Walmart 50mm Carbon Wheelset for $299 - Are they worth it?
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At Mountain Road, we believe in living a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. This includes being fit and healthy and enjoying outdoor activities when possible. In addition, it also means being smart with your finances in order to ensure that you aren’t just stepping into the modern day consumerism trap. This post aims to speak to two of the categories we believe in when looking for that well-balanced lifestyle: Play and Thrive.
Cycling as a sport surely ticks the box for being a wonderful outlet to target a healthy and active life, unfortunately this hobby is by no means cheap. Some very impressive bike equipment is available to make your fitness journey a very enjoyable one. But will breaking the bank with a large purchase truly add that much value? I’ve found the perfect middle ground for value, while still enjoying the thrill of the latest cycling technology.
Over the last decade, the cycling industry has seen some very innovative new developments take place, one of which is surely the invention of carbon wheels. Over my 18 years in the sport of cycling, no other product has added as much aesthetic appeal to a bike as a really stunning carbon wheelset. It’s been on my bucket list of bike upgrades for the longest of times. So what’s been holding me back then? Well, they are crazy expensive! The price of a decent carbon wheelset can easily exceed the price for an entire mid-range bike. As a person who looks for real value for every dollar spent, the thought of spending $1200-$2000 on a set of wheels that could at best shave off a minute or two over a 40km time trial was just not worth it. In addition, the fragile nature of the product (and also the fear of wrecking such an investment) forces many people to only use their expensive wheels a few times a year for key races. I didn’t want to purchase such an expensive piece of equipment that can only be used a few times per year.
I wondered if there might be an affordable alternative to the expensive high-end carbon wheels on the market. To silence the critics right out of the gate - yes, as with all things in life you do get what you pay for. I will be the first to admit that the new high-end carbon wheels are pushing the boundaries of technology and are stronger and more durable than ever. These products have become a totally viable option for everyday use, even over intensely demanding terrain like the cobblestones in the Paris-Roubaix road race. That still doesn’t take away from the fact that my budget does not allow for a $2000+ pair of wheels. Bringing me right back to the search for a better deal, I thought there just had to be a better entry point for the cyclist looking to enter the carbon wheel market.
My search took me down two different paths. First was the used/pre-owned route, which meant obsessively following each online forum, classified section or used bike seller that I could find. The usual suspects were all on that list: Ebay and Craigslist should be well-known to all the Americans reading this. I also discovered a really cool classifieds section on Slowtwitch’s website, where triathletes sell their used bikes and components. The South Africans reading this might also know of Bike Hub and its online classifieds for selling used bikes and parts. My search also led to the discovery of The Pro’s Closet here in the US, specializing in selling quality-assured used bikes and parts. Despite all my efforts to track these sites as closely as I could, none of them delivered a suitable option. I kept seeing that the only true bargains could be found on wheels that have been severely worn out. Visible scratches, dents and missing decals on the wheels just left me with a feeling that I really don’t want to buy someone else’s problem. There were the odd deals here and there that seemed reasonable, but this would still mean about $600-$900 for a pair of used wheels. For those who do go the route of investing in top of the line wheels, you can sit comfortably knowing that the investment will maintain a lot of value, should the wheels hold up in good condition.
As a second option, I looked into purchasing a new set of wheels, scouring many of the retailers that fall in the budget category. Americans reading this will know of the unfortunate closure of all Performance Bikes stores across the country earlier this year. They had very reasonable deals on some Reynolds wheelsets, which I almost purchased. However, the fact that this store would no longer be available for support in the future led me to decide otherwise. Otherwise, no new wheelsets truly offered substantial value. Once you go into the $1000-$1200 price range, some options become available, but this was still out of budget. The second alternative when looking for new wheels was to look at those as listed on Amazon. Clearly there are some very affordable options here, but it was difficult to decipher the difference between affordable or just outright cheap. As I browsed around on the Amazon site and saw countless nameless and unrecognizable wheel brands, I couldn't help but begin to fear that I might go crashing down into the pavement at 60km/h (40mi/h) on a downhill after the structural integrity of a poorly designed wheel gave way under me. It would be much better to just save up a little longer and buy the expensive stuff instead of waste the money on something that might just break after 3-4 rides outside.
