In 2011, we had been looking for a new wheel line to compliment what we have been offering and replace some holes left by other brands. As arguably the inventor of the carbon fiber bicycle rim/wheel in the ‘80’s, Corima kept coming up as a brand that really was offering some excellent riding wheels that simply have not received the credit they likely deserve in the U.S.. Based in France, Corima is one of the most experienced carbon wheel manufacturers in the world; Corima are true pioneers in carbon fiber rim and wheel engineering and production. Several European pro teams are racing on Corima wheels for 2012, including Astana and Saur-Sojasun. As we were evaluating Corima’s offerings, Gilles (head of Corima North America) was nice enough to furnish two different sets of wheels for us to try out: the Aero + HPS ($2840 pr), a full carbon clincher wheel with a 47 mm rim depth, and the tubular Viva ‘S’ ($2400 pr), with a lower 32mm rim depth. Bruce is currently riding the Corima 47 Aero+ set, and loves them, and I seized the opportunity to grab the Corima 32 Viva ‘S’ wheels when they showed up at the shop. My impressions follow:
First, as usual, a little background technical information on the product. The Corima Viva ‘S’ (now called the Corima 32) is a full carbon rim tubular wheel made from pre-impregnated (“pre-preg”) carbon fiber. The rim uses a torsion box reinforced design to maximize stiffness while minimizing weight and is paired with a Corima built high precision hub. The rim depth is a relatively shallow (in today’s terms) 32mm, with the more rounded design that many wheel manufacturers are saying is more aerodynamic than the traditional “V” shape. At 32 mm, the rim is just slightly deeper than the Zipp 101, so aerodynamics are not its primary intent, but is not ignored either. The front wheel has 18 Sapim CX Ray spokes, the rear 20 Sapim CX spokes. Front wheel weight is 480 grams, and rear is 710 grams, making for a very light 1,190 grams a pair. Rim width is 22.6 mm, so while wider than traditional wheels, they are not as wide as some other designs. This intermediary width actually seems like a nice balance between a traditional narrow rim and the new wider rim designs and helps the wheel work better with a wide range of brake calipers and frames than some of the widest offerings from Zipp and HED.
Visually, Corima’s wheels look very refined, having a gloss finish over the carbon weave with first rate fit and finish. There is even a level of customization available with Corima wheels, allowing 4 color choices for some of the stickers on the wheels – red, blue, yellow, and white – to be ordered. Before mounting the wheels on my bike, I checked the bearings in the precision Corima made hubs, and they felt very smooth, and spun very freely. I installed a pair of Continental Grand Prix 4000 SR tubular tires, using Tufo Gluing Tape in lieu of traditional tubular cement (I was in a hurry to get these on my bike and tape is much easier than glue!), and put them on my Parlee Z2 in replacement of my trusty and much loved 2009 Mavic Ksyrium Premium SL’s.
So how do I like these wheels? I like them a lot. I’ve ridden some very nice wheels the past few years and can almost instantly tell when I am riding something unique and special. In the case of the Corima 32 (Viva ‘S’), the most instantly recognizable attribute is the ride quality, and it was obvious immediately upon leaving my driveway. These wheels are very smooth performers; the advanced “pre-preg” carbon rims absorb a great deal of road shock and vibration caused by road imperfections. I found myself actually seeking out road imperfections, just to see how little of the shock I would feel; each “non-bump” frankly made me smile. As much as I love the ride quality of my Mavic Ksyriums with Hutchinson tubeless clincher tires, I never go out of my way to hit cracks or small holes… How much of the ride quality is attributable to the tubular tires, and how much to the wheels? When I mentioned to Bruce that I had gone hunting road imperfections, he said that he initially did the same thing with the Corima Aero+ clincher wheels he has been riding. As he is riding clincher tires on his Corimas, I can only deduce that a very large measure of the ride improvement is the wheels, not the tires. To repeat what Bruce said to me, “Corima is really onto something here.” I must agree. I love the quality of the ride of these wheels.
