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The three names behind the nascent Knight Composites are responsible for much of the industry-leading technology in cycling aerodynamics today. Given that pedigree, it's not surprising that Knight's 95 Carbon Fibre/Aivee SR5 Road Wheelset is built with aerospace-grade carbon, compacted with an internal bladder, and subjected to testing that exceeds CEN standards. The new aerodynamic profile certainly surprises, though, as Knight's wind tunnel data suggests the Knight 95 sheds up to dozens of grams of drag force compared to the current industry leaders. Plus, by omitting its usual choice of DT Swiss hubs in favor of Aivee's lighter SR5 hubs, Knight manages to effect a nominal weight loss and a boost in structural integrity.
The slight claimed weight loss is obviously appreciated, but the overall increase in strength is the real benefit of opting for Aivee hubs. Knight credits the French manufacturer's peculiar flange design for that increase, though we'd also suggest that Aivee's meticulous construction processes may play a role. The hubs' bodies are machined in France on equipment that also produces aerospace and medical-grade equipment, harnessing the precision demanded by those fields in order to capitalize on the wheels' aerodynamic gains.
While that weight loss is impressive, a 95mm rim's real job is to cut drag. According to Knight's numbers, the 95's impressive aerodynamic benefits top out at 15 degrees of yaw while traveling at 30mph with -112g of drag force — roughly equivalent to a solid disc wheel but without the handling drawbacks. That negative number suggests that these wheels actually help propel the bike forward after you've spun them up. Knight calculates the effect of this addition by subtraction as a claimed savings of 22.5 seconds over 40km when compared to its most aerodynamically-gifted competitor. Just by changing wheels. These gains have seen Knight's newly released wheels enjoy immediate favor with athletes ranging from 70.3 winners to grand tour champions.
The key to achieving these almost comical numbers is Knight's Trailing Edge Aerodynamic Manipulation Technology (TEAM Tech), which reinvents the aerodynamics of the wheel by shifting the focus from the leading to the trailing edge. This change in focus helped Knight design wheels as part of a bicycle-wide system of aerodynamics that includes tires, rims, fork, and frame. TEAM Tech's mission began in the virtual space of Computational Fluid Dynamics software, proceeded through multiple rounds of testing in two separate wind tunnels, and ate up hundreds of test models.
The result of the laborious TEAM Tech process is a cross-section that describes a tapered parabola rather than the sharp point of a NACA airfoil or the overly-rounded "U" shape of wheels that Knight's founders helped develop and that are dominating the market today. This new shape meets TEAM Tech's mandate of systematic aerodynamics by gradually widening airflow across the rim, which swells to 28.25mm at the widest point. This rim shape helps air transition in stability from tire to rim to down tube in order to minimize the drag caused by pockets of stalled air in the wake of the bicycle system's separate components, maintaining a united front against drag.
All the penchant for low-drag speed in the world eventually comes a cropper if the brake tracks have the performance characteristics of spongy snack cakes, though. To address the braking issues that so often plague carbon hoops, Knight updates the standard model of a textured carbon surface with the inclusion of a nanofiber layer designed to grab the pads when you grab the levers. It also modulates well, a pleasant feeling for cyclists used to carbon braking that operates at only two speeds: spongy and unresponsive or locked-up and squealing. Finally, the brake tracks are about twice as thick as Knight's competitor's models — up to 3mm from around 1.5mm. This effectively diffuses heat, helping to keep the rims from violently deforming by hitting the dreaded glass transition temperature.
- Item #KNI0006