Tested: Bontrager Line Pro 30 Wheels

Saying the two words ‘carbon’ and ‘wheel’ would send your credit card running to hide under the couch, with brands like Reynolds, ENVE doing wheels around and above the $3K mark, yikes! Sure, there is carbon, and there is ‘carbon’, and there is also a myriad of lesser-known or even imitation brands selling wheels for under $1500.

The Line 30 are a $1698 pair of wheels for the trail/all-mountain/enduro segment, available in 27.5″ and 29″ in Boost hub spacing only.

The Bontrager Line 30s are understated in appearance, with the graphics sealed under a clear coat, so no peeling stickers!

Bontrager’s name is a very reputable one; they only do quality stuff, found primarily on Trek bikes. Though over the last few years we’ve seen products like their tyres, saddles, shoes, helmets and wheels become some of the best, and worthy to fit on any brand of bike. We doubt we’d have the same confidence with many other bike brand’s in-house componentry lines.


Cool, so they aren’t over the top expensive, and we dig Bontrager’s stuff. How did the wheels ride?

Stiff, very stiff. We fitted the Line 30s to our Norco Sight after an excellent term riding the Wheelworks Flite Wide Alloy wheels; a 35mm wide aluminium wheelset handbuilt in Wellington, NZ. The Wheelworks wheels felt great, they had a huge air volume and we relished in running lower tyre pressures for traction and feel. Swapping to the narrower profile Bontrager wheels which measure 29mm internally, the bike instantly felt less supple, but definitely more direct and laterally stiff.

Upgrading to carbon wheels added rigidity and speed to our Norco.

The freehub in the rear wheel feels nice and solid with great engagement and a sophisticated sound of quality. We only serviced it once, and give the sealing and ease of serviceability two thumbs up. And after five months of hammering, they are straight and true, never requiring any attention with a spoke key to tension or straighten.


Stiff is good, right?

Well, yes, and no, the best wheels achieve a balance. We’ve ridden wheels that are too stiff that lack feel and compliance, and on the other hand, we’ve found plenty of wheels with underwhelming performance due to their lateral rigidity.

We’d say they the Bontragers are on the stiffer end of stiff-o-meter providing a very direct feeling when you move the bike around and jump hard on the cranks. Holding a straight line through a rock-strewn trail or sliding the wheels sideways with the rear brake on displayed a wheel with good feel and a nice balance of stiffness and compliance.

Rolling along the 1700g set of wheels feels light and fast, a worthy upgrade to add some speed to your steed, for sure.


Arrgh, the terror of the tubeless rim strips!

In our first impressions piece on the wheels, we praised the hard plastic tubeless rim strips. We expected them to be robust, removable without the need for sticking tape, and to provide a firm connection between the bead of the tyre for a strong bond between tyre and rim. But my-oh-my was that last part true. The tyre and rim strip practically glued together after three months of use, the Schwalbe Performance Nobby Nic and Magic Mary with a standard dose of Orange Seal tubeless sealant were stuck on the wheels, no matter how hard we tried.

The hard plastic tubeless rim strips are a great concept but drove us up the wall.
We traded the supplied strips for standard tubeless rim tape.

We did find the thick plastic strips to make tyre installation a little tight, but it was the removal that had us swearing and bringing out unconventional techniques in an attempt to release the tyre’s bead from the inside of the rim strip. It broke us. We eventually (many failed attempts) broke the tyre away using a thin tyre lever, and have since removed the supplied strips and installed plain old tubeless rim tape, and we’ve not encountered any issue since. No rolling tyres off at low pressures, leaking air or anything. Maybe it was an unfortunate combination of Orange Seal sealant and Schwalbe tyres? We don’t know, but that’s just what happened.


Yay, or nay?

Our great experience with the Bontrager Line 30 wheels on the trail was a little marred by the tubeless strip saga; we can’t say the same for everybody experiencing what we did.

We like their understated appearance, stiff and precise feeling on the trail, the easy to service and well-sealed freehub and of course the impressive pricing, under $1700.


Want more specs, pricing and compatibility options?

Wander over to Bontrager’s wheel lineup page on their site for more: https://www.trekbikes.com/au/en_AU/equipment/cycling-components/bike-wheels/mountain-bike-wheels-wheelsets/c/E418/

Tested: DT Swiss SPLINE ONE XM1501 29 30mm Wheelset

But things got off to a soft start, with DT’s first few models of rims proving about a resilient as a fairy floss raincoat. A few hard rides could leave them dented like my blind Nanna’s Corolla. We think it’s fair to say it took DT a few years of refinement to get their rim offerings up to scratch. Times have certainly changed, and the new XM1501 wheelset delivers the complete package, and a level of performance you’d expect from DT.

28 straight-pull spokes, front and rear.

Wider, finally.

Like many of the larger rim manufacturers, DT took a little while to get on board with the wide rim program to support the larger tyres that have become the norm for trail riding. But they’ve recently turned the ship around with a whole swathe of wider rims, under the banner of SPLINE ONE, which itself is divided into XR, XM and EX categories, designed for cross-country, all-mountain and Enduro use respectively.

Printed graphics, not fragile stickers.

The range includes these guys, the XM1501 30mm wheelset which runs 30mm-wide rims. We think 30mm is the sweetspot for most trail riding, but DT have five width options in this XM series from 22.5-40mm width, so you’ve got just about every base covered there!

Fitting the DT XM1501 30mm wheelset to our Jeffsy gave it a huge performance boost.

What bike did you run these on?

Our YT Jeffsy long-term test bike was crying out for a wider set of rims to allow it to reach its full potential. At around the same time, DT had just landed these new generation wheelset in Australia, featuring wider rims. We removed the under-gunned DT M1900 wheels from the YT, and on went the XM1501s. The transformation was instant and dramatic, traction was through the roof, as we could run almost 30% less tyre pressure, which combined with the stiffer rims made for more precise handling. Over the course of the review, we’ve run these wheels with Onza Ibex rubber in a 2.4″, and a Specialized Butcher/Slaughter combo in a 2.3″.

A 30mm width is right on the sweet spot for most riding, and works well with tyres in the 2.3-2.5″ range.

What do you like about them?

We’re big fans of high quality alloy wheels such as these, which are stiff, light (sub 1800g) and won’t break the bank. While a carbon wheelset has many benefits, the price of most carbon options is a big barrier (excluding some notable exceptions, such as these from Bontrager) and the durability of an alloy rim to keep rolling even when damaged is appealing too.

The hubs at the heart of this wheelset are brilliant – lightweight, reliable, and easy to service. The Star Ratchet freehub system has few moving parts, and so keeping it running smoothly is within reach of any mechanic. You don’t need any special tools to disassemble it, to give it all a clean or lube.

The Star Ratchet system is simple, with just the two springs and two ratchet rings to worry about. It’s easy to service and lasts a long time.

That same serviceability extends to the spokes and rim. There are 28 straight pull spokes, with external nipples for easy truing. That said, we’ve not needed to take a spoke key to these wheels. The nipples are injected with DT’s Prolock thread sealant, which helps prevent them working loose, and in our case they’ve stayed true and tight.

It might sound like a small thing, but the use of printed graphics as opposed to stickers is a nice touch. It sucks to pay top dollar for a set of wheels only to have the stickers peel or get rubbed off quickly.

Any downsides?

We only suffered one puncture with these rims, but it did result in a cut through the tyre, right on the bead. Upon closer comparison, we’ve noticed that the shape of the bead hook is noticeably sharper than many other alloy rims. While we can’t say for sure that this contributed to the tyre damage, it was interesting to note.

The rims are taped for tubeless with valves supplied. We did notice the bead hook is quite narrow, which may have contributed to us slicing a rear tyre along the tyre bead.

For me? 

The wheel market is a crowded space at the moment, with custom and off-the-shelf options in carbon and alloy galore. You only need to scroll back through the past 12 months of reviews here and see how many wheelsets we’ve tested to get an idea of all the options out there now.

At almost $1500, these wheels sit right at the upper end of the range for alloy rims. As such, they’re really aimed at the rider who wants a high performance set of wheels but who either doesn’t trust carbon (and plenty don’t) or who won’t stretch the budget another few hundred to get into the carbon realm. If that sounds like you, then put these wheels on the shortlist.

 

 

Tested: Wheelworks FLITE Wide Alloy Trail 29 Wheels

Wheelworks wheels are not your average off-the-shelf wheel; they aim to offer a broad range of custom options predetermined from a consultation with the friendly folk at their Wellington, NZ headquarters. They’ll call you to discuss the options, on an actual phone if you wish, how personal is that!  

You can read all about the Wheelworks wheel building process and just why they feel confident in offering a lifetime warranty here,  in our interview with Wheelworks founder Tristan Thomas. We recommend you have a read, as there are some interesting aspects to the process and Tristan does a great job of dispelling some popular myths about wheels.

“It all starts with a short conversation with the rider where we’ll talk about what bike they’re going on, what style of riding they’ll be used for, and how hard the customer is on equipment.  We do a lot of bench-testing as well as ride testing so we know stiff different rims and combinations will be and how much they’ll weigh. All our staff ride so we’re able to combine the theoretical benefits with actual ride quality. We’ll also talk about colours to make sure their new Flite wheels look good on their bike.” – Tristan Thomas.

They are sold online, direct to the consumer with very impressive warranty terms; we’re talking lifetime warranty on hubs, rims, spokes and nipples. The options are plentiful, choose from rim widths, rim materials, hub brands, spokes and even decal colours to match your bike just right.

It’s hard to take photos of bladed spokes, so please appreciate this shot.

Let’s go shopping!

Following our review of the FLITE Wide Carbon wheels which resulted in a first-hand test of their warranty process as carbon met rock (the rock won and the ride was done) we picked out an aluminium set to try. The wheels were to be fitted to our mid-travel Norco Sight, we opted for the FLITE Wide Alloy Trail 29 wheels with Wheelworks’ own Dial hubs, all colour matched to the frame nicely.

Choose from a myriad of colour options.

The width.

The rims are very wide, 35mm wide internally. Why go so wide? The last few years have seen trail bikes, all mountain bikes and enduro bikes being fitted with wider rims. Long story short, with wide rims there is more air volume to dampen the ride, more support for your tyres when run at lower pressure and the result is mega traction. With that added traction climbs are not as slippery, corners feel grippy, and the bike responds to braking with more composure.

We’re seeing most ‘wide’ rim wheelsets hovering around the 27-30mm mark; we’re so used to it now we shudder when receiving a test bike with anything under 25mm, even cross country bikes with 19mm rims feel so outdated.

35mm wide, that translates to a LOT of traction.

Can wide become too wide?

After riding a huge variety of wheels, we feel that around the 30mm mark is a good balance of traction, precision and support. We’d reserve 35mm rims for serious terrain, rocky and loose surfaces and root-riddled trails – the stuff we love! Take a bike with 35mm wide rims to buff trails and it is overkill, the weight and rolling resistance will drag you down. But take it to a trail where traction is rare, drop those pressures down, and you’ll be cleaning sections of trail like a champion.

What tyres?

Don’t go throwing any old set of tyres on 35mm rims; it’s important to match the rubber to the width. You’ll know if your tyres aren’t right if you can see the sidewalls bulging out past the tread, or the shape of the tyre goes somewhat square. Maxxis have a range of tyres in a particular shape designed for this; the WT (wide trail). Or you’ll be relatively safe with anything above 2.35-2.4 ish.

Going wide requires a tyre to make the most of it, choose wisely.

How’d they roll?

Replacing the wheels on the Norco  (Raceface ARC 30) with the Wheelworks set (which use Raceface AR 35 rims) was surely not going to provide a vast amount of difference to ride. Or was it? The 5mm of extra width, combined with build quality, actually lifted the bike’s performance.

Three months on, they feel the same as the first ride. Tough and true.

Straight away the wheels felt tight and ready, no pinging sounds came from the spokes on our first ride, the wheels were tensioned perfectly. The Dial hubs had significantly better engagement than the Shimano XT hubs they replaced, and the freehub was much smoother too.

We hammered the living daylights out of these wheels; we even sliced the rear tyre from slamming a sharp-edged rock we didn’t even see on one fast descent. A few dings emerged but the spokes didn’t lose tension, and they never went out of true. After three months of pounding, they are still straight, with no twiddling of spoke keys from us at all.

Upon reflection, we probably should have gotten more punctures during the three months; there are way more dings in the rims than the amount of punctures received.

How do they ‘feel’?

When talking wheels, the word ‘feel’ comes up a lot, especially when talking carbon vs. aluminium. These wheels lacked a little zing and pep that we expect from a lightweight pair of carbon wheels, but they had a feeling that we got to appreciate – tough. Throw the bike sideways and the wheels land with a thud, not a chatter, they bomb through rocks quietly and confidently.

The Dial hubs.

Wheelworks offer a bunch of hubs like Chris King, Hope, DT Swiss and their own branded hubs, the Dial (they sound like a dial of a safe). The rear hub has a very precise 72 point engagement freehub, something you’d only find on top end hubs, but Wheelworks spec the Dial hubs on their lower price point wheel builds.

There are loads of hub options available; we tested the Wheelworks Dial hubs, very nice freehub!

Front hubs don’t typically demand our attention too much, there’s not much going on, but we did find this one a little frustrating when fitting into the bike. The end caps aren’t fixed, they hang loose when the hub is not clamped into the fork. So when dropping the fork onto the front hub, lining up the rotor in between the pads isn’t the only thing you need to take care with. The hub end caps need to be held into place with one hand while the other guides the wheel into the dropouts.

What are the rims?

“Unlike the Flite carbon wheels we develop in-house we do not produce our own aluminium rims and instead choose rims developed and sold by other companies.  We’re a fully custom wheelbuilding company and we have access to basically any rim produced and if it suits the customers needs then we’ll source and build whatever is best.  What we find is that some rims work better than others for certain applications and those are the rims we choose to stock and recommend.  We’ve found the RaceFace ARC range to be well suited for XC and Trail riding and we’ll often suggest the ARC27 and ARC30 for XC use, and the ARC30 and ARC35 for trail use.  These rims are wide and light and have good durability for trail use, but not great durability for Enduro so for a harder-hitting rider or bike we’ll use the DT Swiss 512 or 570.  These DT Swiss rims are heavier than the ARC rims but stand up better to really aggressive riding.” – Tristan Thomas.

