by Steve Wentz
Alex Rims have probably been on your bike before, possibly hidden under another name. Alex has been manufacturing all sorts of hoops for over 20 years, but only recently have I noticed them making a big push with aftermarket rim options. One of the most recent releases is the EVO 2.3 rim, a 23-mm internal width, 455-gram beauty that promises light weight and strength as well. That's a claim that just about every rim in the 450-gram range makes, so lets see if it really holds true for the aluminum EVO 2.3. The rim is made from a proprietary 8,000 series aluminum alloy, said to be near scandium weight but closer to standard 6,000 or 7,000 series pricing.
Alex Rims EVO 2.3 Rim Highlights
- Intended for trail, all-mountain, and Enduro race use
- 26", 27.5" and 29" sizes
- Proprietary 8,000 series aluminum alloy
- 455-gram weight in the 27.5" size
- 23-mm internal width
- Aluminum eyelets
- Tubeless ready
- Sleeved joint
- MSRP: $44.99 USD
It should be noted that the EVO 2.3 is available as a rim only. Our test was performed using Novatec hubs, brass nipples, and straight gauge spokes to complete the build. Because the rims were laced up before I received them, there are some things that I'm not quite able to comment on. One of those would be the initial impression of building a wheel with this rim. Some rims are notoriously good and straight right away, and some have a wobble that a builder needs to fix. You wheel builders out there know this well. So while I can't say how it started, the rim was perfectly true and balanced once it got to me. Our wheelset wasn't super light, but surprisingly not a lead balloon either. The rims themselves are competitive in the weight game, especially given their price.
The rim is intended to be a jack of all trades, and is listed as Tubeless Ready. Note that this doesn't mean they include a rim strip or tubeless valve. Alex does sell a kit for the conversion that runs ~$10 per rim. I had a Stan's rim strip in my tool box, and put that in to try it out.
Tubeless was no problem on the Maxxis, Bontrager, and Michelin tires that I swapped between. One problem I did have with the stock (non-tubeless) rim strip occurred when I used it with Maxxis and Michelin tires. The stock rim strip is pretty rough (unlike previous Sun Ringle and Novatec wheelsets I've tested) and seemed to hold the bead of the tire down in a few places. I had to pump up the tires to 70-psi to finally seat them properly. This is not so much of a problem as it is a heads up, as I'd rather a tire be a bit too tight than too loose. I used a little squirt of Simple Green at the rim/tire contact point to help the tire find its home at the edge of the 23-mm internal rim width.
On The Trail
I really enjoyed the feel of this wheelset on my local trails. It is stout, and really inspires confidence. Truth be told, I believe this is more of a matter of wheel build than anything else. The best rim in the world will suffer with flexible spokes and narrow hub flanges. Likewise, a mediocre rim will shine if built by a master wheel builder with good components. This rim was built with straight 2.0mm spokes and wide hub flanges on Novatec hubs, a recipe for a solid, strong wheel. However, just because the rim was secondary in my mind to what was to thank for a very strong, durable wheel, doesn't mean it is without merit. With high spoke tensions, I've seen many a rim suffer cracks and deformation around the eyelets. None of that occurred with the EVO 2.3 rim.
I rode the wheels with 2 sets of tires, a burly set (Michelin Advanced Rock'R front 2.35 at 30 PSI /Michelin Advanced Grip'R rear 2.35 at 32 PSI), and a lightweight set (Maxxis Minion DHF 2.3 with EXO casing at 33 PSI /Bontrager XR3 2.2 with kinda skinny 635 gram casing at 35 PSI). The wheels were ridden around the Truckee/Tahoe area on trails that ranged from fast and smooth to rocky and technical. There were even some early season bike park laps put in at Northstar's notoriously rocky trails. I would try to rail the downhill portions as much as I could, on any trail ride, and that includes my favorite type of riding, hucking my 175-pounds over rock gaps. I came up short a few times when using the Michelin tires on Northstar's tough terrain, but both the burlier casings and early season loam cushioned many of the impacts to some degree. The Michelin tires have close to DH casings, so it wasn't the ugliest of rock case circumstances, but I did get slowed down a bit. The rims showed no signs of damage and have remained essentially dent and ding free to this day.
Long Term Durability
While I didn't expose any glaring shortcomings while riding the wheelset, I wouldn't say it is perfect. I wish the eyelets were brass, and ideally slightly offset. Aluminum has a penchant for cracking under high loads, and isn't as good as brass for a high friction surface. If a wheel is built to be bulletproof, like this one was, there shouldn't be much tweaking needed, and the friction concern I have with aluminum eyelets shouldn't be too much of a problem. The bigger deal to me is the fact that the eyelets are all straight. I'm sure this keeps some manufacturing costs down, but it puts some extra stress at the spoke/nipple area because every spoke has a slight kink when it goes to either side of the wheel.
High tension applications can cause uneven torque on the rim's eyelets and also on the spoke right at the point where it comes out of the nipple. Using a nipple that has a rounded head (like DT's Prolock Prohead or Sapim's Polyax) that allows for some tilt could ease some pressure off the spokes given the EVO 2.3's straight eyelet drilling. Finally, at this price point, I don't expect a welded seam. I believe the EVO's sleeved rim joint works well, and can eliminate some of the separations I've seen with pinned rims. More overlap is a good thing in my mind, and a great way to make a good seam without breaking the bank.
Things That Could Be Improved
Most of this was covered in the long term durability section, but I'll cover it again briefly. If the spoke eyelets were brass, the very slight addition of weight would be a very worthwhile trade-off in my book. Making the spoke eyelets slightly offset can help ease spoke stress as well. I'd also go for a lower profile rim strip, or at least a smooth one to allow tires to slide into place more easily. That's nitpicking really, and those areas of improvement will almost always add up to more cost, ultimately leaving it up to the rider to decide if other offerings are worth the extra investment.
What's The Bottom Line?
The Alex EVO 2.3 is a good rim at a very good price. I'd call the rim average in general, but because the $44.99 retail price is on the lower end of the spectrum and we didn't have any issues, it gets a slightly above average rating. It was really nice to see a pretty strong, decently light rim check almost all my boxes. They are still on my bike, and I look forward to the rims rolling for a good while longer.
Visit www.alexrims.comfor more details.
About The Reviewer
Steve Wentz has always done things and ridden his own way, and he's really happy about that. He grew up in the middle of Southern California and had to build his own trails to ride when he was too young to drive. To make a long story short, that's what he's still doing today, minus the California part. Now he tries to do that everywhere. He has been to every continent except for Antarctica, and has either raced, built trail or been able to ride all over. He loves seeing the world, for better or worse. He has been through ghettos where children beg for pennies, and that really gives perspective to our world where a pair of soft rubber tires costs $150. That being said, he's skidded on those soft rubber tires on so many race courses and trails he can't even count anymore, and he loves it. He'll always ride if he can, and race if he wants, but now he tries to do it with an eye on the course and also an eye to what is practical, what is worth supporting, and what he thinks can benefit the sport as a whole.