In:Depth. A-Force AL33, The Ultimate Road, Cyclocross and Adventure Rim

A-Force AL33 Rim

The A-Force AL33 has taken the RBW workshop by storm these past two years.  The be all and end all in high performance alloy road rims, available in both rim and disk brake configurations they build up into some of the most stunning wheelsets that we sell.  Why? Read on to find out all the juicy tech details, learn about our AL33 Test Wheels programme, and explore some of our most popular A-Force build options for your Road, Gravel or Adventure Bikes!

After their successful crowdfunding campaign we were thrilled to be approached by A-Force’s distributor to handle all UK orders and therefore be amongst the first to get their hands on the most exciting bit of road wheel tech to have hit the scene of late.  It was immediately clear as we started work and rode a pair for ourselves that A-Force’s debut, 700c, alloy masterpiece was a rim we’d come back to time and again, delivering carbon performance at alloy prices.

As it’s name might suggest the AL33 is a 33mm deep aluminium rim focusing on aerodynamic performance and outright speed.  Unlike rims that have come before this is no slab sided, V-shaped, ‘semi-aero’ offering, but instead a modern toroidal profile designed from the ground up around the use of either 25 or 28c tyres for ‘pure’ road riding.  With an increase in top speed and handling beautifully even in cross winds, it also builds with exceptional stiffness allowing you to keep kicking out those watts regardless.  Whilst – the right choice of – carbon (we use Venn Cycling) does yield some fantastic wheelsets, it’s inherent sourcing difficulties, not to mention ecological credentials in terms of recycling, as well a price that’s inhibitive to some meant that in choosing a performance driven rim A-Force delivered something truly special.

The AL33’s aero credentials are likewise impressive. The results from the two graphs below complement each other, showing several other rims compared alongside A-Force’s offering.  Each coloured line shows a wheels watt’s of drag (on the Y Axis) at different yaw angles (along the X Axis), whilst the bar’s indicate the mean percentage of your riding time that you’re likely to experience each angle indicated.

What we’re seeing is that – at what many consider the most important angle to view aerodynamic results: 10 degrees of yaw – the AL33 outclasses everything but the somewhat expensive Zipp303.  Given that Zipp tie you into the use of their total wheel system designs (hubs, spokes, etc), and that over the years we’ve seen so many warranty issues with Zipp hubs that it’s not even funny, we’d say these are some truly impressive results.  Comparing the A-Force to the 303’s 45mm depth and additional weight this means the AL33 is clearly a much more rounded do it all choice compared to any of the above offerings. With the AL33 you can customise your new wheels to no end to suit you and your bike and also avoid what we feel are some pretty ugly / aggressive branding choices from big wheel companies. A-Force’s subtle and svelte branding simply looks so much better.  Going head on, at low yaw angles, it’s worth noting that perennial favourite, the ‘budget’ Kinlin XR31t, gives all of the above rims run for their money and performs admirably against it’s rivals.  We use the XR31t in our ‘Road Sprint’ wheelset and with prices from £335-440 makes for an excellent choice for speedy road riding of all types.  Just a little aside there…real world riding alongside the above data shows the AL33 is where it’s at.

Let’s touch on some of the stand out features and specifications that the AL33 brings then:

  • Rim and Disk Brake Models available.
  • 475g a rim, meaning set weights can start at just under 1400g with the right components; great for climbing; impressive for a rim of this size.
  • 19.6mm / 26.2 internal / external width gives a better aerodynamic profile for 25-28mm road tyres. Tyre volumes all round are also increased for additional comfort and cornering abilities.
  • Spoke counts from 18 to 28 hole; being both deep and stupid stiff 28 spokes is the most you’ll need for the AL33’s intended purposes.  With the right selection of hubs and rim options they’re suitable for riders up to 125kg and have become our performance focused rim choice for heavier, more powerful riders.
  • Toroidal aerodynamic profile that’s exceptionally stable in cross winds.
  • A move away from the traditional use of 6061 Aluminium Alloy to what A-Force call ‘AF9X’. It won’t be a proprietary mix and all clues point to 6066 but it has higher tensile and yield strengths whilst much more importantly being easier to work into thinner sidewalls meaning less material can be used with no decrease in strength.  Crucially the AL33 is also T6 heat treated (just like our choice of Sapim nipples) meaning that it’s harder than most other rims and has an increased lifespan with rim brakes.
  • Internal nipple options for most spoke counts.  Internal nipples mean better aerodynamics but crucially allows A-Force to cross the spoke path at the rim due to the decreased size of spoke hole. Left side spokes end up on the right and vice versa.  What this means is a much increased bracing angle and, effectively, a wider ‘base’ in the spokes triangle.  In laypersons terms; Internal Nipple AL33’s are stiffer than their external counterparts.
  • 2:1 Lacing available on rim brake models out rear.  16 spokes on the drive side, 8 on the non-drive side (21:7 also available).  This puts spoke tension balance pretty much on par with a front wheel (where all spokes are at even tension).  What does this mean? 2:1 laced AL33’s can use a much higher NDS tension.  A high spoke tension is crucial in increasing the longevity of a spokes fatigue life.  Hub choice is limited here but luckily our favourite OEM manufacturer Bitex produces two excellent hubs that suit the AL33 very well.
  • Tubeless ready with a well thought out bead system.  You can run them with standard tubed clinchers no problem, we feel that road tubeless is coming along nicely though; give it a try on your new wheels!
A-Force AL33 Internal Nipples