Carbon wheels break, right? 

Traditionally speaking, carbon wheels crack where aluminium wheels ding, and it’s more common to see a trashed aluminium wheel still going after heavy abuse where carbon gets to a point where it just can’t go on. It’s a fine line to tread if you’re an aggressive rider, and even more so under pressures of racing. At the EWS in Derby we say many carbon wheels breaking, and occasionally saw bikes fitted with carbon wheels on the front, but aluminium out the back. While not everyone races their bikes, we can still understand why racers make those particular decisions. If we were racing enduro and serious about it, we’d go for something like these for security’s sake, for sure.

Weight, price, stuff like that?

We weighed them at 1900g on our Park Tool scales, which is ok, not fantastic. When comparing wheel weights, though, it’s key to compare apples to apples, these rims are 35mm wide and aluminium.  The $1620AUD price gives us that same response, decent, but not a bargain. But again, it’s worth looking at the value of the product as a whole, not just the wheel. Warranty, local support (southern hemisphere is kinda local), custom options and the hand-built process. These guys prove that you can still get good old fashioned service AND purchase on online. In a way, it’s the best of both worlds. 

Yay, or nay?

If you’re investing in your bike and want to upgrade, you can’t go past wheels as an area with room for improvement. If your bike is a few years old and running standard narrow-ish rims, these would be a great upgrade, and yes we agree this is a long review for a set of wheels, but there’s just a lot going on.

Hard on wheels? Ride loose trails? Consider these.

First Impressions: Bontrager Line Pro 30 Wheels

1700g, 29mm rims, 108 engagement point hub… where’s the catch?

Alloy is so 2016…

There has been an explosion of carbon mountain bike wheels (sometimes literally) in the past 18 months. A market that was once cornered by the likes of ENVE has been democratised and now proliferates with carbon hoops of all kinds of origins and qualities.

Along with the abundance of options, we have started to see prices come down, though not to the extent that we’d have anticipated or hoped. Most carbon wheels are still north of the $2000 mark, ouch. Bontrager, however, are doing their bit to make the performance of carbon hoops just that little bit more attainable, and without sacrificing features either.

You could’ve forgiven Bonty for taking short cuts with the hubs, but they didn’t.

Tell us the price!

The new Bontrager Line Pro 30 wheels are $1698 for the pair. That’s not chicken feed, but it’s very reasonable for a carbon wheelset from a top-tier manufacturer, and it’s a lot cheaper than many comparably featured wheels. The competition are on notice!

Proper tubeless rim strips for a tight tubeless seal.

So what do you get for the coin?

Fully modernised rims, for starters. With a 29mm internal width, these OCLV carbon rims are right in the sweet spot for trail riding / enduro riding.

They also come fitted with Bontrager’s tubeless rim strips, which are a robust, hard plastic strip, not just tape. These strips won’t budge or slip no matter how many times you remove or install tyres.

The six pawl freehub.

The freehub has 108 engagement points; there are six pawls (two sets of three) and they engage faster than a Bachelorette winner. We pulled the freehub off to take a look, and the sealing seems to be much better than previous Bonty free hubs. Let’s see how winter treats them.

Our 29er version weighs in at just on 1700g, so it’s not even like they’re a heavy set of hoops. Really, there’s nothing we don’t like about these so far, other than they took a bit of wrestling to mount our tyres too.

Stay tuned. We’re taking these bad boys to Rotorua next week to put some miles on them!

Tested: Wheelworks FLITE Wide Carbon Wheelset

Serious hoops. Just look at them!

What’s special about the Wheelworks wheels?

At over $2500 for the wheelset, these are an item that few mountain bikers will ever consider. But if you’ve got the money to spend on some thoroughly high-end hoops, then there are some compelling reasons to look at Wheelworks.

As we went into in detail in our First Bite on these wheels, the Wheelworks build process is pretty special. Not only do you get all the custom colours under the sun, but the actual build process is second to none with custom cut spokes, and the wheels are pre-stressed to a very high level, so they aren’t going to need any spoke key love. Mind you, when you see how stiff the rims are on this wheel set, you kind of wonder if it’s even possible for them to go out of true! The components used to build this wheelset are top shelf too, with DT hubs and DT Aerolite bladed spokes, which also contributes to the price tag.

Since we began this review, Wheelworks have expanded their FLITE Carbon lineup – they’ve now got a XC, Trail and Enduro specific versions, with different rim widths/weights for each category. The exact model we’ve tested here most closely aligns with the new Enduro version, but no matter what model you choose, the build process is the same.

You can read a lot more about the Wheelworks approach in our interview with Tristan Thomas, the founder of Wheelworks.

You can see just how much more support the FLITE rims offer your tyre.

Is wider better?

For the type of riding we like to do (technical, loose, ageing and  uncoordinated) wider rims have some real advantages, letting you drop the tyre pressures while retaining tyre stability. You reap the traction and control benefits, but you do need to pick a tyre that suits. If your tyres are too narrow, or have a particularly square profile, then you end up with a very on/off cornering feel. Luckily, there are plenty of wide rubber options to suit now, such as the Maxxis WT series that we’ve been loving.

It’s in this realm of wide rims that carbon really comes into its own. Making a rim this wide out of alloy adds a lot of weight, or if you keep the rims too light, you sacrifice strength.

What’s that lurking in the garden shed?

How did they ride?

We put these wheels onto our Canyon Strive, and fitted them up initially with Maxxis DD Aggressors (reviewed here). While these tyres are really a bit too narrow for optimum performance (we later fitted Maxxis Minion WT rubber, much better), the sheer stiffness of this wheel/tyre combo was out of control – you just do not appreciate how much flex there is in a ‘regular’ wheel until you ride something as washboard stiff as this. It actually takes a bit of getting used to, they’re just so direct.

Nothing is standing in the way of this… or so we thought.

When your wheels are this precise, everything just seems to work better; you hold better lines, your brakes seem to have more bite; your suspension is able to do its job properly; they’re incredibly responsive to accelerations, a fact no doubt helped by the crisp engagement of the DT 240 freehub. The bike even sounds better, less clangy, more of a dull thudding of tyres on terra firma.

The issue was, we started to believe we were invincible. As it turns out, nothing is indestructible, and in a moment of joyously uncontrolled and ill-considered hucking, we cracked the rear rim!

What? You broke them? How?

Basically in exactly the same way as we’d have trashed an alloy rim, really. We launched off a five-foot ledge going too fast to pick a landing, and crunched the rear wheel into a square-edged rock, complete with a total suspension bottom out. With a noise like someone had whacked our helmet with a stick, we knew the rim was toast. Ouch.

In this instance, the damage to the Flite rim was relatively moderate. Sure, the rim was cactus, cracked enough to lose air, and we wouldn’t keep riding it long term, but we could fit a tube to get back home, the wheel wasn’t in pieces or anything drastic like that.

Would the impact have ruined an alloy rim? It certainly would have put a big dent in it anyhow, but at least that dent wouldn’t have left us with that sinking feeling in our stomach. Breaking a $2500 anything really feels bad! Fortunately, part of that price tag is the backing of a lifetime warranty, as we’ve discussed below. Yes, these wheels have lifetime warranty, including for broken spokes and impact damage.

What happened then?

We got on the phone to Wheelworks, of course! As it turned out, what could have been a very shitty experience became a good reminder of why great product back up is priceless.

They took the news well. After building hundreds of these wheels, they told us they know that around 3% of riders will have an issue. They also accept that these wheels are designed to be ridden hard, and in their assessment what we were doing certainly fell within their ‘realm of normal use’, meaning it would be covered by their lifetime warranty.

When we cracked a rim, Wheelworks didn’t question it – we had the wheel back in five working days. It’s not just the wheels you’re paying for, but the product back up too.

We sent the wheel back to Wellington NZ (from Sydney), and within five days we had it back, a new rim ready to roll.

We asked Tristan Thomas to give us a bit more of an explanation about the warranty terms, because these things can be notoriously vague:

“If something happens to a wheel during normal riding we’ll cover it.  We’ve only had a handful of failures from quite a few hundred wheels and we’ve covered all of them however we wouldn’t warranty something like a bike on the roof of a car being driven into a garage.  We’ve built enough wheels with high-end carbon brands to have plenty of data about failure rates and we know what we’re doing with our wheel builds results in an industry-leading low failure rate, and that’s the only way we can offer such a generous warranty.

“We can’t promise that a wheel won’t break but we do promise that if it does we’ll sort it and that we’ll do it as quickly as we can to minimise any delays.  The customer pays to get the wheel back to us and we’ll replace the rim, spoke nipples, rim tape, and cover return shipping.”

So, carbon. 

This incident did get us thinking about carbon rims in mountain biking once again. Undoubtedly the performance benefits of a carbon rim are there – to get a wheelset to perform like these do with an alloy rim just wouldn’t happen. But for all the benefits of weight, stiffness and strength, there is a trade off, both in terms of price and practicality.

We’ve ruined plenty of wheels in our time, and some of them have been carbon. And in our experience, when a carbon rim goes boom, it often does so in a terminal kind of fashion, whereas an alloy rim will usually dent up, battered but often still rideable. There are plenty of EWS racers on alloy rims for that very reason – they need a wheel that can take a dent or flat spot, but still be nursed through a full day of racing. And of course there’s no way to grab a pair of multi-grips and bend your carbon rim back into shape back in the workshop.

Carbon rims are a performance item, and there are enough performance benefits there to ensure they’re going to have a bigger presence in mountain biking (especially as the price does come down). But this incident really drove home to us again that with expensive kit like this, equal investment must be there in product back up and warranty support, and as a consumer you should factor those into your purchasing choices.

So, they cost a lot, and you broke them. Can you still recommend them?

Yes, we can. Though if we were buying these wheels, we’d be inclined to fit a Huck Norris kit (read our Huck Norris Anti-Flat Tubeless Protection review here) to at least the rear wheel as a measure of insurance.

Fitting something like a Huck Norris kit is cheap insurance for your pricey wheels.

While we hate it when things break, we’re happy we’ve at at least had the firsthand experience of just how well Wheelworks handle the process if you do happen to munch a wheel. As we said before, that kind of back up is a huge reassurance when you’re handing over significant amounts money for a wheelset.

We totally understand that a $2500+ set of wheels is not a ‘must have’ for any mountain biker, and a set of far cheaper wheels will do the job just fine. But leaving all that aside, nothing can change the fact these are a ripping set of wheels. Stiff, light, precise, and with great looks too. They will markedly change the way you look at the trail, we promise.

 

Flow’s First Bite – Wheelworks FLITE Wide Alloy Trail 29”

Wheel Works Flite Alloy-0010

Custom decals available from over 60 colours, CNC cut in house.
Custom decals available from over 60 colours, CNC cut in house.

We all know carbon wheels have their big benefits, but there’s no hiding their propensity to explode if hit hard enough, while aluminium rims can withstand a beating for longer. Sure the top downhill and enduro pro riders might have carbon wheels, with a rack of spares at the ready but you can bet the privateer racer who bets on aluminium to get them through.

From our standpoint, we are currently seeing a divide in the mountain bike scene when it comes to the material of choice for wheels. While there are weight and ride quality properties to be benefited from the more expensive carbon option, aluminium rims have gained a lot of ground and a decent wide rim wheelset is more commonplace on high spec bikes than ever before.Wheel Works Flite Alloy-9963

Aluminium rims are much cheaper than expensive carbon rims.
Aluminium rims are much cheaper than expensive carbon rims.

Wheelworks are not your average wheel, they are handbuilt in Wellington NZ to an exceptionally high standard, dive into the Wheelworks story a little more here – we interview Tristan Thomas about the ins and outs of the brand, dis[elling many wheel myths, and what makes them different to the masses.

We’re fitting this set to our Norco Sight C 9.2 test bike which currently has RaceFace 30mm wheels on Shimano XT hubs, which have been great, we’ll see how these handbuilt wheels with wider rims stack up. Stay tuned for more!

72 point engagement hubs, they sound and feel very precise and high quality.
72 point engagement hubs, they sound and feel very precise and high quality.

Wheelworks FLITE Wide Alloy-0088


Specs

Wheelworks FLITE Wide Alloy Trail 29″.

1900 grams with rim strip and valves as pictured.

35mm internal width.

2″ up to 2.8″ plus tyre width compatible.

Dial hubs, 72-point engagement with angled flanges and low-friction seals.

Hub weights – 135/250g.

DT Swiss Aerolite spokes with Wheelworks lifetime broken spoke guarantee.

Tubeless tape and lightweight aluminium valves included.

Custom ordered decals, CNC in-house, available in about 30 different colours.

Time to fit and punish!
Time to fit and punish!
Onto the Norco Sight for testing.
Onto the Norco Sight for testing.

Flow’s First Bite: Praxis Works C32 Mountain Wheels

The C32 Mountain Wheelset is Praxis Works' first carbon wheelset.
The C32 Mountain Wheelset is Praxis Works’ first carbon wheelset.

Out of the box it’s a chunky looking wheelset, with a hookless bead, wide profile and some fancy hubs, but that’s pretty standard for carbon wheels these days, so let’s jump into the interesting stuff.


What makes this carbon wheelset different?

One thing that stands out to us about the Praxis Works C32 Mountain Wheelset from the outset is its nods to practicality. Where many carbon wheelsets go for internal nipples and funky proprietary spokes, Praxis Works have stuck with external nipples, 32 hole hubs and classic J-bend spokes.

It's a double thumbs up for us for external nipples.
External spoke nipples get a double thumbs up from us.

The wheels also come with rim strips, valves and some spare service spokes, so you’ll be ready to roll out for your first ride in no time!

All taped up.
All taped up out of the box.

What’s the C32 Mountain wheelset intended for?

The Praxis Works C32 Mountain wheelset is aimed at the trail/all-mountain/enduro segment, utilising carbon for its strength and stiffness properties rather than creating an ultra-lightweight rim.

Our build uses Industry Nine’s Torch hub with a 6-bolt rotor system, and comes in at 1761 grams for the set, which is solid considering the wheel’s 38mm external diameter and 32mm internal rim width, as well as the wheelset using 32 spokes front and rear.

