A TALE OF TWO EXOTICS: LIGHTWEIGHT OBERMAYER EVO VS CORIMA MCC DX

When the all-too-common question of “what’s the best way to upgrade a bike?” is asked on the group ride, the all-too-frequent answer of “wheels” is usually the first reply. While “best” is relative to one’s goals and ability, in an effort to find the “best” wheel upgrade in terms of performance, aesthetics and overall riding experience we put two of the industry’s most exotic, stunning and priciest wheelsets to the test. 

After gaining notoriety for their performance-focused hoops that seemingly found the leading edge of rim-brake wheel design over a decade ago, German wheel manufacturer Lightweight has set its sights on upending the disc-brake market.

Corima is a French brand with a 30-plus-year history of making carbon wheels (RBA, May ’22). Easy-to-spot minimalist-spoked and full-disc designs made Corima wheels stand out in the early years of carbon fiber wheel manufacturing.

Together, these two brands enjoy a shared legacy of racing and winning at the highest levels of the sport. Though dissimilar in design, they are bound by a common purpose of pursuing a truly innovative and unique design. They are expensive and enjoy an obvious level of artisan craftsmanship, but is that enough to make them an upgrade option?  

THE TECH

Lightweight

Looking to break into the widest market of disc brake users, Lightweight has shifted its efforts stateside and sent their first pair of the classy Obermayer Evo Schwarz edition wheels to the RBA office for an official review. 

Lightweight offers two models of the Obermayer Evos—a standard version starting around $8100, as well as the sumptuous blacked-out logos and Ceramicspeed bearing-spec’d Schwarz edition for an additional $600. At these prices we understand that they’re far from practical for most. If you’re wondering how a wheelset could ever justify an $8600 price tag, it starts with an incredibly intricate design and manufacturing process that is focused on providing a precision product that expedites watt savings and high speeds. 

The Obermayers are constructed with a thin carbon shell made from what Lightweight calls “Lightweight Custom Composite,” or LCC for short. The carbon rim is filled with Lightweight’s proprietary Active Foam Core. It’s Lightweight’s take on the increasingly common rim design that they claim improves overall stiffness while adding a chatter damping factor in the rims. A solid rim bed is used, which simplifies tubeless setup and provides integrity to the rim. The rims measure 18.3mm internally and 48mm deep.    

As for the spokes, Lightweight specs 10 (counted as 20) in the front and rear. They’re solid carbon and are laid up using Lightweight’s rim-to-rim lacing technique. They run from one end of the rim over the hub, and to the other side, they’re laminated and bend at the hub as necessary. The use of the lacing technique achieves torsional and lateral stiffness that Lightweight claims can’t be attained by traditional spokes. Each spoke is bonded to another where they cross near the hub. 

Lightweight has cut a claimed 70 grams from the previous version with their updated hub design. A fully carbon hexagonal hub holds a DT Swiss 180 S EXP ratchet system and is compatible with SRAM, Shimano and Campagnolo free hubs. The carbon flanges hide the spokes and the lamination from sight. 

On the scales, the Lightweights measured a stunning 570 grams for the front and 650 grams for the rear. It makes them the lightest mid-depth carbon disc wheels we’ve tested. However, Lightweight does have an explicit maximum system weight for the rider and the bike of 220 pounds.

Corima

Holding true to their legacy of innovative yet eye-catching and practical models, Corima has released a modern take of its iconic hoops. They arrived the same week as the Lightweights, giving us no better reason than to compare the two highly desirable wheelsets to than each other. 

At a comparatively reasonable $4000, the MCC DX wheelset still rocks a price higher than many road bikes, but this is an object to be desired rather than to be seen on group rides across the country. It’s easier to explain the intricacies of the price, thanks to the MCC DX’s distinctive look. 

Corima offers the tubeless-ready MCC DX in two depths—32mm and 47mm—as well as a tubular model. Ours is the shallower, lighter option of the two clinchers. The rim uses a similar foam-molded method as the Lightweights. The MCC DX rims are filled with a structural foam that damps vibrations and improves the integrity and stiffness of the hoops. Beyond their unique appearance, the French hoops also have a strict list of dos and don’ts, including a list of only five tubeless tires that are compatible to use. Be sure to check Corima’s website for the list of things to avoid, most notably inflating with an air compressor. Interestingly, no max rider weight is given for the wheels.

In the rear, 12-carbon spokes are laced from the rim to the Y-shaped hub flanges. Corima calls the technique “Double Torque Technology.” The name comes from the torque created at the rim while braking. The technique allows for weight savings at the hub since there is less force occurring there. Additionally, Corima says the rear-wheel design increases lateral stiffness at a lighter weight than previously possible.

Up front, Corima ditches the flanges to save weight, as they say they aren’t needed due to a lower level of overall forces applied to the wheel. This makes the wheel significantly lighter than the rear and puts the wheelset on par with many other flagship models. We measured a 19.1mm internal width with a 32mm-deep rim. The pair hit the scales at 1397 grams—563 for the front and 834 grams for the rear.

