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review

Princeton CarbonWorks Alta 3532 Tactic Hubs wheelset

8
£4,799.99

VERDICT:

8
10
Impressive lightness and performance, but at a huge cost
Impressively light
Very stiff
Beautifully smooth hubs
Wow... that price!
Weight: 
1,162g

At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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The Princeton CarbonWorks Alta 3532 wheelset is very light, and while superlight wheels tend to create apprehensions about stiffness and durability, there are no such issues here. This is a tough wheelset that's massively responsive and good-looking to boot. In fact, the only thing that will succumb to any abuse will be your bank account!

The Alta 3532 is the lightest wheelset offered by Princeton CarbonWorks, and tips our Scales of Truth at 1,162g.

> Buy the CarbonWorks Alta 3532 wheelset from Princeton now for £4,799.99

Princeton says these are its first wheels to use the 'Evolution' rim design and layup, and they have a claimed weight of just 348g each. Their 'wavy' profiles alternate between 35mm and 32mm deep, with the steeper-angled spokes (drive-side rear and brake-side front) securing in the deeper parts.

The shorter distance they cover means their angle is increased, creating a little more dishing and bringing them, as PCW says, "in more symmetry with the opposing sides' spokes".

The spoke nipples are external rather than hidden inside the rim as with some top-end wheels, which – while not looking quite as cool – does at least mean easy maintenance and the ability to tweak your nipples (cough) mid-ride should the worst happen.

2023 Princeton Carbon Works Alta wheelset - valve hole.jpg

The rims are 21mm internally; wide enough to work well with the road tyres (30-32mm) typically found on new bikes, without ruling out narrower options such as the 25mm tyres I still use.

Tapeless, tubeless and hooklessless

The rim design is hooked for running high tyre pressures (hookless rims are limited to around 75psi) and, thanks to a rim bed that has no spoke holes, you don't require tape for sealing tubeless tyres.

Both tubed and tubeless tyres proved easy to fit, but there's enough resistance to ensure that having one pop off the rim is unlikely. Being able to fit and remove tyres easily at home always gives an extra boost of confidence when out on a ride should the puncture fairy make a visit.

2023 Princeton Carbon Works Alta wheelset - rim bed.jpg

The TR01 hubs from Tactic Racing are a highlight, and they include ABEC 7 ceramic bearings, a 45-tooth freehub and an anodised hardcoat covering the machined hub bodies. Freehub options include Shimano, SRAM XDR and Campagnolo.

Tactic says the ConicalFace freehub mechanism has the largest engagement surface area available, while the hubs weigh a combined 215g. With an RRP of £1,000, they certainly add some heft to the overall price.

2023 Princeton Carbon Works Alta wheelset - rear hub 2.jpg

So, that's the technical bit taken care of; how do they perform? In a word – awesomely!

The incredible lightness of being expensive

The Altas feel unbelievably responsive from a standing start and under acceleration when already rolling too. And as you'd expect, they certainly feel lively on the climbs.

The engagement of the freehub is brilliantly quick and the hubs run smoothly from mile one, without any need for a bedding-in period.

2023 Princeton Carbon Works Alta wheelset - rim detail 2.jpg

One thing I was very impressed with is their stiffness. While disc brake wheels can get away with more flex than rim braked versions, I never noticed any unwanted lateral movement when hammering the pedals hard out of the saddle. It's the same on the descents too.

Pushing hard through bends at high speed, the Altas feel very tight, and there is no feeling of twist or pulling when the brake calliper is grabbing the rotor hard either.

2023 Princeton Carbon Works Alta wheelset - front hub 1.jpg

Durability is impressive too. Seeing everything from smooth A-roads to potholed country lanes during this review, the Altas took everything in their stride and remained true. There were no issues with spoke tension, and no pinging as I set off for the first time – nothing needed to settle or adjust.

Value

The only thing left to discuss is the price. At £4,799.99, these are the most expensive wheels we have ever reviewed.

That's £1,599.99 more than Camapagnolo's Hyperon Ultra wheelset that we recently reviewed at £3,200. Those are slightly heavier though, at 1,240g.

