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The Black Inc Forty Five wheelset is a very good carbon disc-brake design for mixed terrain road riding, flat or hilly. Tubeless setup is easy, and the build quality is very good. The price is high, though, and with an understated design, these might get overlooked.
Black Inc describes the Forty Five as its 'do everything' wheelset and, for road applications at least, that is an accurate description. The wheels roll nicely on the flat and climb well while also being well-behaved in the wind. A solid build ensures that they don't feel flexy at all and the addition of Ceramic Speed bearings goes a little way to justify the price. But for the money, I'd certainly like to have seen a faster engagement from the freehub.
My time on these wheels has seen us battle some pretty inclement weather together as they're the hoops on the Factor Ostro VAM that I've been testing through the winter months. It's a tough job. The wheels have been really well behaved in strong winds, which is a welcome feature for a race-focused design.
While the rims look quite simple, they do the basics right. Firstly, they were easy to set up tubeless with the 28mm Schwalbe One tyres that I used. This suggests that Black Inc is following the ETRTO tubeless guidelines and the end user experience is all the better for it.
The tubeless valves are again basic but do the job well and I had no problems with air leaks. A track pump was all that I needed for setting them up, though that might not be the case with all tyres.
At 21mm wide internally, these wheels follow the trend of modern road tubeless wheels, and the 28mm tyres sat nicely. I was able to run my usual 60-65psi for a lovely balance of comfort and speed.
Many mid-depth carbon wheelsets have been getting wider, many using a 23mm internal width, with brands realising that riders often want one set to handle both road and gravel riding. The Black Inc Forty Fives are best used for road riding and Black Inc says they're optimised for 25-28mm tyres.
Black Inc has chosen a two-cross lacing pattern throughout the wheelset and I think it is a sensible choice where lateral stiffness is needed. When sprinting or under heavy braking there is no hint of flex.
The spokes come from Sapim in the form of the CX-Sprint and CX-Ray. These are well-respected spokes and I've had no issues with them on other builds. Black Inc opts for a straight-pull spoke and the nipples are hidden within the rim.
There are positives and negatives to hidden nipples, but while a wheel true would require you to remove the tyre and tubeless tape, the wheels on test are dead straight, and the benefit is that they look very tidy.
The hubs contains CeramicSpeed bearings which are claimed to offer lower rolling resistance than standard steel bearings. This probably isn't going to win me any races – doing my intervals might – but they're nice to have at this price.
Black Inc has given the freehub a redesign, but although it now has a quicker engagement than the old standard three-pawl system, you can get wheels with quicker pickup.
At £2,200, the Forty Fives aren't cheap. You can easily get most of the performance found with these wheels at a significantly lower price. Take Hunt's 44 Aerodynamicists, for example, which I've been testing at the same time. They are just £879, and while the Black Incs might feel a tad better in terms of stiffness, I am not sure that I could justify the extra grand and a bit.
They're also more expensive than some very similar offerings such as DT Swiss's ERC 1400 Dicut wheels (£1,869.98), Zipp's 404 Firecrests (£1,600) and Campagnolo's Bora WTOs (now £1,999.99 since I tested them in 2020).
They are cheaper than the Ultra version of the Bora WTOs (£2,799.99) that I reviewed last year, but you're getting something particularly exciting for your money there.
Overall, the Black Incs do the basics very well, and with their solid build quality they're a good pair of wheels to spend your money on – but it is a lot of money. As I've said above, you can spend a lot less to get most of the performance found in these wheels.
Well-made wheels that are great for mixed terrain road rides, but they're pricey compared with rivals
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Black Inc Forty Five wheelset
Size tested: 700C, 45mm deep
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?
From Black Inc:
"Just one look at the Black Inc FORTY FIVE and it quickly becomes clear why this carbon wheelset remains a favourite among our sponsored professional riders. We have designed them to offer the perfect balance between aerodynamics and lightweight. It is our 'do everything' wheelset that excels on flat windy courses and flies uphill with ease.
The FORTY FIVE wheelset is a disc-only, tubeless-ready wheelset that offers an excellent level of aerodynamic performance thanks to its 45mm rim profile. The mid-depth and proprietary rim profile ensures the FORTY FIVEs cut through the wind at most real-world yaw angles, while keeping the rolling weight extremely low. Since the FORTY FIVEs are disc brake only, the rim has not been burdened by having to accommodate a brake track. Reducing the required material at the outer edges of the wheel helps to reduce rotational weight and without the constraint of having a fixed shape rim side wall, making them even faster than traditional deep section wheels as well as being lighter. Optimised for 25-28mm tires, with an internal rim width of 21mm and external width of 27mm, the flush interface between tire and rim improves the aerodynamic performance while running the wider tubeless tires increases comfort and cornering capability.
The Black Inc FORTY FIVE features a revised hub construction with low-friction CeramicSpeed bearings and an updated freehub body engagement system. This advanced design allows the wheels to feel like they will spin forever, while the instantaneous engagement ensures no loss of momentum at critical moments in a race or on a training ride. The FORTY FIVE are available with Shimano, XDR and Campagnolo freehub body. The straight-pull rim and disc hubsets work easily with the CX-SPRINT and CX- RAY Aero Butted straight pull spokes. Internal alloy nipples keep the weight low and the wheel reliably true.
From Gran Fondo riding to Saturday morning crit races, you don't have to be a pro to reap the benefits the Black Inc FORTY FIVE carbon wheels provide. At 1489 grams per pair, they are extremely lightweight for a medium depth all-round disc brake wheelset."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Black Inc lists:
1,489g Clincher Wheelset
Optimised for 25-28mm width tyres
Updated hubs with CeramicSpeed bearings
Rim is optimised for maximum strength-to-weight ratio
Same tubeless rim profile as other Black Inc All-Road rim models
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Super simple. Just a track pump needed as long as you pick decent tyres.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
The valves and tubeless tape worked well.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
On mixed terrain they work really well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
These are perfectly balanced for mixed-terrain and they handle well too. They're just really nice to ride.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Nothing really. The rim looks a bit simple, but they work well which is the main thing.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
About the standard for high-end hoops. You can spend a lot less on something from the likes of Hunt, or you can add an extra grand for a set of Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTOs.
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
These are good wheels for mixed-terrain riding, but they are quite understated and they're competing against some flashier or cheaper wheels. Really, the pricing is holding these wheels back from a higher mark. There are some amazing wheelsets that you can have for less, or if you're prepared to pay more, you can get some lovely finishes and interesting tech for your money.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days 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!