Lightweight, study rims for the price of premium alloy, the new Copa is an all-mountain wheelset with serious pace

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 8



  • • The price
  • • Sensible build with J-Bend spokes and brass nipples
  • • Stiff and direct ride quality
  • • Remained tight and true throughout testing


  • • Stiff and direct ride quality
  • • Lack a ‘no questions asked’ warranty
  • • No rim tape or tubeless valves included means extra faff and expense


Handmade in Wales, the CES Sport Copa is a budget carbon wheelset that’s prime for UK riding conditions


Price as reviewed:


Based in Wales, CES Sport has a history making road and triathlon wheels for decent prices with this Copa its first set of 29er wheels built purely for MTB.

The small brand has moved into a big pond then, if you’re looking for the best mountain bike wheels around there’s plenty of competition. And if you’re after a set of carbon 29in mountain bike wheels, there’s a massive range of options provided you’ve a stack of cash in your pocket and can bust out the best part of two grand or even more.

The Copa is aimed squarely at UK riders who want light weight and robust rims

For riders on more sensible budgets and with less than a thousand quid to spend, the choice narrows significantly. In this bracket, you’re likely talking about wheelsets targeting affordability for everyday cyclists like Hunt, Silt, or a brand like CES Sport here that’s newer to us at mbr.

Retailing for £875, Copa uses Toray carbon fibres in the rim and Bitex hubs, with a price in the same ball park as popular rivals selling direct like Hunt’s Proven carbon wheelset at £999 (currently on sale for £799) and Silt’s carbon AM wheels at £800, which is slightly less than the asking price here.

CES Sport uses Bitex hubs – not showy, but we have found them reliable and smooth running

Details and specification

You might not have heard of premium Taiwanese brand Bitex, but its hubs are a popular choice for independent wheelbuilders and renowned (like DT Swiss) for having tough hub shells and flanges that are very resistant to cracking.

Bitex hubs use sealed bearings with a double stack on the rear drive side for added robustness, where using two bearings side-by-side in the freehub add extra stiffness and makes the wheel more resistant to distortion and flex under power, in turn boosting internal lifespan and durability.

I tested the XD driver version, but if your cassette is Shimano, Bitex’s standard 11-speed freehub body comes with the added bonus of anti-bite inserts to prevent cassette gouging. This sees three stainless steel splines inserted into the freehub body (that add almost no weight) to prevent the cassette from digging in to the softer aluminium. All freehubs have 54 points of engagement and a six-pawl design using spring-bound double pawls.

DT Competition spokes tie the Copa together, a sensible budget choice

Bitex BX211 hubs have reasonably tall flanges compared to some and are laced here using traditional, easy to source, DT Competition J-bend spokes. Double butted and cold forged, these spokes are well proven and tensioned with brass nipples that weigh marginally more than aluminium ones, but are far less susceptible to corrosion and rounding at the spoke key interface.

The Copa carbon rims use Toray fibres (one of the longest established carbon fibre suppliers) and have a 28 spoke drilling on the front and a 32 spoke drilling on the rear. With a triangulated 25.5mm tall section, the rim wall is hookless and the profile is deeper than many modern carbon MTB rims. For comparison, I’ve also been testing some Reynolds Blacklabel enduro wheels recently, which have gone down from 26mm to 20.5mm in the latest generation and look more in line with many other contemporary carbon wheels.

By modern standards the Copa rims are tall, which might explain their relative firmness

The Copa rim width of 35mm external and 29mm internal is very much in line with standard ‘accepted’ width for a modern MTB rim and gives broad support and the ‘correct’ inflated shape for tyres in the 2.4/2.5in width range. The internal shaping of the rim well is shallow enough to allow tyres to pop into place when inflating without issues too.

In terms of warranty (that will be a key consideration for many buying carbon wheels that can detonate, rather than dent, if they do give up the ghost), the brand offers two-year support, but its not a ‘no questions asked’ guarantee like you get with Reserve wheels for example and only extends to manufacturing or building faults, not damage caused in an impact.

