Piston Racing 50CC Wheels
CHARLES LEE | 14th June 2016 | PRODUCT REVIEWS
Well, no one will get blamed if he or she scratches the head when the name “Piston Racing Wheels” pops up in the conversation. After all, it is a relatively new wheel brand in the cycling realm. It is all the more unfamiliar since Piston Racing Wheels hails directly from the Garden City, a country which is not traditionally known to have produced quality bicycles and bike accessories.
Piston Cycle Pte Ltd began its roots in 2013. Founded and managed by Wesley Liaw, an experienced bicycle mechanic who has been specialising in wheel-building for close to 10 years, the company carries out the full spectrum of wheel-building work, from computer-aided designing to the finishing of the wheel-set in Singapore! The magnitude of wheel-building from A to Z is extremely large, and it is no doubt an amazing feat for a small set-up like Piston Cycle Pte Ltd to have the means and expertise to construct a wheel-set from scratch. It is also a clear signal to the cycling community that Piston Cycle Pte Ltd is coming in as a weighty contender.
In this review, we put a pair of Piston Racing 50CC Wheels to the test in true Togoparts style to see if the home-grown product is a worthy opponent against the international names.
Whilst anyone with a wad of cash can easily afford them, the Piston Racing 50 Carbon Clincher (CC) Wheels are essentially designed for triathletes, biathletes and those who are pushing their physical limits to the next higher level. In a sense, the Piston Racing Wheels are serious components for serious buyers.
The UCI-approved Piston Racing 50CC Wheel, as the number suggests, is a 50mm profile aerodynamic rim. The hoop comes exclusively in matt black. There are no flashy decals or graphics. The words “PISTON RACING” are also black and are stealthily debossed in stylised upper-case. Clearly, the black-on-black look demonstrates the confidence of the wheel maker that less is more.
The Uni-Directional (UNI) Toray T700 Carbon Fibre is the material of choice for the rim. Unlike woven carbon fibre, UNI carbon fibre is twice as strong and stiff than conventional 3K or 12K woven carbon fibre. From a technical perspective, UNI carbon fibre, which runs in one direction, lies flatly. It therefore will not flex when considerable force is applied to it. Woven carbon fibre, on the other hand, are bent into a continuous “S” shape as the fibres are woven above and below one other. This creates weaknesses. Flex will therefore occur when force is applied.
Wesley revealed to Togoparts that he applied the same type of carbon fibre material on the brake track of the Piston Racing 50CC Wheels. In a telephone conversation with Togoparts, Wesley shared that the laminated braking track and basalt braking track are currently the two most popular types of brake walls that are built into carbon rims. However, they have their own set of flaws. Laminated brake tracks, according to him, have low heat resistance. Prolong braking on laminated brake tracks will cause the adhesive agent to soften and peel off over time. While Basalt brake tracks offer strong braking power, they have a tendency to wear off after a while. Worn-off brake tracks will affect braking performance. Wesley explained that using the same type of carbon fibre to construct the rim and the brake track is made possible because this type of carbon fibre, joined together by a special type of resin, has a heat resistance of up to 240 degree celsius.
The quality of the rim is complemented by the Pillar Aero Stainless Steel Spokes and aluminium nipples. The skewer is made from Chromoly, which is known to be stronger than steel.
HOW DOES IT FARE?
At 1550 grams (without skewers), the Piston Racing 50CC Wheels (front and rear) are considered light. Unbelievable? As a benchmark, the Dura-Ace 50mm Carbon Clincher wheel-set – touted as the ultimate rolling component that money can buy – weighs at 1672 gram lighter with skewers. Not bad for a home-grown wheel maker.
The Piston Racing 50CC Wheels were paired with the Continental GP4000S II 25mm tyres, one of the more popular tyres in the market. Bolting the wheels to the test bike – a Giant Defy road bike – was fuss-free and intuitive.
Hopping on the bike and pedalling off was performed in a quick, wobble-free fashion, and I was inclined to attribute this to the rigidity of the Piston Racing 50CC Wheels. The concept of rigidity may not be important to an ordinary rider. However, to professional racers and sportsmen, increased rigidity would translate to improved energy transfer from the crank to the wheels, and it could shave off a few tenths of seconds.
The Piston Racing 50CC Wheels felt stiff and responsive during the test ride. Complemented by the well-liked Continental rubbers, the wheels could be easily steered in the desired direction with predictability.
If cycling fast could earn you a summons from the traffic police, the Piston Racing 50CC Wheels may set your wallet back by a few thousand dollars in traffic fines. Thanks to its aerodynamic design, the Piston Racing 50CC Wheels gained speed in a matter of seconds and never showed any signs of slowing down despite several “non-pedalling” instances.
The Piston hoops revealed its best at junctures when the air was calm. At those points, significant accelerations were easily achieved without the need for excessive pedalling. Given its high output ratio, triathletes and competing bikers alike can strategise their winning formulas by leveraging on the wheels’ aerodynamic profile to go fast without investing maximum efforts.
Whilst the performance of high-profile rims are commonly affected by crosswind components, the Piston Racing 50CC Wheels surprised us with its defiance against this law of nature. There were hardly any sensation of crosswinds even though moderately-strong winds were blowing from the sides at times.
Full marks were awarded when it comes to slowing things down. During long, steep descents (from Mount Faber), the carbon brakes held up well. There was hardly any observation of screeching sounds when the brakes were applied.
Consistent braking power is also an inherent characteristic of the Piston Racing 50CC Wheels! In a few instances, the brakes were deliberately applied hard nearing the end of the long descent. To our amazement, no power loss was observed! Typically, carbon brakes will not grip well after being dragged for a period of time on a long descent. Wet conditions did not pose any issue to the Piston brakes either. Two of our test rides were performed under a light drizzle. Quite expectedly, the brakes did not show any signs of hesitation when the brake levers were depressed. A close inspection confirmed our speculations that the pads are designed with grooves. Wesley explained that the brake pads are lined with grooves (think of thread patterns) so that water can escape and the pads can continue to function effectively.
For the price of $1600, the Piston Racing 50CC Wheels are considered a steal! They are light, snappy and responsive. Worshippers of things that are matt black will further adore the stealthy hue of the high profile rims. Serious bikers will want them badly so that they can shave off at least two to three seconds from their lap times in their next race.
Looking at how the wheels had performed in our test rides, I am quite sure that “Piston Racing Wheels” will be a commonly-cited brand in many conversations to come.
Piston Cycle Pte Ltd retails the Piston Racing 50CC Wheels. Please call Wesley at 92362649 to find out more about this product.