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Ritchey Classic Zeta wheelset



High-performance wheels that are just as at home on your race machine as they are on your gravel hack

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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Ritchey has managed to build a tough yet lightweight package with its Classic Zeta wheels and they look the part too with their highly polished silver finish. Whether on smooth tarmac, broken back lane or potholed byway, they roll quickly and aren't shy of taking a knock or two.

  • Pros: Impressive weight, smooth running, tough as old boots
  • Cons: Freewheel material a little soft

If you want polished alloy components for your bike, there aren't many options, as I found out a few years ago trying to build up a classic looking steel tubed frameset. Ritchey's Classic range was about the only quality stuff out there and it's part of that selection that these new Zeta wheels fit into.

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What you get for your £569 is a pair of 6061 aluminium alloy rims, Phantom Flange hubs connected by DT Competition j-bend spokes and an all-in weight of 1,491g.

Ritchey Classic Zeta wheelset - rim detail.jpg

The rims have an external width of around 22mm which makes them more suited to larger tyres like 28mm or even Ritchey's own 30mm-wide WCS Alpine JBs, which were used for a lot of the test miles.

Ritchey Classic Zeta wheelset - rim bed.jpg

Fitting tyres to them is simple: I tried a few brands out of the piles of test tyres I have and none were a struggle or faff to fit.

The braking surface has been machined for a true and grippy finish and it works well in the wet and the dry using the SwissStop Green brake pads that were on the test bike.

Ritchey Classic Zeta wheelset - rim decal.jpg

The front wheel uses a radially laced pattern comprising 20 spokes, with the rear being a mix of radial on the non-drive side and two-cross on the drive side, a total of 24 spokes.

Ritchey Classic Zeta wheelset - front hub 2.jpg

To create a little bit more dishing on the drive side, the rear uses an offset rim bed. The flat central part of the rim where the spokes enter is moved over towards the non-drive side. More dish allows for a stronger wheel.


Strength is what you need, as well, as Ritchey has specced these Zetas for road, cyclo-cross and light adventure use. It's quite a sparse setup in terms of spokes for that all-round kind of use, but it certainly seems to work as these wheels haven't put a foot wrong.

Whacking a pothole is pretty much inevitable these days and I've smashed through a few on the Ritcheys without issue; they are still running true and the rims have taken the abuse.

They've also seen some pretty hard miles on various sizes of gravel, from the small stuff through to bigger, rockier sections. Again, not a single complaint.

The hubs are quite a large diameter right the way across, doing away with a narrow mid-section and tall flanges at the ends like most. They run beautifully smoothly, with the front being silent while the rear has a subtle click to the freehub without being overly shouty.

Ritchey Classic Zeta wheelset - rear hub.jpg

The freehub uses a 6-pawl, 12-point engagement which is quick to lock in for instant acceleration, and if you like to track stand at the lights you don't get that floating feeling waiting for the pawls to engage as you rock backwards and forwards.

The one thing I will say is that the alloy freehub body is a bit on the soft side, as the cassette has cut into the splines a bit, which required the use of a file when swapping over sprockets. Something like the steel insert added to Hunt's wheels might be a good idea here.

> Buyer's Guide: 27 of the best road bike wheels

Thanks to their low weight, the Zetas perform across the board. Acceleration and climbing feel great as the wheels are just so quick to spin up to speed, and once up there they roll extremely well.

They're comfortable, too, as the handbuilt setup leaves enough give in the spoke tension to keep the wheels stiff for those hard efforts without being an overly harsh ride.


The price is quite high for a set of alloy rims these days, but there are others out there that are similar: Deda's Zero 2 wheels, for instance, at £539.99 and about 130g heavier. Or there's the similar weight American Classic Argent tubeless, which cost a massive £875, not that American Classic is around any more, having closed down in January.

More commonplace wheels like Fulcrum’s Racing 5s (we tested the disc brake version here) weigh in at around 1,600g and have an rrp of £269.99, so you can certainly go cheaper for similar performance.

Overall, though, I think the Ritcheys are a very good showcase for getting what you pay for, with a great all-round feel of quality, durability and performance.


High-performance wheels that are just as at home on your race machine as they are on your gravel hack test report

Make and model: Ritchey Classic Zeta wheelset

Size tested: (17mm internal width) Rear OCR® (Off Center Rim)

Tell us what the wheel is for

Ritchey says: Tom Ritchey redesigned the critically acclaimed Zeta to be wider, lighter and laterally stiffer, yet still tough enough to endure gravel road rides and cyclocross races that would chew lesser wheels to pieces.

Building upon the legendary wheel-building and -design heritage of Ritchey, the Classic Zeta wheels offer modern features that allow them to perform gracefully in variety of ride settings. Featuring a wider tire profile, the Zeta wheels provide a more comfortable ride while improving handling. And the Phantom Flange hubs offer the sleek profile and direct-drive efficiency of straight-pull spokes, but still uses stronger, more reliable J-bend spokes for maximum performance and reliability.