Praxis Works C32-4888


What sizes does it come in?

The C32 wheels are available in both 27.5” and 29” options.

Praxis Works C32-4897
We’re testing a set of 29″ C32 wheels.

Does it come in different hub options?

It sure does! You can get them in 142x12mm and boost 148x12mm hub spacing options, and there are two builds levels offered.

The C32 wheelset built up with Industry Nine torch hubs that we’ve got on test retails for $2800, and the Praxis Works branded DT Swiss 350 hub option costs $2600.

Our build uses Industry Nine's Torch hubs.
Our build uses Industry Nine’s Torch hubs.

The only exception is the 142×12 Praxis hubs, which come with Praxis’ own straight pull spoke design on one side, which is said to increase the stiffness of the 142x12mm wheel to that of a boost wheel.


What about freehub options?

You can purchase the C32 Mountain wheelset with both Shimano or SRAM compatible freehubs.

We'll be popping SRAM's soaring Eagle onto our wheelset.
We’ll be popping SRAM’s soaring Eagle onto our wheelset.

What’s the warranty like?

This is a question we get all the time when it comes to carbon wheelsets, and rightly so considering their price. The Praxis Works C32 Mountain wheelset comes with a 2-year warranty against manufacturing defects, but this doesn’t include barging into rocks at warp speed. We’ve got lots of riding planned for this wheelset, so lookout for the full review where we’ll be able to shed light on the C32’s durability over time.

Praxis Works C32-4884


Where to now?

Time to get some miles in we think. We’re fitting these wheels to a Trek Slash 9.9 that we use for some pretty demanding riding, so we’ve put on some beefy rubber. Keep an eye out for our full review once we’ve logged some solid trail time!

Tested: Zelvy Carbon Funn PDL Wheels

We have spent two months on these Zelvy wheels, with wide carbon rims, Funn hubs and dialled custom coloured stickers. Did we dig them? Does a bear s#*t in the woods?_low0389


Who’s Zelvy, and what are these wheels?

Zelvy is an Australian based brand doing many things with carbon including bars, bottle cages, chain guides, carbon rotors and rims for road and mountain bikes. For a young little company based in Toowoomba, QLD, they already have had a big impact on the scene by providing high quality products direct to the consumer at reasonable prices with excellent warranty terms.

All wheels are pre-built for despatch and Zelvy also carry all spares for all the hub options available. For the maddest Zelvy fans, there is the Podium Elite Program, a membership rewards program that can include everything from discounts, to free crash replacements.

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This isn’t our first experience with Zelvy Carbon wheels, though, we had a great set of 35mm wheels on our Trek Fuel EX 29 early last year, they gave that bike some serious grip and sturdiness that it needed to push it a little harder.  zelvy-wheels-2Check out that review here – Zelvy Carbon 35 29er Pro wheelset.


Why the different width rims? And does it work?

The front rim’s internal width measures 36mm and rear is 30mm wide internally. The different internal rim widths allow for better tyre profiles (a wider, more aggressive tyre at the front paired with something slightly thinner and faster rolling on the rear). It sure makes a lot of sense to us and addresses a criticism we tend to have with wide rims – drag.

35mm rim up front, we changed tyre pressures to suit the terrain, but got as low as 16 psi.
35mm rim up front, we changed tyre pressures to suit the terrain but got down as low as 16 psi.
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Hookless, tubeless ready and wide.

35mm of rim width up the front gives the bike a whole lot to lean on in the turns, with the front tyre taking a seriously broad shape with huge air volume. The effect is instant, traction in spades! With lower tyre pressures the tyre conforms to the ground more, the width of the rim allows the low pressure without it squirming or rolling around like it would on a traditional width rim (around 19-23mm). And out back the slightly narrower rim doesn’t feel as draggy on the tarmac as the front wheel, a very good thing when it comes to acceleration, it’s the rear wheel that you need to wind up to get moving, after all.

Narrower tyres on the rear are common place on bikes, so why no the rim too?


How’d they feel?

We talk about ‘feel’ a lot in reference to carbon wheels; it’s the way they feel lively and energetic underneath you that we like. There’s the low weight to high stiffness ratio of course, but carbon seems to absorb shock whilst remaining stiff better than aluminium rims.

The Zelvy’s use traditional spokes and nipples which is handy for whoever has to maintain them, the spoke tension felt quite light to us, coming off a set of SRAM and Wheelworks wheels with much higher tension. On the trail, they felt smooth and direct, a nice balance between too stiff and wobbly.


Tough enough?

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The new-look carbon marble for 2017, very nice indeed!

Absolutely, they are tough enough for us on a 160mm travel enduro bike on Sydney’s rocky trails, three days at Mt Buller (the Delatite was particularly hard on wheels during opening weekend) and hammering the Flow and All Mountain Track at Thredbo during the Cannonball Festival. The wheels remain straight and true to this day, without taking a spoke key to them at all. Thumbs up, Zelvy!

During one particularly frightening moment on the freshly updated Abom DH track in Mt Buller we got offline and totally wailed a microwave-sized rock with the rear wheel, it was quite ugly to say the least. The tyre stood no chance, pissing out sealant everywhere reducing us to a halt. To the wheel’s credit the tyre didn’t unseat itself from the bead, so we continued to ride gently down the track to the waiting shuttle, once at the top we repaired the tyre without taking it off the wheel with a couple Dynaplugs, and pumped it back up, made easier with the tyre still stuck to the rim wall. We were back riding again in no time, and despite the monumental impact the wheel is 100% fine, that’s confidence inspiring for sure.

Long runs of Thredbo and racing at the Cannonball Festival certainly puts a set of wheels to test.
Long runs of Thredbo and racing at the Cannonball Festival certainly puts a set of wheels to test.

Funn Fantom hubs ok?

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Wind them up, hear them sing. These are great sounding hubs with very positive engagement.

More than ok, we found them to be stellar performers the whole time. The small brand Funn is best known for their bars and flat pedals that Sam Hill used for years, but we’ve not used their hubs until now. Firstly, they sound great! Not too loud it’s distracting or off-putting, but the rear wheel has a zinging freehub that changes pitch as the speed increases, everyone who heard or rode the bike was impressed (the important things in life…).

Secondly, the engagement is super quick and positive too with a 6-pawl design that engages every 3.5 degrees, adding to the fast reaction of the light rims, and hub bearings don’t show any signs of contamination or fatigue. We’re going to continue to use these wheels for a few more months as we have a BOX Components drivetrain to fit on the Canyon, the cassette uses a Shimano freehub body which is easily interchangeable with the SRAM XD Driver we have on now.

Zelvy offers three hub varieties with their MTB wheels, Funn, Industry 9 and ONYX. With Funn the lowest price option, perhaps not such a flashy name but we’re more than happy with them and are very competitive at 530 grams.


Custom process.

These wheels are sold online with international shipping; the process is pretty easy too with an option for each step of the way; choose wheel size, hub model, from rim width, front hub axle width, rear rim width, rear hub axle width and finally sticker options and colour.

We’d be daft not to mention the customisable stickers that are an option; they offer fifteen custom sticker sets on every wheel purchase. White and silver are the standard colours, but for twenty dollars extra you can buy any of the other thirteen options. We were pretty darn impressed with the job they did matching the wheels to the Canyon Strive, blue/orange fade and all!

Now that is colour matching!
Now that is colour matching!

Pretty impressed then?

These Zelvy wheels have been fantastic during our review, after two and a half months of pounding on our Canyon Strive, they’ve exceeded our expectations, and we’re happy to recommend them for someone looking to upgrade a vital part of their bike or add confidence to a race rig.

Click to build your own, and confirm pricing.

Flow’s First Bite: Zelvy Funn PDL Wheelset

We’ve got a set of Zelvy’s Funn PDL wheels for testing, to see if they’re worth stretching the budget for.

The carbon weave on these wheels is gorgeous.
The carbon weave on these wheels is gorgeous.

Who is Zelvy?

Based out of Toowoomba, Zelvy is an Australian brand with a growing reputation for carbon wheelsets, particularly in the all-mountain/enduro category.


What wheels are we testing?

We’ll be fitting the Funn PDL wheelset to our Canyon Strive long-term test bike, which has previously with SRAM and WheelWorks Flite wheels for testing.

Zelvy has sent a wheelset that incorporates two different rims. The front rim’s internal width measures 36mm and rear is slightly thinner internally at 30mm wide. Zelvy told us that the different internal rim widths allow for better tyre profiles (a wider, more aggressive tyre at the front paired with something slightly thinner and faster rolling on the rear).

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The rim profile is hookless, and tubeless setup was a breeze.

What do you get for your money?

The wheelset we’re testing features Zelvy’s PDL rim, which is their most commonly used rim. The rims are laced onto Funn Fantom hubs.

We're hoping to have lots of fun with these hubs.
We’re hoping to have lots of fun with these hubs.

Funn Fantom Hubs?

We don’t see many Funn products here at Flow, but the Fantom hubs look to be great value for money. They incorporate a 6-pawl design that engages every 3.5 degrees, which feels very snappy in the work stand. High quality sealed bearings should make for many smooth miles.

When purchasing your Zelvy wheels, you can choose either a regular freehub or a Sram XO driver at no added cost.
When purchasing your Zelvy wheels, you can choose either a regular freehub or a SRAM XD driver at no added cost.

What sort of tyres suit these wheels?

Due to the wide internal rim widths of these wheels, we’re running the new ‘wide trail’ tyres from Maxxis, which are specifically designed for wider internal rim widths. The 2.4 Maxxis Minion DHF up front has an extremely beefy profile, whilst the Minion DHR II on the rear is also chunky, but the slightly thinner internal rim width noticeably reduces the tyre profile.


What about the warranty?

This is probably the number one question we hear about carbon wheelsets, and Zelvy gets the tick of approval by offering a five-year warranty on all their wheelsets. Zelvy sell rims separately, which also have a warranty of five years providing the wheel was assembled professionally.


What happens if I crash?

Accidents suck even more than usual when you’ve got a nice set of wheels strapped to your bike. For this reason, Zelvy offers a lifetime fifty percent discount off the retail price for either a complete wheelset or damaged rim due to a crash. 

We'd like to see more brands adopt crash replacement schemes like Zelvy.
We’d like to see more brands adopt crash replacement schemes like Zelvy.

Will these wheels match my bike?

Zelvy offer fifteen (yes you read that correctly) custom sticker sets on every wheel purchase. White and silver are the standard colours, but for twenty dollars extra you can purchase any of the other thirteen options, which should cater for most riders. We couldn’t believe how well our wheelset matched our Canyon Strive, but unfortunately, the stickers are showing signs of a little peeling on the sharp edges and corners of the logo. When we contacted Zelvy about this issue, however, we were told that they had already identified the problem and new wheels would ship with stickers that no longer have this issue.

Now THAT is colour coordination!
Now THAT is colour coordination!

We enjoy testing new wheels; they have such a significant role to play in how a bike rides, and are an area always worth upgrading, especially with wider rims becoming more available.

So we will be giving these wheels a thrashing to see if they’re good enough for your steed, so stay tuned!

For purchasing options, pricing and more click here to the Zelvy online store.

Wheelworks FLITE Wide Carbon Wheels – Flow’s First Bite

Wheelworks Flite Wide Carbon Wheels_LOW6118

Wide rims are the way forward, there’s no doubt about it. A wider, more stable, platform for your tyre lets you run lower pressures for more grip and control. We don’t need to harp on again about it in detail, but we’re not overstating it when we say that wider rims can transform your ride experience in a way that few equipment changes will.

Wheelworks Flite Wide Carbon Wheels_LOW6143
35 internal width, taped and ready for action!

We’ve recently received a set of pretty special wheels from New Zealand custom wheel builders, Wheelworks. These guys are well regarded as the godfathers of Kiwi wheel building – they’re the only crew we’ve ever encountered to offer a lifetime warranty on their wheel builds, including impact damage and spoke breakage, which is pretty exceptional.

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Each set of Wheelworks wheels gets custom graphics. DT Aerolites are the spoke of choice.

You can read all about the Wheelworks wheel building process and just why they feel confident in offering such a warranty here, in our interview with Wheelworks founder Tristan Thomas. We really recommend you have a read, as there are some pretty interesting aspects to the process and Tristan does a great job of dispelling some popular myths about wheels.

The Flite Wide Carbon wheels are, as the name implies, very wide and very carbon. The rims measure up 40mm externally, and 34mm internally, which makes them just about wide as the Ibis 741 rims we tested last year, which opened our eyes to the potential of truly wide rims.

Spokes are the bladed DT Aerolites, and they’re laced in a two-cross pattern, which reduces the angle of entry of the spoke into the rim, with a nice touch being the two powder-coated white spokes on the either side of the valve stem. It’s all in the details!

DT provide the hubs too, which have been given the Wheelworks touch, with custom decals to match the rims. One of the perks of buying a custom set of wheels is that you can pimp them out as you like, so we went with silver and blue decals to offset the silver/black finish of our Canyon Strive test bike. In another nice touch, the Wheelworks guys even up-specced the DT Star Ratchet freehub, to the 54-tooth version for super fast engagement. The weight is pretty impressive, at 1720g for the pair.

Wheelworks Flite Wide Carbon Wheels_LOW6101

The rims come taped and ready for tubeless use with valves already installed to, so we were able to get them setup to ride quick smart. For rubber, we’ve opted to run the new Maxxis Aggressor DD (Double Down, with a stiffer sidewall) in a 2.3″ size. With the stiff tyre sidewall and wide rim, they were a bit of battle to fit, but we’re certainly never going to worry about rolling them off the rim! We think that with the wide rim, coupled to a stiff and robust tyre like the Aggressor, we’re going to have plenty of confidence at low pressures.

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We’ve fitted these gorgeous hoops to our Canyon Strive / XT Di2 test bike, and all that remains is to see how fast we can go! Giddyup!

For more details and Australian pricing visit Wheel Works.

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Wheel Talk, with Wheelworks

We got Wheelworks founder Tristan Thomas on the line to answer a few questions about why all wheels are not created equal, and to dispel a few myths around the oft-called ‘dark art’ of wheel building.


