WMB-UK 2014-01 Group Test Flowtrail 29

Page 1

1. The



Any extra weight in the rim is magnified on these big wheels - it's spinning


on the end of a longer lever than 26in or 650b mass, so it's harder to

brake or accelerate. Mass closer to the hub has less effect, so rim weight is in many ways more

important than the overall weight


2. The material Many manufacturers are

turning to carbon for their top wheels. Why? Because it's incredibly $iff for its weight (almost too stiff for smaller wheels, in truth). Carbon is well suited to 29in hoops, but we're looking at aluminium here - it s much cheaper.


The extra stiffness that


screw{hru axles add to the long fork legs and rear stays of a 29er - over


Done right it still does a pretty good job.






massively obvious. Hubs that can be converted are a wise investment, as they'll let you get the

3. The spokes 29er spokes are long and suffer greater leverage than smaller wheels - theyTe

full benefit of later fork or frame upgrades.

under a lot of stress. The fewer spokes, the more stress each one is under; thankfully most manufacturers have realised low spoke counts and big wheels are a bad mix. But there are still straight-pull or traditional L bend'spokes - in several gauges - and various lacing paterns to choose from. See the reviews

for how they shape up.

Y, -', :,r.:11:1*#.ffi

5. The


There are loads of hub designs, all claiming some sort of advantage over the 0pp0siti0n. t0r the most part they just look a bit more exciting but don't perform noticeably better. How well the bearings are sealed against weather and how long the freehub lasts internally and externally when youTe giving it full gas up a staccato power climb does make a massive difference. The lag


between the pawls picking up drive after freewheeling also varies a surprising am0unt 0nce y0u start c0unting the clicks.


sets they were competing with - and Kinesis followed




lXwheels. Carbon certainly

0ur northern test crew chief seems hell bent on redefining relentles with a

and affotdable but hearry.

hasn't had it all its own way

testing schedule that 0nly the best

That]/llas before Hope

here, despite its suitability.

components come through unscathed.

Bigwheels used to either be

a)$iff afld


expensive, b)



frighteningly bendy or c) stiff

launched its Stan's+immed Hope Hoops, which combined

' ,


Guy (esteven, bike test editor



tanthe latest alloy

decent weight and stiffness

wheels beat the established

,amie Booth, tester

with excellent hub reliabiiity

benchmarks for performance,

Junior racer Jamie puts in more training


price... orboth? We'vetaken



miles in a week than most of us do in months, making him an ideal perpetual motion wheel punishment machine.

and a good price. Then


$epped in with seriously stiff tubeless wheels - at a Iot{er cost than the rarbon

seven bells out of six sets


metal wheels to find out.

ffisfilE *+::i"i*r71o7




(B), total 18599


â‚Źil b Shimano's latest XT effi wheels are an interesting

are definitely better suited to narrower XC tyres and less

mix of both modern and traditional ideas - high mileage

agressive riders. Much of that high weight is in the robust hubs and steel freehub body (it's healry but doesn't chew up like alu can), where it doesn't affect acceleration. They're stiff enough to spin up weil. The bearings feel fantastic, and we were consistently impressed with how fast the XTs made our test bikes feel. The loose bearings are adjustable/serviceable and, if you're handy with cone

cross-country riders will like

them, but more radical riders will find them restrictive.

were consistently

' "We impressed with '


fast the XTs made our test bikes feel" The neatly machined rims raised sections for each spoke to sit in - are sealed to UST standard, so tubeless tpes blow up very easily without a separate sealing strip. At only 19mm internal width any tyres over 2.2in are undermined, as they're too pinched at the base and liable to squirm and flop ifyou fling them through corners at low pressure. As such, these

- with




spanners they'lI potentially Iast years past the point where cartridge bearings would need


"Fast+olling tubeless Xt wheels with bearings that can last forever."

Weight 957g (F),10639 (R), total 20209 Contact


Mavic's good-looking yet 'i1S affordable CrossRides now come in 29in. Inevitably that 1ow price means a weight penalty, so they're more a cosmetic upgrade for XC than a performance one.

"Mavic rims can take far more of a beating on rocky trails than most other brands" Considering they only have 24 spokes at each end they're reasonably obedient on the trail, and not noticeably more wayruard than most of the wheels here. The 19mm internal widlh means 2.Zin is as wide as we'd recommend going with tyres, and unlike more expensive Mavics, these are not tubeless compatible. Our long-term experience shows that Mavic rims of all


types can take far more of a beating on rocky trails than most other brands and stiii stay rideable.

Although the Zkg weight means more wattage to get rolling, they don't feel soft or baggy however hard you stamp on the pedals. Those brass nipples are tough and easy to adjust - alu ones are Iighter but can freeze and round off. You can switch to QR front or L42x12mm rear axles with aftermarket spacers. The TS2 freehub is tough but relatively unproven for reliability, and the 15-degree lag is noticeable on rolling trails. They look way better than anything else at the price, though.

"Affordable and axle-versatile, but narrow and a little unresponsive."

wqight 8069 (F),e66s(t),1qtal lzZ?g

$g$ DT's new Splines are


and stiff enough to compete with carbon for XC performance, but they don't like fat tyres and engagement is slow for the price.

The rest of the wheel is fairly conventional. The spokes are laced three-cross front and rear for plenty of cross support and a precise, stiff feel considering their low weight.

Ison's Vapour trail wheels are conventional in the best way; well-priced allrounders with proper support for fat tyres, and instant pick up for maximum flow.