I was just about ready to give up when a random Google search for carbon wheels delivered a result from the most unlikely bike retailer...Walmart! The E11EVEN 50mm Carbon Clincher wheel set (normally selling for $799) was on sale for $299. Yes, you read that right, a whole set, not just the front or back wheel for this price. Surely there had to be something wrong with this. There was just no way that a carbon wheelset could be offered at such an affordable price, while maintaining a high quality. Was this just another wheelset that ranked with all the other unknown brands from Amazon? Digging into this option a bit more, I noticed a few things that gave me some confidence to take the dive with this product.
First, the company supplying these wheels (E11EVEN) is based here in the US. They have a local number and email address listed on their website giving me just that bit more peace of mind knowing that I could reach out easily should I have to. I’ve even noticed from the reviews section on the Walmart site that other shoppers have already had some success in getting answers from E11EVEN by following those contacts. Having that local address is kind of a big deal. This means that if the product had turned out to be defective and needed to be returned, I would not have to spend more money on shipping it back to some random Chinese manufacturer just to have it replaced.
The second thing that gave me more peace of mind about making the purchase from Walmart was actually the fact that I was buying it from Walmart. They have a fairly reliable return policy, which meant that should this product be totally defective, I would most likely be able to return it. As an added bonus, this meant that I might even exchange the wheels for any other goods from their store, even something for around the house. You won’t be exchanging your wheels bought from a bike shop for say a vacuum cleaner anytime soon!
The third and ultimately deciding factor had to be the price. $299! For that price I might not even be able to find a reliable set of aluminum wheels. My logic here was that even if this purchase did not last as long as the latest and greatest products on the market, I would still be able to buy almost 3-4 sets of the E11EVEN wheels and still not reach the price-tag of the expensive stuff. The company’s website states that “the product is a 10, the value makes it an 11”. I was willing to put this statement to the test. After seeing the number of available units as listed on the online store tick down quickly, day after day, I decided to take the the plunge and get the wheels. This was the best bike-related buying decision I’ve ever made! You’ll be able to tell from the sections to follow why this was one massive bargain. After placing the order on the Walmart online store the wheels arrived about a week later.
The wheels ship with everything you need to convert your rim brake bike to the carbon wheel set-up. Included in the bigger wheel box was a smaller box containing the correct brake pads for carbon wheels, some nice quality quick release skewers to use with the wheels and some spare spokes should you ever break any. As I pulled the wheels from the box one thing did make my heart accelerate thinking that I had just purchased the wrong wheels. On the hubs of the wheels the words “Thru-Axis” is clearing printed. I thought, “How on earth did I miss that detail when checking out the purchase online?” The Thru-Axis design is becoming increasing popular with disc brake wheels to ensure that it fits more snug in the frame. My frame was by no means compatible with thru-axis wheels. Then it hit me, why would the wheels ship with quick release skewers if they were designed for thru-axis frames. Something didn’t add up. Maybe I’m just ignorant in my understanding of the newer design, but I have a feeling that the labels printed on these wheels are just completely wrong.
Speaking of the hubs, the hubs on these wheels are from a very respectable brand, DT Swiss. The specific model for these wheels is the DT Swiss 370 hubs. The hubs are Shimano 10/11 speed compatible and I was able to fit my 11 speed cassette to this with ease. I know a bunch of you reading this also want to know about the weight. Well, I got some mixed info on this. The Walmart site lists the weight as 1800g stating also that the weight might vary by +-5%, whatever that means. On the other hand the E11EVEN site shows the weight as 1690g. I have not had the opportunity to weigh them myself, but I will say that these wheels tilt slightly to the heavier side. They do however still feel very solid and for a cheaper wheelset I don’t mind that they are a bit beefier. As for the last noteworthy specs: the set that I got is 50mm deep, rim brake clinchers, and get this, tubeless compatible! Not bad for a $299 pair of wheels from Walmart.
