by Kevin Shiramizu
Kore is making a push to get their name back on bikes with decent parts for decent prices and that effort is appreciated in this time of astronomical price tags. After riding their bars and stem last year, I was glad to see them coming out with more offerings. There’s a lot more to a wheelset than a stem so I hoped they had done their homework.
The wheelset feels light enough out of the box. They don’t float out of your hands but they aren’t hefty feeling either. The rims were true and round with even spoke tension all around so whoever is hand building these wheels is doing their job. After wailing on the wheels to pre-stress the spokes and a quick re-true, they were ready to get mounted up. Cassette and rotors went on no problem. Tires were a pickle. When they claim the wheels are tubeless ready, what I think they mean is, “the wheels can be made tubeless if you have rim tape and sealant and patience, just like every other wheel on the market now.” So the included Kore rims strips are basically useless if you want to run these tubeless. After a remarkably frustrating hour trying to get the front to seat up and a confusingly smooth 5 minutes getting the rear to seat, I have concluded that tubeless set ups haven’t changed much in recent years- they are a crap shoot of getting a rim that is either no problem or the biggest headache of your week. After some deep breathing, the now tubeless and goo covered wheels were ready to ride.
On The Trail
The good old-fashioned 32 spoke wheels ride stiff and responsive for their weight. Having recently jumped the shark full time into the medium wagon wheels, I can say that the conventional build of 32 black spokes looks good to me and keeps the rims tracking right compared to perhaps a fancier looking wheel that is trying too hard with fewer spokes. The front hub is a bike part you only think about when it’s going horribly wrong so to have this one spin smooth and with no trouble was what I expected. The rear hub was initially quiet and a bit mushy in the engagement but after a few rides, it came to life. The engagement is quicker than most in this price range and makes for stomping on the gas out of corners or up techy sections of climbs an easier task. After the initial break in period, the hub felt a bit more solid to stomp into and the ratcheting got a bit louder. Not obnoxiously loud, just enough to make itself known. Even with the early vagueness, I have no skips or pops to report.
Things That Could Be Improved
The graphics on the hubs are not of the laser etched fancy pants variety, which is fine, but they come across as cheaper looking than they perform. The graphics on the rims have been less durable but that’s actually been a plus because I wasn’t digging them much to begin with. Whole sections of the rim stickers have come off while on road trips mounted to bike racks or just being blasted off by little gnomes while I sleep. Can’t really tell because the black paint underneath seems to be holding up fine. I’ll be looking forward to the time when the rims shed their skin and are plain black. No clue why that one rim was such a punk to mount up tubeless the first time but it hasn’t given me the same grief since then with both the same tire and other brands.
Long Term Durability
I’ll be happy to find spare spokes a lot easier should any of these ever break and that alone is a nice reason to stick with basic 32 spoke designs for wheels to me. I doubt the front hub will ever have any issues. The rear has held up well so far and I have no reason to suspect that it will develop any issues. The hubs are still spinning smooth but then again, I haven’t been through a lot of mud so I can’t comment on bearing life. I have put a couple wobbles and minor dents in the rims but that’s to be expected when you ride modern trail bikes as hard as you can. In my experience, rims either explode in the first hundred miles or they last you for years. These have past the first test, so they may not be as pretty as when they were brand new, but they should have plenty of smashing left in them.
What's The Bottom Line?
Kore made a workhorse wheelset at a decent price with nothing fancy in terms of trying to reinvent the wheel. I’d rather a company do something known and do it well, and that’s just what Kore have done here. The rear hub riding experience matches others coming in at a higher cost and if the rims hold up, then this wheelset is a great solution for budget conscious people who want something that will just do the job for under a grand. Function over fashion is appreciated by a lot of folks who don’t have several thousand dollars to blast on what is for many of us, a disposable part of the bike. These wheels won’t blow you away but they won’t let you down. The middle of the road is not a bad place to be if you’re doing it right.