These Amp Hoops 50mm carbon clincher wheels are cracking value, fast and relatively light. There are some issues with the build quality which need to be resolved, however.
The market for posh wheels is growing fast, most notably in the deep carbon area. Among the established players are numerous young upstarts, some of which you'll have heard of and some you may not. Amp Hoops is a British company offering a range of full-carbon wheels in various depths, including clinchers and tubular wheels.
Their full range is keenly priced and marketed with a refreshingly BS-free approach. 'We're not doing too much science here," they say. There's no boasting how their wind-tunnel testing proves that their dimples save you 2 watts at 60kph. We imagine these wheels have been built up from a Taiwanese parts catalogue. That's fair enough - there are not many places you could buy sub-1.7kg 50mm carbon wheels for 700 quid, still fewer where it's from a UK supplier and backed by a proper guarantee.
The 50mm clinchers on test here are certainly competitively priced; compare them to the Vision TriMax or Zipp 30 clinchers both of which are heavier, shallower and aluminiumer. With plenty of carbon wheelsets around the £2k mark, these look like a bargain.
The wheels are built up with double-butted bladed spokes and aluminium nipples, 20 on the front (laced radially) and 24 on the rear (2-cross on the drive-side and radial on the non-drive-side). The rims are finished with a matt-black surface except for the brake track where the carbon weave is left bare. Measuring 50mm deep and 22mm wide, the rim profile fits the current trend for curved sides, generally reckoned to make wheels less susceptible to crosswinds. The unbranded hubs are nothing fancy but are light, run on sealed cartridge bearings and caused us no problems. They are available with Shimano/SRAM and Campagnolo compatibility.
Out of the box the Amps were perfectly true with good, even spoke tension. During our testing we had no issues at all with brake rub, so they seem plenty stiff. Decent Continental rim-tape is supplied as are some lightweight external-cam quick-release skewers. Don't bother using these - they're horrible. I just switched in those from my usual Mavic wheels.
As with most carbon wheels, these are supplied with special brake pads intended to prevent the rims from overheating. In this respect the brown pads supplied were undoubtedly successful, as they made such a horrendous shriek under even moderate braking as to dissuade you from braking unless you were facing imminent death.
When we mentioned this to Amp Hoops they acknowledged that the pads were not the best and said they were looking at offering an optional upgrade to Swisstop - this would certainly be something we'd recommend. We switched in some pink Cole pads which mercifully got rid of the shriek and also significantly improved braking performance and predictability.
To my mind, Amp are a little too self-deprecating when it comes to performance. "The better you look, the faster you go. We don't have the scientific paper to hand, but we're pretty adamant that's the truth," they say. While this may be the case, the fact is that these really are fast wheels. Maintaining a steady 20mph or so required noticeably less effort than on my usual Mavic Ksyriums. More than once did I arrive at the turnaround in a long ride convinced I'd had a tailwind on the way out, only to discover on the way home that I was still breezing along. It is no exaggeration to say that these Amps are as fast as wheels I've tested costing twice as much.
As is unavoidable at this time of year, the wheels saw use in all sorts of weather conditions. Wet braking performance is not as strong as in the dry (as you'd expect) but not scarily so - broadly in line with usual levels for carbon rims. Here is the area where the arguments for aluminium/carbon rims are the most persuasive, Mavic's Cosmic wheels with their excellent Exalith brake surface being a (rather more expensive) case in point. But I never had real concerns about braking, once I'd switched better pads in, and they are no worse than most other full carbon rims. At the end of the test period there was some light wear in evidence on the brake tracks - this is hard to avoid with the roads as dirty as they are at present and is not a cause for concern.
Crosswinds proved no particular problem - any wheel of this sort of depth will be more susceptible to the dreaded gap in the hedge, but the Amps are pretty well-behaved. They are supplied with valve extenders which screw on to the valves of your inner tubes (assuming they are not already long enough). Note that the valve extenders will only work with a pump whose head is push-fit. There is no external thread so pumps which screw onto the valve will not fit. I just used a pair of Conti tubes with 80mm valves - worth remembering that if you're carrying a spare tube it also needs a long valve.
