Lightweight wheels are the most coveted in the world, thanks in no small part to the brand’s iconic name, but also to the now fabled tales of pro racers demanding the handmade hoops for grappling with legendary Grand Tour mountain stages. The origin of Lightweight wheels lies in the one-off design and manufacture of disc wheels inside a small German tractor garage in the mid-’80s. By 1996 the company officially stepped into the international racing limelight when Jan Ulrich used them to help him win the Tour de France. With a growing product line that now includes four road wheels in addition to a disc, Lightweight remains committed to the founding philosophy of creating top-shelf carbon wheels that are handmade in their factory not far from the shores of Lake Constance in the town of Friedrichshafen.
Prior to 2013, Lightweight’s “do-it-all” wheel offering was known simply as the “Standard.” The Meilenstein (German for “Milestone”) usurps the Standard’s position in Lightweight’s catalog in name only, as the company considers the Meilenstein to be the “fourth generation of the Standard,” with updates revolving around improved braking and handling in windy conditions. The rim’s 47.5mm depth and 20mm width both remain the same as the previous generation. Likewise, the spoke count and pattern remain the same, with sixteen 2mm-wide carbon, bladed spokes on the front and twenty on the rear.
Proprietary full carbon hubs are permanently bonded to the spokes and include DT Swiss’s premier 190 internal components and freehub body, just like the previous generation. But the Meilenstein now includes a previously unavailable freehub option for Shimano 11-speed gruppos. And Lightweight has also carried over its built-in wheel magnets as well, helping ensure aesthetics that are as clean as possible. But in creating this fourth generation of the Standard, Lightweight’s highly secretive lay-up process has undergone some revisions, as has its recipe of carbon fiber types, weaves and resins. The result is a weight savings of about a dozen grams over the previous Standard tubular. Lightweight’s signature brake pads, manufactured by SwissStop, remain the same and are included with purchase, but they interact with a revised brake track that takes advantage of the new manufacturing process.
The Meilenstein’s narrow, V-shaped profile has remained largely unchanged, with the major exception being a slightly shallower rim bed and an imperceptible to- the-naked-eye adjustment to the curvature of the sidewalls. With that profile and such a low weight, the Meilenstein is more of a handful to control in crosswinds and gusts than alternatives featuring wider rims, blunt profiles and/or greater mass.
Lightweight’s engineering team set out to improve upon the previous wheel’s braking performance, and they’ve succeeded. With their proprietary pads, in dry conditions, stopping power and modulation rated as among the best in the realm of carbon braking surfaces (Who needs disc brakes?). And although their wet-weather braking performance has improved over the previous generation, it’s still about average compared to other carbon wheels.
As much as weight, or more accurately weight loss, is key to the Lightweight story, we will argue that the Meilenstein’s greatest attribute is its ride quality. Simply put, it’s second to none. These are wheels that every cyclist should experience before they hang up their cleats. Riding the Meilensteins over some of our most familiar and dilapidated roads demonstrated that they have zero rivals in effectively damping road chatter. And even the effects of larger potholes and cracks, while still inherently a nuisance with medium-depth carbon wheels, were better negated by the Meilensteins than most comparable offerings.
At a mere 1123 grams, the Meilenstein’s low rotating weight makes it a better climbing companion than even most low-depth competitors, let alone similarly deep rivals. Together with its magic ride quality, the Meilenstein never wants for stiffness, and it feels as if it’s always accelerating efficiently with each pedal stroke. There are a handful of climbing wheels currently on the market that are stiffer than the Meilenstein, but not many.
The Meilenstein’s handling of rough riding conditions leads us to believe that long-term durability shouldn’t be an issue. But, as with any carbon product, and especially one that focuses on lightness in its creation and application, you never can be too careful. As of our test, Lightweight offers a no-fault replacement policy for broken wheels at a 30 percent discount. Additionally, they said they were working on an extended warranty program that covers manufacturer’s defects.
Given that the Lightweight wheels are not only among the most expensive in all of bikedom, and despite that they are also a good season behind the times in terms of the most current wheel-design trends (a blunt nose and wider tire bed), it’s hard not to recommend them to anyone. Oh wait, we forgot about the ride quality. Okay, so the Meilenstein is not a perfect wheel, as it lags behind some competitors when it comes to windy conditions, and its price tag keeps it out of reach of the vast majority of cyclists. Regular readers might recall when we tested a pair of Lightweight Standard clinchers (RBA, May 2012) and said that they were “the best wheels we’ve ever ridden.” Since that incarnation, the Standard has undergone a name change, but not a complete overhaul.
On top of the wheel retaining its excellent lateral stability and first-rate craftsmanship, Lightweight’s engineers have accomplished their twin goals of improving braking performance and handling. Today’s carbon wheel market is a fastpaced exchange of new designs and technology. So what of the slight tweaks and modest updates that the Meilensteins bring to the table? The end result is that these really are the best wheels we’ve ever ridden.
• Out of fashion on key tech points
• Over twice the price of perfectly good options
• Still a magical ride quality
Weight: 1123 grams, plus quick releases (44 grams)
Rim depth: 47.5mm
Rim width: 20mm
Spoke count: F-16/R-20
Spoke type: Non-replaceable, 2mm-wide carbon
Spoke pattern: F-1x/R-1x non-drive side and drive side
Notes: Available for Campagnolo and Shimano/SRAM (both 10- and 11-speed). Includes wheel bag, quick releases, brake pads, tire levers and valve extenders.
For more info: Lightweight