First Ride | The brand new Race Face Era carbon wheelset aims for second best

The not-so-minor details


Race Face Era Wheelset


Ride Fox


$2,899 AUD


1,692g (27.5in) - 1,750g (29in)


- Impressively light for an enduro-ready wheelset
- Subtle and quiet ride quality
- High quality freehub delivers rapid pickup
- Lifetime warranty includes crash damage


- Longer term durability is yet to be determined
- Straight pull spokes can be more awkward to true

Mick & Wil ride the new Race Face Era carbon wheelset

Late 2022 saw the introduction of the Race Face Era carbon crankset. As well as ushering in a brand new model name, the Era debuted a novel and somewhat secretive construction process that was said to create the strongest and most durable carbon crank that Race Face had ever produced. Reading between the lines, it was clear the Canadian brand wanted to move on from the reliability issues that some riders had encountered with previous carbon crank designs.

Thankfully for Race Face those strength claims have held up in the real world, with the Era earning plenty of media and consumer praise since its debut. We reviewed the Era cranks last year, and while they aren’t exactly cheap, we came away thoroughly impressed by their low weight, slick BB system and bulletproof finish.

For 2024 Race Face is ready to cement that reputation by expanding the Era range. There’s a whole suite of new components that you’ll be seeing roll out over the coming weeks, with the brand new Era wheelset being the first cab off the ranks.

race face era carbon wheelset
The new Race Face Era wheelset has arrived, and they’ve got a compelling story to tell.

Race Face Era wheelset price & specs

race face era carbon wheelset
We’ve had the chance to test out two different Era wheelsets.

An overview of the Race Face Era wheels

The Race Face Era is a premium carbon wheelset that’s designed for trail riding and enduro racing.

The new Era replaces the old Next R carbon wheelset, which didn’t exactly have the best reputation for durability. The Next R wheels were also known for being quite stiff. In fact, their lack of on-trail compliance meant that Race Face sponsored athletes elected to race on the cheaper Turbine alloy wheels instead.

This sent the engineers at Race Face back to the drawing board. While they were pretty happy with the weight of the Next R wheels, they knew it was important to elevate the rim’s impact strength and improve overall compliance. Curiously however, the team didn’t necessarily want to be the category leader for any specific attribute. In fact, they deliberately aimed to be the second tier across the board, with the goal of creating the best all-round performing carbon wheelset on the market.

race face era carbon wheelset
The sounds this machine makes are absolutely horrifying – don’t get your fingers caught in there!

Three years of torture testing

To achieve such a lofty goal, the Race Face Era wheelset underwent an exhaustive 3-year development program.

This began with an ambitious amount of lab testing at the Fox Factory R&D facility in Scotts Valley, California, to assess where the benchmarks were across the industry. The team purchased a variety of popular wheels including the Zipp 3Zero Moto, Crank Brothers Synthesis Carbon Enduro, DT Swiss XMC 1501, We Are One Convergence and Reserve 30|HD.

Alongside Race Face’s existing Next R wheelset, each sample was subjected to a gamut of tests to evaluate impact strength, vertical compliance, lateral compliance and long-term durability. They even have a special chamber used for environmental testing, which takes a selection of dust and soil samples from different riding locations to simulate real-world conditions and their effects on things like rim finish and hub bearing durability.

New carbon rim prototypes were then designed in-house and tested on the same machines to see where they landed amongst the competition. Wheels were also tested outside of the lab, with 45 different riders and athletes racking up 5,300 ride hours during the development phase. This involved blind testing too, with the aim of finding the sweet spot for overall compliance and stiffness.

Unique carbon rims

The result of all of that intensive testing is the brand new Race Face Era wheelset and its unique carbon fibre rims.

race face era carbon wheelset
Compared to the old Next R carbon wheels, the new Era rims are much shallower in their profile.

Put them alongside the old Next R wheelset and you’ll notice the new Era rims are considerably shallower. That’s not exactly a surprise given the broader industry trend over the last few years towards low profile wheels that put a greater focus on vertical compliance. Zipp, Crank Brothers and Reserve are all good examples of this new-school approach.

According to Race Face however, overall wheel compliance isn’t just down to how much it flexes vertically, but also how much it deflects laterally. This was something the test team noticed when riding across off-camber rocks and roots, where they found a stiffer wheel was more likely to get pinged off-line. In comparison, a rim with more lateral flex was able to absorb those impacts and allow the wheels to track smoother, keeping the tyres in contact with the ground.

race face era carbon wheelset
Attention has been paid to both vertical and lateral compliance, and Race Face reckons it’s found the sweet spot.

