SRAM S80 Review

SRAM S80 Wheelset 246x300 SRAM S80 Review

SRAM S80 Wheelset

Competition is heating up in the mega-deep section wheelset market. Where it used to be the Zipp 808 or nothing, now there is a whole stable of 80mm racehorses to choose from. SRAM has a little advantage in this event too; they bought Zipp, so if you are true to the old school Zipp wheelsets, you can put your conscience at ease and check out the SRAM S80 wheelset.

Zipp by another name

The SRAM S80 wheelset gives you everything you’d expect from the 808s. Like most deep sections, they aren’t the lightest wheelset on the market, trundling in at 2290g for the clincher. Don’t let that put you off; light weight isn’t what 80mm rims are about – they are all about the aero. Here’s where the Zipp connection comes in The SRAM S80s have a unique, patented rim shape that improves and smoothes air flow, and at the same time adds stiffness. The result is a deep section wheelset that will not only cut through their air, it also maximizes your power output. Everything you’d expect from a wheelset with Zipp ancestry.

Impressive ride

We tested the tubular version, which honestly, if you are after a 80mm wheel, you really shouldn’t mess with the extra weight of clinchers. We were trying to find out if the SRAM S80 wheelset would make us faster in time trials and triathlons, and whether it could adapt to race or criterium events. Let’s face it; there are some decent 80mm wheelsets out there that cost a lot less, so the SRAM S80 had better be good.

And they are. In fact, they’re not just good, they’re great. Sure, underneath the fancy decals is a set of Flashpoint rims (Zipp’s Asian label), and if you are looking for Zipp dimples you won’t find them on the S80. However, unlike a set of Flashpoint wheels, the S80 do have more of Zipp’s top end component features. Silky smooth, and whisper quiet hubs for starters, which unlike the Zipp 808 are manufactured in Asia to keep the costs down. Under the carbon overlay on the rims is an alloy frame. That does add considerable weight, but for triathletes, who may face some less than forgiving courses and a sense of remoteness time trialists never suffer, that does mean a lot more durability and reliability, which of course means more confidence on your descents too.

So the SRAM S80 wheelset works for triathletes, but 80mm rims are supposed to be about aerodynamics, so we tested these in a time trial scenario too. The alloy underneath added a little weight that made the wheels feel a little sluggish to get going, but once up to speed the aero features took over and the rolling inertia was spectacular. There was absolutely no perceptible flex, suggesting that every watt was getting straight to the road. That spells bad news for Zipp; our rider came back reporting that he just didn’t love dimples anymore, and from now on, the S80 would be his deep section wheelset of choice.

Not for everyone

That said, these wheels did not delight all of our riders. After the first test rides, our powerhouse rider loved them, and was ready to swap one of his kids to keep them. Our next rider, who set out on a crit course to try them out, found them to be quite different. This was a smaller, lighter rider, and for him the weight was a real problem. The wheels were tough to get going, and with the frequent corners of the crit circuit, he felt he was constantly shoving the wheels to get moving again. So, if you don’t put out a lot of watts, or you want ride a lot of courses that require your brakes, then shop for a lighter wheelset. Powerful riders, and riders on long, fairly flat time trial and triathlon courses would struggle to find better for the money. Of course, even lighter riders might want to try a mixed selection – the SRAM S60 or S40 up front, and the S80 at the rear.

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