Other features include:

Hi-polish silver to match our Classic line of components

Extra-wide Ritchey rims with OCR™ rear

Freehub: alloy

6061 alloy

Proprietary super light Phantom Flange hubs with hidden J-bend spokes

Brass nipples and DT Competition J-bend spokes


Build: F=20 radial; R=24 radial/2x

Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo 11 speed compatible

1444 grams (625g front, 819 rear)

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


Extra-wide rims (17mm internal width) increase lateral stiffness and improve tire profile for a smoother ride and better handling

Proprietary Ritchey extrusion balances ride quality and aerodynamics

Rear OCR® (Off Center Rim) design reduces wheel dish to balance spoke tension for a stronger, stiffer wheel

Precision machined sidewalls

High Polish silver finish


Superlight forged-and-machined design (70g front, 207g rear)

Phantom Flange™ hidden J-bend design creates the sleek, aero profile and direct-drive efficiency of straight-pull spokes but still uses stronger, more reliable J-bend spokes

Premium quality bearings

Patented 6 pawl, 12-point micro clutch engagement system

Tool-free design allows for quick disassembly - great for packing Break-Away travel bikes or replacing spokes

Staggered drive side flange increases spoke bracing angle and eliminates interference between crossing spokes, resulting in a stiffer, stronger wheel


Brass nipples and J-bend spokes shave precious grams without skimping on longevity

Each Zeta wheel set is hand built by a qualified Ritchey wheel technician

Rate the wheel for quality of construction:

Rims true and round, spokes well tensioned; this is a well-built pair of wheels.

Rate the wheel for performance:
Rate the wheel for durability:
Rate the wheel for weight

Under 1,500g is a very acceptable weight for a pair of wheels built the traditional way.

Rate the wheel for value:

The category of lightweight wheels around £500 is really competitive. The Classic Zetas are more expensive than some but you do get what you pay for.

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

No issues whatsoever, after a fair bit of abuse too.

How easy did you find it to fit tyres?

All the brands I tried went on with just thumb pressure.

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

The skewers kept everything clamped up tight while on the rough stuff and everything else worked fine.

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

Great across the board. Whether racing on smooth tarmac or threading your way through stony tracks.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel

Impressive weight vs strength.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel

Freewheel might need replacing more regularly than others.

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 Zetas are an impressive set of wheels and even though they could be seen as quite expensive for an alloy rim-braked model they feel great in use. Light, fast and you don't have to worry about treating them with kid gloves. If you ride on a mix of terrains they are a great option.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 39  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is:

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

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


IanEdward | 5 years ago

Doubt lock ring torque would prevent the cassette rotating and putting pressure on the splines, mechanically it just doesnt' seem like a small amount of friction between sprockets and spacers would be enough to prevent them twisting when somebody gives it beans on the cranks.


fukawitribe replied to IanEdward | 5 years ago
1 like
IanEdward wrote:

Doubt lock ring torque would prevent the cassette rotating and putting pressure on the splines, mechanically it just doesnt' seem like a small amount of friction between sprockets and spacers would be enough to prevent them twisting when somebody gives it beans on the cranks.

Well that's what i'd be curious to see some data on - anecdotally the difference in rotational resistance actually seemed quite noticeable on one wheelset I had, so I was wondering how much in practice it differed and whether the sprocket/spacer to sprocket friction when clamped down properly was enough to make it behave slightly more as a unit. Idle engineering curiosity.

fukawitribe | 5 years ago

I can't help wondering how much properly tightening the lock-ring helps - i'm no power monster, but even after years of sprint training on a variety of freehubs I don't get much more than some mild dents at worst. 40+Nm is quite a bit of torque and when i've seen people putting cassettes back on they sure don't look like they are giving it nearly enough (although, granted, it's difficult to tell).

Dicklexic | 5 years ago

Stu you mention the Hunt freehub in your review with its steel bit to stop the cassette biting. Hunt do some wheels that are very similar to these Ritchey ones in style.

DrG82 | 5 years ago
1 like

Not sure where you get the weights you claim for the fulcrum racing 5s, mine are much heavier at over 1.75 kg with the shimano compatible freehub.

fukawitribe replied to DrG82 | 5 years ago
DrG82 wrote:

Not sure where you get the weights you claim for the fulcrum racing 5s, mine are much heavier at over 1.75 kg with the shimano compatible freehub.

The 1.6kg may be related to the 2018 disc brake version they mentioned (tested and weighed Dec'17) - the rim braked version they tested back in 2014 came in at about 1.75kg like yours (claimed was about 150g lighter according to the review, not sure about that..) which is about what the current Racing 5 LG seems to be as well AFAICS.

Nixster | 5 years ago

"the handbuilt setup leaves enough give in the spoke tension "

Really, the spokes are so slack the rim can deflect vertically? 

They won't last long before falling apart then.

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