Rolf Prima Echelon Wheelset

By Patrick Engleman

Rolf Wheels

As a pseudo scientist, aware consumer, and overall bike nerd, I try to get the most out of every review that I do. I always use the same routes for trying out product that comes through the doors of the studio. The Rolf Prima Echelon wheels were next on my usual, although not very personal, proving grounds, complete with gravel, city streets, long country climbs, and everything I could find to throw at these hoops.

Rolf Prima places these wheels in their entry-level range but they certainly don’t skimp on features you would expect on some other entry-level wheels. One of the first things I noticed, which was a great touch, was their proprietary rim tape. Who would think rim tape would come into play in a wheel review? Well if you have had your own rim tape slip or shift under high pressure only to allow the spoke nipple to puncture the tube, you can appreciate the reinforced tape that Rolf preinstalled on these American made wheels.

Beyond the tape, the wheels really “spun up” well. When my powerful pedal-strokes engaged one of the three hardened steel pawls in the rear hub, I went forward quickly. This could be the stiffness of the 31mm deep section rim mixed with the 14/15 gauge bladed spokes, but whatever it is, my power was transferred through the wheel with reasonable efficiency.

The first adventure I took these wheels on was through some rough stuff in the proving grounds of Northeastern PA. I took them on a 70 miler with 30% gravel and about two and a half vertical miles of climbing, and they served me well. The gravel sections were a bit harsher at first because I am actually use to a softer rim, but the chatter in the loose stuff is worth it when you are climbing the pitted tarmac of the northlands. Stiffness is relative and based on a million factors, but I felt enough stiffness to make it somewhat discernible.

I thought for sure that when I got back to the truing stand, I would be hard at work truing these wheels, but I was rewarded with an arrow straight wheel and more time to recover unencumbered with wheel maintenance. The low spoke count wheels might scare some folks away, and to be honest, I thought I would end up pushing a bike with square wheels after it felt my formidable load, but after a few months on these wheels, I have to say I am very happy with them.

The reason these wheels stay in true under my mass and riding conditions is due to the double spokes, their high tension and the way they share loads over the ride. The spokes are pulling on each other, more or less neutralizing the pulling forces that normal wheels have. The spokes also tend to de-tension less than normal spokes because of their high tension. I don’t want to bore you with the physics of spokes, but it is cool stuff, so look it up!

With a claimed mass of 1680 grams (3.7lbs) for the wheel set, it is comparable to, if not lighter than, other entry level road wheels, albeit a bit cheaper. And did I mention American made? So here’s the true test: Would I lay down my own green on these wheels? Yes, I would. Every time.

Pat Engleman is a native of North Eastern Pennsylvania but he has been living in Philadelphia for the last twenty years. Cycling was his way to get to different skateboarding spots in his small hometown, but that has blossomed to a full blown passion that has grown into racing, advocacy work, trail building, bicycle retail and event promotion. His most recent work has been in the development of the annual Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo and of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Cycling League,