Scope O2 Wheelset Review
Scope O2 Wheelset Review
A review of the Scope O2 Wheelset. A carbon disc off-road wheelset, the O2 has taken one and a half years and 6 prototypes to complete.
Scope Cycling have been going since 2013. 5 years doesn’t sound like much, but in the fast moving world of cycling it’s plenty of time to make a name for yourself. Scope wheels cover all cycling disciplines, both on and off road.
Scope’s slogan of NO EXCUSE relates to their cycling careers back in the days. This rider mentality is being translated seamlessly into their business. Thus: Winners have a plan, losers an excuse, therefore Scope Cycling: No Excuse.
Worth mentioning the fact that all Scope’s research and development is managed internally as well as at their Research & Development center, in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Therefore an access to a deep well of technologies and knowhow of the surrounding universities is a given. Scope collaborates and partners with those institutes intensely.
According to their statement, Scope approaches the wheel as a system instead of blending separately designed components together. Hence, every component is developed by Scope in order to create an impeccable set-up for the final product.
In this test I meant to prove how serious Scope is in the off-road category. Scope’s new racing O2 off-road wheelset caters for a devout MTB and CX audience, be it a gravel, CX, or XCO racer. The 25mm internal width and hookless bead rim established itself in the middle ground, as Scope calls it an unparalleled wheel option for both gravel bike and cross-country mountain bike racing.
The proficiency they gained with the first iteration of road-wheels had been shared with this new O2 wheelset up to an extent. The major targeted attributes Scope wanted to address were a proper balance of weight, lateral stiffness, certain comfort and long-term durability.
Interestingly, Scope joined forces with tyre producer Schwalbe to develop the new O2. The bottom line was a 31mm external, 25mm internal rim profile with a hookless tubeless bead.
The tubeless rim depth hit a sweet spot of 23mm. If the rim wall is higher, the comfort aspect diminishes, let alone the increased weight associated with deeper wheels. Speaking of which, 1380g for a racing wheel-set is respectable considering the long-term durability claim. The rationale behind this cooperation was also an AAA certification from Schwalbe. This way Schwalbe rates all wheel producers that have this certificate as the best sealing interface between rim and tubeless tire.
With Local Reinforcement Technology (LRT), Scope tries to boost the durability even more. The spoke bed is impressively thin. Material is added only around the molded-in spoke holes to withstand spoke tension. That enables Scope a 10% weight drop while strength and durability was supposed to be kept the same level.
The center-lock hubs are a self-development with wider hub flanges for spoke bracing angles adjusted to their offset rims. The optimally sealed SKF bearings contribute to the resilience too. To up the ante in the bearing department, a CeramicSpeed upgrade is available as well. Certainly common industry-standard compatibility is given. Thru-axle endcaps, Shimano or SRAM XD bodies and boost or non-boost hubs are all catered for.
One of the appealing point of this wheelsets is its versatility to use it in all off-road segments. We meant to apply it in Cyclocross, Gravel racing, XCO and marathon/stage racing. The test was kicked off in the middle of cross season, so we hurried up to set them up tubeless and start racing with them on a weekly basis. Despite the relentless weather later in the season I had zero concerns as for the durability in cross races, based on the assumption if they are durable enough for XCO, they may hold up well everywhere else too. It was just the frequency of races and minimal maintenance that started to cause me headaches.
The wheels were slated to be transformed into the imminent XC season right after the cross season. The wheels earned tons of accolades for their snappy acceleration, stability and wide range of adaptability in terms of tire width. The UCI-mandated 33mm width was never an issue, nor was the dedicated mud-tire width of 30mm. And for good measure we tested them with 25mm and 28mm road tires too just learn how they behave under pure road conditions. I cannot speak for the tube version. But running them tubeless gave us a confident feeling of no-burping. Running them as low as 20psi on 25mm road tires is not advisable though, due to the banishing stability in fast downhill corners.
Much to my regret and lack of time, the wheels got jet-washed most of the time. So lurking noises and bearing issues were to be expected. Well, even after 3 months, we didn’t detect any suspicious noises. But a proper hub maintenance was overdue. I cannot speak for the optional CeramicSpeed bearings durability but the built in SKF with proper sealing did very well indeed.
After a brief XCO intro in Italy where we had the perfect opportunity to set it up tubeless and re-adapt it to MTB applications, we were good to go and kick off the next test installment: MTB stage races. No other discipline, in my experience, gives you this wide variety of aspects and factors to learn all attributes of the wheels. As usual the wheels were built on a Trek Top Fuel.
