Until Mavic came out with their overpriced Ksyrium disc wheelset, the Kinesis CX were pretty much the only light disc specific wheelset available on the market that would take road and cross tyres. I believe they will still enjoy plenty of popularity, as they come at less than half the price of the Mavic and offer a similar package. If you then compare them with what you would get for the same money in the bespoke handbuild market, they still retain a small edge. So, are they still the best bang for buck?
Kinesis is what I call a sticker maker, meaning unlike Mavic or Shimano they don’t do their own R&D, they don’t do any manufacturing and I am confident they even outsource the printing of their stickers and of course, as you might expect, this review will be somewhat short of adjectives like stiff, bombproof, cool, stealth and smooth. I have no reason not to believe they are performing wheels, as they are not dissimilar to what I have built for myself and ride every single day, except these are lighter than mine, significantly.
Taking advantage of a rear wheel that I was asked to rebuild, I managed to have a close look at the individual components: these are wheels assembled in Taiwan (says on the box) on far eastern hubs. I have not been able to identify the hubs make, they seem to run on a Chosen freehub, but other than that they could be anything. They seem of a similar quality to the excellent Novatec 711/712 and they copy the flange geometry of those, so all good there.
The rims are 24 mm wide and 18 mm internally, same as a Pacenti SL 23, but they are nowhere near as well finished. The holes are drilled but not cleaned, which in turn could result in premature fatigue cracks. However, the nipple bed seems thick enough to tolerate high building tension. The rim is also heavier than a Pacenti and even heavier than an Archetype or a Velocity Aileron, as on my scale it comes at 510 grams, which is still not bad for a rim of that size. It is tubeless ready, which is good news for cyclocross and road use alike. After my recent review of the Schwalbe One Tubeless I have completeld my conversion and no longer see the point of a tyre + inner tube combo… it just seems such an obsolete technology.
At Kinesis they use Pillar triple butted spokes, combined with anodised aluminium alloy nipples to cut the weight of the set under the crucial 1600 grams. It is a choice that sells well clearly, but it backfires, as these spokes are not as durable as Sapim Race or DT Competition, which is the very reason of this rebuild. Predictably, all the nipples on the drive side and a few on the non drive side were seized, which means it would have been impossible to “true the wheel” had it been necessary. This tedious issue doesn’t seem to be of any interest for the industry… it is dead simple: 1555 grams sell better than 1600.
In conclusion, my verdict is that these are good wheels, assembled with decent quality components and a modern wide and tubeless ready rim, but once you scratch the surface you realise the components are not chosen to last and whilst the price is attractive, if you are looking for a high mileage set, you might still be better off going bespoke with better quality spokes.