Zipp's NSW Disc wheelset have a more pronounced wavy design to their rim than the Altas and they are slightly deeper too, so it's no surprise to see that they are a bit heavier at 1,340g. I was put off slightly by the hookless rim and what I considered a high price, they're still over £1,400 cheaper than these Princetons, though, at £3,376.

Overall

From a build, reliability and performance point of view I don't think I can fault the Alta 3532s. This is a stunning set of wheels to ride, and they proved tough despite their low weight.

The price really is high, though; much higher than some wheels with very similar performance, albeit with a slight weight penalty. That said, if you can afford to spend five grand on a set of wheels and are trying to save every gram possible, you're going to be very impressed with what you get.

Verdict

Impressive lightness and performance, but at a huge cost

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Princeton CarbonWorks Alta 3532 Tactic Hubs wheelset

Size tested: n/a

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?

Princeton CarbonWorks says, "Princeton CarbonWorks Alta 3532; the shallowest and lightest wheel offered by PCW, designed to conquer the steepest of climbs.

"A natural evolution forward, Alta 3532 has a variety of unique features that make it a stiff, responsive, and durable ultra-lightweight wheelset. 21mm internal hooked tubeless ready clincher profile accommodates wider modern tires.

"PCW's trademark non-drilled tire bed makes tubeless setup fast and easy. A shaped and optimized valve exit makes tightening valves more straightforward and easier on the fingers.

"When it comes to new technologies, Alta 3532 is the first wheelset in the PCW stable to utilize our new EVOLUTION rim design and layup. Rim depth varies between 35 and 32 millimeters, with a rim weight of 348 grams (hooked, clincher, tubeless ready). Wheels offer improved spoke tension balance and ultimately better overall performance by utilizing the rim shape to balance spoke angle: steep spokes (drive side on the rear wheel and disc side on the front wheel) are attached to the deeper section of the rim, bringing them in more symmetry with the opposing sides' spokes.

"For the first time ever, a variable and asymmetric cross section is used to aid in spoke engagement and create a more direct spoke to rim interface; the nipple bed articulates from drive side to non-drive side with each spoke to better match the spoke entry angle to the rim.

"EVOLUTION is an inherently lighter overall design methodology by removing material on the inner of the edge of the rim, optimizing spoke bracing angles and tensions, and ultimately creating a more efficient final product."

This is a lightweight wheelset which has impressive stiffness and durability.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?

Brake Type: Disc

Tyre Bed: Clincher Tubeless Ready,

Hub Type: Tactic Racing TR01

Finish: Matte Black

Freehub Body: Shimano, XDR, or Campagnolo

Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the wheel for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the wheel for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the wheel for weight
 
9/10
Rate the wheel for value:
 
4/10

Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?

The wheels remained true throughout the review period.

How easy did you find it to fit tyres?

Fitting tyres was a relatively straightforward affair, both tubeless and tubed.

How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?

Padded wheel bags are included to protect them when they aren't on your bike.

Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose

A great set of 'all-round' wheels whose low weight means they work pretty much everywhere.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel

The very responsive ride feel.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel

There is nothing to dislike assuming you can afford the price.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

They are more expensive than every other wheelset we've reviewed on road.cc. Very lightweight wheels such as the Campag Hyperon are cheaper if a little heavier, while the Zipp 353s in the review come in a chunk cheaper too for a 178g deficit.

Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes

Would you consider buying the wheel? No. My ability as a rider wouldn't justify the price.

Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

The price will be prohibitive to most, and it's higher than many other wheels of similar performance – that does limit their overall score. If you take the price out of the equation, though, they're extremely good wheels.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 44  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components

I've been riding for: Over 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,

As part of the tech team here at F-At Digital, senior product reviewer Stu spends the majority of his time writing in-depth reviews for road.cc, off-road.cc and ebiketips using the knowledge gained from testing over 1,500 pieces of kit (plus 100's of bikes) since starting out as a freelancer back in 2009. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 170,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him, he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. With a background in design and engineering, he has an obsession with how things are developed and manufactured, has a borderline fetish for handbuilt metal frames and finds a rim braked road bike very aesthetically pleasing!