This is also important when leaning the bike over through a rough corner. With the wheels at an angle, your bike’s suspension performs a less active role in absorbing bumps and vibrations. In this scenario, it’s the flex from your tyres, wheels and chassis that really come into play.

During in-house lab testing, the Race Face team found the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheelset was the category leader when it came to lateral deflection, and our on-trail experience would corroborate that. However, the single-wall carbon rim design does result in a significant weight penalty, with the 3Zero Motos being one of the heavier enduro wheelsets around. The large degree of flex can also lead to some vagueness through high-speed banked corners, especially for heavier riders.

Which brings us to the next aspect of the Era’s design.

There’s no doubt the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheelset offers the most lateral compliance, but that isn’t always a good thing.
race face era carbon wheelset
The rear rim (left) uses a slightly deeper profile for greater impact strength and rigidity. The front rim (right) is shallower to maximise compliance and grip.

Front & rear specific

In a similar vein to the Crank Brothers Synthesis wheels, the Race Face Era incorporates a front and rear-specific rim profile to balance out several different performance attributes.

Up front is a very shallow 18.6mm deep rim that aims to maximise grip and compliance, reducing feedback through your hands. In comparison, the rear rim has a slightly taller 22.6mm depth that offers a more responsive ride quality with improved impact strength.

Otherwise both of the Era rims feature the same 30mm internal width that’s suited to modern 2.3-2.6in wide tyres. They also utilise a heavily offset spoke bed that helps to balance out spoke tensions between the drive and non-drive side of each wheel.


Look closer again and you’ll see just how fat the bead walls are. Measuring 4.5mm thick, the bead walls incorporate subtle shaping that creates a rounded profile that’s less likely to cut the tyre in the event of a hard strike against a rock. Race Face calls this the Anvil Edge, and it’s claimed to reduce the chance of pinch flats while also boosting the rim’s impact strength.

On that note, the Era isn’t quite the strongest wheelset that Race Face has tested in-house. That accolade goes to the Reserve 30|HD, with the Era coming in at a very close second.

It’s still enough that Race Face offers a lifetime warranty with the Era wheelset that includes crash damage. It’s not a case of just replacing a rim either. Come up short on a landing and put a crack into the rear rim, and Race Face will replace the entire wheel free of charge for the original owner. Nice!

The Race Face Era isn’t the lightest, strongest or most compliant wheelset, but that’s exactly what the Canadians were going for.
race face era carbon wheelset vault hubs
The wheelset is built around the huge Vault hubs.

Vault hubs

At the centre of the Race Face Era wheelset is the Vault hub. First introduced in 2016, the Vault hubs have undergone several key refinements over their eight-year lifespan. They remain distinctive thanks to their enormous hub shells, which are designed to create a sturdier interface between the wheels, frame, and fork.

The oversized body is particularly pertinent to the rear hub, which incorporates an inverted 6-pawl freehub mechanism. This sees the six double-tooth pawls anchored inside the hub shell, while the 60T drive ring is integrated into the freehub body. Race Face offsets the pawls into two phases, which doubles the clicks to provide a speedy 120 points of engagement.

Thanks to the inverted design, the outboard hub bearing is able to be spaced wider than what you’ll find in a conventional rear hub. This provides increased torsional stiffness and is claimed to improve bearing durability. Speaking of, you’ll find decently sized 6902 cartridge bearings inside the Vault hubs along with custom labyrinth seals to keep muck out and grease in. And with Race Face being a company based in the very wet climate of the Pacific Northwest, weather sealing isn’t something to be taken lightly.

Testing the Race Face Era carbon wheelset

As part of a huge 2025 Fox and Race Face product launch, we were invited out to Scotts Valley in California to put the new gear to the test on some brilliant trails in the Santa Cruz region.

We had the pleasure of meeting the design and engineering team behind the new Race Face Era wheelset, while also getting the chance to see some of the in-house lab testing that went into the development of the new wheels. We could barely watch as rims were pulled and pushed in every direction, and freehubs were lashed at via a high-torque motor and chain. Yikes!

race face era carbon wheelset vault hubs
Wil tested the Era wheelset in a mullet configuration on his Pivot Switchblade.

