FLO Cycling unveils all-new Carbon Clinchers
article & images by Nick Salazar
Mar 1, 2016
FLO's new lineup starts with full carbon clinchers in the FLO 60, FLO 90, FLO Disc, and a new FLO 45 depth. These are the real stars of the show, and the actual wheels I'm reviewing here. FLO has also produced hybrid alloy-plus-fairing versions of the wheels, just like their original 2012 models. However, these versions only save you $100 compared to their bigger brothers. Going for the carbon clinchers is a no-brainer to me. They're faster, they're lighter, they brake just as well, and the cool factor is undeniable. If you look solely at the dollars-to-drag-saved equation, the carbon clinchers actually represent a pretty great deal. For the FLO 60 and FLO 90, you'll save about 20g of drag for your $50. Not bad. Moreover, the carbon clincher lineup includes the new FLO 45, which doesn't exist in hybrid form.
What I reviewed for this article is what I'll call my "dream team" - a 45 and 60 front, 60, 90, and Disc rear. The front wheels are $549 each. The rears are $599 for the 60 and 90, or $949 for the Disc. I like the 60/Disc combo for most racing situations, somewhere like Kona or another very windy course I might choose a 60/60 or 60/90 combo, and for training on windy days or racing a hill-climb course I might choose the 45/60 combo. If I were to remove one wheel from this lineup, it might be the 90 rear. The FLO 60 is nearly as fast as the new FLO 90, within the margin of error (just 4g between the two). Next on the chopping block might be the Disc, which is indeed significantly faster than the 60 or 90, but comes at a premium. In any event, ALL of these wheels are significantly less-expensive than their competitors. The entire retail price of my complete "dream team" is $3245 for all five wheels, about the cost of one set of Zipp Carbon Clinchers. My reduced lineup of a 45/60 front + 60 rear would cost $1700 for a set of three wheels capable of handling any situation you could think of, at less than the price of a single Zipp 404 rear wheel.
Each wheel includes a skewer and brake pads. The pads are a proprietary compound. FLO hasn't disclosed what's in them, but they work very well indeed. Exceptionally good. In fact, I'd say they're comparable to alloy rims in terms of stopping ability. I noticed the same great performance previously noted in my review of Knight's wheels. Knight claims that the braking performance comes from their thicker sidewalls, better able to dissipate heat. So I asked FLO whether they were also using thick-walled rims. Turns out, the minimum wall thickness FLO uses is 3-4mm, equal to or thicker than the Knight rims. Seems like there's definitely something to this thick-wall advantage. I tested the FLO wheels with my standard KoolStop Salmon pads as well (designed for alloy rims), and found they performed about the same as FLO's proprietary pads. Perhaps one of them works better in wet conditions, but I tend to avoid riding in the rain. In any event, FLO subsequently advised me that you must use their included pads in order to preserve your warranty. FLO has more of them available for purchase when needed.
Building the wheels up was trivially easy. I built them up with Continental GP4000S II tires, given that they proved the fastest in FLO's tests, and that the wheels were designed with this tire in mind. The tires mounted up with nothing more than thumb pressure - no levers necessary. They came off the same way, making the wheels very easy to install, and very easy to work with in the event of a flat.
The ride performance was also up to snuff - FLO's hubs are sturdy, dependable, and user-serviceable. Industry-standard Sapim CX-Ray spokes keep things simultaneously aero and reliable. The wheels feel good in the wind, and fast on the flats. I really have only good things to say about them overall. Let's hit the jump and get to my conclusions.
The Dream Team
I was fortunate to review a whole collection of the new wheels, including a FLO 45 front, 60 front, 60 rear, 90 rear, and Disc. This dream team of five wheels clocks in at the price of one pair of wheels from a competitor, and covers virtually every imaginable training and racing situation.
The FLO Disc is based off of the design of the FLO 90, with the remainder of the wheel (the spoke fairing) optimized independently. This results in some strange-looking shapes, but an undeniably fast wheel.
FLO makes their own hubs, compatible with 10 and 11-speed cassettes. These are user serviceable, even on the disc, and are all laced with Sapim CX-ray spokes (except the discs, which get Sapim Laser spokes).
Design + Development
An exemplary and innovative design process led FLO on an incredible journey resulting in the wheels you see in this review. All images in this section courtesy FLO Cycling.