Internal Nipples options mean stronger, stiffer wheels.

If you’re looking for a performance driven pair of road wheels then several of our ‘stock’ builds (all tailored to the rider when needed) are the perfect place to start.  Prices start from £575 using Bitex RAF/RAR12 hubs & Sapim CX Rays for those riding rim brakes, or you can take full advantage of all of the features such as 2:1 lacing and internal nipples by opting for the the carbon reinforced 308 series shown above at 1540g a pair in 20/24 for an extra £85; this being the most common option, whilst our most common build for road riders on disk brakes utilises Bitex BX106 centrelock hubs at £610.  Don’t need aero spokes cos you wanna put big rubber on there? £530 will get you started.

Getting fancier and closer to home Hope Technologies RS4 series of hubs add a small weight penalty but their generously proportioned flange and axle dimensions coupled with all round durability and luscious looks makes them our most popular choice for custom builds.  If you’re looking for a pair of wheels that are truly boutique then pairing the AL33 with options from Tune or Extralite (for all you weight weeneies), White Industries (stunning finishes; a real gem of a hubset) or Chris King (if you wanna show off!) all make a real statement with prices from circa £850-£1250

Luckily so many of it’s other characteristics make it a superb choice for larger volume tyres for all manner of shenanigans; and we’ve used it for them all from Cyclocross to Adventure touring and Gravel riding (and had a lot of fun too!).  Whilst you’ll lose aerodynamic advantages with tyres above 32mm the AL33’s stiffness, width, tubeless compatibility and strength mean that you’ll have a pair of wheels that mean serious business.  Ryan’s own (work in progress) ‘Road+’ rig from award winning framebuilder Pi over at pairs the AL33 in 28/24 spoke count, laced with Sapim CX Ray’s onto a Hope RS4 Centrelock out back and our go to dynamo of choice, the SON Delux CL, out front.  Shod with 36mm handmade open tubulars and latex inners from Challenge Tires they are perfect for his preferred riding style of fast paced mixed surface light road touring and audax; light the way with your own high end dyno disk set at £905. Be sensible, be like Ryan, ride A-Force rims ;-)>.

There’s not much that the A-Force AL33 can’t do, they’re absolutely our favourite alloy rim on the market.  We’re so happy with them in fact that we keep two pairs in the workshop at all times for you to take out on your own no obligation test ride! Both are equipped with hubs suitable for most any axle and freehub combination you can throw at us and are taped tubeless ready.  We do have a limited range of cassettes, rotors and tyres available for test but providing your own to suit your bike and you is by far the better option here.  If you’d like to take either our disk or rim brake pair out for a spin then you can do so on a weekday in Bristol any time by arrangement; you’ll need to leave proof of ID, address and a debit/credit card.  Alternatively for £30 return postage (non refundable) and a deposit of £500 we’ll ship em out to you setup in your chosen configuration anywhere within the UK. High end, handbuilt wheels are a true investment and the right wheels for you and your bike is an important choice to make; with RyanBuildsWheels and the A-Force AL33 you can try before you buy no problem; the least that’s going to happen is that you’ll have a hell of a time!


There you have it then; all of the details you need about one of the most exciting alloy rim options out there.
Get a pair for yourself! Our AL33 rim brake builds start at £585 and disc brake options from £530; take a look and see what we can do (listings in the shop this weekend!) Want to take a pair out for a test ride or discuss a full blown custom set of A-Force AL33’s just for you? Get in touch!

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