Xero is a new Taiwan-based startup that specializes in wheel manufacturing. The business might be new, but its manufacturing knowledge and techniques are not. Their knowledge and expertise are derived from Formula, a long-established manufacturer of high-end hubs and wheelsets.
Xero currently has a wide range of wheelsets for both road and offroad application. All their wheelsets have low spoke counts and possess the cool looks that are usually associated with higher end wheelsets. Their top end cross-country wheelset, the XAD-1, looks cunningly similar to the Mavic Crossmax SL at first glance.
Our Xero?s Element wheelset shows a lot of promises upon first inspection. For starters, the wheelset is both disc and v-brakes ready. Supplied together with the wheels are 2 sets of adaptors, one for the standard 6-bolt system and the other for the new Shimano Center-lock system. If you are using v-brakes, simply remove the adaptors and replace it with the supplied rubber seal. With the adaptors out of sight when they are not needed, the wheelset not only looks sleeker, but it is also free of unnecessary weight. The adaptors are all tightened using the standard cogset lock ring and you would need the special lock ring tool to remove or to install them. The tool, which costs about $20, is not supplied together with the wheels. A set of matching alloy quick release skewers is also included. Incidentally, the Element is also the lightest mountain bike wheelset in Xero?s range. The claimed weight for the front wheel is 785 grams while the rear weighs in at 1035 grams.
Rolling on the Road
Our new wheelset needs no wearing in. The sealed cartridge bearings spin smoothly right from our first ride. The smoothness of the hubs is very much comparable to that of other reputable wheel manufacturers. The rolling resistance from the freehub is also minimal and we realize that we are rolling down slopes slightly faster and further. This smoothness is further enhanced by the silent freehub in the rear as the wheels cruise along silently. Speed of engagement of the freehub is pretty standard, very similar to those of Shimano hubs.
When compared to ultra light wheelset such as Crossmax SL and the DT 240 wheelset, the weight of the Element is conspicuous during acceleration. It takes slightly more effort to overcome the inertia when moving from rest. By saying that, we are in no way suggesting that the Element is overweight. On the contrary, it is actually lighter than many other low spoke-count wheelsets currently available in the market.
Rolling through the Hills
When brought to the trails, the first thing that we notice is the vertical flex in the wheelset. We welcome the vertical flex as it helps to smooth out the roughness of the trails and actually makes the ride more comfortable. Our aluminum hardtail actually begin to feel like a titanium one with the Element mounted. While the Element flex vertically, we can hardly notice any lateral flex in the wheels except under hard cornering. Even for that, we are talking about minute flex that is within acceptable limits. The only complain we have is a ticking sound that comes from the rear wheel under hard braking. It sounds like the spokes are being pulled under the braking effort. The sound got us worried for a while, but after checking the wheels and verification with a few riders who own the same wheelset, we shrugged it off as a design issue. Throughout the whole review period, the wheels remained true even after going through Plentong, Bukit Timah and Ubin. The ticking sound causes nothing more than some irritation which we got used to after a while.
We would very much like to test how the rotors adaptors work under actual braking condition, but it?s a pity that our test bike is only v-brakes equipped. However, that did not stop us from fooling around with the adaptors. From our short experience with the adaptors, we observe that they are well machined and fitted nicely onto the hubs without any obvious play. Tightening of the adaptors is pretty straight forward too with the cogset tool. Just fit the tool onto the lock ring and turn clockwise to tighten and anti-clockwise to loosen.
The machined braking surface on the rim works beautifully under dry conditions but can be a nuisance when going through water and mud. While this is common symptom for wheelset using v-brakes, we do find that the sound is a tad too loud. To be fair, the problem could also be due to the set up of our brakes as much as the rims. As added value, the rims come with an ?X? marking that indicates the wear rate of the rims. When the marking is almost gone, the user will know it is time to change the rims.
In our six weeks of comprehensive testing, we could not find any major fault with the Element. The strength of the wheelset is backed by the fact that it needs no trueing despite going through its fair share of both local and Malaysia trails.
Xero must have exploited the knowledge gain from Formula as they have done everything right with the Element. With the amount of features it has and its wallet-friendly price tag, it is a wheelset that offers true value to the consumers. Anyone will be hard-pressed to find a wheelset that allows you the flexibility of using v-brakes or disc brakes (both 6-bolt design and Center-lock design), has a reasonable weight and is cool looking? In addition, the quality sealed bearings lets you roll on smoothly right out of the box and is almost maintenance-free. As an added bonus, those who appreciate silent hubs will love the Element as it let you roll by without waking the dead.
We would highly recommend the Element if you are looking for a wheelset that is value-for-money, and yet gives you outstanding performance and looks. For weight weenies who are concern about having 200 grams too much on their bike, you might want to try else where.