Wheelworks Flite Wheel Build
Three Wheelwork’ers, Gavin, Tristan and Jesse, from Wellington.

We’re going to be testing the Flite Wide Carbon wheels, which boast a 34mm internal width. From our perspective, we feel that rim width can really transform a bike in so many positive ways. Given the performance benefits, why do you think it took so long for wide rims to come about?

Wheelworks Flite Wheel Build
How every good wheel build begins.

We’ve been building and riding wide rims for about 5 years now and it’s great to see them become popular and mainstream.  From our point of view there aren’t many downsides to rims with an internal width of 30 to 40mm, and as you know there are a whole lot of positives.

After the move from 26” to 29” and then 27.5” that most companies felt they’d already overloaded their customers and their supply chain with wheel changes

I think the delay with seeing these rim widths becoming adopted by the industry is that after the move from 26” to 29” and then 27.5” that most companies felt they’d already overloaded their customers and their supply chain with wheel changes and that the move to wide rim wasn’t a priority for them.

I don’t think we’ll see much change in rim widths over the next few years.  I think that rims will go as wide as 40mm for 2.8-ish tyres but for everything from XC oriented 2.2” to enduro oriented 2.5” will use rims in the 30-40mm range.  We’ve been running everthing from 33mm cyclocross tyres on 30mm rims and there really is zero downside to wider rims.

Wheelworks Flite Wheel Build
Just like with alloy rims, there’s a huge range of quality in carbon rims too.

Our test wheels are carbon. What are the most common misunderstandings, myths or mis-truths about carbon rims?

My big frustration is that all carbon rims, whether they’re good or bad, get lumped into this same category of “carbon rims” and talked about like they’re the same and this isn’t fair or accurate.  There are plenty of good quality aluminium rims which are much better in every measurable way than a cheap carbon rim.

There are plenty of good quality aluminium rims which are much better in every measurable way than a cheap carbon rim.

Modern, high-quality, carbon rims like our Flites are the lightest, stiffest, and most durable rims available.  The only downside is that they’re more expensive than aluminium.

 

You also offer an alloy Flite wheel set. Can you have an alloy-rimmed wheel that’s as strong as a carbon-rimmed wheel? Are there any inherent limitations or advantages to an alloy rim?

Alloy wheels are far from dead and there is heaps of product development still going into them.  Modern wide alloy rims are a big improvement on the narrow, flexy things of yesteryear.  In general an alloy wheelset will be heavier and less stiff, but will be cheaper.  Alloy rims tend to dent when they’re whacked…this can be a good thing and is why you see EWS racers using alloy, whereas good carbon will take a pretty serious beating with no damage at all but whack them hard enough and they will crack.  In general alloy rims should be treated as a consumable item for an aggressive rider…they’ll dent and eventually have a hard time holding an airtight tubeless bead.  Good carbon rims don’t suffer from these dents and will outlast alloy.

Wheelworks Flite Wheel Build
Strength, stiffness and durability are all very different attributes, even though they often get lumped together.

Where does a wheel actually derive its strength from? How much is a product of the rim versus the build quality etc?

Stiffness, strength, durability are three terms which get used and I think it’s worth clearing these up as they’re very different but often get confused.

Once a wheel has ‘enough’ stiffness the rider won’t notice twice as much stiffness.

Lateral stiffness is how much the wheels flex when loaded sideways during cornering, landing crooked (come on, admit it!) knocking off rocks or riding off-camber roots.  A stiffer wheel provides a more direct, confidence-inspiring ride.  A wheel which isn’t stiff enough is vague or mushy to ride.  Once a wheel has ‘enough’ stiffness the rider won’t notice twice as much stiffness.  I think of it like having a waterproof roof on your house:  if it’s not waterproof enough then it will drip in the rain but once waterproofed it doesn’t matter if you double or quadruple that waterproofness as you’re still going to remain dry.  How much lateral stiffness is ‘enough’ depends on the ride weight and style, and on their bike.  Also worth noting is that a super stiff wheel won’t be noticed when clamped into a super-flexy fork with a flexy stem and flexy handlebar.

Wheelworks Flite Wheel Build
Getting the spoke lengths exactly right helps prevent any weak spots or stress concentrations for better durability.

A big myth here is that high spoke tension builds stiffer wheels

Lateral stiffness is built into a wheel mainly by the rim’s shape and material but the spoke type, number of spokes, lacing pattern and hub flange dimensions also play a role.  A big false myth here is that high spoke tension builds stiffer wheels:  There is no scientific reason for this to be true as the spoke’s Modulus of Elasticity isn’t affected by tension and our lateral stiffness testing confirms it isn’t true.  Lowering spoke tension won’t change how the wheel feels unless you lower the tension so far that the wheel falls apart.  Conversely increasing spoke tension won’t make the wheels feel any stiffer or more responsive but the higher tension will place more stress onto the rim, hub, and spokes and will cause these items to fail sooner.

Wheelworks Flite Wheel Build
Higher spoke tensions don’t necessarily equate to a stiffer wheel, despite popular myth to the contrary.

Vertical stiffness is another myth.  Wheels don’t flex vertically in any amount which could be significant.  Your tyres have around 60mm of vertical flex so adding, say, 1mm of rim flex just won’t do anything.

Strength is how a wheel will respond to one, single, hard impact:  A cased jump, a hard strike onto a root, etc.  Strength mainly comes from the rim’s design and a good, strong rim poorly laced to a cheap hub will still be strong.

Durability is how well a wheel responds to prolonged riding and continued impacts.  A  wheel’s durability is much harder to measure and building durable wheels is not easy.  This is where some of the ‘black art’ of wheelbuilding comes in and although no single silver-bullet will give you excellent wheel durability – there are plenty of small steps, custom tools, and minor tweaks that can be done during the wheelbuild process to increase durability.  We’ve been doing this for over 10 years and wheel durability is a huge area of focus for me and the reason we’re able to offer lifetime guarantees on wheels.

Wheelworks Flite Wheel Build
‘Grimlock’ is Wheelworks’ custom press that subjects wheels to forces far beyond what a rider is capable of.

We notice you offer a lifetime broken spoke warranty. How can you do this?

Because we’ve figured out how to ensure they don’t break! As part of every wheelbuild we measure the rim and hub and calculate the spoke length.  We then cut spokes to the exact right length, down to 0.1mm accuracy, specific to that wheel to ensure we’ve got full thread engagement in the nipple.  If the spokes are too short they’ll break the nipple, if they’re too long they’ll break at the first thread.  When they’re the perfect length and combined with our other steps, we can guarantee they’ll never break.

There are two types of warranty:  one where the manufacturer expects the product to fail and be replaced, and one where the manufacturer puts steps in place to nearly eliminate possibility of failure.  We offer the second type of warranty and I’m extremely proud of the durability of our wheels.

You’ve mentioned to your ‘grimlock’ machine, which pre-stresses the wheel. Can you explain how it works and the importance of this process?

If you’ve ever ridden a brand-new bike you’ve likely heard a popping sound coming from the spokes as they settle in, unwind themselves, bend themselves slightly, and loosen off.  With some hand-built wheels you’ll hear that they need to go back to the builder after they’ve ‘settled in’ to be re-tensioned and re-trued.

Wheelworks Flite Wheel Build
After Grimlock, the wheels go backing into the truing stand.

Grimlock allows us to apply a vicious amount of force into the wheel in a really controlled way, and basically over-load the wheel well beyond what will happen when you ride it.  The first time a wheel goes into Grimlock it loses about half its spoke tension so we need to re-tension and re-true the wheel.  We alternate this process of re-tension and re-truing, and putting the wheel through Grimlock until the wheel comes out of Grimlock as true as when it went in.  At that point the wheel has been stressed well beyond what a rider can do and we’ve got full faith that barring a huge crash the wheel will never go out of true.

Do spoking patterns really have an impact in the world of mountain biking? How do you lace mountain bike wheels and why?

There are a few little things that lacing patterns impact but nothing too significant.  We lace most carbon rims with a 2-cross pattern which reduces the angle that the spoke enters the rim and helps with rim durability a little.  We lace the rear wheels so that the ‘pulling’ spokes bring the crossing in towards the centerline under power to give a bit more derailleur clearance, but with modern 142 and 148mm dropouts being so stiff and modern 40-plus tooth cassettes this doesn’t have a significant effect for most people.

Wheelworks Flite Wheel Build
Checking the dish.

What is the next frontier for wheel development?

The area between Plus and non-Plus is pretty blurred at the moment and you’ll see that continue, but the industry will settle on 30-40mm rims for non-Plus bikes, 40-50mm for Plus sizes and those horrible 23mm rims will be a relic of the past like V-brakes.

Carbon rims will continue to drop in price and will be spec’d on lower-priced bikes but the high-end stuff will remain at a similar price.

Wheelworks Flite Wheel Build
Short black? How did you know?

If you look at the holistic development of the bike I think that wheels are in front of the curve.  I think we’re unlikely to see really significant changes to wheels in the next few years but there will be lots of development in tyres to make the most of wider rims.

Wheelworks Flite Wheel Build

Bikes which can accept both super-wide 27.5” tyres and 29” tyres will be increasingly common.  What we’re seeing riders owning this type of bike can drastically change how the bike rides by carefully selecting two wheel and tyre combinations so they no longer have a need for an XC bike and a Trail bike and just swap wheels instead.

At the moment we’ve got a mess of axle ‘standards’ which are confusing for riders and make life harder for everyone in the industry from frame companies to dealers so we’ll see the industry settle on a single standard which works.

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Tristan! We’re looking forward to putting your wheels to work! 

Tested: Pacenti TL28 Wheels

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Eyelet rims for resilience under high spoke tensions.

But building up a wheelset lets you get exactly the product you want, generally with the added bonus of easy serviceability should something need replacing. The Pacenti TL28 wheels we’ve been riding lately are a ‘classic’ set of hoops, built up the traditional way: 32 J-bend spokes, lacing an aluminium rim to a hub that’ll last a lifetime.

Pacenti isn’t a name that many riders are familiar with, which is odd given how influential the man behind this brand has been in mountain bike development. Kirk Pacenti was one of the pioneering proponents of the 650B wheel and he continues to be a very influential thinker in the world of bike design. He was also one of the folk to first grasp the benefits of a wider rim (for both mountain bikes and road bikes) and we’ve been riding one his creations, the TL28 rim in a 29″ size, for the past couple of months.

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The rims aren’t taped for tubeless, but once set up with some tubeless tape they sealed up well and didn’t burp easily.

If you’re looking for category redefining features, you won’t find them here. The TL28 doesn’t push the boundaries of width – a 23mm-internal width is in line with most other trail riding rims. A weight of 445g puts them at lighter end of the spectrum, but again not setting any records.

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But what this rim does offer is top quality construction and a sensible blend of weight and strength. The rim join is welded for strength, the spoke holes are all eyeleted to withstand higher spoke tensions, and the bead hook is secure for tubeless use. It’s the kind of rim that has appeal for people who appreciate classic, quality design – people who want serviceability, reliability and practicality.

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Our Pacenti TL28 rims came laced to a gorgeous set of Chris King’s new ISO Boost hubs (110/148mm spacing). King hubs don’t need any introduction, their in-house bearings will spin forever, and the 72-point RingDrive system offers the best freehub engagement in the business. A pair of King hubs is a sizeable investment, but you can be guaranteed they’ll be the one part of your bike you’re never going to worry about, year after year.

Combine the Pacenti rims and King hubs and you have a pair of wheels that traditionalists will love. They’re not a particularly light wheelset, at 1862g, but then that’s not the aim. These are wheels that are all about hassle-free reliability, not winning cross-country races.

FLOW3423
Hubs for a life time.

The rims don’t come taped for tubeless use, but a couple of loops of Orange Seal tape and valves was all that was needed. We ran Continental rubber on the wheels, and found the rim width and profile suitable for the tyres’ roughly 2.25″ size. The 23mm width gives the tyres a rounder profile, which many people appreciate. If you were looking to run bigger rubber or you want to run lower pressures, we’d suggest going to the wider DL31 rim, which would offer more support for bigger tyres.

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A 23mm internal width gives a nice rounded profile to 2.25″ tyres.

After two months of use on our Norco Optic C9.2, there’s little to report, and when you’re talking about wheels, that’s a positive. The smallest of wavers has emerged in the rear wheel, but with regular spoke nipples, giving them a quick true is within the skill set of most home mechanics. We also did put a slight ding the rear rim, not enough to worry about however, and we didn’t lose any pressure or burp the tyre with the impact either. Again, the beauty of an alloy rim is that dents can be straightened out too, with some gentle manipulation. Another tick for serviceability.

There’s much to be said for doing the basics well, and while the Pacenti TL28s aren’t flashy, build them onto a set of reliable hubs and you have wheelset that will likely follow you from bike to bike and won’t give you spare parts nightmares or workshop downtime along the way.

Tested: Stan’s Not Tubes ZTR Bravo Wheels

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Stan’s No Tubes may have cut their teeth in leading the charge in the early days of tubeless tyre conversions, they reinvented themselves as manufacturers of some of the lightest and most advanced rims and hubs, and are very highly regarded by riders in the know.

Who is Stan? Check out our interview with the man named Stan here: Interview: Stan ‘No Tubes’ Koziatek.

The ZTR Bravo is their latest all-mountain/enduro wheelset, used by the likes of Martin Maes on the Enduro World Series circuit. There’s a lot going on in these wheels, aside from their low weight the rim profile and construction is designed to reduce likelihood of pinch flats and improve compliance for a faster rolling wheel.

The BST (Bead Socket Technology) refers to the low profile rim sidewalls with no bead hook, this is said to help prevent pinch flats as the tyre won’t fold inward as far when compressed to the limit, when compared to a traditional hooked bead rim. There’s also the benefit of increased air volume to let the tyre conform to the terrain with greater ease.

The rims are 26.6mm wide inside, which might not sound as wide as many of the current trend of wheels coming out, but they claim there’s a point where too wide is not ideal.

_LOW7373 _LOW0044

For more background on the features, check out this video from Stan’s No Tubes:


On the trail

The Bravo wheels went onto our Trek Remedy 27.5 test bike with a pair of WTB Trail Boss 2.4″ tyres, they sealed up with a cup of Stan’s Sealant and with only a track pump they went up just fine.

