A lot of our job is about helping people find the best match for what they're looking for in their wheels. A lot of the time, this amounts to what you might call splitting hairs, as the rims we sell in a given category or use group are going to share several characteristics:
- They'll be high quality
- They'll be an appropriate (we think) width for the use case
- They'll be an appropriate weight for their width/depth and intended use - too light leads to durability problems and too heavy leads to too heavy
So while there might be a bit of space between opposite ends of the spectrum in rims we use in any given category, there won't be much in terms of instantaneous "oh this is WAY different" between any of them. The differences will be more subtle, will play out over the longer term, and will often have more to do with what we experience building them for you but which you will never notice if we do our job correctly. Quite often, the difference will be in what spokes or spoke count are a better match, or which hubs and spoke count will work better with one rim than another for any given rider.
With that out of the way, readers of a certain age will remember an awful MTV show called Celebrity Deathmatch. I assume it's awful: I never watched it because it seemed awful. But it's catchy and we thought it would be a good title under which to do deep dives into comparing two similar products that we are quite often asked to compare. We'll use this series to compare rims, hubs, and even spokes, and because I recently read a really good Michael Lewis book called "The Undoing Project," I'll alert you that there might be some transitive dissonance in this series, which is to say that if we pick "A" over "B," and "B" over "C," we might not always choose "A" over "C." It all depends on use case and context. It isn't always absolutes in what we do.
The obvious place to start is with two of the most similar rims we use: AForce Al33 and Boyd Altamont. They're very good, very popular, and very similar. Though we don't have direct confirmation of such, they're made in the same place - that's evident from a number of different clues.
Both are available with a durable all black coating, or with regular machined brake tracks. The black coatings are slightly different processes that both yield very good results (both score very high marks for "real world" durability), both are best paired with SwissStop BXP brake pads, and both have high initial brake pad wear that settles down soon enough. The major difference in the coatings, to us, is that the entire Boyd rim is covered with the same process, whereas on the AForce the body of the rim is black anodized and just the brake track has the slightly duller coating finish. We'll do a Deathmatch on coated versus normal machined sidewalls in the future, but the short answer is that the coating looks awesome, is durable, and increases brake power, but it's not an absolute must have.
Boyds are available in an all anodized disc brake version, where AForce are not.
Specs are as follows (as measured on our current stock of each):
- Inner width: AForce 19.75mm/Boyd 19.35mm
- Outer width (max): AForce 26.5mm/Boyd 24.75
- Depth: AForce 32.2mm/Boyd 29.5mm
- Weight: AForce 495g/Boyd 502g
Obviously the specs are similar, and even more so when you consider that alloy rims vary a bit over production lots as tooling wears.
The AForce warranty is one year where the Boyd is two years. Hopefully that's not a significant thing for either, it hasn't been to date.
Though we only have hard wind tunnel data on the AForce, given their overall similarities we are comfortable saying that there's not even a hair to split between them there.
Construction-wise, both have welded joints that you can see when you're building them but are otherwise great. AForce has directionally drilled spoke holes while Boyds are center drilled. Tolerances on both are just about the same, and quite tight. Both are tubeless ready but happy to work with tubes as well, and tire fit is quite similar between the two. Boyds have a shade of a price advantage.
In essence, this one comes out a draw. As much as anything, it comes down to which one's looks you prefer, or if you have some personal reason or another to pick one or the other.
Since their overall makeup is nearly completely overlapped, we recommend them in similar use cases, and what does that use case look like? Primarily, they're road rims made for fast and hard riding. Fast group rides, racing - any time you're twisting the throttle, these are most at home. Perfectly happy to climb and more than happy to descend, there's no time that's the wrong time for either on the road.
Hi Brian -
It’s a distinction for sure but not really a difference. If you’re careful with the build, and rigorously correct all the spoke lines etc, you get a long term true and durable wheel with either way. HED Belgiums are center drilled, and over however many years we’ve been building those they don’t have durability issues and they don’t go out of true.
The interesting difference to me between these two rims is the spoke hole drilling, with the Boyd’s being straight and the AForce being directional. I’ve read the blogs here enough to speculate that this difference could tilt towards the AForce’s advantage over the long haul as the spoke tension and spokes themselves will remain more uniform compared to the spoke taking on an angle coming out of a center drilled hole on the Boyd’s. Please educate me if I’m incorrect on this.
I purchased your WI/Al33 build in August of 2017- I’ve been pounding on them for nearly a year. I’m not heavy (160 lb) but the roads around here are horrible and I don’t always miss the bumps and holes. Since that time, I had to get the rear trued once. No other service needed. As advertised, they sure burned through the first set of pads, but not so much anymore. BPX pads have added a blue tinge to the brake track. Very happy with the purchase and would buy another set but without hesitation but I’d probably opt for the plain old machined brake track.