Sometimes there is no greater feeling than finishing up with a ride, pulling into the driveway and setting your bike against the wall for a good, long, admiring look.
Having just ridden hard hilly kilometers and over a categorized climb or two with windy flat sections thrown in for good measure, the sudden stillness of the bike and itʼs now-frozen-in place carbon wheelset is cause for reflection.
When reflecting upon the bicycle in this way it is easy to get obsessive over the elements which together comprise your esteemed race machine.
The fore and aft of your saddle is just such a focal point and is incredibly time-consuming to get exactly right, with the difference between perfection and agony often being a matter of a millimeter.
The selection of components is no different, and I know all cyclists fall into the same category once cyclingʼs grip has taken hold: every choice must be perfect.
Stem length, cassette size (11–28 or 12–25?), crank arm length, handlebar width, and even handlebar tape: donʼt forget the bar tape!
Of course, we all know the component that every cyclist prizes above all others, even if they admit it or not.
Itʼs the element which determines the ride quality, the spin, the extra kick up a climb or that unfair advantage in the wind, and thatʼs all without mentioning the incredible looks they offer up to a properly raced-out machine. Carbon clincher wheels make the biggest impact both visually and performance-wise, so choosing this component well above all others has extreme importance and should be done with great care.
It was in this state of reflection, and after much research and deliberation, that I ordered, unboxed, and mounted an ICAN carbon wheelset replete with sleek matte black 40mm-deep aero rims and, to top it off, DT Swiss 240s hubs. In choosing these wheels, I pored over an excess of details provided by ICAN and have broken it all down from top to bottom.
Who are ICAN?
After contacting ICANʼs customer service directly and conducting my own research, I was able to collect plenty of information about who they are and what their production process entails. ICAN was founded in 2009 in Shenzhen, China, where they maintain offices and factories for a workforce of over 200 employees, many of whom were hand selected for their expertise in designing and constructing carbon fiber bicycle frames and components.
A regular attendee of Interbike, the worldʼs largest annual bike industry conference and show, ICAN has stayed abreast of trends and even started some themselves, such as being amongst the first carbon wheelset manufacturers to include premium Sapim CX-Ray spokes as standard componentry.
ICAN does all of its production in-house beginning with their design team and ending with quality control checks which pass international quality standards such as SGS and EN tests. With warehouses on every major continent globally, ICAN has discreetly become a major player in the competitive landscape of high-quality carbon bicycle frames and wheelsets.
Concerning buyer peace of mind, ICAN offers a 2-year warranty on any of their products and a six-point buyer protection plan.
Unveiling the Wheels Unveiling the Wheels
I ordered the ICAN 40mm carbon clincher wheelset with DT Swiss 240s hubs and waited impatiently for them to arrive.
When the postman unceremoniously left them on my doorstep (they arrived in 7 days by China EMS shipping, with tracking included), I quickly tore the box open and found a warranty card with the date of my purchase inscribed.
Included were a free set of skewers along with carbon brake pads which made for a great start to the experience. The first and most glaring detail that I noticed after I pulled the packaging away from the wheels was their weight.
Coming in at just under 1500g with the DT Swiss 240s hubs, the ICAN team clearly envisioned these wheels as all-around racing wheels with enough of a balance between weightlessness and aerodynamics to handle long climbs in the mountains and pacelines on the flats in the same ride.
For comparison, the Enve SES 3.4 wheelset features a nearly identical ride and weight to the ICAN 40mm DT 240s wheelset, yet cost over three times as much ($3,000 for the Enve, $890 for the ICAN). The Sapim CX-Ray bladed aero spokes ping with tension as you glide your hand across, playing them as though they formed a futuristic harp.
The Belgian built Sapim CX-Ray spokes are as light as titanium versions but are stronger and resist fatigue much longer than titanium, thus maintaining tension and needing to be trued less often. The CXRay spoke is Sapimʼs flag-bearing model and has extraordinarily hightensile strength which regularly tests several times higher than any other spoke on the market.
For this reason, Sapim CX-Ray spokes are the international standard when the highest-quality spoke with aerodynamic advantage is needed, as is proven by the amount of grand tours won aboard Sapim CX-Ray equipped bikes.
The lack of a brake track allows for ICAN to shave precious weight off the wheel while braking is done directly to the 40mm deep carbon fiber Toray T700 section. Toray is the worldʼs leading producer of carbon fiber composites and its carbon is found in everything from Boeingʼs aerospace division to Tour de France winning bikes.
At 25mm wide and a rim bed of 18.35mm, the ICAN 40mm DT 240s Hub Wheelset adhere to the scientifically proven premise that wider wheels and tires roll faster. Previously, 23mm was viewed as the standard until sufficient aerodynamics testing technology became available and showed that 25mm wheelsets offer less rolling resistance (meaning theyʼre faster) and provide more ride comfort, all the while allowing riders to run less tire pressure.
Many wheelsets are behind the times in this regards and produce 23mm wide models, so even if a rider purchases 25mm tires, they arenʼt able to take advantage of the width since the wheels canʼt stretch the tires to their proper surface area.
Last but not least we have the DT Swiss 240s Hubs. What hasnʼt already been said about these legendary hubs? When it comes to lightweight hubs that maximize the stiffness of their respective wheelsets, the DT 240s Hubs are the standard.
Allowing for perfect spoke tension and weather sealed to handle any conditions, the longevity of the DT Swiss is second to none and a classic for both racing and training purposes.
Punching Above Their Weight Punching Above Their Weight
Bladed aero spoke heaven
After a couple of weeks and several hundred kilometers atop the ICAN 40mm DT 240s carbon clincher wheelset, my impression is overwhelmingly positive. The versatility of these wheels due to the excellent 40mm depth lends them stiff assuredness when sprinting full-gas and out of the saddle while at the same time keeping them buttery-smooth when youʼre in the flow of a first category climb.
The 25mm wheel-width combined with the 25mm Continental Grand Prix 4000s II tires I used for testing made for a plush ride at a cushy 85 psi tire pressure. Their lightness made them responsive during sudden accelerations, allowing me to spin-up as needed.
During windy rides the added depth lent noticeable cross-section stability to the ride but didnʼt interfere during fast, technical descents, making them perfect all-rounders. Taking the tires on and off with one tire lever and using my hands to roll the rest was simple with a little added strength.
Legendary wheel builder Keith Bontrager once said, “strong, light, inexpensive, pick two,” but ICAN have proven that adage wrong by building a wheel with aerospace-grade carbon fiber, DT Swiss hubs, Sapim spokes, and a price-point that canʼt be beaten.