At Interbike this year many companies had brand new hoops to show boasting lighter weights, tubeless compatibility, increased stiffness/durability, and additional 29er offerings.
Fulcrum Red Power 29 SL
Easton and Mavic are going at it head to head with a bunch of new wheels for 2012. Both companies are offering feather-light wheel sets and also UST rims and straight pull spokes. DT-Swiss and Fulcrum are both coming out with complete wheel sets; DT is even offering a complete range of their Tricon wheels (mixing cross with radial lacing, also known as Crow’s Foot lacing). Speaking of spokes, or lack thereof, 28, 24, and 20 spoke pattern mountain bike wheels seem to be becoming more common.
I’ve also noticed a new interest in cassette body engagement features among wheel companies. Nearly everyone I came across is using 3 or more cam pawls for quicker, more positive engagement.
EC90 Carbon 29er wheel set from Easton.
Ritchey WCX Vantage II: Tubeless-ready carbon 29er wheels weigh in at 1537 grams and $1999 MSRP.
In the materials arena, scandium and carbon are showing up more often in mountain bike rims. Speaking of carbon, there are some super sweet carbon wheels out there. Now if youre questioning the durability of carbon, most of the well designed MTB wheels with carbon rims can take bigger hits without damage compared to the aluminum versions. Yes, right now carbon wheels cost almost as much as college tuition but they typically hold out much better than aluminum due to the higher strength of materials.
e13 TRS+ scandium rim 29er trail wheels (middle)
Companies are also focusing on making stronger MTB wheels. e*thirteen by the Hive, for example, released a series of wheels for 2012 using Chub hubs. With their own custom rim profile that will work with tubeless tires (tape needed) and using braised eyelets instead of riveting, these look promising. Even the cassette body is burly: using tool steel (very tough) and higher quality springs in the engagement portion of the cassette body, riders get 6 degrees between resounding clicks (or should I say clacks!).
Spank is another company that is set to release a complete mountain bike wheel set. The wheels will feature an exclusive rim profile cut to run without eyelets while keeping the contact a perfect 360 degrees around the spoke hole plus a hook bead that will take a dig while reducing pinch flats. Novatec is another lesser-known brand that is starting to make waves with a rim for every riding style. Look for new lighter, stronger, and more affordable wheels from Novatec in the near future.
Some of the big names in wheels from overseas have admitted they’re behind the game in bringing a lightweight 29er wheel set to market. Expect to see more of these companies offering new designs that rival the 29er wheels available today.
Formula Volo XC 29er: 1437 grams for the set. 24 spoke, QR/Q15 axle.
Another trend in 29er wheels is the move toward more all-mountain / trail oriented wheel sets. In fact at this point there are probably more choices of 29er trail wheels than 29er trail bikes but everyone seems to agree this is where things are heading. Look for burlier 29er wheels with reasonable weights coming in 2012.
Azonic Outlaw 29er: Classic wheel set goes big.
Loaded AMXC 29er wheel.
Crankbrothers Cobalt 29er wheels (no “cobalt blue” to be found on these wheels)
What do you see as the next trend in MTB wheels? How do you feel about more complete wheels showing up on the mid-level to higher-end mountain bikes? Much more Interbike coverage coming!