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The Vel 28 RL Alloy Tubeless Wheelset is an ideal upgrade if you're on a budget or you want to put your bling carbon fibre wheels into hibernation for the winter months. The Vels are light enough to give decent acceleration and aid brisk climbing while being durable enough to take on the worst the UK roads can throw at them. Value hasn't been forgotten about either – they're some of the best road bike wheels you can get for the money.
What Vel has delivered with the 28 RLs is a wheelset that is a bit of a jack of all trades – light enough to sit well as a poor weather/poor surface set of hoops on your best bike, or as a reliable and trustworthy pair for your winter/commuting bike, or even as an upgrade to your stock wheels as the cycling bug begins to take hold.
At 1,620g on the road.cc scales (including a double wrapping of tubeless rim tape), they are light enough to not hamper speed on the flat or the climbs, and thanks to the quick engagement of the 102-tooth/6-pawl freehub internals, acceleration from a standing start or when rolling is also brisk.
Vel hasn't focused on aerodynamics with the 28 RLs, but that's not normally high up the consideration list at this sort of money anyway.
The 6066-T6 aluminium alloy rim is 28mm deep and 24.6mm wide externally, with a 21mm internal channel. This works well with tyres from 25mm to about 32mm wide, giving a rounded shape before entering the 'lightbulb' stage where the tyre looks bulbous when fitted.
The 28 RLs come fitted with rim tape, and setting things up tubeless wasn't an issue with a range of tyres from differing brands. They also work just as well with clincher tyres and an inner tube. (If you're looking for new rubber to go with your new wheels, check out our guide to the best road bike tyres.)
Vel has gone for 24 spokes (Pillar Wing PSR21 straight pull) front and rear, the same amount as we see on many gravel wheels, so it's safe to say that durability has been a consideration.
Along with the CNC-machined alloy hubs, the build feels strong and precise with a uniform spoke tension throughout. This makes for a stiff set of wheels, and even though they are towards the budget end of the market they can take plenty of power going through them from out-of-the-saddle efforts with no notable flex.
My local lanes, like most in the UK, are a mixture of smooth and broken tarmac, potholes and plenty of grit and gravel from the verges, so the wheels haven't had an easily life over the last six to eight weeks. The weather has turned as well, with warm summer temperatures making way for cold and wet days, just to give the hubs a bit of a workout.
When cleaning the wheels at the end of the test period there was no evidence of any water ingress to the sealed bearings, and everything was running as smoothly as it was at the start.
It's worth noting that because of the large number of engagement points the freehub is on the buzzy side, which I know from comments on here isn't to everybody's taste.
Another thing to bear in mind is that the wheels have a 110kg weight limit.
So, they ride well, and they'll take plenty of abuse, but does that come at a reasonable price?
Yes, I'd say so. The rrp of £399, which includes a three-year warranty (up from two years if you register them within three months), looks a good deal. You also get a three-year crash replacement policy, which gives you 40 per cent off the rrp for the original owner.
For comparison, Fulcrum's Racing 5 DB wheelset costs the same as the Vels, but Jamie wasn't that impressed with his review set turning up with the rear wheel out of true. That aside, he found the wheels to be durable and dependable, and capable of all kinds of road riding, but they are also around 150g heavier.
Scribe's Duty-D is a similar wheelset, all-rounders with a shallow alloy rim. They come with a 130kg weight limit, and 28 spokes for the front wheel, 32 for the rear. I am a big fan of the 54-tooth ratchet system in the freehub, which gives instantaneous engagement, but they are a touch heavier at 1,790g, and they have jumped in price from £390 to £440 since I reviewed them last year.
It's worth a mention that Vel wheels are sold exclusively through Sigma Sports, and they are currently reduced to just £191, which makes them an absolute bargain.
Overall, the 28 RLs are very good wheels for all kinds of road riding, regardless of your budget. They are well built and have stood up to plenty of abuse throughout testing, while the brushed aluminium finish looks good and stands up well to knocks from rubbish road conditions.
Very well built set of wheels that look good and will take plenty of abuse
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vel 28 RL Alloy Tubeless Disc Wheelset
Size tested: 700C, 28mm 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?
Vel says, "High-quality and reliable, Vel's 28 RL Alloy Tubeless Disc Wheelset makes a great upgrade to the wheels supplied with many bikes and is also ideal as a winter option.
At 28mm deep, the alloy rim is ideal for use in blustery conditions as it won't get pushed around as much as deeper alternatives, making handling safer and more secure and the smart brushed finish means that the wheels will match well with most bikes. The rims are supplied with tubeless tape fitted and valves included, so it is simple to take advantage of the benefits of tubeless running - fewer punctures, greater comfort and more grip.
Vel's RE Rapid Engagement rear hub has 102 teeth for very quick pick up and efficient power transfer whilst the sealed bearings provide smooth, reliable rolling in all weather conditions. The spokes are Pillar Wing PSR21s, with an aerodynamic, bladed profile. Truing and replacement will be a simple task that is made even easier by the inclusion of spare spokes in the box."
I agree with Vel's description – these wheels are high quality and reliable.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Clincher / tubeless-ready tyre compatible
Double wrapped with tubeless rim tape
Wheel Size: 700c
Rim: 6066-T6 Alloy
Rim ERD (Effective Rim Diameter): 581mm
Rim Depth: 28mm
Internal Rim Width: 21mm
External Rim Width: 24.6mm
Spokes: Pillar Wing PSR21 straight pull, 14g, two-cross lacing
Spoke Count: Front - 24 / Rear - 24
Hubs: Vel RE Rapid Engagement, AL6061 CNC machined shell, sealed bearings, 102T engagement ring with six pawls
Bearings: Front 6902 x 2, rear 17287 x2, 6902 x 1, 6903 x1
Disc Standard: Center Lock
Front Axle: 12x100mm
Rear Axle: 12x142mm
Recommended Tyre Size: 25-34mm
Maximum tyre pressure: 120psi
Manufacturer Claimed Weight: Front - 700 grams / Rear - 850 grams / Wheelset - 1,550 grams
Compatibility: Shimano/SRAM / SRAM XDR / Shimano Microspline
Includes: Spare spokes and tubeless valves
Maximum system weight: 110kg
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
The wheels stayed true throughout testing and fully tensioned.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Fitting both tubeless and clincher tyres was easy.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
The tubeless rim tape and tubeless valves were absolutely fine.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Solid performance in all kinds of weather, without being affected by poor road surfaces.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Great build quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
I'm fine with it, but some people don't like buzzy freehubs, which the Vel has.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Around £400 is typical for a set of wheels with these specifications, although the Vels also bring great performance and weight. As mentioned in the review, the Fulcrums are a bit heavier, and while the Scribes have the excellent ratchet hub system, they are now 40 quid more.
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
An all-round quality wheelset with a tough finish that will remain looking good after plenty of miles. They also offer a decent balance of weight and durability, for a price that is also impressive. They're very good.
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,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!