Whether it was the WTB tyres or the wheels, it was quite a tight fit but with a bit of elbow grease and tyre levers we got them on and lit up the trails straight away.

_LOW0032

These wheels certainly do feel very fast there’s no doubt about it, the low rolling weight is clear as day when you get on the pedals, the bike responds to your braking and pedalling energy instantly. Get the bike up to speed and it’s easy to keep it there, quite the ideal scenario really.

They don’t have that harsh stiffness that some carbon wheels have, kick the bike out sideways and the rear wheel doesn’t skip across the surface of the trail with a chattering sound, they feel slightly softer in this instance and maintain contact with the dirt nicely.

In the name of testing we put these wheels through absolute hell, there was never a tentative moment on the rocky trails, we wanted to see if we could pinch flat the tyres, dent the rims, put them out of true or worse. But despite our trying we never had one issue, nothing.

The rear hub is a rear loud one, whilst some love the noise of a loud freehub we’re divided. _LOW7359

The ZTR Bravo’s are not cheap, but we rate these wheels very highly, they have massive appeal to the rider looking to upgrade from classic narrow aluminium wheels, these will lift your ride to the next level.

Flow’s First Bite: Pacenti TL28 Rims

FLOW5356
Stainless steel eyelets allow loads of spoke tension.

Firstly, improvements in the way the tyre and rim interface has meant that going tubeless is easy and secure, making tubeless now the norm. And secondly, we’ve seen construction evolve towards wider rim profiles, which brings with it a host of benefits, the foremost of which is better tyre stability at lower pressures (and therefore, more grip). These two changes alone have probably had more of an impact in terms of improving genuine on-trail performance than all the suspension tweaks combined in the past few years.

FLOW5388
Built onto King hubs, they’re not a featherweight wheelset, but these should be ride year-in, year-out kind of wheels.

While carbon rims get a lot of attention at the moment, the truth is that carbon hoops just aren’t practical for most people. They cost a bomb, which means a big outlay both to buy them initially, and to replace one should you manage to crunch it. For the bulk of us, a good quality alloy rim is still the most sensible, practical choice. The new L Series rims from Pacenti fall into this camp – high quality, sensibly priced, beautifully made, alloy rims. We’ve got a set of Pacenti’s new TL28 hoops built up onto exquisite Chris King hubs

FLOW5362
23mm internal width.

The name Pacenti might be vaguely familiar to many readers; Kirk Pacenti is one of the industry’s best regarded innovators, with more than 20 years experience. In recent years, he was one of the leading agitators for the introduction of the 650b format – a quick Google will bring up many references to Pacenti as the ‘Godfather of 650b’. In the spirit of early pioneers like Tom Ritchey or Gary Fisher he’s also constantly challenging the industry to re-think the way we approach mountain bike geometry.

FLOW5372
Chris King are now making Boost hubs. They’re just such superb bits of kit!

The TL28 rims are available in 27.5 or 29er sizes, with 28 or 32 hole drillings, and Pacenti bill them as their do-it-all rim, covering everything from XC to all-mountain. If you’re after an Enduro or downhill rim, they’ve also got the beefier DL31 in their range. As you might have guessed from the name, the rims are 28mm wide (external width), with a tubeless ready bead. Internally, they measure up at 23mm, which is more on the cross-country end of the rim-width spectrum nowadays. They’re a classic, good looking rim; reinforced stainless steel eyelets, with a welded join and subtle removable graphics too. The rims don’t come pre-taped, but a strip of high-pressure tubeless rim tape is all you need to go tubeless.

FLOW5405
110mm spacing.

Given his reputation as Mr 650b it’s perhaps odd that we’ve decided to test a set of Pacenti’s 29er hoops! The rim weight for a 29er hoop is 444g, and built up onto some gorgeous King Boost hubs, the complete wheelset is 1862g, which is a sturdy but not overly heavy figure. They’ve built up rock solid, with heaps of spoke tension, making them feel immediately reassuringly strong and stiff. To test the rim’s claims of offering good tyre support, we’ve fitted some large rubber – Continental’s Mountain King tyres in 2.4″ width. The whole lot has been fitted to our Norco Optic C9.2 test bike.

We’ll be giving these rims a hiding over the coming weeks, so tune back in for a full review soon.

 

Flow’s First Bite: Shimano XT M8020 Wheels

XT wheels for review-2
A wider rim brings the new XT M8020 wheels closer into line with its competition, in terms of rim width.

The 27.5″ M8020 wheels we’ve got on test come from the ‘Trail’ line of XT components (most XT components are available in either Race or Trail variants), so they’re built tough and the design is quite a departure from XT wheels we’ve ridden in the past. If you’re a 29er rider, never fear, they come in a ‘size large’ too. Like all Shimano’s high-end wheels, these guys are hand built from start to finish.

XT wheels for Insty -5
The rim has a tubeless tape now, rather than using a UST-style sealed rim bed.

First up, the M8020 rims get a welcome increase in width. They now measure up at 24mm internally, which should afford more stability to big tyres run at lower pressures. 24mm still puts them on the narrow end of the spectrum for a trail-specific wheelset, but it’s a good improvement over previous versions. The rim is offset too, which allows for more even spoke tensions between the drive and non-drive side spokes, ultimately making for a stronger wheel.

XT wheels for review-1
Cup and cone bearings with a sturdy steel freehub body.

Previous versions of the XT wheels had a sealed rim bed, which required the use of a funky, threaded, screw-in spoke nipple, but this has been abandoned in favour of a tubeless rim tape to seal the spoke holes. Moving to a more conventional arrangement like this allows the use of regular spoke nipples for repairs, plus the rim can be made lighter too.

XT wheels for Insty -9
Straight pull spokes.

The hubs retain Shimano’s user-friendly cup and cone bearing system. It can serviced with just a couple of cone spanners and a lick of grease by most home mechanics. They’re not light hubs, but anyone who has tried to remove a cassette from a chewed up a lightweight alloy freehub body will happily accept a few extra grams associated with the steel freehub found on the XT wheels. We clocked the pair in at 1910g on the Flow dream-crusher scales.

We’ve mounted these wheels to our Trek Fuel EX 9.8 long-term test bike, and fitted them with a set of Bontrager SE3 tyres, which have the same tread pattern as the XR3 just with slightly tougher sidewalls. It should be a good combo, and we’re looking forward to asking them some lumpy questions on our rocky home trails.

 

Fresh Product: SRAM ROAM 60 Wheels and 900 Hubs

Fast climbs and fast descents—from sunup till sundown. Truly made for the modern mountain biker, ROAM wheels use a special balance of low-inertia design, weight and strength to excel on a wide variety of terrain. They’re durable enough for hours in the saddle, yet light enough for race day.

WIDE IS FAST

The new ROAM 60’s careful combination of shape, width, design, and materials yields a new carbon wheelset that gives bikers the speed-enabling features they want—and the critical reliability they need. Lightweight, high-strength 30-mm carbon rims increase control and confidence in any terrain.

The precision engagement of DOUBLE TIME™ hubs ensure quick, consistent power delivery from the pedals, and a durable, smooth-rolling feel. The new ROAM 60 is the wheel for riders who want everything and don’t like to compromise.


ROAM 60

FEATURES AND BENEFITS

Light and strong carbon rim designed for more speed, more control and more reliability 30mm wide profile, hookless, tubeless ready, carbon rim Smooth, quick engagement with durable DOUBLE TIME™ hubs Stealthy new graphics and customisable sticker pack.

SM_ROAM_60_275in_Front_Side_Black_M

USAGE

TR

EN

STICKER PACK

The included sticker pack contains seven different colours to help riders make them their own.

TECHNOLOGIES

DOUBLE TIME™

CARBON TUNED™

WIDE ANGLE™

SOLO SPOKE™

SPEEDBALL™

SIDE SWAP™ SYMMETRICAL

XD Driver Body™

BOOST

SPECIFICATIONS 

SIZE (WHEELS)

27.5”

 SM_ROAM_60_275in_Rear_3Q_Black_M SM_ROAM_60_275in_Front_3Q_Black_M

RIM CONSTRUCTION

CARBON – HOOKLESS

 

RIM – INSIDE WIDTH

30mm

 

TIRE COMPATIBILITY

CLINCHER TUBELESS READY

 

BRAKE COMPATIBILITY

DISC (6-BOLT)

 

CASSETTE COMPATIBILITY

SRAM XD™, NON XD

AXLE TYPE (WHEELS)—REGULAR

FRONT: INCLUDES DECAL PACK, QUICK RELEASE, 15x100mm AND 20x110mm THRU AXLE CAPS

REAR: INCLUDES DECAL PACK, QUICK RELEASE AND 12x142mm THRU AXLE CAPS

 

AXLE TYPE (WHEELS)—BOOST

FRONT: INCLUDES DECAL PACK, 21mm STANDARD AND 31mm ROCKSHOX TORQUE THRU AXLE CAPS

REAR: INCLUDES DECAL PACK, 12×148 THRU AXLE CAPS

 

DRIVER MECHANISM

DOUBLE TIME™ – FOUR PAWLS

 

SPOKE COUNT

24

 

SPOKE TYPE

STEEL BLADED – BLACK, DOUBLE-BUTTED 2.0 TO 1.8

 

BEARINGS

SEALED CARTRIDGE

 

NIPPLE MATERIAL

ALUMINUM

 

RIM FINISH

UD FIBER / BAKE-ON LABELS / MATTE CLEAR COAT

 

RIM SECTION

ASYMMETRICAL

 

SPOKE PATTERN

2 CROSS

 

PART WEIGHT

FRONT 750g – REAR 875gAM_ROAM60-Life-160128-058 AM_ROAM60-160131-1151 AM_ROAM60-Life_1


900 HUBS

EXTREME VERSATILITY

Whether the goal is a finish line, epic adventure or simply getting back home again, our new 900 hubs are ready for the challenge. On the inside, our smooth and durable DOUBLE TIME™ drive mechanism ensures rapid engagement for quick and confident pedal responsiveness. SPEEDBALL™ bearings provide smooth, long-lasting rotation performance. Multiple spoke-count and cassette-capability options, as well as interchangeable end caps make the 900 hubs a perfect choice for any disc-equipped road, gravel, cyclocross, cross country, trail, or enduro bike.SM_900SeriesHub_Rear_28h_12x148mm_Black_M
SM_900SeriesHub_Front_28h_15x100mm_Black_M

FEATURES AND BENEFITS

DOUBLE TIME™ mechanism offers smooth, quick and durable engagement

Versatile driver body can accept ROAD or MTB drivetrain, full spline or XD™ cassettes

Fully convertible with tool free end caps

BOOST variants

24, 28 or 32 spoke holes

USAGE

Road

CX

TT

Gravel

XC

TR

EN

 

TECHNOLOGIES

DOUBLE TIME™

SPEEDBALL™

SIDE SWAP™ SYMMETRICAL

SEEKER™

XD Driver Body™

BOOST

 

SPECIFICATIONS

 

ORIENTATION

FRONT, REAR

 

AXLE TYPE

 

FRONT: QR 100 CAPS (DIA. 19mm), TA 12×100, TA 15×100, TA 15×110, TA 15×110 TORQUE CAPS (DIA. 31mm), TA 20×110

REAR: QR 135, TA 12×142, TA 12×148

 

SPOKE HOLES

24, 28, 32

 

BRAKE COMPATIBILITY

DISC (6-BOLT)

 

CASSETTE COMPATIBILITY

SRAM XD™, SRAM/NON XD

 

COLOR

BLACK

 

DRIVER MECHANISM

DOUBLE TIME™ – FOUR PAWLS

 

AXLE MATERIAL

TAPERED ALUMINUM

 

AXLE – CONVERTIBLE

YES

 

DRIVER BODY MATERIAL

ALUMINUM

 

HUB SHELL

ALUMINUM – SEEKER™ ANGLED

FLANGES – OVERSIZED BODY

 

OVER LOCKNUT DIMENSION

100mm, 110mm, 135mm, 142mm, 148mm

 

BEARINGS

SEALED CARTRIDGE

 

PART WEIGHT

FRONT 150g REAR 275g

(WEIGHTS ARE IN THE LIGHTEST CONFIGURATION)

 

AM_ROAM60-160128-579

 

TECHNOLOGIES

 

DOUBLE TIME™

Ratcheting up the smarts. This straight-aligned, 4-pawl design turns the 26-tooth ratchet ring into 52 points of contact. The result: smooth 6.9-degree engagement without reducing tooth size or offsetting internal geometry—which means serious long-term durability.

 

26-tooth ratchet ring

26

x 2

52

POINTS OF

ENGAGEMENT

 

Straight-aligned

and perpendicular

2-pair, 4-pawl design

 

CARBON TUNED™

Strong like bull, light like carbon. Every CARBON TUNED™ rim is designed with a distinct style of riding in mind. By selectively layering woven carbon fiber at high-stress points and using unidirectional fiber throughout, SRAM creates rims that yield a remarkable level of strength and durability—while remaining lightweight and responsive.

 

WIDE ANGLE™

Take corners as fast as you want. SRAM wheels have a wide rim profile without significant added mass. This profile holds tire shape better, preventing tire roll and giving you superior comfort and traction around corners.

 

SOLO SPOKE™

With SOLO SPOKE™, you’re never wrong. SRAM wheel design eliminates the need for different spoke lengths—one size fits the entire wheel. This identical-length design means no longer wondering whether you have the right front/ rear/drive-side/nondrive-side spoke handy.

 

SPEEDBALL™

The only adjustment they’ll ever need was made back at the factory. Every part of the ball bearing is manufactured in the same factory—which means that each bearing bore can be precision machined to fit the bearing race exactly.

 

SIDE SWAP SYMMETRICAL™

Switching axles has never been easier. Threadless side caps can be installed and replaced by hand—no tools necessary. The left side cap is identical to the right one. No need to figure out where each cap is going.

 

SEEKER™

Get unbent. 3D forged and machined for lightweight strength, the flanges are angled towards the rim—allowing the spokes to be fully in-line when tensioned. The result: reduced spoke head breakage and better overall durability.

 

XD™ DRIVER BODY

XD™ is a cassette driver body design that allows the use of a 10-tooth small cog and provides an improved interface with the cassette.

