The secret of Lightweight wheels

Lightweight wheels by Carbon-Sports

This year, our journey at Friedrischafen for the Eurobike earl in September has been unforgettable. Close to the Constance lake where the three countries Germany Austria and Switzerland meet. The Messe is just 72.000 square meters of exhibition, which was really big. It has been a dream for us to be there as journalists to report the news. It was a dream come true and we simply didn’t think we could see so many amazing things there. Not only had we the chance to see this exhibition but also the chance to mix with Carbon-Sports‘ fantastic guys who let us in on the secret of Lightweight wheels!

Founded in 2000 by Erhard Wissler and currently based in Friedrischafen a few kilometers away from the Messe, CarboFibreTec is all about development and production of high-end parts made out of glass, carbon and kevlar fibers for a lot of different applications. From aerospace, aircraft and medical parts to ballistic protections, automobile and of course bike parts. they can nowadays count on the asset of more than 30 years old of well proven practical technology with the three most experienced persons in composites materials from Germany.
This is why Lightweight wheels are still getting better and better even through the main design remains unchanged.

Lightweight wheels were developed in the nineties by Rudolf Dierl and Heinz Obermayer, both specialized in tool making and respectively skilled in both aircraft and airspace technologies and numerical control. They realized disk wheels built with spokes and foam as carrier material. At this point spoked wheels weren’t that far away and so in 1994 the first non-disc Lightweight wheel was born. It had a low profile rim and « press formed » spokes laminated to the rim. Some time after, high profile wheels were born and we can see a lot of them used by professional riders.

When Carbon-sports, subsidiary of CarboFibreTec proposed Heinz the possibility to continue the development and production of Lightweight wheels in 2003, he agreed because it proposed a lot of confidence while keeping the high-end technology in Germany, but was also able to keep the same quality wheels.
Lately in September 2006 for the Eurobike, Lightweight wheels have been upgraded with 60 grams less and 14% more stiffness thanks to a new foam in the rim. This is the same one used in the Airbus A380 wings. A maximal weight of 960gr for the Obermayer wheelset with 12/20 spokes. Generation II was born…
This is all what we knew when we moved to CarboFibreTec factory in Friedrischafen on Saturday after the Eurobike closed its door.
A small parking, a lean entrance and a tiny logo didn’t tell us anything about the amount of knowledge and technology involved there, the amount of hard work, research and design that goes into designing these lightweight wheels.

Inside the secret!

Inside the building that seemed pretty small (it seemed only), everything was clean, classy, and excellantly designed Erhard’s daughter.
After some background information on the company, Erhard proudly (Am I kidding?) showed us a very special bike. It was fully designed and painted by a air brush artist who made a great art-job… unfortunately the design isn’t to everyone’s taste…

When we entered the place we were waiting for long: the workshop, it was not really what we imagined since we couldn’t see any Lightweight wheels.
In this section were waiting some glass fibers tubes and some kevlar ballistic protections. The kind of bounded tube can transmit a torque up to 2200N.m without breaking and the kind of protection that is able to resist to 45mm Magnum. Some parts for aircraft aero brakes and helicopter protections are done there as well

Bounded tubes
Erhard Wissler, enginner and founder at CarboFibreTec

Kevlar ballistic protection

Click to enlarge

In the next part of the factory, we were allowed to take pictures of the ovens. Erhard, a truly passionated person explained in perfect english on what takes place during this process. He explained it so well that I could give it a try at home (ok I’m just joking, maybe I should leave it up to the experts!). Basically, making a carbon part is all about making a mould to place the carbon and resin combo. Some plastic has to be placed over it to ensure the vacuum is well sealed to prevent air getting into the mould during the cooking process (air voids would result in a weak part). A high pressure and high temperature is then required to heat the carbon/resin combo and so the resin polymerizes and it makes a strong and resilient finished product.

One oven and some parts

A big part was standing in this room close to the ovens. It was half a circle made out of carbon for medical scanner. Originally this part is in steel and is very heavy. Therefore it requires a lot of energy to move. In carbon, we were able to take it easily in hand to weight it. This is a very special part because it needs some electrods in it to transmit the waves, the electricity for the scanner to work.

This is the scanner part, pretty light and suitable for medical use!

You can see the small electrods in the middle of the part.

Also within this room were half finished Lightweight wheels and also some ready to roll: the Standard, the Ventoux and the Obermayer.

We could perfectly see how the Lightweight wheels were designed with each single kevlar spoke wrapped around the hub at 140/160° to tighten the rim.
Erhard showed us three differents finishes for the rims, it was very nice to see the famous wheels with some uncommon look.

Varnished, mat or normal, which one do you prefer?

This room is the place where the wheels were going to be sent to a second factory where they will receive the hubs; the tube itself and the whole mechanism from DTSwiss, TUNE or Lightweight for the front wheel.
In the next room we visited, there were dozens of carbon fiber armrest for aircraft on a table as well as able and some half built Disk wheels were on the way to be built. We could see some carbon coils here and there is this room.

Aircraft armrests                                &    Carbon fibers coils

We were thus lucky to see how the Disk wheel was constructed with many layers of thin spokes and several carbon fiber sheets in the center to carry the extra-light foam inside.

In this room some broken Lightweight wheels due to be repaired were placed close to a wall. Carbon-Sports repairs the wheels at low cost or replaces them if beyond repair. Carbon-sports offers a 30% discount off the market price if they need to be replaced. This is the con of the full carbon one-piece very light and very stiff wheels.

Some posters of the best cyclists around using Carbon-sports wheels were placed in a small room close to the broken wheels.On the wall were attached the repaired wheels, tests are also carried out here to evaluate the different properties of the wheels including the stiffness following the TOUR magazine protocol (see the Lightweight wheels performances here: Great wheel test).

We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the place where the wheels were definitely taking shape, it is their secret and we hope it will remain one forever. Anyway we had the chance to photograph one after this process. It is what we would call a bare wheel with some uncut carbon fibers.

Then, a bit further in the factory, Erhard explained us how they make the carbon tubes which are able to transmit a high torque. A few high-end and very long machines does the carbon weaves around an axle. This is all what we can tell you.

A lot of 3K and 6K carbon fiber coils were waiting to be used in a dark room at the tip of the factory.

We spent a very good time in the factory

Yes, unfortunately the visit of this factory is already finished. We spent a great time there. The way the Lightweight wheels are built is so special and so mysterious that none could copy them yet. So far, they have performed as the best wheels ever. Super light, very stiff, aerodynamical, strong, beautiful are all adjectives for these wheels that performs very well to any test.

This year, the whole Pro Tour team chose to ride Lightweight wheels for every race. We will soon see the famous carbon wheels on the pavés of Paris-Roubaix. We hope a victory!


At the Eurobike we took a nice picture with Stefan the salesman at Carbon-Sports, and a few other buddies from weightweenies forum. I hope you will like it as much as we do!

Click to enlarge

From left to right:
Samu, Stefan, Lee, Luc, Daniel, Pieter, myself (Adrien), Anton, Phillischen

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