Add new comment

15 comments

Avatar
hajamac | 4 months ago
0 likes

The weight is incorrect. This set, as built, typically weighs in between 1155-1165g.

Stu, please re-weigh and update.

Avatar
check12 | 4 months ago
0 likes

road cc's jump the shark moment?

fair enough build these for ineos to race on if they want a lightweight wheelset for uphill but lol at trying to sell these to the general public... 

Avatar
LookAhead | 4 months ago
2 likes

My god. Look, y’all buy what you want—and I certainly like and buy stuff that is marketed with bullshitty claims and that is way more expensive than I can justify on objective grounds—but this “review” is just so full of utter nonsense.

road.cc wrote:

The Princeton CarbonWorks Alta 3532 wheelset is incredibly light

No, it’s not “incredibly light”. It’s kind of light-ish.

Roval Alpinist CLX wheels are about the same overall dimensions (internal width + depth) but about 100 grams lighter and rock solid. The original Roval Rapide CLX wheels are just a little bit heavier but way deeper, and also rock solid. Hell, I can go to Lightbicycle.com and easily configure outstanding wheels for around the same weight as the PCW set under review. Those and many, many more wheels are around the same weight as the wheels under review but much, much, much less expensive.

Anyone who spends time nerding out on bling bicycle kit knows that, in 2023, “incredibly light” wheels are way, way, way lighter than 1334g.

road.cc wrote:

superlight wheels tend to create apprehensions about stiffness and durability, there are no such issues here

Again, these wheels are not even super light—seriously, what is he even talking about?—and making a shallow 1350g wheelset that’s stiff and durable is no special thing in 2023.

Also, please do tell us how you can be so confident claiming that these wheels are in fact stiff and durable. What is your evidence? Did you do any lab testing? Did you test the wheels back to back with several other wheels set up with the same tires on the same bike? Did you test the wheels across several different tire and bike setups? Did you ride the wheels for many thousands of kilometers over a long period of time in all weather conditions? Did you check the trueness of the spokes and the state of the bearings and free hub afterwards? Did you bottom out in any potholes? What are you even talking about?

road.cc wrote:

The weight, or lack of it, just feels insane.

No, it doesn’t.

First of all, we’re not told what tire setup is being run, so anything said about how the weight of the wheels feels is itself “insane”.

Second, seriously, a 1350g wheel set feels “insane”, when a bog standard wheel set in 2023 only weighs 1500g? And what absolutely minuscule percentage of the total system weight (rider + bike + kit + etc.) does that 150g represent? You sincerely claim not only to be able to tell the difference but to find that difference to be drastic? 

And let's not forget that several months ago the reviewer failed to notice that the bike he reviewed was almost 2kg lighter than he thought it was. And yet he thinks he can notice an "insane" difference in 150g, and the editors continue to allow these claims to be made?

road.cc wrote:

The Altas feel unbelievably responsive from a standing start and under acceleration when already rolling too. And as you'd expect, they certainly feel lively on the climbs.

Again, no, you can't feel any of that. Just stop.

road.cc wrote:

the hubs run smoothly from mile one, without any need for a bedding-in period

That's just how hubs work. What hubs don't do that? Seriously, what are you talking about?

I could go on.

Yes, I'm almost certainly being overly grumpy about this. And, yes, in the grand scheme of things it obviously doesn't matter at all.

But could we please have just a little professional and intellectual integrity about this stuff?

Avatar
Pot00000000 replied to LookAhead | 4 months ago
1 like

I started a post exactly the same as yours but deleted it. Ultimately I agree with everything you've written.

Avatar
bobbinogs replied to Pot00000000 | 3 months ago
0 likes

I would certainly agree with

"Yes, I'm almost certainly being overly grumpy about this. And, yes, in the grand scheme of things it obviously doesn't matter at all."

As in, yes you are and no it doesn't  

Avatar
Cugel replied to bobbinogs | 3 months ago
0 likes
bobbinogs wrote:

I would certainly agree with

"Yes, I'm almost certainly being overly grumpy about this. And, yes, in the grand scheme of things it obviously doesn't matter at all."

