Quick Take Review

Maybe you read my story, maybe you didn’t. A few months ago I took a header on the bike destroying my helmet and bending my front wheel beyond repair. The helmet was replaced by a Bontrager Quantum. The wheels by a set of Vuelta Starlites. I purchased the Starlites for a relative bargain of around $100 from the guys at Bike Nashbar. Vuelta subsequently replaced the Starlites with the newer Zerolites. But despite some minor tweaks to the weight (the Starlites are actually about 200 grams more svelte), both wheels are almost identical.

Feature-wise the wheels are pretty straightforward. Vuelta uses a medium-vee rim profile to give the wheel reasonable aerodynamics. The graphic scheme is created by red and white stickers (a bummer to some MTB message board authors, but not a big deal to me). Spoke pattern is a three-cross employing 24 black stainless blade spokes per wheel to improve the aerodynamics even further. Hubs are sealed Vuelta brand, compatible with Shimano eight and nine-speed cassettes, You can find the wheels for either rim brakes or six-bolt disc rotors (make sure you read the fine print when ordering). Vuelta brand skewers included.

Spokes: 24 count, stainless aero, three-cross pattern
Hub: Vuelta (compatible with Shimano cassettes)
Weight: 760 g (front), 1090 g (rear)

Being a somewhat novice mechanic, I did a fair amount of research before I made my purchase decision. My main concern was the difficulty level associated with transferring the cassette and disc rotors to the new wheelset. Luckily, the interweb provided plenty of advice. I particularly liked the stuff from Bike Radar.

Along with the wheelset, I ordered the suggested tools that I didn’t yet have in the arsenal. In particular, a cassette removal tool and a chain whip. An adjustable crescent wrench is also required. To replace the rotors, a hex head driver is needed.

Disassembly of the old wheelset went exactly as described. But I found I hardly needed the new tools. Everything came apart without much effort, cassette lock ring loosened under hand pressure and the cassette removed easily. Reassembly on the Starlites went similarly. No tools required until it came time to swap the disc rotors around. When it came time to put everything back on the bike, all that was required was a few pumps of the brakes to get the disc pads to auto center. With that, we were back in business.

One additional note on the shopping process. Absolutely read the fine print in the product description but don’t rely completely on product reviews for specs. I searched long and hard to find a set of wheels that were pre-drilled for Schrader valves. Nothing appeared in the product specs. In the the buyer reviews I finally found a note that the Starlites worked with Schrader, so I went for it. But I should have called Nashbar. Upon arrival however I found that my Starlites were compatible only with Presta which required a whole new set of tubes and blowing out my bargain buy. When I called the Nashbar folks to bring this to their attention, they offered a little discount on the replacements but no rationale for the misrepresentation. My only conclusion is I must have been caught in between the transition in Vuelta’s product line.

So shopping was a little problematic and the assembly was easier than expected, how good are the wheels? I gotta say, for roughly $100 you can’t go wrong. They’re true, roll easily and handle tires up to 2.3-inches (the WTB Bronsons). If you’re looking for a relative bargain wheelset try Vuelta.

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Thanks for reading another outdoor gear review from GearGuide.