I first became aware of Espresso Wheels a few months back, I’d come across them online somewhere and my initial impression was that they were just another set of cheap wheels that would fall apart in a few weeks. When they contacted me about reviewing a set I was very interested in trying out something that seemed too cheap to be good.
At just £109 for the set my expectations were not too high, my first fixed wheelset (Omega Mach 1) cost about £130 and they sucked, everyone I know who had a set experienced them falling to bits within no time. There are a fair few options out there for pre-built fixed wheels these days with varying degrees of respect in the scene, demand for them is through the roof but does the price represent the quality of these?
The wheels arrived from the factory and the first thing I noticed when removing them from the box was just how solid they felt, the double wall rims are 45mm deep so they should feel stiff and they really do. I used to have a set of Dodici rims which cost more than the built up Espresso wheels and they felt just the same in the hand. The paint on the rims is as expected, it’s not as smooth or thin as more expensive rims but I only noticed because I was inspecting them. Wheels are for riding not looking at all day so that’s pretty irrelevant.
I gave them the old ‘spin in the air’ and they felt pretty good, the bearings aren’t super duper smooth or as long spinning as my Halo’s but they are fine. The 32 hole rebranded Joytech hubs are a nice addition, I was expecting the usual Formula/System Ex jobbies. The rear comes bundled with a 16t fixed sprocket with a pretty decent wide lockring and a 16t freewheel on the opposite side, both chrome.
One of the major issues with pre-built factory wheels is spoke tension and truing and that was my main concern, who wants to buy a wheelset then have to pay a wheelbuilder £50 or whatever to make them useable in a couple of weeks? I took them over to Urban Cyclery in Swansea to have the boys look them over and they agreed that they were true, well tensioned and as stiff as a board, we were all surprised.
They weigh just as much as you’d expect a double walled deep section rimmed wheel to weigh, they aren’t overly heavy compared to similar wheels, nor are they noticeably light. No weight weenie would use wheels like these so I don’t think the weight is particularly important, a 45mm deep rim like this is designed to be stiff not light so it’s all good.
If there’s one thing I hate it’s people who spend more time talking about and analysing bike parts rather than actually riding them so I popped them on my Brother and hit the road. They feel great on the bike, you really notice how stiff they are, you can feel every bump in the road. It’s exactly what I want from riding a ‘track bike’ out on the streets, I want it to be twitchy, and I want the vibrations to shake my bones. These would be great on an old conversion because they would offset the flexy frame somewhat and give you a taste of the good life.
I’ve been riding them on and off for nearly two months now and doing all I can to push them to the limit. I’ve ridden in rain and shine; I’ve skidded them to see if the hub thread gave way; I’ve been bunny hopping up and down curbs and all that shit and they are still as good as new, rolling true and stiff.
So, would I recommend these wheels? I certainly would, I found no real problems with them so you really couldn’t go far wrong, whether they will stand up to years of abuse being ridden every day is unknown but I reckon they’ll do a great job until the time comes when you want to spend bigger bucks on something lighter or shallower.
Espresso Wheels are usually available in white, black, silver and aqua but are currently sold out across Europe, a good sign surely? The next shipment is due at the end of August, you can pre-order a set by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org