"They accelerate and cope with climbing power well,

They accelerate and cope with climbing power weil, adding noticeable pep to our

"Broad, 21mm (internal) rims are totally happy with our fattest test tyres

'*ffi iigll

adding noticeable pep to

ourtest bikes" The Splines take their name from their fancily-machined hubs, which are designed to allow seriously high tension in DT Swiss's bladed, straight-

puil spokes. The disc mounts are also spiined - they're Shimano Centerlock - but adaptors for six-bolt rotors are included. You can also switch

test bikes. The freehub is slow to engage and can clunk on pick up, though, and the onceflawless DT Swiss reliability has suffered a little of late.

The narrow rims struggle to support 2.2in tlres when you start ripping through corners hard, and they're expensive especially if you use DT's fl40 per wheel tubeless kits.

to QR axles with spacer kits (available separately) and the rear is compatible with the XX1/X01 freehub body.

"Light and precise'XC wheels, hut expensive and slow-ish on pick up."

'E*'* '.ttr+

- even at Iess than 25psi" The fizzing freehub buzz and minimal 2-degree lag between pedal push and forward drive is the first thing you notice, and leads to the Vapours feeling a lot more eager than their middling weight suggests. The broad, 21mm internalwidth rims are totaily happy with our fattest Maxxis test tyres - even at less than 25psi - and the rims are tubelesscompatible with a kit.


The conventional spoking

pattern is well built-up, with even tension and no settling in period or re-truing needed. The tight build gives them a surefooted and confident - if not pin sharp - feel on the traii, especially if amplified with big tpes. They're not the best for precise tracking, but the instant drive was appreciated by aggressive riders who jump on the pedals at the slightest chance. Be careful of the pretty but soft red alloy nipples, however, and get the second generation Vapours with captive axle caps - our early set has separate ones, and fitting/removing the wheels is a fiddly pain.

"hstant dilve and do,anything width, but you need the redesigned caps."

tffiHE tanuarylog


. :::.t:t 1:r


29ers put more stress on

theirwheels than any other bikes, and that means onlythe


wheeh can really cope with regular hard riding. Carbon is perfect for keepingsuch big hoops stiff and light, but ourtest - and Novatec's win

- prove you don't

have to spend a fortune. lt also shows that conventional builds

often beat the specialists... which is how they got conventional in the first place.

Weight 881S (F), 9669 (R), total 18479 tontact wwwspecialized.com -.,.




Speclalized's mid-price

cross pattern. They create a

trail wheeis aren't the

smooth and flowing ride feel that's very noticeable over hard-baked rock and rippled trails, even on hardtails. The DT Swiss-based freehub picks up drive with only a 1O-degree lag, and it's XX1/ X01 compatible; you also get a comprehensive bag of axle spacers and QR skewers. Weight is relatively high, and while grip is great the softer ride inevltably means they don't feel particularly sharp through the pedals or bars. Other wheels, such as Hope's Hoops, offer very similar performance for

lightest or most responsive, but they're smooth-rolling with support for fat tyres, tubeless sysrems and all axle types.

"Ihe Rovalssupport 2.35in rubber well, even

atlowpressures" The Roval Control Trail is an affordable version of the carbon-rimmed Control and Control SLs, based around a low-profi1e 22mm (lnternal width) rim. They come with tubeless rim strips and valves as standard, and blow up easily with a just squirt of sealant and suitable tyres. The Rovals support 2.35in rubber wel1, even at low pressures, and are laced with 32 very skinny DT Super Comp spokes in a conventional three-


significantly Iess money.

"Axle versatile and tubeless-ready,

but relatively expensive."

7649 (F), 948c 1R), tstal 17129

ft ntafi

-!..:r Novatec has overhauled 'r,.rr:l:.t its Flows, and the result is a stiff, responsive set of trail wheels that supports all axle and tyre sizes really well.

"Big tyre compatibility and accuracy mean they won't get bullied off line" Pretty much everything on the Flow is new, starting with a low-profile 20mm rim (lnterna1) that goes tubeless easily with aftermarket kit and shoulders 2.3Sin tyres wlthout issue. They take 2.5in tyres at a slight pinch, too. The 32 convenrional Sapim spokes lace into oversized hubs that keep the three-cross lacing pattern short the wheels stay stiff and solid however hard you carve. Big tyre compatibility and inherent accuracy mean they won't get


bullied off line in the rocks and ruts, and the Flows even come with oversized alloy QRs, meaning even open-dropout bikes feel stlffer. You also get axle adaptors, spacers and spare spokes. They're liqht for trail wheels, but that's down to the hubs rather than the particularly low-mass rims. With just a 4-degree lag from the steel-reinforced freehub body, however, speed and trail flow is boosted impressively. Sealing and bearlng reliability on previous Novatecs have been excellent. The price is high, but the performance and versatilitY is worth the money.

*,.**,:*l::t "Tight, light and responsive tvheels that fit any axle and tyre."

-,: lTubeles-readytyrescan


and ,/ Z-

I easily blow up lopsided I stay there - keep pumping until they pop into place, then them down to proper

11O i;nl,,r.ftiffiflEfilE



l-'l can . { destroyed lJ


light bulb, your tyre

save you a

wheel, an accident or a walk home,


/. Makesureyoutighten l- -] s llthe 0r I soft IJ


ttsworthcheckingfor Ioose spokes! lt

going to flop around

etlen pull off if you ride hard. a narrower t\/re instead.

cassette lockring

loose cogs dig into


alloy freehubs, Jnd them back off is a



tf rherespotentialt0take up wobble as bearings

weal do it fast - it

doesn t take wobby cup-andc0nes long t0 damage your hubs.