In terms of weight, Amp Hoops claim 1540g which is a fair bit less than the 1626g that we measured (without skewers) but they are still on a par with similar depth wheels costing quite a lot more. Amp's tubular wheels are quite considerably lighter still; we've also got the 32mm tubulars in, which Amp say are barely over a kilo.
Lookswise there are no end of bikes that would go nicely with the black/red colourscheme, but in case yours isn't one of them Amp do offer "Euro-white" and "stealth-black" decals as alternatives.
So, all good then? Well, mostly, yes. But towards the end of the review period, things started to go a bit wrong with the front wheel. A couple of nipples snapped. Then some more did. And some more. Weirdly, this didn't happen while out riding, but while the bike was hanging up in the house. I'm not a fan of aluminium nipples at the best of times, but I think the greater issue here was the length of spokes. These were simply too short; stopping inside the inner edge of the rim such that they only pulled on the inner half of each nipple, causing the failures. Once you've had a few go, it puts more strain on those remaining - I gave up trying to fix it once seven had snapped.
I suspect that with spokes a few millimetres longer there would have been no problem. Certainly nothing similar occurred on the rear wheel; I'm guessing the spokes were long enough. Amp told us that they offer a free spoke replacement service, a nice touch, and that they've never had anyone need it to date. We'll be sending the wheels back for inspection, so we'll let you know any feedback we have from Amp, but we're assuming it's just human error in this case: picking the wrong spokes.
These are a great value set of wheels. We found them to be as fast and as light as wheels costing a lot more. Amp definitely need to offer better brake pads and it would be nice to include decent QR skewers too, but these are small details.
Of greater concern is the build on our front wheel. If these niggles can be ironed out then these wheels would represent a real bargain.
Great value wheels, and a real bargain if Amp Hoops sort out niggles with brake pads, skewers and spoke length.
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Make and model: Amp 50mm carbon clincher wheelset
Size tested: 50mm carbon clincher, Shimano freehub. F: 728, R: 898
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?
These wheels are the perfect transition from pootling with the Sunday ride to picking up some category points. They are equally well versed on the road, criterium circuit, time trial – we have even spotted them flying over fields in cross! Whatever your situation, these are a staple set, and you know with Amp that you're getting the best performance optimisation that intelligent pennies can buy.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Front Hub: amp Superlight, black anodized, 20 hole, 100mm spacing, sealed cartridge bearings
Rear Hub: amp Superlight, black anodized, 24 hole, 130mm spacing, sealed cartridge bearings. Available in all cassette compatibilites.
Rim: 20/24 hole 50mm structural carbon clincher
Spokes: amp Race Blades (double-butted black aero). Front 20 spoke radial lace, rear 24 spoke 2-cross (DS) radial (NDS) lace
Weight: 690g (F), 850g (R), 1540g (set) - we measured them at 1626g.
Wheelset comes with QR skewers, carbon specific brake blocks and valve extenders.
We found the wheels to be well-built, flex-free and they stayed true ... until the nipples started snapping. This only affected one wheel and we think using the correct-length spokes would have prevented it.
This was a real surprise - on long fast rides these wheels help you carry more speed than you have any right to expect for this sort of money. They don't just look like fast wheels, they are fast wheels.
Hard to score this one. Significant concerns with the build on the front wheel, but the hubs and rims themselves had no problems.
For the money and rim depth, you'd be hard pressed to find much to compete with these wheels in terms of weight ... unless you're prepared to switch to tubs.
Amp say they can offer such good prices "by staying small", not spending money on CFD simulation and because "in effect, our 2013 wheels are really 2012 wheels" - essentially they let other people do the R&D work.
If you're in the market for some deep carbon wheels, you'd be very hard-pressed to find a better price. Super value.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It's a surprise to find you can buy a set of wheels this fast for what is - by the standards of the market - a modest sum. When they're also fairly light and stiff, it really looks like a performance bargain.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Three things, all easily fixable. Horrible QR skewers were fit only for the bin. Better brake blocks are needed. And it would be nice if the nipples were a bit less explodey (or, to be more accurate, if they used the right length spokes).
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes - once I knew they'd sorted the build.
Age: 35 Height: 6 Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.