 

BOOST

BOOST is a new wheel and drivetrain specification that provides: increased wheel stiffness and durability, better riding efficiency and bike handling precision, improved frame geometry with shorter chain stays, wider and stiffer suspension pivots, wider range of chainring options, and more clearance for bigger tires.

 

TORQUE CAPS

Torque Caps make the bond between hub and fork dropout stronger, with an increased surface area connecting the two. This creates a stronger, stiffer interface, giving you a more responsive front wheel and more control. So you concentrate on the most important connection, the one between your bike and the trail.

Tested: Zelvy Carbon 35 29er Pro Wheelset

No doubt about it, carbon wheels are the new dropper seatpost. They’re the upgrade everyone is emptying their wallets for, and we’ve been spoiled lately with a stack of carbon wheels to test. The most recent of these is from Queensland-based Zelvy Carbon, who sent us a set of their 35 29er Pro wheels.

Zelvy, unbeknownst to many, have been quietly slipping their wheels under some of the fastest and hardest riders on the planet, and have had their hoops raced at the highest levels of World Cup and World Champs competition. For a little company, they have impressive credentials.

Zelvy Wheels 2

There’s a good reason carbon is becoming the material of choice for mountain bike wheels. The strength to weight (and stiffness) of carbon opens up a world of possibilities for rim design, most notably the ability to add width to rim without ending up with a heavy set of hoops. The benefits of a wider rim is something we’ve harped on about plenty of times, but it’s worth noting again; a wider rim gives your tyre more stability, which in turn facilitates lower pressures with reduced tyre roll, giving you more grip in every situation, from cornering to braking to climbing.

Over the past few months we’ve seen a massive surge in the proliferation of wide rims, and we’ve reviewed wheelsets with rims up to 41mm wide. While Zelvy do offer 40mm-wide rims, we opted for the slightly narrower and lighter 35mm rim option (430g rim). Zelvy have a 30mm-wide rim too, which is ideal for frames with tighter tyre clearance or if you prefer a more traditional looking wheelset, but for us the 35mm was the ideal match to our test bike.


Other carbon wheelsets we’ve recently reviewed:

Ibis 741 – http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-35mm-wide-ibis-741-wheels/
Bontrager Rhythm Pro TLR Carbon – http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-bontrager-rhythm-pro-wheels/
SRAM Roam 60 – http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-sram-roam-60-carbon-wheels/
Specialized Fattie SL – http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/flows-first-bite-specialized-traverse-sl-fattie-wheels/
Enve M60 Forty wheels – http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/flows-first-bite-enve-m60-forty-wheels/


Along with rim options, Zelvy offer their wheelset in a number of build levels, which dictates the hub and spokes used. Pricing on a 35mm 29er wheelset starts with the Race build at $1350, which will get you the same rims laced with DT Competition spokes to Hope Tech hubs. Our primo Pro build was assembled with DT’s exemplary Aerolite spokes and gorgeous Chris King hubs in a lairy mango colour, with rim decals to match.

Zelvy Wheels 9
Pretty little things, those Chris King hubs!

The test machine for our review was Trek’s Fuel EX 9.9 29er, which already comes equipped with a high-end set of wheels, so we were incredibly surprised to find that the Zelvy wheelset weighed in 80g lighter than the stock Bontrager Rhythm Elite wheels (both wheelsets were weighed with rim tape fitted). This is especially impressive when you consider the rim profile of these two wheelsets, with the Zelvys measuring up a full 6.5mm wider than the Bontragers – the Bontys have an 22.5mm internal width, while the Zelvys are 29mm.

Our Zelvy wheels arrived ready to rock for tubeless use. The rims are sealed with a heavy duty Gorilla tape (or something very similar), which may sounds hokey but it’s the same stuff as used to seal up ENVE wheels and it works a treat, and the valves are pre-fitted. The Zelvy rims are a hookless design, with no bead hook in the rim’s sidewall. We first saw this technology in mountain bike wheels a couple of years ago, and while it initially made us nervous about the potential of rolling off a tyre, our fears have long since been blown away. Without a bead hook, the rim can made stronger through the sidewall, with less material needed.

We fitted the same tyres to the Zelvy rims as we’d been running on the Bonty wheels, a set of Bontrager XR3s in a 2.2″ size. The shape of the tyre on the wider rim was noticeably different, a lot squarer across the top, and about 4mm wider by our reckoning through the body of the tyre. This mightn’t sound like a lot on paper, but it’s immediately apparent in the flesh, and coupled with the much deeper profile of the carbon rims, your wheels suddenly take on an air of invincibility.

Zelvy Wheels 5
The rims has no bead hook, meaning a stronger sidewall. The rim bed is sealed with what appears to be Gorilla tape.

In terms of build quality, we rate the assembly of the Zelvy wheels very highly. Traditional three-cross 32-spoke lacing is still the gold standard for us, the Zelvys are built tight and true. Of course the Chris King hubs are beautiful chunks of revolving eye candy, and if you’ve got the coin to throw at them, then do so. They look and sound fantastic, and experience tells us they’ll run for years without a lifted finger. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to hang onto these wheels for as long as we’d like, so we can’t draw any long-term conclusions about their durability, but given the quality of the hubs and spokes, and the perfectly balanced build, it all bodes very well.

What we can comment on is how these wheels immediately gave our Trek a new level of performance. We dropped the pressures in our tyres down to 21psi (for a lightweight rider admittedly) and hit our favourite trails faster than we’d ever ridden them on the Fuel EX before. Grip appeared like magic, and confidence followed in spades.

The need to brake before corners was reduced instantly, but when we did need to slow things up, you could jam on the front brake much harder without risk of skidding the front wheel. Comfort and compliance was boosted too, almost like the Fuel had suddenly been given another 10mm of suspension travel.

There was so much grip and stiffness available at the wheels, in fact, that we became conscious of flex in other areas of the bike that had never worried us before. By the end of even our first ride, we knew that if we were going to extract the full potential of the new wheels, we were going to have to hunt down a stiffer fork and handlebar for our Trek! Quite simply, the addition of these wheels was giving our bike abilities that hadn’t been in the game plan when it was specced.

Zelvy Wheels 7
With three rim widths, three build level options and plenty of graphics choices, you can build yourself a pretty unique wheelset!

Acceleration over rough terrain was another area of massive improvement too. Not so much due to the wheel set’s low weight and amazing Chris King freehub engagement, but because the lower pressures allowed the tyre to dig in, not skip or bounce, so your efforts don’t go to waste.

Aside from the fact that you may find yourself in an upgrade spiral, are there any downsides to these wheels? A slight increase in drag on the tarmac due to the tyres’  larger contact patch is about all we can come up with. Some people mightn’t like the big graphics either, but Zelvy offer you a huge range of colour options here too, so you should be able to find a look that you like.

With pricing that is extremely competitive, a wide range of build options, a variety of rim widths and the reassurance of a local support, there is a lot going for these wheels. We rate them very highly in this competitive sector of the market.

Flow’s First Bite: Specialized Traverse SL Fattie Wheels

Specialized are the latest entrant into the growing market of wide-bodied carbon wheels, rolling a set of the new Roval Traverse SL Fattie wheels Flow’s way last week. These extra fat hoops are available in 29 and 27.5″ – we’ve got the smaller size on hard for review.

Specialized Traverse Fattie 2

When it comes to ‘in-house’ wheels, Specialized’s Roval wheel line up is really leading the way (along with Bontrager, who also have a seriously impressive range of in-house wheels for Trek), especially with regard to carbon mountain bike wheels. We’ve had very pleasant experiences with Roval wheels in the past, including the Roval Control 29 Carbon wheels. These new Fatties are the A380 of the Roval range – the biggest, baddest and widest hoops in the line-up, with an internal width of 30mm.

Why so wide? The concept of a wide rim has been growing in popularity steadily over the past few years (in mountain biking and road riding too). A wider rim offers more support to the tyre, allowing lower pressure and consequently more traction, with less of the negative effects of tyre roll that you’d encounter with a narrower rim. Here at Flow we’re also currently testing the Ibis 741 rims, which take this concept even further than the Rovals, with an internal width of 35mm.

Specialized Traverse Fattie 8

It goes without saying that the Traverse SL Fattie wheels are meant for aggressive riding and big rubber – they’re standard fare on Specialized’s S-Works Enduro models for 2015. Even still, the weight of these things is incredibly impressive. Our set, configured with a Shimano freehub body, valve stems and rim tape, weighs in at just 1571g!

Specialized Traverse Fattie 10

Taking a quick look at the other stand out features, the Fatties use a hookless bead construction (the rim does not have a traditional bead hook) which makes for a more impact resistant profile and also gives the tyre more volume. The freehub mechanism uses DT’s Star Ratchet system, while the front hub can be configured for 15mm or 20mm axles. Colour matchers out there will rejoice that the rims are supplied with three different sets of decals, so you can pimp your ride. Of course these wheels are also ready for tubeless use, fitted with a simple tape system to seal up the rim bed. Specialized Traverse Fattie 11

 

As well as coming a 29″ variant, the Fatties are also available in an lower-priced alloy version too which come in at around 160g heavier for the set. We’ll be fitting these rims to a variety of bikes in the coming weeks. We’ve also got a set of the new 27.5″ Specialized Purgatory tyres for review too, so we’ll be wrapping these hoops in Specialized rubber as well.

Flow’s First Bite: Ibis 741 super-wide carbon wheels

Holy obesity epidemic, what have we got here?! Mountain bike rims have been trending wider and wider in recent years, but the new 650B Ibis 741 (and their 29er version, the 941) take things to a new level of phatness. Ibis aren’t known for their wheels, but we are super excited about testing these.

Ibis 741 wheels-2
Wide, deep and with under-the-radar graphics.

The width of these rims is not a gimmick or simple point of difference – there’s a perfectly sound basis for making mountain bike rims far wider than they have traditionally been. Ibis does a good job of explaining the theory in the video below, but in a nutshell, a wider rim should allow you to run a tyre at lower pressure, with greater stability and less tyre roll and, hence, less chance of burping air from a tubeless setup).

Of course, lower pressure equate to more grip and reduced rolling resistance on rough terrain, but dropping the pressures too far has traditionally meant a squirmy ride and a serious risk of a flat tyre or damaged rim – Ibis say their mega wide rims go a long way towards alleviating both of these problems.

Ibis 741 wheels-7
Very wide. Ibis includes a set of tubeless valves. Because the rim is so huge, the valves are a little longer than standard – worth noting if you’re packing a spare tube on a ride!

So just how wide are they? The 741s have an external with of 41mm and 35mm internal – that’s between 10-15mm wider than your standard cross-country or trail rim in both internal and external measurements. And believe it or not, the weight of these wheels actually puts them head-to-head with some seriously well regarded XC and trail wheelsets – the pair come in at just 1660g including tubeless valves.

Ibis 741 wheels-4
If you look closely, you can see that there’s no bead hook to secure the tyre. We were unsure of the concept when we first rode hookless rims a year ago, but we’ve since clocked up hundreds of kilometres on them without a single issue.

Other noteworthy elements? The rims use ‘hookless’ bead construction (similar to the Specialized Control wheels we tested last year) which gives the rim far greater impact strength and the tyre more volume. They’re also spoked in a very conventional manner, with 32 spokes front and rear in a two-cross pattern which will appeal to the mechanics out there.

Ibis 741 wheels-6
Available with Shimano or SRAM XD driver bodies. The conventional spokes and external nipples should make any maintenance much easier than some.

We’ll be fitting these wheels to a variety of bikes over the coming weeks and months. With the swathe of carbon wheels we’ve been riding lately (ENVE, Specialized and Bontrager amongst them) it will be very interesting to see how these unique offerings compare.

Tested: Bontrager Rhythm Pro TLR carbon 27.5″ wheels

Stiffer than your legs after a 100km race and packing a freehub that engages faster than Christian high school sweethearts, the new Bontrager Rhythm Pro carbon wheels are amongst the finest trail / all-mountain hoops we’ve seen.

Bontrager Rhythm Pro carbon wheels -3

We’ve been running these glamorous wheels on our Giant Trance SX long-term test bike since March, and while the Giant’s stock wheelset is certainly not to be sneered at, the Bontrager Rhythm Pros are a very desirable upgrade.

Carbon wheels are admittedly still expensive, but they’re no longer a pro-only item as once was the case. When they’re built right, carbon wheels can really change a bike’s performance. And Trek, Bontrager’s parent company, have long been a leader the carbon game; their OCLV carbon road frames redefined performance and that experience has all been brought to bear in the mountain bike world now too.

Bontrager Rhythm Pro carbon wheels -5
We feel that Bonty missed an opportunity to do something really wild with the graphics on these wheels. They’re special wheels – draw attention to it!

The Rhythm Pro TLR wheels use Trek’s OCLV (optimum compaction, low void) carbon to form the very stiff rims which are at the core of this wheelset’s performance. Trek haven’t gone down the super-wide route that we’re starting to see from a number of specialist carbon rim manufacturers – the Rhythm rims measure up at an external width of 29mm and just shy of 23mm internally. While wider rims do have some benefits, we think that the Rhythm Pro hoops strike a pretty good balance between width and weight, tipping the scales at 1620g.

We have been running 2.35″ and 2.4″ rubber at very low pressure on these rims and enjoying mountains of grip. Even with the tyres in the low 20 psi range, burping or tyre roll hasn’t been an issue. Such low pressures aren’t going to be suitable for all riders (our test rider is not a large unit), but we felt happy running the Bontrager XR4 rubber in this pressure range.

Bontrager Rhythm Pro carbon wheels -11
The rim profile is offset in order to provide more consistent spoke length and tension across drive/non-drive side spokes.

Our confidence to hammer these wheels at low pressures stems from a couple of areas. Firstly, the Bontrager tubeless rim strips hold onto the tyre bead tenaciously, so it’s very hard to roll the tyre off the rim or burp any air. The flip side is that changing tyres requires hands like a Bulgarian coal miner. Secondly, the rims seem to be completely bombproof – even when we’ve felt the rim smack into a rock, the sound is more of a muted thud than a ‘ping’ like you get with an alloy rim, and when we’ve inspected the rim for wobbles or signs of the impact, there’s never been a mark. We’ve done some serious damage to alloy rims (including Bontragers) before with this kind of treatment, but we can’t draw a whimper from these guys.