As in, yes you are and no it doesn't  

Yeh but no but yeh but ..... would you think that if you had to work the bulldozer at the landfill site all day, every day?

On the other hand, I have some magic beans I may sell you if you have enough money that doesn't matter to you and you feel an exciting impulse about the prospect of owning such wonderful beans. 

Avatar
Cugel replied to LookAhead | 3 months ago
0 likes
LookAhead wrote:

But could we please have just a little professional and intellectual integrity about this stuff?

Ha ha - very droll. That sort of thing was killed off some time ago as highly inconvenient to the advert svengalis and marketing wizards, who require glamours not realities.  1

Avatar
Flavor | 4 months ago
0 likes

I think the overall Weight is off.

I believe it should be about 200g less, at around 1140g, unless there is somthing really heavy going on with the spokes ( I see CX Ray, and assume 24 spokes)

That puts the other offerings in perspective.

 

That said, my homemade wheels, with solid "no-Tape" beds and Newmen hubs 40mm Farsport Rims and Sapim Laser are exactly 1299g at +/- 700€ cost of material

Avatar
mctrials23 | 4 months ago
0 likes

How does one replace a nipple on these if it got damaged? If there is no rim tape covering the spoke holes, how do you get at them?

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to mctrials23 | 4 months ago
1 like
mctrials23 wrote:

How does one replace a nipple on these if it got damaged? If there is no rim tape covering the spoke holes, how do you get at them?

You have to unscrew the spoke and drop the nipple into the cavity, then guide it round and out through the valve hole using a magnet, same process in reverse to replace. With aluminium or brass nipples, which aren't magnetic, you have to screw in a little section of old steel spoke or a small screw/bolt so the magnet can pick it up. Not actually as fiddly as it sounds, though obviously not as easy as a rim with spoke holes.

Avatar
Cugel replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

You have to unscrew the spoke and drop the nipple into the cavity, then guide it round and out through the valve hole using a magnet, same process in reverse to replace. With aluminium or brass nipples, which aren't magnetic, you have to screw in a little section of old steel spoke or a small screw/bolt so the magnet can pick it up. Not actually as fiddly as it sounds, though obviously not as easy as a rim with spoke holes.

Oh, oh! - I'll have to get some just so I can spend a day or three doing nothing but nipple-dragging around a rim with a magnet! What a skill to acquire, for a fixin' fellow. Who needs to pedal a bike about when such entertainments are freely (well, not freely) available!?

Nearly as good as cables threaded through bars, stems, frames and anything else available, that. I wonder when they'll start selling chains in bits that you have to assemble yourself? I bet they'd be better than them pre-connected things.

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Cugel | 3 months ago
0 likes

I didn't say it was a good idea and it would probably put me off buying them (in the unlikely event that I ever wanted to spend five grand on a wheelset - I don't really like tubeless anyway), just answering a question to which I knew the answer as I had to do this when replacing a spoke on a friend's wheel.

Avatar
Cugel replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:

I didn't say it was a good idea and it would probably put me off buying them (in the unlikely event that I ever wanted to spend five grand on a wheelset - I don't really like tubeless anyway), just answering a question to which I knew the answer as I had to do this when replacing a spoke on a friend's wheel.

Ee, Ah know. But I couldn't contain my sark-spasm. I probably need a psycho analist trick cyclist to help me restrain my impulses, eh?

On the other hand, what should a fellow do when the plots within the theatre of the cycling absurd become so ..... absurd?  1

Avatar
stevec1975 | 4 months ago
0 likes

Get Farsports w/Carbon Spokes and RD270 hubs and save yourself £3800 and 262 grams..

Avatar
Secret_squirrel | 4 months ago
0 likes

Or for about 1/3 of the price you can get these which are much deeper (and therefore much faster) and a tiny smidge heavier....

HUNT 44 UD CARBON SPOKE DISC WHEELSET

44 DEEP | 29 WIDE EXT | 20 WIDE INT | 1352G

 

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