There is an art to building up the perfect mountain bike wheel. Unlike any other bike component, wheels can be customized to fit the needs of the rider in an almost infinite number of ways. I’ve been testing a set of high end, custom 29er wheels built up by Dustin at Southern Wheelworks featuring Atomik Mod-Hook carbon rims and Profile Racing Elite hubs, both of which I’ll review for those considering these parts for a set of their own custom rollers.
Atomik Mod-Hook Carbon Rims
As Dustin candidly pointed out to me, the Atomik rims are not the lightest (420g) or the widest carbon rims out there… but they probably feature the thickest sidewalls you’ll find on a set of carbon MTB rims. Why thick sidewalls? For starters, strength and durability are a big concern for many riders considering carbon rims (for both heavier and more aggressive riders alike). Thicker sidewalls also make for a stiffer wheel which transfers power more efficiently.
While the Atomik Mod-Hook rims aren’t the widest rims out there, they are a solid 5mm (25%) wider than the Mavic Crossmax SLR rims I’ve been running for over a year and if fat bikes have taught us anything, it’s that wider is better. And I say that with all sincerity; wider rims give tires a larger contact patch for better handling, and the Atomiks noticeably improve handling over my Crossmax SLRs. Still, everything comes with a tradeoff and in this case, the tradeoff with wider rims is added rolling resistance. These rims are burly enough for enduro riding and match well with 2.3+ tires.
The rim utilizes a design Atomik calls “Mod-Hook” which offers a 3.5mm wall thickness and an excellent interface for mounting tubeless tires. I threw a tubeless-ready Kenda 24Seven tire on the rear rim and didn’t even use sealant or soapy water to inflate with a floor pump. Not only that, this tire/rim combo has held air for weeks without sealant through aggressive cornering and rocky trail rides.
On the trail, the rims are noticeably stiff and offer predictable control, even compared to tried and true alloy rims. Atomik offers 11 decal color options to match your rig, or as Syd likes to put it, to make your wheels and bike “matchey poo.”
Profile Racing Elite Hubs
Like the Atomik rims, the Profile Racing Elite hubs aren’t the lightest out there… but they offer some of the quickest, most precise engagement you’ll find on the market today. The rear hub piles on 204 points of engagement for a nearly immediate response when it’s time to put on the gas!
The rear hub utilizes 3 offset pairs of pawls on a 68 tooth drive ring so that only two pawls are engaged at a time (3 x 68 = 204). This means each drive ring tooth is fairly fine and needs to be maintained with thin oil and cleaned regularly. The freehub body itself can be removed without the need for tools, which eases the maintenance headache a bit.
The first thing anyone notices about this rear hub is that it’s LOUD (click play above to get a taste.) Seriously, this hub makes a Chris King hub sound like a golf clap. I get comments every time I show up for a ride and the rear hub makes it impossible to go into stealth mode on sensitive trails. The pawls actually produce noticeable drag but again, that’s the tradeoff with maximum engagement. Freeride and trials riders can appreciate this level of engagement but I’ve also heard from singlespeed riders and enduro racers who rave about these hubs.
The front hubs are convertible, though the conversion process isn’t as easy as swapping end caps. To switch between 15mm, 20mm, or a 10mm (QR) axle diameter requires an axle and partial bearing swap.
Profile offers the Elite hubs in several finishes (including camo!) to complete your matchey-poo masterpiece.
Icing on the Cake
Dustin laced these rims and hubs with double-butted DT Swiss Revolution spokes and red 7075 alloy nipples to complete the look. (The 7075 alloy nipples are also stronger and more corrosion resistant than common 6061 alloy nipples.) My one complaint is the valve stems Dustin used don’t feature a removable core for topping off sealant levels. Then again, if I had worked with Dustin to spec these wheels before they were built up I would have had the chance to weigh in on everything from the valves to the nipples and the rim tape. That’s the beauty of working with a custom wheel builder!
In the end, these wheels should work well for a 29er enduro rider who wants to train and race on the same set of wheels. The durable, predictable Atomik carbon rims plus super luxe, quick Profile Racing hubs mean these wheels can take big hits and respond instantly when it counts.
All told, Southern Wheelworks prices this particular custom build at around $1,699 for the pair which includes shipping to most US states. The Atomik rims retail for $435 (per rim) while the Profile Racing hubs can be purchased for around $200 (front) and $450 (rear).