With 54 engagement points, the take up under power is rapid and positive. Every quick stab at the pedals, be it mid-way up a techy climb or getting a half pedal stroke in between corners, results in forward drive. Shimano and XD freehub bodies are available, and pulling the freehub off for a quick clean or preventative lubing is easy – just give it a tug. For what it’s worth, these wheels do sound good too – like someone is chasing you down the trail ripping up a bed sheet!

Bontrager Rhythm Pro carbon wheels -12
The freehub can simply be slid off the axle. Good from an ease of maintenance perspective. Less good from a sealing perspective.

We’re incredibly impressed with the stiffness of these wheels too. This perhaps the area where we noticed the biggest and most immediate difference when compared to the stock wheelset on our Giant. The offset spoke design means there’s more consistent tension across both sides of the wheel, and the spoke tension is very high out of the box. Couple this with the robust rims themselves you’ve got a wheel that goes exactly where you tell it and which allows your suspension and tyres to work their magic effectively.

Bontrager Rhythm Pro carbon wheels -16

On the durability front, we’d recommend regular cleaning and lubing of the freehub pawls and drive ring. The freehub mechanism isn’t as well sealed as some, so after really wet rides, a 30-second wipe out and re-lube wouldn’t hurt. In terms of rim/spoke/truing maintenance, we’ve not needed to so much as look at a spoke key yet. These wheels are straighter than an accountancy convention and still packing more tension than a hostage negotiation.

With an ever increasing number of options for riders looking for carbon trail/all-mountain wheels, we feel that the Bontrager Rhythm Pro rims are much more than just ‘me t00’ wheelset. Whether or not these wheels can steal some glory from the likes of Enve will have to be seen over the longer term, but our initial three months would suggest these hoops could be a serious contender. We’ll endeavour to keep these wheels in the family for another six months or so and report back again.

Bontrager Rhythm Pro carbon wheels -1

 

Flow’s First Bite: Bontrager Rhythm Pro TLR 27.5 carbon wheels

Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0003

One of two all-new carbon mountain bike wheels in the Bontrager line-up, the Rhythm Pro TLR carbon 27.5″ wheels have just found their way into the dropouts of our long-term test Giant Trance Advanced SX all-mountain machine. And all of a sudden our bike just got a whole lot sexier.

Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0004

Built from Trek’s OCLV carbon, these are a tasty set of hoops. While the 1670g weight for the pair won’t necessarily sizzle your sausage, these wheels are built for bombing, not mincing around the trails, so weight alone isn’t the driving design consideration. Our initial impressions of these wheels’ stiffness after just the one ride is very positive; they come out the box with a whopping amount of spoke tension which, when combined with the stiffness of the carbon rim, makes for a rock-solid set of rolling gear.

The rim is offset, to reduce wheel dish and allow more consistent spoke tension.
The rim is offset, to reduce wheel dish and allow more consistent spoke tension.
Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0012
Unlike increasing numbers of wheels which use a tape to seal up the rim bed, the Bonty wheels use these plastic rim strips.

As with other Bontrager rims, converting to tubeless is incredibly clean and simple; Bontrager rim strips snap into place, providing a rock solid seal that won’t lose air over time like some tubeless tapes can. With an internal width of 22.9mm, they’re wide enough to offer good support for 2.3″+ tyres (though not as wide as some other similar offerings, such as Enve’s AM or Specialized’s Traverse rims). To complete the Bontrager setup, we’ve fitted a set of chunky XR4 tyres in a 2.35″ width and we think they’ll totally dominate in loose conditions.

Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0001
Snap the rim strip in place, fit the valves and you’ve got one seriously bombproof tubeless setup.

With the tight tubeless seal and obviously robust nature of the rim construction, we’ve already begun playing with lower tyre pressures than usual, dropping down to around 22psi in the rear and even lower up front. Unlike alloy wheels, you don’t feel compelled to wince every time the rim bottoms out against the tyre – they just feel tough!

Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0002

One of the other highlights of these wheels is the new Rapid Drive freebub, which has exceptionally quick pick-up, thanks to 54 engagement points. Of course, they sound bloody great too. We’ll be running these wheels for the next few months and we’re looking forward to seeing just how hard they can go.

Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0016
Meaty. Will the XR4s prove a worthy replacement for the Schwalbe Hans Dampfs we like so much?

Tested: SRAM ROAM 60 Carbon Wheels

We’re not into blowing smoke up people’s arses. But if these rims were a person we’d be lighting fires with old truck tyres and getting a jumbo jet to blow the plumes right up there. The ROAM 60 simply is one of the best wheelsets we have ridden.

We honestly cannot fault them and after a month of solid abuse they’re still kicking like the day they came out of the box. Straight as an arrow and solid as a rock.

Test_SRAM_ROAM_60-3-2
If you have a red, white and black bike, these will match.
Test_SRAM_ROAM_60-4-2
Straight pull spokes, high flanges and a deeper dish helps keep the spoke length shorter and the whole package stronger.

The ROAM 60 are a 2nd generation carbon wheel (rim is carbon, hub is alloy) from SRAM and are designed for more aggressive trail and all-mountain riding.  At 28mm wide they’re not the widest on the market but they’re still pretty beefy and their strength is second-to-none. They’re also not the lightest either (still pretty damn good at 1570g for our test 27.5″ offerings) but they’re made for aggressive riding so weight weenies need to think beyond the tale of the scales.

Inside the ROAM 60 box there’s all manner of spacers and adaptors to fit the wheels to any mountain bike you can imagine. Standard QR, 15mm, 20mm – they will fit them all. Speaking of which, the hubs are large with high flanges, strange pull spokes and the rear hub comes spec’d with a SRAM XD driver body for 11 speed. The rear freehub isn’t so loud as to stop conversations but it makes enough noise to keep you smiling.

And (hallelujah) they now come 100% tubeless ready. We slapped some Maxxis tyres on ours, threw in some Stan’s sealant, and they sealed up with a track pump.

Test_SRAM_ROAM_60-4
We liked how the wheels made life a little easier in the rough stuff.

In terms of improving performance, a set of great wheels is probably one of the best upgrades you can give your ride. Whether it’s to save weight, add strength, or both, you will always feel the benefits of better wheels and the SRAM ROAM 60 ticks both of those boxes. All up we saved around 200-300g (give or take a few millilitres of Stans) on our Giant Trance SX test bike, and whilst that’s nothing to scribe onto the walls of your local public toilet, it’s a pretty big improvement on what were pretty light OEM wheels.

The improvements in acceleration and braking that come from saving rotating mass are obvious, but it was the way these wheels improved our ability to hold a line that really grabbed us. The SRAM ROAM 60s just loved the really tough rock gardens or rough corners. Rather than being deflected from our chosen path, we immediately felt an increased ability to hold some pretty tight lines. Just point and go. We can hear the sceptics out there, but we’re 100% serious, the difference is marked.

Test_SRAM_ROAM_60-3
Point and shoot. Rock gardens are one area where these wheels show their colours.

We tested these wheels on the rocky loamy trails of Mt Buller and the loose dry soils of Stromlo Forest Park. If you’ve ridden at Mt Buller you will know that rocks seem to appear from nowhere and ping your wheels unexpectedly. We heard that harsh ping though the spokes as the rim squarely hit a rock or two but post ride inspections yielded not a single bend or dent in the rims. On a deliberate test at Stromlo we let our tyres down to around 20 psi and went and hit a few rock gardens. There was a bit of noise from the spokes as the tyres squashed against the rims but not a single problem was noted. They are still straight.

Test_SRAM_ROAM_60-1-2
Even when the rims did hit the rocks it didn’t matter.

Pedal engagement was positive and the wheels accelerated with ease. We didn’t witness any burping or loss of sealant from the Maxxis tyres but the rear tyre did frequently loose some pressure during our testing. We’re unsure if it was the tyre or the rim that was loosing the air however and as the front was holding pressure we’re pretty sure it was the fault of the tyre.

If you’re looking for an upgrade then you should consider adding these carbon hoops to your dream machine. Sure $2500 isn’t cheap, but you’d pay that for a big screen TV and the TV isn’t going to make you anything other than fat and lazy. These wheels will make you faster and happier…and that’s priceless.

Test_SRAM_ROAM_60-1
Jumping for joy on the SRAM ROAM 60.

Test_SRAM_ROAM_60-2-2

Flow’s First Bite: SRAM ROAM 60 Carbon Wheels

Carbon is definitely the new black. One quick look around your local trail head and you will see carbon bikes galore. But it’s not just frames; carbon wheels are becoming increasingly popular and SRAM have been aggressively developing their wheels for that market.

Last year SRAM introduced their first carbon wheel, the RISE, which received rave reviews and constructive feedback. SRAM seemed to have listened and have not only improved their design, they also added the new carbon model, the ROAM 60.

SRAM_ROAM_C1

We’ve just thrown our test set of ROAM 60s onto our all-mountain Giant Trance SX. Inside the box was a whole host of spares that give you the ability to run them on pretty much any bike. They even come with a 20mm front hub conversion, and they are completely tubeless ready (no need for rim strips).

SRAM_ROAM_C2

We shaved about 200-300g off our ride (Stans sealant isn’t an exact science), and while that’s not a saving you’re going to gloat about across your favourite social media platform, it’s pretty significant.

The advantage of carbon wheels isn’t just in the weight savings though (as you can get plenty of light aluminium wheels), it’s in their strength and ride quality and we expect the same with the ROAM.

SRAM_ROAM_C3

We’ll be giving these a good test over the coming month and let you know how they respond to a rock garden or two.

Tested: SRAM Roam 50 29er Wheelset

When a wheelset proves to be light, stiff and durable, it becomes pretty hard to put together a particularly interesting review, but we’ll try!

What can you say? They've been perfect.
What can you say? They’ve been perfect.

The Roam 50s are SRAM’s versatile alloy-rimmed trail wheel. There’s also a carbon version, the Roam 60, which isn’t actually any lighter, but has the strength and stiffness benefits of carbon construction.

It’s worth mentioning too that SRAM have the serious cross-country crowd covered with the lightweight Rise wheelsets and if you’re more gravity oriented, there’s the tougher Rail series wheels too. Put simply, SRAM now have a shedload of wheels for you to pick from. You can get the Roam, Rise and Rail wheels in 26″, 27.5″ or 29″ versions. We tested the big 29er hoops.

There is a carbon version of this wheel available too, in 26, 27.5 or 29er sizes.
There is a carbon version of this wheel available too, in 26, 27.5 or 29er sizes.

Since we first received these wheels, we’ve only had a month or so on the trails with the Roams so we can’t honestly comment on the long-term durability, but we’ve not been nice to these wheels in order to cram as much punishment in as possible in a short period.

The hub shells use SRAM's Double Decker spoke flange design. The spokes are long, but the wheels are stiff all the same.
The hub shells use SRAM’s Double Decker spoke flange design. The spokes are long, but the wheels are stiff all the same.

In a nutshell, these wheels are as true as the day we fitted them, the sealed bearings and superb freehub are still spinning perfectly smoothly, and we’ve suffered negligible air loss with them set up tubeless. Speaking of tubeless, the rims come pre-fitted with a super tough tape that seals up the rim bed nicely, plus valves are included.

SRAM Rise 50 wheel-5

The Double Decker hub design is very low profile, which looks good, but it does mean the spokes are very long – something that many 29er wheels try to avoid in order to maximise wheel stiffness. That said, these wheels are surprisingly stiff, more than stiff enough for all but the heaviest or roughest riders. Furthermore, the 21mm internal rim width gives your tyres a good measure of support too, helping keep everything going where you want it to, rather than squirming about.

The rims are offset, allowing the use of one spoke length across both wheels. A generous 21mm internal width ensures good support for wide trail rubber.
The rims are offset, allowing the use of one spoke length across both wheels. A generous 21mm internal width ensures good support for wide trail rubber.

On the subject of spokes, SRAM have made life very easy for mechanics the world over, but using the one spoke length for both drive-side and non drive-side of front AND rear wheels! No more spoke length calculators!

The axles are modular, so you can run all the common dropout configurations, and the freehub mechanism (DT’s Star Ratchet) is one of the easiest to maintain on the market. We love servicing these freehubs, the simplicity is just so perfect.

We're running XX1 on our test wheels. Make sure you grease up the freehub body before installing your cassette if you're going 11-speed too.
We’re running XX1 on our test wheels. Make sure you grease up the freehub body before installing your cassette if you’re going 11-speed too.

On the subject of freehub bodies, if you’re running the SRAM XD body for SRAM’s XX1 or X01 cassette, make sure you use lots of grease when you install the cassette. We had a drama with a cassette getting stuck and it was a real battle to free it (almost resulting in a ruined XX1 cassette; now that would’ve been expensive).

We’d love to try the Roam 60 carbon versions of these wheels, because we’re very impressed by the 50s and can only imagine how good the stiffer carbon rim would make this wheelset.

 

 

Fresh Product: SRAM Roam 50 29er Wheelset

ROAM Farther.
Fast climbs and fast descents—from sun up till sundown. Truly made for the modern mountain biker, ROAM wheels use a special balance of low-inertia design, weight and strength to excel on a wide variety of terrain. They’re durable enough for hours in the saddle, yet light enough for race day.

It’s everything the modern mountain biker could ask for. One of the lightest alloy trail wheels in the market, ROAM 50 delivers a smart balance of weight, inertia and stiffness—making for a very responsive and predictable wheel. Thanks to our WIDE ANGLE rim, its tire profile delivers superior traction.

• Intended use: XC/TR
• Available in all 3 wheel sizes: 26, 27.5 and 29in
• Lightweight aluminum rim with asymmetrical TAPER CORE profile
• WIDE ANGLE profile: 21mm inside, 25mm outside rim width
• UST compatible
• Available with 11-speed XD™ Driver Body, 10- or 9-speed driver body
• Aluminum nipples with nylon lock ring
• SOLO SPOKE design with double butted, lightweight steel spokes
• Durable hub internals with Star Ratchet system
• SIDE SWAP easy conversion to all axle types
• DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design
• Weight: 1475g (26in), 1530g (27.5in), 1610g (29in). Wheel pair in lightest configuration

Fresh: New XTR Brakes, XTR Carbon Wheels, and 27.5 XT Wheels

For 2014 Shimano has updated the XTR XC brakes (including a carbon lever), introduced new XTR carbon tubular wheelsets, and added 27.5 to the XT range of wheels.