To keep things as familiar as possible we brought along our own bikes to the launch, which were then outfitted with a bunch of new products including the Era wheels. Mick had his Santa Cruz Tallboy set up with a 29in wheelset and Maxxis Forekaster tyres. Wil brought a new Pivot Switchblade and fitted a mullet wheelset with a Maxxis Assegai on the front and a Minion DHR II on the rear.

While the bikes and tyres were known quantities, we were still riding unfamiliar terrain. This isn’t ideal from a testing perspective, and as such we look forward to banking a load more saddle time on home trails over the coming months. That being said, there’s plenty the two of us can draw from a week’s worth of riding on some fabulous Californian singletrack.

race face era carbon wheelset vault hubs
The trails in this part of California are absolutely amazing, making us feel a long way from home!

On the trail

For a start, we were immediately impressed by the responsiveness of the Race Face Era wheels. Weighing in at 1,760g for the 29in set (confirmed) these are some of the lightest enduro wheels on the market, and certainly weren’t out of place on Mick’s short travel Tallboy.

Pickup at the pedals is nice and quick, with the 120pt freehub delivering minimal lag when putting down the power. Having come off a variety of DT Swiss wheels lately that typically have 6-10° of freeplay between clicks, the 3° engagement from the Vault hub was noticeable and appreciated. We also like the high quality buzz from the 6-pawl mechanism, which is thankfully on the quieter side.

Indeed the Era is a pretty quiet riding wheelset on the trail. Neither of us complained of any harshness or untoward pinging through the rockier and rootier trails we were blasting down while trying to keep up with Jordi Cortes on his big travel Santa Cruz Nomad. The overall compliance reminded us a lot of the Crank Brothers Synthesis, which is a good thing.

race face era carbon wheelset weight
Our Race Face Era wheelset weighed in at 1,760g for the 29in size. That’s impressively light given the durability claims.

We’d agree with the lab data that shows the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheelset offering more lateral give compared to the Era wheels. Those Zipps are easily one of the most comfortable riding enduro wheels on the market, but there are times where the high degree of flex can actually be unnerving, especially for hard-hitting riders on bikepark terrain. The Era doesn’t feel nearly as soft in comparison, with a more responsive character both in terms of handling and acceleration. Those who like to slap turns and whip through chicanes will find the Eras to be significantly more reactive than the 3Zero Moto.

Any concerns?

Neither of us have encountered any issues with the Race Face Era wheelset so far, but we’ll be putting them through the wringer on much rockier home terrain to see how those durability claims stack up. Even if we do manage to inflict any damage to them, it’s reassuring to have the support of that lifetime warranty.

race face era carbon wheelset vault hubs
We don’t have a lot of experience with the Race Face Vault hubs, though the fit and finish seems top-notch.

While the warranty does cover crash damage, it doesn’t cover general wear and tear. We don’t have a lot of experience with the latest Vault hubs, so we’re curious to see how those hold up in terms of bearing and seal performance. The tool-free design does mean it’s easy to tug off the hub end caps to clean out and lubricate the freehub internals, and it’s worth noting that the 6902 cartridge bearings are a common size that’s easy to source.

Some riders may be turned off by the straight-pull spokes, which require an additional tool to hold them in place when truing the nipples. They’re claimed to offer better durability than a traditional J-bend spoke however, and if you do break any you’ll be thankful that Race Face has included several spares in the box. A nice touch indeed.

race face era carbon wheelset vault hubs
The freehub provides quick pickup and offers a subtle but high quality buzz while coasting along the trail.

Flow’s Early Verdict

Building on the success of the Era crankset, the new Race Face Era wheelset brings about a similarly fastidious approach to design and in-house testing. We like that the Canadian brand has been open about its lab test data and the fact that its new carbon wheelset isn’t the lightest, strongest or most compliant amongst its key competitors. However, by aiming for the middle ground it’s created a compelling argument for a high-end carbon wheelset that offers balanced performance and broad appeal.

Initial impressions suggest that Race Face is on the money with the Era wheelset delivering a quiet and unassuming ride quality. We love the buzzy hubs and their rapid pickup, and the low system weight makes them appealing for regular trail riding as well as competitive enduro racing. Combined with their strength claims and lifetime warranty, there’s certainly a lot to like.

Neither of us will be removing these wheels anytime soon, and we’ll continue testing them on home trails with a variety of different tyre options over the coming months. We’ll update this review with any new insights once we’ve had more time on them.

race face era carbon wheelset
Initial impressions are positive, though we look forward to spending a lot more time on the Race Face Era wheels over the coming months on home trails.

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