If you want to shed some weight from your road bike, one of the best things you can do is upgrade to a lighter pair of wheels. At 1,336g and costing under £500, these Syntace W21 Road wheels offer a good price-to-weight ratio.
They offer a decent performance boost for the money, too, though the low weight does come with compromised front wheel stiffness, and the rims are a bit narrow by modern standards. The low weight also comes with the caveat of a 90kg rider weight limit.
The wheels feature a rim that is 24mm deep – so definitely on the shallow side, these aren't designed for aerodynamics – with a 21mm external width and 16mm internal width. That's looking a bit narrow compared with some of the more progressive wheel designs that have wider rims to better cater for the demand for wider tyres. Even so, they worked well with the 25mm tyres used to test them.
They're also tubeless-compatible if you want to ditch the inner tubes, but work just fine with regular tyres and inner tubes. A wear indicator lets you keep an eye on their longevity.
Spinning away at the centre of the rims are diddy little hubs that Syntace has developed using technology borrowed from its mountain bike division. They're called HiTorque RS hubs and weigh 73g and 191g for the front and rear.
The front hub is rather unusual in that the flanges are very narrowly spaced – most hubs have the flanges as far apart as possible to increase the bracing angle to improve lateral stiffness. Syntace describes the reason behind the narrow width is to do with reducing the weight and improving aerodynamics. That may be so, but it does impact the stiffness of the front wheel. More on that later...
Inside the hubs are two double-sealed bearings with special oil-filled guards to prevent dirt ingress and prolong the smoothness they possess out of the box. The bearing preload can be easily adjusted with a MicroAdjust system, using a small Allen tool to rotate the outer collar. Out of the box, they spun very smoothly and needed no adjustment.
A 20-tooth freehub with 18 degrees of engagement is 10 and 11-speed compatible with Shimano and SRAM, and is packed with a pair of double-sealed bearings. Both hubs are quick release hubs in a conventional 9x100mm front and 10x130mm rear axle width.
Bringing the hubs and rims together are Syntace's own AeroSpokes, with 20 in the front wheel and 24 in the rear. The front spokes are radially laced, the rear are double crossed. Syntace has employed an idea it calls Balanced Spokes, which involves thicker spokes on the drive side of the rear wheel to deal with the stresses the wheel is subject to.
Adding light wheels to any road bike is going to make a noticeable difference, and so it was the case with these. You notice the weight on the scales but feeling the difference on the climbs is harder to assess and depends on the weight of the wheels they are replacing.
I used a Cannondale SuperSix Evo to test the wheels, and they certainly give the bike a more flighty feeling when manoeuvring around country lanes and cresting rises in the roads. The rear wheel provides a good level of stiffness noticeable when pushing the bike through corners and down hills, and transfers power to the road.
The same can't be said for the front wheel, though, with a display of flex when pushing the front of the bike hard into turns. An annoying tendency for the spokes to frequently 'pop' and 'tinkle' accompanied most rides, most noticeable when riding out of the saddle and putting a high load on the front. I'm not a heavy rider and nowhere near the max rider weight limit.
Despite the flex from the front wheel, the wheelset as a combination proved pretty taut and lively for a mix of hilly and undulating riding. The low weight makes them a hoot on the hills, especially longer drags where any weight saving can be appreciated. They are compliant over rougher roads, and the rim width, even though it's starting to look a bit narrow against newer rim designs, provides a good match for the 25mm tyres I tested them with.
The aluminium rims have a machined braking track that beds in quickly and provides very assured braking performance in all conditions. The freehub is extremely noisy – people will hear you coming before they see you – but it engages quickly when you need to snap the bike forward after a period of freewheeling.
In summary, they're a good set of wheels with an impressively low weight for the money, with durable and easily adjustable hub bearings, but the front wheel flex and the associated noise just robs them of being highly recommended, especially when the wheel market is so competitive and there are many good choices.
However, looking through the road.cc wheel review archive, I can't find another wheelset that offers such lightness for anywhere near the same price, so if you really want light wheels on a budget and you're well within the max rider weight limit, these might well suit you.
Very low weight for the money but front wheel stiffness removes some of the shine of this otherwise impressive wheelset
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Syntace W21 Road Wheelset
Size tested: Rim width 22mm
Tell us what the wheel 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?
Syntace says: "The Syntace W21 wheelset is perfect for people who are looking for a strong and reliable wheelset at around 1300 grams. A big advantage of this wheelset is the 10 years warranty Syntage gives on this W21 Road wheelset. Syntage is mainly known for their mountainbike products. The experience they gained with these products has been used in the development of the Syntace W21 Road wheelset. This set is strong, wide and light."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
W21R Front Wheel
20 Syntace AeroSpokes, black
Quick release with MicroAdjust
Raceblack with laserlogo
Real 90 kg
W21R Rear Wheel
24 Syntace AeroSpokes, black
(SRAM & Shimano, 10-/11-speed)
Quick release with MicroAdjust
Raceblack with laserlogo
Considering the low weight, these wheels offer excellent value for money.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
They remained straight and true and spokes evenly tensioned during the test period.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Very easy, no tyre levers needed.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
No skewers provided.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For a light climbing wheelset they provided great performance.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
The low weight for not a lot of money.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
The front wheel flex and noise.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Mostly
Would you consider buying the wheel? Maybe
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your score
On paper these wheels offer a very lightweight package for not a lot of money and generally the performance was very good, but the front wheel lacks stiffness and was noisy too.
About the tester
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, mountain biking
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.