The manner the Scope O2 accelerated and kept its nimble character has been carried over from what we experienced first on cyclo-cross tracks. Its true character shone more on rather unforgiving rocky downhill tracks were sudden turns and abrupt direction changes were daily fare. Tyre grip was just one of those ingredients that was necessary in these conditions. All the more so in case of Michelin JET XCR we raced on. Yes, this calls for highest attention to be paid and be alert all race long, since these tires, while insanely fast, are famously intolerant of rider failures. I remedied that with lowering the tire pressure from my usual 20 psi down to 18psi and then, at places on paths with less amount of rocks down to 17psi. That is truly exceedingly low, my race weight of 58kg and clean riding style notwithstanding. Yet, the rationale behind this experimentation was also to find out Scope O2 ‘pain tolerance’ without denting and subsequently damaging the rim completely. So far so good, however, and only at 16 Psi I got remembered to stop pushing the boundaries any further.
For the sake of experimentation I swapped the JET CCR for Schwalbes Rocket Ron. But this didn’t prevent it from hitting the rim considerably. There were 2 stages the rim got approx. 10 mediocre and couple of rather hard hits. I was pretty sure these hits killed the rim for good. Nonetheless, I wanted to know how far I could push them. Pretty far, let me put it this way, as the Scope O2 took the beating literally. The only caveat was an intermittent burping which I chalk up to the extremely low tire pressure. I didn’t have the pleasure until now to test any wheels with such narrow rim width [25mm] that would able to prevent a burping at such low tire pressure.
It was almost a forgone conclusion that the wheels will do well given my weight and riding style. But how would they perform under different conditions. Case in point my team mate weighs 80 plus Kg. That said, he attested similar characteristics in regard to acceleration, nimbleness and keeping the momentum. The tyre pressure had to be adjusted though, especially for higher rider weight but most of all due to his more aggressive riding style [down-hill background.] I predicted a damaged, dented rim all over the place. Happily the wheels survived this trial too. Granted, he treated them more gently than usually but still, the wheels proved once more that despite its low-ish weight of 1380gramm they are not limited to the most weight conscious riders only.
The next experiment followed shortly. It came about by chance for a team member who happens to race enduro. As a result of his crash during stage 2, and demolishing his heavy-duty wheels in the process, there was merely one remedy how to save his racing weekend. Yes, I gave him the Scope O2 with heavy heart. Undeniably, I was hugely intrigued by how these light weight wheels would fare although we knew we played Russian roulette. Thankfully the remaining stages were rather gentle, meaning loaded with pedaling liaison parts and the downhill parts weren’t as taxing. But still, it was a proper enduro race, and playing around with wheels designed for XCO-duties is just not suitable.
Long story short, yes both the rider as well as the wheels ended up unscathed. He was beaming all over his face since the lion part of the stages were mastered easily given the low weight. He made up time [which he lost on descents] on uphill sections considerably. Unfortunately we can nor quantify the bottom line net gain, or loss for that matter. But based on his statement the unprecedented agility and associated acceleration saved him massive amount of energy. Would he keep the wheels for the next enduro round coming up? Not necessarily. As he acknowledges, he would have to treat them gently on merciless downhills. Subconsciously he was certainly limited. But again, we are talking about extreme scenarios. The wheels weren’t slated to be subjected to a test like this. At the end of the day it makes me pay kudos to the Scope team for designing the wheels the way they did.
Now, the long-winded test carries on. In addition to the gained first experienced above, more stage races and 24 hour solos will follow. As for the time being the wheels are subjected to gravel races. They already went through a monster-cross event. They aren’t more demanding than a usual XCO race. Sure the rigid fork stresses the wheels more, however the rest of the conditions are comparable to XCO. Based on my experience thus far, they deal fairly well with monster-cross tires up 2.1 inch width. I will test them with slightly wider tires as soon as I am lucky to find an adequate test mule sporting a proper tire clearance. But from now on I pay high attention to maintenance since my curiosity is ballooning vastly in regard to its toughness, durability and resilience. If they fail eventually, down the road, it shouldn’t be caused by carelessness.
It remains to be seen whether all the boxes in my test agenda are going to be ticked, but so far they’ve done well. Granted, it is an unusual test, by which I try to prove the versatility and robustness of the wheels. I was already asked to provide them for the 3rd EWS round coming up soon. Since its quickly earned good reputation is inflating, it becomes hard to give them a rest. Thus far no truing was needed, but if we keep them testing even between races [for training purposes], it is just a matter of time of a complete overhaul.
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