Some riders are specialists – climbers or time triallists, for instance – and base all of their kit on their specific needs, but what if you like a bit of everything and fancy a set of carbon clinchers? Well, the Deda Elementi SL38s should be up there for serious consideration as they do pretty much everything required for day to day riding. They may not be the lightest or the cheapest, but as a package they are really good.
At 1,580g for the pair, the SL38s aren't much lighter than many aluminium wheels we've tested over the years, but these would all have much shallower rim depths. Here, as you've most likely guessed, you get carbon fibre rims 38mm deep, which offer a small bonus in terms of aerodynamics for riding on the flat or descents without costing you anything when it comes to climbing or acceleration.
The overall weight isn't all that shabby anyway to be honest, and they certainly feel lighter than those figures suggest; I certainly couldn't detect the 130g excess over the Cole C40 Lite wheels I was testing alongside them.
While I'm comparing them to the Coles, I have to say how much more comfortable the Dedas feel. They don't have the tightness or the harshness of the Coles, but don't really seem to lose anything in terms of stiffness. I could really hammer these from side to side when sprinting up climbs or accelerating hard on the flat and didn't notice any sideways flex, and there certainly wasn't any brake block rub on the rims.
Deda has gone with more spokes than the Coles, with 18 laced radially on the front and 24 on the rear, two-cross on the drive side and radial on the other, with what feels to be a little less tension in the build – which could be what is allowing the extra comfort.
Those spokes are connected to the rim with external alloy nipples which makes for easier truing than internal, and the fact that these wheels probably aren't going to see a whole lot of winter action means corrosion issues shouldn't be a major concern. I still prefer to see brass nipples, though, just to be on the safe side.
The hubs are alloy bodied rather than carbon fibre, and you do get ceramic bearings which run very smoothly indeed.
When it comes to freehub options you can get this Shimano/SRAM setup or a Campagnolo splined version. The freehub body itself looks to be pretty hardy and has stood up well to the load from the cassette on the splines; there are a few marks but no serious grooving.
The only thing I would say is that the pawl engagement isn't the quickest. It's not something you really notice when it comes to general riding but if you are track standing at the lights you can find yourself kind of floating about a bit before it locks in.
Deda has followed the current trend of wider rims to suit larger tyres. With a 26mm width between brake tracks these SL38s are recommended to be used with 25mm wide tyres and above, with the Schwalbe Duranos I fitted in that size stretching out to 26.9mm. The tyres were easy to fit and remove too. And you can go tubeless if you are willing to pay for the extra conversion kit.
With that 26mm width and 38mm depth, the Dedas have quite a rounded profile rather than the more traditional 'V' shape you used to find on narrower deep sections. This gives them a very solid feel and the whole build stayed perfectly true throughout the test period, even when taking on sections of rough tarmac at a pace I wouldn't normally risk if the wheels were my own.
Braking-wise things were pretty good too. In the dry their performance matched that of alloy rims, with no 'grabbiness' from heat buildup; the braking was consistent. They were fine in wet weather too, especially as the pads bedded in. There were certainly no panic moments.
Cost of carbon fibre wheels covers a broad spectrum, ranging from hundreds to many thousands, and I'd say the £1,319.99 asking price for these is a true reflection of their build and quality comparing them with others I've tested. They're £380 cheaper than the Coles mentioned earlier, and I'd say these are the better wheels. As I mentioned in that review, though, there is also competition from the likes of Hunt wheels with its 38 Carbon Aero Wide for £899 at 1,480g. I've also recently tested the 3650 versions from Hunt and they are very good indeed.
If I paid the full asking price for these Deda Elementi SL38s, though, I wouldn't be disappointed. They offer a very pleasant riding experience, no matter what the terrain.
A great all-round choice if your riding tends to take in a little bit of everything
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Deda Elementi SL38 Carbon Clincher Team Wheels
Size tested: Rims: 38mm rim depth
Tell us what the wheel is for
Deda says: "The new SL38 Carbon Clincher is the most dynamic clincher in the new Deda Wheel range thanks to the combination of lightness and rim design. The 38mm medium rim profile and a 26mm wide section combines with high precision cnc machined hubs. The new wider rim generation provides better support to the tyre and reduces rolling resistance, while still increasing wheel strength and providing enhanced aerodynamics.
"The rim is also built with tubeless-ready technology to be compatible with the new wave of clincher tyres. The 26mm rim width tmakes the wheel the perfect solution for any riding condition including gravel roads.
"The SL hubs are equipped with enduro ceramic bearings for super smooth-rolling and ultimate speed. Abec-5 tolerances and graphite nylon retainers are premium features ensuring long lasting and greater durability. The rear hub design and spoke count (2:1 pattern) results in lateral stiffness for any riding style."
The SL38s are a strong set of wheels that offer a very nice ride quality.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Rims: 38mm rim depth; high modulus carbon fibre UD and 3K combined structure
Spokes: aero profile spokes, 18 Front spoke count / 24 Rear Spoke count; black
Nipples: self-locking ABS® nipples, aluminum, 15 mm, black
Hub: high precision 6061 aluminum body, 15mm axle, 3 pawls freehub mechanism (Leaf system)
Bearings: Enduro® Ceramic bearings
Compatibility: Available for Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo 11-speed cassette.
Quick Release: new integrated cam design; aluminum lever
Accessories: wheel bag, brakepads for carbon rim, extension valve, rim tape
Tire compatibility: clincher or tubeless tire; 25mm minimum recommended tire size.
Note (*): tubeless conversion kit not included
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Yes, no issues with trueness from the moment they left the box.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
A little on the tight side with some 25mm Schwalbes, but I could still fit them with my thumbs.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
The skewers have a solid locking motion plus the rim tapes were easy to fit and covered the rim bed from side to side. The brake blocks they come with look pretty generic, and performance was decent enough.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They aren't the lightest or the cheapest, but I really liked the way they rode in terms of both comfort and performance.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
The ride quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
The engagement of the pawls could do with being a little snappier.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Dedas are a great set of all-rounder wheels; if I'd bought them I wouldn't be disappointed.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!