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THE RIDE

Lightweight

So how do the most expensive set of stock wheels we’ve tested ride? Call us biased for not being invested, but we came away pleased. The wheels have the hallmarks of a high-performance wheelset, because that’s what they are. In a time when wider wheels have become the mainstays of the market, Lightweight’s narrow, minimalistic, gram-saving approach is pushing the boundaries of the seemingly stalled-out, weight-saving disc-brake wheel designs.

A mid-depth disc-brake wheel under 1300 grams is a rare find, which left us highly anticipating to put the Obermayers to the test. What stands out first is the quick engagement of the DT Swiss internals and the effect of the low-rotational mass in the rims. These wheels skip over first and into second gear like a drag racer feeling the most stable at high speeds. Just as they’ve performed before, the Obermayers were quick and highly responsive to input. What separates this iteration from the previous rim-brake models we’ve tested is the tubeless compatibility that wasn’t previously offered. 

Due to the minimal maintenance the rims and spokes require, Lightweight has sealed the rim bed to be airtight. This, along with the included tubeless valves ,makes mounting tires simple, though we did struggle a bit more than usual while mounting a 26mm tire due to the narrow rim width.

The narrow rim was the one design detail that held back the Lightweight, as they required more pressure to be run than we are used to with the 28–30mm tires than wider rims widths encourage. Compared to previous Lightweights, the new wheels provided improved handling and response, but when compared to modern, wider-rimmed competitors, the Obermayers have room to improve.

Oftentimes ultra-light wheels may be lacking proper vertical and torsional stiffness. This was not the case for the Lightweights. Vertically and torsionally the wheels are superbly stiff. The rim-to-rim design blended weight savings without compromising strength. While the wheels are well-rounded, thanks to the compliance and handling benefits of the tubeless tires, we’d still only recommend riding well-maintained roads and not venturing onto dirt to prevent any unintended damage to the rim.  By the way, did we mention that they cost over $8000?! 

Corima

Installation and setup of the French-made Corimas was straightforward, and the braided cloth rim strip was pre-installed, making for simple tube mounting with a 28mm tire. The Corimas had a steep mark to achieve when compared to the Lightweights, but for half the asking price of the Lightweights the MCC DXs offer considerable competition. 

Stiffness-wise, the MCCs were nearly on par with the Lightweights. Vertical stiffness is high, making point-and-shoot handling preferred. The wheels are almost overly stiff when run with tubes. So, after a few rides, we opted for tubeless and took our time to follow Corima’s setup instructions. 

Rolling sans tubes, the MCCs became much more balanced, thanks in part to the lower pressures that can be used. More grip and control balance the pinpoint handling of the stiff hoops. Where we were bumping around over rough patches with tubes, the tubeless setup gave us the advantage of pedaling through the rough stuff more often.  

The low-profile design made the wheels feel at home on climbs. Although the total weight difference between the wheels is high, the rotational mass at the rim is fairly similar, which makes accelerations feel quick rather than sluggish like heavier deep-rimmed wheels.  

THE VERDICT

Not unlike any bike-to-bike comparison between any two high-end Euro road bikes, this is another instance where we have to put aside rational thinking and concerns about our bank account balance. We know that this review is really pointed to those rarefied few who adhere to a “if you have to ask how much it costs” creed on consumer spending. For us, both these wheels stand out and pass the premium aesthetics test. The Lightweight name bears much renown and deserves a frame with as much technical regard as the German brand subtly packs into each wheelset.

Corima’s MCC DX pushes the French brand into modernity with tubeless compatibility, a competitively low weight and a much lower cost. Thanks to their unique 12-spoke design, visually, of course, the Corimas will stand out in any group ride. One thing holding both of these wheels back was their narrow (and outdated) internal rim width. Thanks to the industry’s embrace of wide-rim technology, cyclists have been benefiting from the improved handling, compliance and control that higher air volumes (versus air pressure) provide.

All that aside, if we were stuck on a desert island with only one choice of wheels to ride every day, it would be the Obermayer Evos. Lightweight puts together a complete package full of premium accouterments, like the wheel bags and custom valves. Plus, the incredible stiffness-to-weight ratio sets a mark we’ve yet to see on any other disc-specific wheel. However, due to their price, both these wheels will maintain their status as rare objects of desire, which really just makes them that much more desirable.

LIGHTWEIGHT PUNCH LINES

• Lightest disc-brake wheels we’ve tested

• Modern tubeless rim

• Quick, responsive handling

CORIMA PUNCH LINES

• Low profile, low rotational weight

• High vertical stiffness

• Strict tubeless guidelines

LIGHTWEIGHT STATS

Price: $8695

Weight: 1220 grams

www.lightweight.info

CORIMA STATS

Price: $4000

Weight: 1397 grams

www.corima.com

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