Last year on a media trip to Vermont, the group of folks from Press Forward introduced myself and other writers to a local wheel builder, Jerry Chabot. Chabot is the founder and owner of NEXT Cycling.
NEXT Cycling is a wheel building company with its own rim designs and wheel building process, and Chabot is the wheel builder. He builds about 2-300 wheelsets per year in his workshop, which vary from road, to gravel, to XC, trail, and enduro wheelsets.
Chabot started NEXT Cycling in 2015, first as a bicycle club, but then moved into building wheelsets. He designs and engineers carbon rims, sends the designs to a carbon rim manufacturer in China, and once the rim is ready to go, it is sent back to Vermont where Chabot’s talent comes into play, although he might not call it talent.
“You can quantifiably build a good wheel,” he told us last year. The rim and rim design are just a small portion of the entire wheel. Getting the tension just right across the entire wheel may make an even bigger difference.
“I truly believe you can feel it in my wheels,” says Chabot. I was a little skeptical about this statement when he said it last year. I didn’t get a chance to ride NEXT wheels in Vermont, but Press Forward and Chabot arranged for me to borrow a pair for a few months this summer, and most of that skepticism has been shed.
- Carbon all-mountain enduro wheelset
- Available in 27.5 or 29-inch diameter
- 31mm internal width, 40mm external width, 30mm deep
- 32-hole spoke count
- 6-bolt hubs now standard, centerlock tested
- Available with Industry Nine, Chris King, or Project 321 Hubs
- Front hubs available in 15×110 or Lefty SuperMax
- Rear hubs available in 12×148, 12×148 Boost Cannondale, or 12×157
- Weight tested: 1,865g w/ 27.5-inch rims, Industry Nine (I9) hubs
- Pricing: Starts at $1,795 w/ I9 hubs, up to $1,995 with hub upgrades
About the NEXT Hucks
As I mentioned, Chabot designs the rims in Vermont, has them produced in China, and then he builds them in his workshop in Vermont.
There’s a well-known stigma about Chinese made mountain bike wheels, but the NEXT Hucks aren’t really “Chinese made.” The rims are made in China, but with Chabot’s design, and then the wheels are built in America.
They are made with a 3D wound carbon process, and NEXT says that their carbon rims have a higher carbon fraction by volume, than rims made with flat sheets of carbon pressed into a mold. The wheels also have in-molded spoke and valve stem holes and are not drilled, to avoid cutting carbon fibers.
The Hucks are made for 130-180mm travel bikes, and have a shallow hookless bead. The hookless bead is 5mm wide, which gives them a rounded profile that NEXT says is more effective at preventing pinch flats and sidewall cuts. They are a symmetrical rim design.
Riding the NEXT Hucks
The interesting thing about this test is that I put the NEXT Hucks on after finishing another carbon wheel test. As with any mountain bike product, there are nuances, but I didn’t think that I’d feel such a big difference from one set of carbon wheels to another. The test set I had on previously were the $1,400 FSA Gradient WideR wheels, which are an exceptional wheelset considering the price.
But, boy oh boy was there a difference between the Hucks and the Gradients, and one that I find rather interesting. I noted in my review of the Gradient WideR wheels that I suspect much of the cost savings occur in the hub. The FSA hub was decent, but not a premium hub like the Industry Nine. I would also suppose that the Gradients don’t see as tedious of a tensioning process as the Hucks.
This still leaves about a $500 price difference between the Gradients and the Hucks, and what I’m doing here is trying to split hairs in the price difference between a great entry-level carbon wheelset and a really nice, premium carbon wheelset. The hub definitely fills out some of that $500, and so does the tuning process.
Then, there’s the lifetime warranty and replacement warranty that NEXT offers. New for 2019, NEXT will replace the original owner’s broken wheel for free, for life. Bought a pair of NEXT wheels used on Craigslist, and broke them? NEXT replaces them for the non-original owner for $250. That’s pretty unheard of.
But, wait. I haven’t even explained why it would be sensible to skip the FSAs or the $1,500 RaceFace Next R31s, which we checked out last year, to spend at least $1,800 on the Hucks. I know it seems kinda nutty, but I immediately felt the difference between the previous carbon wheelset and the NEXT Hucks when I swapped them.
The Hucks accelerated more quickly and felt stiffer, but not too stiff. Even over harsh rock gardens and trail chatter they maintained a solid rolling speed without feeling like they were deflecting harshly or pushing back into my hands. The 31mm internal rim width felt spot on for a modern trail or enduro bike and gave my tires a nice, wide volume. With this open tire casing, my cornering ability also felt enhanced with the wheels.
The real question though, is that at close to $2,000, can the Hucks compete with the likes of ENVE, or similar high-end wheelsets? A set of comparable ENVE M735 with Industry Nine Hydras rings in at $2,550. I haven’t spent much time on the latest ENVEs, but did do a little riding on an ENVE-equipped rig this year, and they are also outstanding wheels, and also have a lifetime, no-cost warranty now, but only to the original owner.
Having spent more time on these NEXT Hucks, I would feel comfortable opting for a set over a higher-priced set like the ENVEs. The NEXT Hucks have a premium ride feel, a kick-ass warranty, and are durable and less costly.
In the end, I am a believer when Jerry Chabot says that you can feel a difference in his wheels. Although they are pricy, there is a distinct ride feel to them, compared to other carbon wheels, and even though they are near $2,000, they seem to offer a value when compared with even pricier wheels.