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Black Inc's Twenty wheelset delivers stiffness that belies its unbelievable weight, or lack of, and the overall build quality and finish is exceptional. The price may look steep, but they're still competitive when it comes to value.
As a larger, powerful rider, going sub-1,500g on wheels usually sees me be able to get a fair amount of lateral flex, especially at the rear. But despite this set weighing just 1,230g, verified by the road.cc Scales of Truth – and 10g lighter than Black Inc claims – there's no flex or give here.
So, what have we got?
The gorgeous looking carbon fibre rim is just 18.5mm deep (20mm at the nipples), with a rim width of 28mm externally and 21mm internally.
Black Inc says that means they are optimised for 25-28mm tyres; a 28mm Panaracer tyre fitted for testing measured up at 28.7mm.
As you can imagine, this gives a smooth transition from rim to tyre, although that's not quite as critical here as it would be on deeper section rims, from an aero point of view.
The rim is also tubeless, and I had no issue fitting tubeless tyres with just a track pump.
In their centre, the Twentys are sporting a Black Inc branded hub with CeramicSpeed bearings, and a freehub that is available in both Shimano HGR splined format or SRAM XDR.
Joining the hub and rim together are a mix of Sapim's CX-Spring and CX-Ray butted straight pull spokes, a count of 24 front and rear. Alloy Sapim nipples are also part of the build – a pretty classy one, I'd say.
Straight out of the box, the wheels were running true and spoke tension was well sorted, with no creaking or pinging on those first few miles as everything settles into place. And that's exactly how everything remained throughout the test period.
You are not going to be surprised to hear me say that, at a mere 1,230g, these things don't feel as though they need a whole lot of effort to get them going or keep them rolling, and the engagement of the freehub is instantaneous. Rock backwards and forwards while trackstanding at the lights and you feel barely the tiniest amount of movement before those lock in.
They are obviously a boon when it comes to hitting the climbs too – Black Inc describes the Twenty as its ultralight climbing wheel.
The bearings are super smooth, and there is an audible click when freewheeling.
What impresses me the most about these wheels, though, is that excellent lateral stiffness.
Flexing doesn't show up so much on a disc brake wheel as there is no rim brake to rub against, but even without that you can still feel some give when you are absolutely mashing the pedals. There is none of that from Black Incs, and that's impressive from such a lightweight build; do bear in mind that they have a 100kg limit, though.
They are just such a lovely set of wheels to ride: stiff, responsive, and a very noticeable drop in weight over pretty much any wheelset you are likely to be swapping out.
In the box you are also getting tubeless valves, valve core remover and extra tubeless rim tape (they come with tape fitted). One thing I would like to see at this price is some padded wheel bags for transporting them or if, like me, you put your best bike away for the winter months.
As it is, though, that little lot is going to set you back £2,200. That's a fair lump of cash, about £100 more than the 1,250g Roval Alpinist CLX wheels from Specialized, which have gone up in price since we tested them.
The Rovals are a fair bit deeper, with 33mm rims, but – and this might be a big but to some of you – they ain't tubeless.
In his review Liam says it's not a dealbreaker for him, as he can take it or leave it when it comes to tubeless, and I'm of the same opinion – on the road at least. I seem to suffer from so few punctures that it's not worth the investment or set-up bother on my own bikes.
If you don't mind sacrificing a tiny bit of weight then you can save a chunk of money by going for the 1,374g Hunt 30 Carbon Aeros. They're bit deeper, and you are losing elements like the CeramicSpeed bearings, but they are just £859 currently. They don't look quite as bling as the Twentys, but that is a bargain.
Overall, the Black Inc Twentys are a really classy set of wheels. The build quality is excellent, stiffness is awesome and the way they respond just makes you want to keep jumping on the pedals and out of the saddle. They aren't cheap, but they're worth the outlay, especially if you are after that tubeless compatibility.
Incredibly light, with stiffness to match – and they look the business too
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Black Inc Twenty wheelset
Size tested: Shimano
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?
Black Inc says, "The Black Inc TWENTY is our ultralight climbing wheel, crafted from a blend of ultra-high strength carbon fiber to give you the stiffness required to conquer any mountain climb and the control to descend with confidence.
The TWENTY features a revised hub construction with low-friction CeramicSpeed bearings and an updated freehub body engagement system. Expect rapid acceleration and ultimate performance on the climbs.
The clincher version with all-steel spokes weighs in at just 1,240g and features an updated rim bed geometry for tubeless."
The balance of weight and stiffness is impressive.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Black Inc lists:
Wheelset Weight (set) 1240g
Hub Black Inc + CeramicSpeed straight-pull disc hubset
Spokes CX-SPRINT and CX- RAY Aero Butted straight pull (24 front and rear)
Clincher Nipples Sapim 12mm Inverted Alloy Nipple with SecureLock
Rim Height 20mm - 18.5mm
External Rim Width 28mm
Internal Rim Width 21mm
Recommended Tire Width 25-28mm (700C)
A really great quality build and finish.
Stiffness and lateral stability are very impressive for such a lightweight, shallow-rimmed wheelset.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Trueness was impressive out of the box and remained that way.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
No issues fitting tyres, tubeless or standard clincher.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
All of the accessories are good quality and match that of the wheelset.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great ride quality and stiffness makes this a real all-rounder wheelset.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Impressive stiffness for such lightweight wheels.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
No wheel bags included in the price.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
I'd say this a wheelset that is very similar to the Roval wheels mentioned in the review, but they manage to be lighter, with impressive stiffness, albeit for a bit more cash. Brands like Hunt can get close to the weight for a lot less, though.
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 build quality is exceptional, as is the weight – or lack of it – and while you can get some very light wheels for less money, you're paying for more than just their light weight here. They aren't even overly expensive anyway compared to some of the competition.
About the tester
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!