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When a company boasts names that have worked for Enve, Reynolds and Cervelo, you'd expect their products to be rather nippy. The Knight 35 wheels are indeed fast; they are also stiff, reliable, stable and – compared with some – relatively affordable.
Okay, let's get that price out of the way. They still cost two grand. Many people would spend that on an entire bike (and plenty would baulk at spending that on an entire bike). I hear you. But compared with their rivals, Zipp and Enve, they offer a significant saving. For instance, the Enve 3.4 come in at £3,500. For that you do get an Enve carbon hub, but with the quality of the DT240 hub in the Knight wheelset, you'd find it hard to tell the difference.
Knight states that the 35s are 'light weight and low drag' and has a fancy graph where it compares them to a set of Fulcrum 5 wheels. You can see that here. We don't have a wind tunnel and so can't test those aerodynamic claims, so anything I say is based only on my experience of other wheels of a similar depth.
First off, if you are looking for a purely aero gain, these aren't the best. You'd be best advised to look at the deeper options in the Knight range. I've also been riding the Knight 65mm carbon clinchers to see how they compare. Mat reviewed them last year (read his review here) and loved them. In terms of pure speed, the 35s aren't slow, but they get nowhere near the 65s once the speeds go up above 25mph. If you're looking at a set of racing wheels, where the average is usually above 25mph, the 65s would be my choice. Their stability at speed is very impressive for a deep rim; I noticed, particularly when sprinting, that they remain well planted, not flicking around and losing traction.
From very slow speeds around 10mph, the 35s have the upper hand. The lower rotational weight (890g vs 1090g) means these will suit those who favour the climbs. One thing did surprise me though. With their shallower rim, I thought the 35s would have the advantage in crosswinds. While the 35s are perfectly stable in gusts, so too are the 65s; I was expecting at least a little trouble with the front wheel but it remained perfectly predictable. Top marks to the 65s as stability is usually a drawback of such deep rims.
To be honest, to compare the two is quite difficult. They are two very different wheelsets and they excel in different situations. I'd say, for out and out speed, the 65s are best; for an all-rounder, the 35s suit more variable terrain.
The 35s that we have here come with DT Swiss 240 hubs, which are brilliant. With cartridge bearings and easy servicing, they should last for ages. Knight does offer a choice of two other hubs, the Chris King R45 or Aivee SR5. Both of these options alter the price and the weight, but with my experience of the 240s, I'd say it's the best option.
Spokes are Sapim's CX Rays. Their J bend design might be slightly dated but it makes servicing super easy and also increases the number of compatible hubs for custom builds. One thing that slightly annoyed me was the use of internal nipples. Yes, it looks clean. Yes, it improves aerodynamics. But should you ping these out of true thanks to a pothole, it's more of a hassle to get them straight again.
As I mentioned earlier, one area where these wheels excel is when the road points up. Although the set isn't superlight – the 1,404g claimed weight is slightly lower than on our scales, which could be simply that we measure with rim tape and skewers installed – but it's still pretty low, and translates to a nippy feel. It's very easy to get them up to speed and then increase that speed, especially when climbing. You can buy lighter wheels, but I can't imagine they'd have the same stiffness. Part of that is the relatively high spoke count: a 20/24 combination will add a little weight to the overall package (compared with a typical 16/20 for a lightweight set) but it's more than worth it for that increase in stiffness.
The 35s are the shallowest section wheels that Knight offers. The rim profile is somewhere between a 'V' shape and a more modern 'U' shape. This gives the rim an external width of 25mm, sitting very nicely with wider tyres and resulting in a very comfortable wheelset. Your choice of tyre pressure will influence this hugely, but the wider rim adds volume to the tyre's profile. I've been running 25mm tyres at 70psi on the road with no issues or feelings of sluggishness. And when I got home from long rides I didn't feel at all beaten up.
Braking is an area that can ruin many carbon wheels. With juddering in the dry and next to zero performance in the wet, it's easy to see why people could be put off carbon altogether. Here, the brake track is over-engineered with a 3mm brake surface for improved heat dissipation in an attempt by Knight to combat brake fade and even blow-outs on long descents. Whatever the method, what I can say is that the braking on the Knight 35s was smooth and consistent. While stopping still isn't as good as aluminium rims, there is room for improvement in the form of softer brake pads; those supplied are quite hard. That does mean they'll last quite a while, but I was quick to switch them out for a softer pad for better power.
I would also switch to a better skewer. The slim, lightweight pair that come stock require tightening to a ridiculous level, with anything less resulting in an alarming creak from the front wheel. Switching them for a set of Shimano Ultegra skewers solved the problem.
Overall, the Knight 35s offer a very good package for a shallow carbon clincher. Being able to customise the set will suit a few budgets, but I'd say the ones we have here offer the best value and all-round use.
A very stiff, stable set of hoops if you have deep enough pockets
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Knight 35 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?
A 35mm carbon clincher that will suit racers and those wanting to go uphill rather quickly.
"When you want a wheel that improves the aerodynamics on your bike and just feels great, whether tearing up mountains and down valleys, jumping in the local road race or simply having a wheelset that you can depend on for training and racing; the 35 is the lightweight, aero workhorse that delivers a wonderfully fast and compliant ride day in, day out."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
ech Spec Front Rear Set
Depth (mm) 35 35
Width (mm) 25.5 25.5
Hole Count 20 24
ERD 586 586
Weight: Rim Only (g) 445 445 890
Weight: DT 240 (g) 641 763 1404
Weight: DT 180 (g) 636 737 1373
Weight: Aivee SR5 (g) 527 650 1400
The brake track is extra thick for heat distribution. It has the added benefit of giving the rims an enhanced lifespan. The braking is smooth, owing to tight tolerances in the rim's construction. I have had no issues with brake track wear. Building the rims on DT Swiss hubs is a good move for longevity.
The hidden nipples does annoy me but it's a minor annoyance.
I can't confirm any aero claims, but they feel very fast, mostly uphill where the stiffness can be felt in no brake rub. If you want fast wheels for the flat, the 65s are a better option but these do roll faster than my box section Ambrosio Excellence.
With no marks on the brake track, and no issues with movement in the rim, I'd say these have stood up very well. This is especially the case as most of my test rides have been in poor conditions when most would put these wheels away. However, with the higher than normal spoke count, these should stand up to quite a bit of abuse.
It's not the lightest for the depth. But if a lighter wheel flexes more, it becomes a moot point.
Quite a bit cheaper than their rivals, but still 2 grand.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
I had no issues with the trueness of the wheels and I'm not the first to have tested this set.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
A slightly tight fit but easy enough.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Bin the skewers at your earliest convenience. Rim tape is from Knight and I had no issues with it.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The stiffness means they go uphill very well. The profile also means they are very controllable in a crosswind.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
The stiffness is great and they brake very well for a carbon rim.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
The skewers were a pain (literally) to get tight enough that they didn't creak.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? If I had the money, yes.
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? If they had the money, yes.
Use this box to explain your score
They gain points for being cheaper than their rivals and very stiff. They lose points as they're not the lightest and the skewers are awful.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rose Xeon RS My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 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, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!