I proceeded with the set-up of the wheels and was able to easily fit them to the bike using the provided quick release levers. The looks of these wheels instantly transformed my trusty old stallion into a true rocket ship! The price, looks and set-up are all pretty much useless if the wheels couldn’t actually deliver with a noticeable increase in performance when compared to the standard aluminum race wheels I had on the bike. So how do these wheels actually match up? Honestly, they exceeded my expectations! I am super surprised with how well they perform. The slightly heavier weight meant that I had to first adjust to the difference in the momentum that they carry. Since this was my first ever pair of carbon bicycle wheels, I had to go through a bit of a learning curve as I raced down the road with them the first few times. There is definitely a bit more inertia to overcome at first, but once you get into a good cadence and rhythm while riding, you can feel how that momentum shifts in your favor, giving you an added boost.
As with most deep section wheels, I will say that these wheels are probably better suited for flatter roads. I’ve tested the wheels on a variety of different terrains and could tell that on the longer or even shorter and sharper climbs, the additional inertia did hold me back a bit. However on the rolling hills and flat roads, these wheels are fast! I’ve easily been able to bump up my average speed along one of my usual time trial routes. Once you get into a steady rhythm, these wheels go along with the pace and will keep you cruising along at a very nice rate.
At the time of writing this article, I’ve already clocked 1800kms (~1100 miles) with the wheels. I haven’t taken them off my bike since putting them on 2.5 months ago. My aim is to get my money’s worth from them as best I can, while testing at what limits I can push them over the long term. Given the price that I paid for them, I feel that I’ve already extracted a fair chunk of value from them. I can even claim that they were able to stand up to a minor crash test. Shortly after putting the wheels on the bike, I experienced a chain-slip mechanical incident (not wheel related) as I tried to accelerate back up after slowing down at an intersection. After crashing down over the handlebars, the bike and the wheels stood up to the impact. The wheels had to be trued, but in all other ways they were still fine.
What are the downsides? So far I’ve described these wheels as all but perfect, but let’s review some of the areas in which these wheels could use some improvement or have some downfalls. They certainly aren’t the world’s stiffest pair of wheels. When putting them under some real stress, you will be able to flex them from side to side a millimeter or so. I’m fully aware that this could be a huge deal for different types of riders. I weigh in at about 72-73kg (~160lbs) and consider myself very much an average weight rider when it comes to competitive cycling. In my opinion, the lack of stiffness could be more of a problem for heavier riders. Thus far I haven’t had to replace any of the spokes (remember that they ship with 3 spares). Since I’ve put a good few miles on the wheels already, I can report that the wheels don’t stay 100% true over the long-term. As noted above I’ve had to take the wheels to the shop to be trued after my crash, but since then its gradually moved out of balance again. Its nothing major right now, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on that as I push the wheels and add more miles to the tally.
Overall I am super impressed with the E11EVEN wheels from Walmart. I was certainly very hesitant to get them in fear of wasting money on a cheap pair of carbon wheels. In the end I am happy to report that this is a very solid pair of wheels that are exceeding my expectations by a long shot. Unfortunately, the wheelset is currently out of stock. But if you are searching for a wheelset that offers great value for money, hopefully this post provides you with plenty of options for where to begin your search. We here at Mountain Road have surely been enjoying all the outdoor time so far this summer and we hope that you will do the same. Hopefully with this information about an affordable option to gain some extra speed on the open roads, you will feel motivated to join us in living life to the fullest by being fit and healthy, but also be savvy with your finances at the same time.
Tell us! Do you love to purchase the latest and greatest fitness gear or do you prefer economical ways of exercising?