffness, you'd certainly be hard pushed to detect them flexing even at the extremes.
Braking performance is often the Achilles heel of most carbon fibre wheels, though years of development has improved matters considerably. Actif claim to have developed the rims with a proprietary resin which they claim ensures the rims can cope with braking forces generating heat to the tune of 220 degrees.
During testing they certainly seemed to deliver the sort of braking performance we'd expect of modern carbon wheels. They're not the most powerful, but the braking is progressive and very predictable, with no evidence of snatching even when heating up the rims as much as I could on the steeper hills.
The rims are constructed from a mixture of T700, 800 and 1000 carbon fibre, sourced from Toray in Japan, a highly regarded carbon fibre manufacturer. These wheels were built up with Hope Mono hubs with colour-matched nipples, producing a smart appearance in the test bike they were slotted into.
You can customise the wheels, and Actif offers a Chris King upgrade if you want it. The performance of the British made Hope hubs is so good the upgrade isn't essential in my view, unless you really must have CK hubs.
The Actif wheels produced very commendable results, with a good turn of speed and reasonable control in windy and blustery conditions, but they're not as stable as some of the more modern rim shapes form the likes of Zipp, Enve and Reynolds.
The rims are wide though, and provided a good platform for the 23mm Vittoria Diamante Pro Light tyres we fitted for testing. With the wider rim you get less of the light bulb effect of a wide tyre ballooning on a narrow rim, and that produces better handling especially through the corners, as the tyres are less prone to squirm around as the tyre effectively tries to roll off the rim. I'm being a bit dramatic here but the difference is appreciable.
The discreet decals on the rims get a big tick in my book, and they looked really good in the test bike, a black and white Cannondale SuperSix Evo. Looks will be a big factor for some people - hell it's the main reason some people buy deep section wheels - and these passed the aesthetic test with flying colours.
So, good looking wheels with decent performance when riding fast and braking, and available at a competitive price. You're practically spoilt for choice if you're in the market for deep section wheels, and based on all the criteria that we judge a wheelset by, these are worthy of consideration. Perhaps their only fault is that they're not a well-known brand, but at the price that is easily overlooked.
Fast and responsive carbon clincher wheels at a competitive price.
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Make and model: Actif 5.0 Handbuilt Carbon wheelset
Size tested: 700c
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Our Actif hand built carbon wheels are the perfect wheel for our titanium frames. Available in a choice of depths and colours.
Recently, there has been a flood of new carbon wheelsets into the market, with vastly differing levels of quality. Our carbon clinchers utilise a proprietary resin in the composite that allows them to withstand the extreme heat (220 degrees) and force created by braking. This increased braking temperature is 50-60 degrees higher than some other models.
Brake testing is conducted on a machine in the factory where the rims are made. The test machine works by spinning a wheel using a chain and simulated rider load and then applying braking force while measuring temperature at multiple points hundreds of times a second using laser technology. The machine can also precisely measure wheel and tyre width and see how these dimensions change as braking is applied and heat is generated.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The lighter the rim, the stronger the material has to be. All of our carbon rims use a combination of T700, 800 and 1000 filaments from Toray in Japan, the World's largest producer of carbon fibre – most of it is used by the aeronautical and defence industries.
Carbon clincher wheels are getting more affordable at a rapid rate, there are now a few choice below a grand, but most are still well over so these are well-priced especially when you take into consideration the good performance they offer, and they're hand-built in the UK too.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very commendable performance for a competitively priced wheel.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good braking performance, wide rim profiles and pretty fast.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
That they're not a well-known brand might be a detractor for such an expensive investment, but if you want a bit of a bargain, these appear to be just that.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Very commendable performance for a competitively priced wheel.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.