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Princeton CarbonWorks Peak 4550 Evolution wheelset



Stunning performance and quality from these all-rounders, but you pay for it!
Incredibly smooth hubs
Impressive stiffness
Low weight considering their depth
Hooked rims
No massive performance gains over wheels half the price

At 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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With a huge amount of colour options and hub choice, you can spec your Princeton CarbonWorks (PCW) Peak 4550 Evolution wheels pretty much however you want. Whichever components you go for, it's going to be a build using some of the best parts available, culminating in a lightweight, stiff, smooth-rolling wheelset. At this price you are definitely seeing diminishing returns for your cash, though.

For more options (at slightly lower prices), check out our guide to the best road bike wheels.

> Order the Princeton CarbonWorks (PCW) Peak 4550 Evolution wheelset for £4,899.99 from Ison Distribution

Ride feel

Looking at a spec sheet gives you plenty of insight into how a wheelset is going to behave, but it's only really half the story. A lot of it depends on what type of bike you are going to be using the wheels on, and these Princetons probably highlight that more than most.

The selection of bikes I'm currently reviewing range in price from just over £1,500 up to £11,500, and which one I fitted these wheels to massively affects any benefits, especially from a £ per smile point of view.

For instance, replacing a 600g-heavier, 57mm-deep set of carbon wheels on a titanium bike fitted with mudguards and nudging 10kg, the benefits of the Princetons aren't even noticeable, and definitely not worth the £3,500 extra.

On a carbon road bike with mid-level finishing kit, even the drop of, say, 450g and the slightly deeper rim section here don't feel as though they bring massive benefits. Yes, the bike felt a bit livelier, but not by a huge amount.

Now, I know full well you aren't going to be buying a wheelset like this for bikes like these. I'm just trying to highlight the fact that you can't always go off the stats, and also, while it's easy to dismiss products at the very top end of the marketplace, they do have a place. Also, when you've been doing this job for 15 years as I have, you tend to know what is going to appear in the comments before the review is even written…

So, the Peak 4550 Evolutions are expensive, but you are getting some of the highest-grade components you can to make a wheel, and when added to a high-end bike which is already incredibly light and stiff, you will notice the benefits.

2024 Princeton Peak 4550 Evolution wheels - spoke detail.jpg

Plus, let's be honest, if you are buying a set of wheels like this with their eye-catching and shouty decals, there is probably a bit of badge snobbery going on too.

Anyway, on with the performance.

While being an 'all-rounder' can often sound a bit jack of all trades, master of none, that isn't the case here. The wavy styled carbon fibre rim (the 4550 name comes from the rims measuring 45mm/50mm on the shallow/deep sections) gives some aerodynamic benefits in the real world, feeling easier to keep rolling as your speed goes above 20mph or so.

2024 Princeton Peak 4550 Evolution wheels - rim shape.jpg

There is also a bit of a 'swooshy' sound there, which we all know means fast!

This means they are a great choice for those flatter rides, or even for dabbling in the club time trial or triathlons.

They aren't deep enough to be a handful in crosswinds, and handling isn't compromised at speed on descents either.

2024 Princeton Peak 4550 Evolution wheels - rim detail 3.jpg

This build came in at 1,220g, so as you can imagine the PCWs feel responsive when asked to fight gravity or spin up as you launch that sprint.

They are stiff, too, with no lateral flex noticeable at all, even when giving it absolutely everything out of the saddle.

Basically, you don't need to spec your bike based on what ride you are planning that day. From what I can tell they offer the aero performance of many deep-section wheels on the market and they're as light as most specialist climbing wheels too.

Build options

The carbon fibre rim is available in plenty of options, with both rim and disc brake offerings and either tubular tyres or clincher/tubeless.

If you go for the clincher/tubeless option, you'll find that PCW has stuck with a hooked rim, which means you can run pretty much any tyre you want and at high pressures, too, if that's your thing.

2024 Princeton Peak 4550 Evolution wheels - rim bed.jpg

The rim bed doesn't have holes for the nipples, so you won't need to fit rim tape, which helps keep the weight down. There are 24 spokes front and rear, and all builds use Sapim CX-Ray spokes.

2024 Princeton Peak 4550 Evolution wheels - rim detail 2.jpg

The rim width is 21mm internally and 28.2mm externally. PCW doesn't give recommended tyre widths, but with that inner width I'd say they are best suited to 25mm and above. I ran them with some 28mm Schwalbe Ones and 30mm Pirelli P-Zeros and both were easy to set up tubeless and with tubes.

You can choose from a range of top-quality hubs depending on your budget. We have the lightest build you can achieve here, using Tactic Racing's TR01s which have a claimed weight of 215g per pair.