29mm internal width is spot on to create the ideal shape with 2.5in tyres


Out of the box, CES’s wheelset wasn’t taped and didn’t have tubeless valves in place. Other brands like Hope do the same, but this is an extra hassle and expense I expect to see covered for a wheelset costing this much. It also matters because if you don’t quite know what you’re doing, fitting tubeless tape can actually be quite tricky with some of the stiffer rolls and leave crinkles that aren’t airtight.

Also, while the tyres did pop into the rim without issues when inflated as mentioned, this was only once mounted in the first place. I had a real struggle with DH casing Maxxis tyres on the Copas to the point I was scared I’d damage the rims struggling so much with multiple tyre levers to seat the bead. To check if this was a one-off, I later tried multiple tyres including a Double Down High Roller II and a Specialized Hillbilly Gravity and struggled to mount these as well. The rims here therefore seem especially tight, which could be even more of an issue if you have to remove a tyre out in the wild.

We ran the Copa with XD hubs, but Shimano 11speed or Microspline is also an option

Another Copa gripe was the rear hub’s 12mm axle (that’s nipped together for bearing preload) unwound itself while riding for a mate putting extended miles in the wheels for me, causing the rear hub to became a bit loose. It was an easy fix with a spanner and once tightened, the hub remained put for the duration of the review. Presumably, because it was nipped in the bud early, the bearings stayed free spinning and without developing any play too.

Seeing as Copa means summit in Welsh, it’s a good job CES Sport’s wheels zip along and get you uphill at a fair old lick. There’s definitely that sense of a stiff and direct carbon wheel where crank power translates into surging acceleration and forward motion, and also tautness and a responsive feel driving the bike from side-to-side with feet through linked turns and berms. This high energy feel also translates when you pump through hollows and compressions and helps your bike feel tight and precise.

The flip side, however, is not being quite as compliant as some other carbon wheelsets. This is something directly felt in your hands and especially noticeable with occasional bump forces coming back up through the bars when stoving the front tyre into big roots or rocks. One local track that really highlighted this cuts through an extremely rooty plantation where you try and hold pace through worn out grooves in tight trees and cross multiple unavoidable perpendicular roots where the Copas felt little more stuttery and pingy than some other wheels I’ve ridden recently.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say this means there is an uncomfortable or too choppy ride here, but it’s slightly less of a dull, muted feel compared to the (much pricier) Reserve 30 SL wheels I really rate. I also sensed slightly less off camber grip and calmness crossing offset root webs or trying to hold extended greasy flat turns.

Fast and tough, the only real complaint is with the slightly too firm feel

Whether or not this is purely related to rim depth (many other manufacturers claim having a shallower rim improves vertical compliance) is hard to call, and having a 32 spoke rear wheel might also play into this ride feel when having that many spokes is usually the preserve of DH or e-bike wheels for most other carbon wheels brands. Joe from CES mentioned that it could be an option for riders to request a 28 spoke rear wheel as well if required.

The Copa is up there with the best budget carbon wheels, CES Sport just needs to add more compliance to make them zing

As well as the pretty light Copas seeming to really accelerate fast under power and roll quickly around smoother, rolling terrain, the wheelset also seems built to last and well up to shrugging off a few nasty bangs and impacts when winter slop slams you into the kind of edges and impacts you’d rather avoid. The matte UD finish on the carbon rim hasn’t scuffed up and scratched too easily either, so they maintain their looks, and spoke tension that started the test tight has totally remained tight. Together with the riding pal mentioned who put many more miles into the Copas, neither of us had an issue with the freehub ever slipping or bearings developing play in properly grotty conditions either.


The CES Sport Copa carbon wheels offer a solid and responsive ride quality and make sensible choices in the hub and components for easy replacement and long service. The wheels don’t offer a perceptibly smoother ride like some of the latest carbon options though or come with as comprehensive a warranty or after care package as some equivalently-priced rivals.


Weight:1,810g pair
Colours:Black only
Sizes:29x30mm internal. 29x110mm x 15mm front and 148mm x 12mm
Freehub options:Shimano 11-speed, Shimano Microspline, SRAM XD