XTR – Light weight XC racing brake update

Light weight for race specification, subtle control with improved lever design, and more consistent brake feeling.

New XTR lever with carbon lever.
New XTR brake.

 

  •  Optimized material and structure for light weight
    • Magnesium BL/BR ,carbon lever, titanium small parts
    • 40g lighter than BR-M985
  •  Refined piston with sealing construction BL
  •  Optimized power curve, improved master cylinder & piston design (free stroke, rigidity)
  •  Ergonomic lever shape
  •  Total design of heat management
  •  I-spec compatible
  •  Ice-Technology pad compatible
  •  Reach adjust (tool)
  •  Easy and clean bleeding
    • One way bleeding caliper
    • Funnel bleeding

XTR “Freeza” Rotor

The new XTR rotor using “Freeza” technology.
  • 40 degree C more reduction in heat (vs SMRT98)
  • Aluminum Radiator fin
  • Clad rotor blade
  • Rotor size: 203mm /180mm /160mm /140mm

 

XTR Carbon Tubular Wheelset

Tubular wheel with super light weight carbon rim, optimized design for XC race.

New XTR Carbon 29er Wheel (Rear)
  • Super light weight full-carbon offset rim
  • 28pcs of straight black spokes and aluminum black nipples
  • *Quick engagement freehub body (36/360 degree) for perfect traction
  • High rigidity with front 15mm and rear 12mm E-thru axle
  • Easy maintenance and longer durability
  • CENTER LOCK rotor mount for easy and quick installation

 

XT 27.5 Wheelset

XT wheels now in more size options.

 

New SRAM Roam And Rail MTB Wheels

You don’t win by being the lightest. Or the stiffest. Or the toughest. You win by being the fastest. And that takes a wheel designed specifically for the modern mountain biker. At SRAM, we start with the demands of the terrain and work forward from there—carefully balancing each wheel’s design around five key attributes: weight, inertia, engagement, stiffness and durability.

No matter where you ride, SRAM wheels will take you further. RISE higher. ROAM farther. RAIL harder.

ROAM 60 (Intended Use: XC/TR/AM)

ROAM 60 – it’s the only wheel you need. By layering extra material onto stress points, ROAM 60’s UST compatible CARBON TUNED rim is light enough for long climbs and strong enough for the toughest Enduro races. It’s DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design takes straightpull spoke slots and stacks them two-by-two—distributing force perfectly around the wheel’s SOLO SPOKE design. The resulting wheel dish is wider, maximizing lateral stiffness while retaining frontal compliance. If you love to ride, this is your wheel.
  • Available in all 3 wheel sizes: 26”, 27.5” and 29”
  • CARBON TUNED unidirectional and woven carbon fiber, asymmetrical rim profile
  • WIDE ANGLE profile: 21mm inside, 28mm outside rim width
  • UST compatible
  • Available with 11-speed XD driver body for SRAM XX1 or 9/10-speed driver body
  • Aluminum nipples with nylon lock ring
  • SOLO SPOKE design with double butted, stiff stainless steel spokes
  • Durable hub internals with STAR RATCHET 36T system
  • SIDE SWAP easy conversion to all axle types
  • DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design
ROAM 60: Weight*
26” - 1495g
27.5” - 1550g
29” - 1625g
*Wheel pair in lightest configuration

Available: July (26”) and August (27.5” and 29”)

ROAM 50 (Intended Use: XC/TR)

It’s everything the modern mountain biker could ask for. One of the lightest alloy trail wheels in the market, ROAM 50 delivers a smart balance of weight, inertia and stiffness—making for a very responsive and predictable wheel. Thanks to our WIDE ANGLE rim, its tire profile delivers superior traction.
  • Available in all 3 wheel sizes: 26”, 27.5” and 29”
  • Lightweight aluminum rim with asymmetrical TAPER CORE profile
  • WIDE ANGLE profile: 21mm inside, 25mm outside rim width
  • UST compatible
  • Available with 11-speed XD driver body for SRAM XX1 or 9/10-speed driver body
  • Aluminum nipples with nylon lock ring
  • SOLO SPOKE design with double butted, lightweight steel spokes
  • Durable hub internals with STAR RATCHET system
  • DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design
Weight*
26” - 1475g
27.5” - 1530g
29” - 1610g
*Wheel pair in lightest configuration

Available: July (26, 27.5” and 29”)

RAIL 50 (Intended Use: AM)


An alloy rim that does what other alloy rims can’t. With WIDE ANGLE rim design providing superior stability, RAIL 50 can withstand the most aggressive All-Mountain/Enduro riding while setting a new benchmark for lightweight in the category. Featuring the perfect balance of strength, stiffness and width for All-Mountain/Enduro terrain, RAIL 50 delivers best-in-class ride quality all the way down.

  • in all 3 wheel sizes: 26”, 27.5” and 29”
  • Lightweight aluminum rim with asymmetrical TAPER CORE profile
  • WIDE ANGLE profile: 23c, 28mm outside rim width
  • UST compatible
  • Available with 11-speed XD driver body for SRAM XX1 or 9/10-speed driver body
  • Aluminum nipples with nylon lock ring
  • SOLO SPOKE design with double butted, stiff steel spokes
  • Durable hub internals with Star Ratchet system
  • SIDE SWAP easy conversion to all axle types
  • DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design
Weight*
26” - 1690g
27.5” - 1750g
29” - 1830g
*Wheel pair in lightest configuration

Available: July (26, 27.5” and 29”)

TECHNOLOGIES

TAPER CORE
Strong in the right places. The sidewalls of SRAM rims are reinforced along the wings to withstand major impact. But the sidewalls then taper in along the center—reducing overall mass. The result is a very light rim with excellent dent resistance.
SOLO SPOKE
With SOLO spoke, you’re never wrong. SRAM wheel design eliminates the need for different spoke lengths—one size fits the entire wheel. This identical-length design means no longer wondering whether you have the right front/rear/drive-side/nondrive-side spoke handy.
Front + Rear + Drive-Side + Nondrive-Side = 1 Spoke
CARBON TUNED
Strong like bull, light like carbon. Every Carbon Tuned rim is designed with a distinct style of riding in mind. By selectively layering woven carbon fiber at high-stress points and using unidirectional fiber throughout, SRAM creates rims that yield a remarkable level of strength and durability—while remaining lightweight and responsive.
WIDE ANGLE
Take corners as fast as you want. SRAM wheels have a wider rim profile without significant added mass. This profile holds tire shape better, preventing tire roll and giving you superior comfort and traction around corners.
19mm XC Racing
21mm Trail
23mm All Mountain
DOUBLE-DECKER
Stacked in your favor. This hub shell design takes straightpull spoke slots and stacks them two-by-two—distributing force perfectly around the wheel’s SOLO SPOKE design. The resulting wheel dish is wider, maximizing lateral stiffness while retaining some frontal compliance.
XD™ DRIVER BODY
XD is a new driver body design that allows the use of the SRAM XX1 10-42 cassette and provides an improved interface.
SIDE SWAP
Switching axles has never been easier. Threadless side caps can be installed and replaced by hand—no tools necessary.
STAR RATCHET
This patented freewheel system uses precision ratchets with extremely high load capacity and reliability. Thanks to its no-tools-required design, routine maintenance is easy.
UST TUBELESS
No tube, no-brainer. UST Tubeless rims feature hooked edges designed to seal with UST compatible tires. The result is improved traction and control, less inertia and fewer flats.

 

Shimano MT68 Wheelset

Shimano have produced a range of good value and well made wheelsets for a few years, but for 2013 this neat set of hoops has all the features of the higher end models, albeit with cheaper materials and finishes. Two wheelsets are available, the skinnier cross country orientated MT-66s and these MT-68, which are focused toward the trail/all mountain segment. [private]

Out of the box our first impressions are excellent, with nice decals and trendy white rims on black spokes.  All Shimano wheels are hand-built, and you can really tell with perfectly true rims and even spoke tension. Value for money is high, as there is a (arguably best in the business) Shimano quick release skewers included, and the tubeless ready rims have tape and valve already installed. This is a major bonus, especially at this pricepoint as all you need are tubeless ready tyres and some latex sealant to convert to tubeless. The tyres were reasonably easy to fit; the rear sealed up using only a track pump although the front required a trip to borrow the local servo compressor to finally get seated. The rims are good quality, non-eyletted and come in a reasonable 21mm width, ensuring the large volume tyres fitted showed a good profile without threatening to roll off the rim, even at low pressures (for reference, 2.5” Schwalbe Hans Dampf on the front and 2.3” Nobby Nic out back).

The front wheel is 15mm bolt through only, whereas the rear has QR or 12mm options. Hubs are Shimano branded, with a non-flashy, but functional finish.  The wheels use butted straight pull spokes, as this avoids the J bend point of weakness. The whole wheelset is user serviceable; a nice touch is the included spoke grabber is provided so you can true the wheel without the spoke rotating.

The bearings are of the loose ball and cup and cone variety, which from an engineering viewpoint are more efficient than cartridge, and shows the manufacturing muscle of Shimano, as the bearing races are more involved to fabricate (cartridge bearings are easily fitted to CNC’d hubs, which is why smaller companies use them) and are highly user serviceable. The bearings stayed tight over the course of the test period, but prior experience with Shimano hubs suggest that the cones will need adjustment in the future. Disc rotors are fitted via the centerlock mechanism, although adaptors are available should you wish to run 6-bolt. The matching SLX level discs are well made and worthwhile however it should be noted that the front 15mm axle requires a different, larger diameter lockring than the one provided to get over the bigger axle.

For the first ride on the wheels was at the playground that is the You-Yangs in VIC. This spot combines rocky technical downhills with fast, flowing singletrack, an environment that favours fast accelerating and tough wheels, and to which the MT-68’s were well suited. One of the design points of the rear freehub is its fast pick up, and the non-intrusive whizzy ratchet sound, which is different to previous years silent clutch mechanism. This rapid pick up was excellent when accelerating out of corners and also when climbing out of the saddle through technical sections. In spite of their 24 spoke build, no discernable flex was a detectable over the range of situations found on a good ride; through berms, off drops, under heavy braking, stomping on the pedals on technical climbs. The front wheel tracked superbly, with little or no hint of flex. Just to check, they were used on a shuttle day, and they remained true, and the spokes tight, even after two days of repeated downhill runs.

The performance of these wheels was an eye opener. The hoops they replaced were at least twice as expensive, with no discernable difference in performance. [/private]

Stan’s No Tubes 29er ZTR Race Gold

And in the Red Corner weighing in at a ridiculous 1316 grams are the ZTR Race Golds,  and in the Blue Corner….well, we nope they’re not too heavy.

The Stan’s No Tubes 29er ZTR Race Gold – 1316 grams of pure race wheel.

If it is grams you are chasing then you’ve come to the right bout. The ZTR Race Golds are stupidly light for an alloy rim and hub set-up, but are they too light? [private]

The ZTR Race Gold wheels are a new and improved version of the ZTR Race wheels that previously took the 29er to Jenny Craig. Stan’s have kept the weight off and even managed to scrape out an extra 54 grams, while providing an improved rim design delivering a wider tyre base and increased air volume. The rims are laced up to the Stan’s 3.30 Ti hubs that feature stainless steel bearings.

While the new hub design provides flexibility for axle set ups by offering standard Quick Release or conversion kits for a 15mm or 9mm thru axle on the front and a 12x142mm or 10x135mm set-up on the back; the rims set the rules for these wheels.

The rims make the story of the whole wheel. An improved rim design gives an increased tyre base and increased volume.

The new rim design means these are low pressure rollers with a set-up of 15-33 psi mandated. (Luckily our standard 32/28 psi tubeless set-up came in just inside the warranty cut-off.) If you prefer a higher psi you’ll have to live with the choice to void the warranty or not, though chances are that if you’re running more than 33 psi then you’re heavier than the 77 kg rider weight recommendation (limit).

With the boundaries established for the ZTR Race Golds, how did they perform?

First off we saved a bucket load of weight.  The ZTR Race Golds shaved 1 kg off our test bike, and where it counts – the rolling weight. The next thing we very quick discovered – these wheels are fast, stupidly fast

How do they perform on the trails?

What better way to test a set of race wheels is there, other than race them? On our first outing the light weight rolling benefits of these wheels was evident on the relatively smooth and hilly course and the wheels performed without fault. The stainless steel bearings in the hubs where smooth and the engagement on the free body solid.

A big draw back on 29er wheels is often their flex, caused by the longer spoke distance between the hub and rim (in addition to the larger diameter rim). While the ZTR Race Golds have tried to reduce this with larger diameter flanges on the hub bodies we still found them flexing. This could be largely attributed to the light weight spokes laced to the light rims. In particular when applying the power out of a corner, with the bike lent over, there was noticeable flexing in the rear wheel which subsequently interfered with the chain line.

Chatter on the trail and in the race pits is that some riders have found the durability of these wheels not as good as they hoped. So are these hoops durable?

When it came to racing these wheels up and down through rock gardens the limits of the ZTR Race Golds became evidently clear. After 5 laps through the race rock garden the rear wheel was in need of a good truing. While we did not experience anything more significant than some minor loss of spoke tension the wheels did not feel at home amongst the rocks, and the previously discussed flexibility was again evident.  That said, since the re-truing of the wheels they have held up through a fast paced 4 hour race and a few more XC races and training rides – though all on smoother tracks.

These wheels are RACE wheels, hence the word “race” in their name. They are not all day everyday trail riding wheels (unless you are riding super groomed non-technical trails). There is a reason why wheels have a recommended rider weight and application.

If you’re looking for a race day set of wheels that can be rested while training, you don’t have an aggressive riding style (or your willing to give these wheels a true from time-to-time) and your budget doesn’t extend to a set of more expensive carbon wheels, then these wheels may just be a match made in heaven.

The Ti hubs are another key feature that keeps the weight off these hoops.

 

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