2024 Princeton Peak 4550 Evolution wheels - front hub 2.jpg

Tactic says its ConicalFace freehub mechanism has the largest engagement surface area, and self-centres based on the concentric nature of the cones. The freehub has 45 teeth for engagement, and the hubs roll on ceramic bearings with a tungsten disulfide low-friction coating.

2024 Princeton Peak 4550 Evolution wheels - rear hub 2.jpg

Other options available are DT Swiss DT180EXP and 240, Tactic Racing TR02, White Industries CLD or Chris King R45D Ceramic.

You have a choice of 10 different decal finishes, from subtle black on black through to the some-might-say garish hi-vis yellow that you see here, and everything in between.

2024 Princeton Peak 4550 Evolution wheels - rim detail 1.jpg

The build quality is excellent, as you'd expect for this kind of money. Both the front and rear wheel arrived absolutely spot on in terms of trueness and tension and remained so throughout the review period.

Value & conclusion

At £4,899.99 for this exact build with its Shimano freehub, this is the most expensive wheelset we have ever reviewed. In fact, if you take out the PCW Altas that I reviewed last year, the next most expensive are the Zipp 353 NSW and Zipp 454 NSW, both at £3,376 (at the time of reviewing, anyway).

The 353s are a bit heavier than the Peak Evolutions, at 1,340g, plus they have hookless rims limiting them to tubeless tyres and 75psi.

Campagnolo's Hyperon wheelset will cost you £3,200 and weighs just 1,240g. Aaron reviewed these wheels last year and thought they were excellent.

The components used for the Princeton build are high-end, so I can see where the money is going, to a degree, but the other wheels mentioned here are lightweight, don't scrimp on quality components and also deliver on the performance front. Is it worth spending an extra £1,500 on the Princetons to improve your cycling enjoyment? I'm not sure I would...

From a performance point of view there really isn't anything to fault here. They do everything exceptionally well, and the build quality of the wheels and the components is exceptional. It all comes down to how much you want to pay for that level of performance. As I've shown above, you can get the same performance and low weight for well over £1,000 less.


Stunning performance and quality from these all-rounders, but you pay for it! test report

Make and model: Princeton Peak 4550 Evolution wheels

Size tested: 700C

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?

PCW says, "Exceptional Handling. Ultra Lightweight. King of the Mountain.

Peak 4550 Evolution is still available in every configuration, for every road rider and every bike: clincher/tubeless ready and tubular, disc brake and rim brake."

They are quality all-rounders that excel for all kinds of riding.

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

PCW lists:

Brake Type: Disc, Rim

Tyre Bed: Clincher Tubeless Ready, Tubular

Hub Type: White Industries, DT Swiss 240, Chris King R45D Ceramic, DT Swiss 180EXP, Tactic Racing TR02, Tactic Racing TR01

Freehub Body: Shimano, SRAM XDR, Campagnolo

Finish/Color: Matte/Black, Matte/White, Gloss/Black, Gloss/White, Gloss/Chrome, Gloss/Gold, Matte/Rose Gold, Matte/High Vis, Gloss/Chromatic Blue, Gloss/Purple

Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
Rate the wheel for performance:
Rate the wheel for durability:
Rate the wheel for weight
Rate the wheel for value:

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

Yes, the wheels stayed completely true and ran smoothly throughout the review period.

How easy did you find it to fit tyres?

Fitting tyres was easy, both tubeless and clinchers with inner tubes.

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

Aero enough for flat sections and light enough for climbing.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel

They work on all kinds of routes.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel

Very pricey.

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

They are more expensive than any other wheels we have reviewed within the last five years.

Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes

Would you consider buying the wheel? I'd go for one of the 'cheaper' options…

Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

Overall, they are stunning wheels and use some of the best quality components on the market. The only thing preventing them scoring higher is the price compared with others that offer similar performance and weight – otherwise, they're excellent.

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, 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


Pot00000000 | 1 month ago

Ignoring the other factors like price and their aeroness. 
they look faaaaaaaakin horrendous 

Sredlums | 1 month ago

No 26" option, I'm out

hawkinspeter | 1 month ago

No spokey-dokey option - I'm out

I love my bike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 month ago

No lightweight gold leaf logos - I'm out!

HLaB | 1 month ago

No rim brake version, I'm out enlightened

Rezis replied to HLaB | 1 month ago
1 like

But there is a rim brake option!

"The carbon fibre rim is available in plenty of options, with both rim and disc brake offerings and either tubular tyres or clincher/tubeless."

Now you have no excuse not to buy some... yes

HLaB replied to Rezis | 1 month ago

OK I'm in, can you lend me £5k they have snazzy colours  4

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