The comfortable ride does not equate to a flexible, wimpy, numb, or unresponsive wheel though. The wheels felt laterally quite stiff and responsive. The rims are wider than on my Mavic Ksyriums and I did not adjust the brake calipers wider when I put the Corima Viva ‘S’ on the bike – the brake pads were quite close to the rim. However, standing up, putting all of my (meager) power into the pedals, did not result in any rubbing of the rims against the pads – which means that they are likely laterally stiffer than wheels like Zipp’s respected 303 and 404. The wheels were very responsive to my steering inputs, again displaying the wheels’ lateral stiffness. So, Corima has managed to combine a very plush (but not overly so), comfortable ride, with high lateral stiffness and great handling – excellent attributes on both sides.
Given the light rim weight and the very high quality French made hubs (Corima builds their wheels as a system), these wheels spin-up to speed quickly. Easier climbing, another advantage of light wheels, is also very apparent with the Corima 32 Viva ‘S’. While the Corima 32 Viva ‘S’ does not climb in the same league as the Reynolds RZR (at 950 grams one of lightest sets of wheels you can buy) or Lightweight Meilenstein Obermayer, they are the next best thing and they also are about half the price of the RZR and almost a third the price of the Lightweight Meilenstein Obermayer. The Corimas allowed me to hold gears longer when climbing than with my Ksyriums. Susceptibility to strong cross winds was minimal, even with the deeper rim, it is much less than my Ksyriums with their wide, bladed spokes. The wheels were very responsive to my steering inputs, again displaying the wheels’ lateral stiffness.
Did I find any down side to these wheels? Well, to be picky, there was a slight pulsation detectable during high speed descending, caused by the weight of the tire stem. Heavier wheels do not exhibit this behavior and this is not unusual for very light wheels, as any difference in weight (even as little as a valve stem) from one side of the rim to the other can cause such pulsation. With the Corimas, I could feel it, but even when descending at 40 mph it was only a very minor annoyance, and never gave me pause. I’m also sure this imbalance could be balanced out with some small weight to counteract it. I have felt far, far worse vibration from other wheels, so it is hard to hold this against the wheel, especially when there is an easy solution. The other nit to pick is that the braking was not quite up to the level found on my aluminum rim Mavic Ksyriums. To be fair, I was unable to use the Corima supplied cork brake pads as they did not fit my Campagnolo calipers and Corima says their pads work best. I was using SwissStop Yellow carbon pads though, which are generally some of the best on carbon rims. (2015 Addendum: Current generation Corima cork pads perform notably better in dry conditions than SwissStop Yellow on Corima wheels). While getting closer, carbon braking surfaces have yet produce the same braking performance as an alloy rim, so I did find the absolute braking power to not reach the level of my Ksyriums. (2015 Addendum: New carbon braking tracks like the Zipp Showstopper and Enve SES 2.2 now eclipse the braking performance of most alloy rims). However, the brakes were not weak and I adapted quickly and it did not worry me at all. If carbon braking surfaces are good enough for Team Astana to descend cols in the Alps at 50 mph and braking hard for tight switchbacks, it is certainly fine for my use.
Would I buy these wheels? As the saying goes, “in a New York minute”. After the first few miles, these wheels simply seemed to disappear under my bike, which is a big compliment. They have done everything I asked of them very, very well, and simply got out of the way of my riding while assisting to improve the overall cycling experience and performance. While perhaps not on the level of “uber wheels” such as the Reynolds RZR or Lightweight Obermeyer (but also not possessing the price tag), the Corima 32 Viva ‘S’ are still one of the best wheels I have had the privilege to ride since working here at Fit Werx. I am anxious to trade wheels with Bruce, not because of any deficiency in the Viva ‘S’, but so that I can try another example of what to me appears to be a very impressive line of wheels from Corima. Well, on second thought, I am not too anxious, they may have to pry these Corima 32 Viva ‘S’ wheels from my greedy hands…