I’ve owned my Parcours Passista wheelset for around a year now and after a handful of people asking my thoughts I wanted to share a more in-depth review on what they’re like to own. I’ve raced the wheels a lot in the 2017 season and they’ve contributed to a handful of crit wins and podiums. Here are my extended thoughts on them.
Why I Chose Parcours
I looked up Parcours after hearing about them through friends and I really liked their mantra of aero-proven wheels that are affordable and no nonsense. They seemed like one of the brands who were narrowing the gap between high-ticket price brands like Zipp, Mavic and Enve and your low cost but questionable Chinese carbon rims. I’ve previously been left disappointed with high priced wheels I’ve owned and wouldn’t trust pushing a cheap carbon wheel hard in races so was keen to try something new.
I’m a big advocate of riding a high-quality clincher tyre with a latex tube. When paired with a wide rim I think it gives a tubular-like feel, only with the convenience of a clincher. I’ve had my Passistas setup most of the year with Continental GP4000Sii with Vittoria Latex tubes, changing recently to Vittoria Corsa G+ with the same tubes.
Setup like this I think the Parcours wheels roll really well. The wider rim with a 25c tyre gives a supple ride and contributes towards how well the wheels hold speed. They feel nice and stiff under acceleration and don’t flex around at all. Parcours offered me an option to add more spokes, upping to 28 rear / 24 front over the standard 24 rear / 20 front, mostly because I’m heavy and ride a lot of explosive races like crits where you are repeatedly putting big power through the bike. They track perfectly through corners and go where you point them, racing technical circuits like the Crystal Palace Crits was a pleasure on my Bowman Palace:R with these wheels.
On the whole I’m really happy with the braking performance. It’s one of the things I mention if someone asks what I think of my wheels. After a year of riding and racing on these wheels, I’d estimate 10,000km; I can’t see much in the way of wear on the brake surface. They’ve got loads of modulation and power. The brake pad pairing is essential for best braking performance.
The Parcours supplied brake pads are really good. Good enough to merit a serious mention. When I first got my wheels I was using SwissStop yellow pads. They were okay but nothing special. I switched to Parcours pads that come supplied with the wheels and the difference was night and day. The compound seems a lot softer so they wear faster but have really good feel, power and modulation. Yeah they might need replacing more often but I’d much rather spend £20 on some more brake pads and maintain the rim surface.
Using for hilly conditions
Some people are really sceptical of taking carbon rims out to training camps or bike holidays where they will be descending steep climbs and braking hard. The scare stories of melting and delaminating aren’t a myth, it can and does happen.
I took my wheels out to Lanzarote with me in September to give them a good run in and see how they fared. Being ~90kg means I have to put more braking force in to stop than a lighter rider so I think I’m a good candidate to test with.
The ambient temperature during rides was always 25-33 degrees and whilst Lanzarote doesn’t have any super harsh descents I regularly rode the Tabayesco (9.5km @5.6%). On a few occasions I rode hard on the descent with some sharp corners and hairpins providing conditions for hard braking. My Parcours did a great job and never felt unstable or like they wouldn’t cope. There’s no signs of damage from hard braking on the rim, you may eat through brake pads doing it regularly but on the whole I wouldn’t shy away using them.
One caveat here, I never had to descend in the wet, so if I were going somewhere with changeable conditions and the chance of rain I would favour an alloy rim or disc brakes.
Wet Weather Braking
As with most carbon rims the wet weather braking performance isn’t good. It’s a common symptom of carbon rims and a lot of wheels suffer it. I’ve previously ridden Zipp Firecrests, Chinese carbon rims with a Basalt braking surface, Mavic Cosmic Carbons and Fast Forward rims. All of them have been rubbish in really wet conditions. Some of the top end options apparently improve wet braking performance, the Zipp NSWs and Enves seem to get good write ups, unfortunately I don’t have any experiece of those to compare with.
In damp conditions, drizzle and light rain my Parcours Passistas have been fine requiring a little more force than in the dry but perfectly within the range of comfortable and safe. They’re absolutely still a good wheel to ride or race with when the ground is damp or there is intermittent light rain.
I’ve raced in pouring rain twice. That was a different experience. I was really having to squeeze levers for any response. Honestly, in bunch races its unnerving and if it’s really hammering down I’d opt for an alloy wheel at least on the front (don’t forget to swap the brake pads!).
One of the things people ask me about riding a deep rim is how they handle cross winds. The trend in the bike industry towards wider U-shaped rims seems to be improving things on the whole compared to some of the older V-shaped designs. Zipp definitely led the way and thankfully many other brands are following suit. Parcours being no exception.
The Passistas are really similar in profile to a Zipp 404, minus the dimples, which in my opinion are mostly their for marketing purposes. I’ve found them to be really stable and in anything other than strong gusts they’ve never faltered. This is an area where being heavy helps so I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of someone who is 55-65kg.
My trip to Lanzarote gave me an opportunity to really test crosswind performance, its known for being a wind trap. We went in September, average wind speeds were 25mph with gusts of up to 50mph. In this scenario the wind was really catching my front wheel. Thankfully in the UK we only get that kind of wind in storms. Don’t be put off by that, honestly I’ve never ridden in such consistently high wind, even on a shallow rim it would be unenjoyable. It seems that Jan-April when most travel to Lanzarote to ride for training camps it’s a little stiller.
This January I did a full service on the wheels. Disassembling the hubs to check the bearings for wear, they were in perfect condition. Having sealed cartridge bearings with extra seals on the hubs it appears no bad weather has penetrated in.
Something I look out for with wheels is a decent freehub body. In the past with other wheels I’ve destroyed the freehub really quickly. The cassette notching into the freehub body just appears to be part of cycling, especially if youre racing and putting sprint efforts through the bike but with other wheels I’ve written off the freehub body in a matter of months, I’ve notched so far in that The cassette is fully stuck and can’t be removed.
Through the winter I started training for track sprint and was often doing standing start work on my road bike. Countless 1500-2000w efforts have gone through my rear wheel. The cassette has bitten 1-2mm into the freehub. If it gets destroyed a replacement freehub body is about £30.
I’ve already mentioned the braking surface with very little wear. Its on of the area these wheels have impressed me most long term.
With previous wheels I’ve had issues with lateral flex and play in the rear hub, neither of these have manifested with the Parcours.
Ease of Service
I struggle to suggest how to make a wheelset easier to service. External nipples for truing, J-bend spokes for replacement from any bike shop and sealed bearings for longevity are all great features. The hubs are very simple to disassemble and in general are just no nonsense. Not much else to say, in a good way.
Other notable mentions
One thing I have changed is my rear skewer. Parcours come supplied with a really tidy lightweight titanium skewers. In the pursuit of weight saving and aero upgrades they are ace and look the part too. I did however suffer some creaking from the rear skewer interfacing with the frames rear dropouts. Swapping the skewer for the cam-based Shimano Ultegra rear skewer solved the problem. I know other people who use them on different bike frames with no problem so perhaps its not exclusively the skewers. I have to admit the Parcours skewers are neat enough that I do still use them most of the time.
Great wheels, I’m very happy with them and have to recommend. I struggle to justify the price of bigger brand wheels for anything other than their logos. They’ve been reliable, easy to live with and all-round performers.
Ease of Servicing: 10/10
Rolling Speed: 9/10
Hard Descending: 9/10
Crosswind Performance: 8/10
Wet Weather Braking: 4/10