Review by Ian Collins // Photos by Ian Collins and Fred Robinson
When it comes to wheels on my downhill bike, I'd have to say I'm a bit of a creature of habit. For the last decade or so I haven't really strayed from my tried and true Hadley hub/Mavic 721 rim combo. Whether I ran them tubed or ghetto tubeless they've treated me well and as long as I don't put off the occasional hub rebuild or truing I usually get a few years out of them. I like utilitarian things. But when I got a chance to test out the new Canfield DH wheelset I was pretty excited just to try something new on my bike. At only $550 and 2100 grams they land at around the same weight of my old wheels, but at half the price. Curious to see what that would translate to in terms of real-life performance, I was eager to get these out on the trails.
Canfield Brothers DH Wheelset Highlights
- 150x12mm rear hub/20mm front hub
- High quality, low maintenance hubs with sealed cartridge bearings
- Rear hub features a durable 3 pawl design
- Dynamal alloy 26″ DH rims
- 30mm outer/25mm inner width rims
- Schrader/American valve drilling
- Front – 930 grams
- Rear – 1170 grams
- Set – 2100 grams
- 9t Microdrive option available
- MSRP: $450 USD
When I first pulled the wheelset out of the box I was impressed by how nice the hubs looked. They're nicely finished, machined to save weight, and feature smooth bearings and relatively fast engagement. The gold end caps are certainly a nice touch too. Note that this wheelset can be purchased with a Canfield 9t microdrive hub as well, which can allow you to run a smaller chain ring and/or increase the range of your cassette. To the best of our knowledge this is the only commercially available 9t option on the market today (note that the 9t option requires the use of a Shimano Capreo 9-speed cassette, or Canfield's own 9t 10-speed Conversion Cogs). Additionally, if you like what you see here but need other rim sizes or hub options, the same technology is also available throughout the whole range of wheelsets on offer from the bros.
The rims are made from Dynamal alloy. This rare alloy blend is normally found in aeronautic applications, as it can be used to make stronger and lighter components without the usual consequence of reduced fatigue life and resistance to permanent deformation (also known as yield strength). It is not the first time we've seen it used in bicycle rims, and previous experience shows that the material really does perform as advertised. The shot-peened finish employed by Canfield Brothers on the rims is refreshing and also provides additional surface toughness.
To get a competitive complete wheelset down to such a low price there are a few things that have to be sacrificed. The rims are pinned together but not welded and machined down. The latter is a process that is costly but which can toughen up a rim. They also don't have eyelets where the nipples drop into the rims, another small feature that can increase durability. I am not implying that rims without eyelets can't hold up, but more finely finished rims are usually outfitted with eyelets. It is certainly not a deal-breaker but should be pointed out.
I noticed the width and profile of the rim immediately. At 30mm wide I think they're just right. I've never been a fan of super wide rims, but I also am slightly irked by the fact that narrower rims tend to give DH tires a weird profile, and allow them to squirm and roll off a bit easier.
As a final observation before hitting the trails, double butted spokes and tall brass nipples were a solid choice to round out a DH wheelset with in my opinion. The wheels I've built in the past with straight gauge spokes didn't seem any stronger, but were heavier, and the wheels I've built with alloy nipples as opposed to brass just didn't hold up. With all that said, time to go riding.
On The Trail
My time with these wheels on the trail leaves me without anything out of the ordinary or for that matter unexpected to report. The Canfield DH wheels just straight up did their job at a great price and a competitive weight. I ran them ghetto tubeless with Maxxis Minions and was loving them. I did like the feel of my tires on these more than on my old rims, and the rim itself was tough and resistant to denting.
After a handful of rides I re-tensioned the spokes as one would expect, and I found the wheels were still true and every bit as solid as on day one.
To complete my ride impressions, the engagement offered by the rear hub was fast enough, but not mind blowing. Overall, these wheels had a nice solid feel to them and I never felt like they held me back in any way shape or form.
Things That Could Be Improved
While I really didn't find any flaws in the performance of these wheels and I feel like they carry out their intended function well, I have to be the nit-picking perfectionist for a bit and mention one small thing. The rims are drilled for schraeder valves. While this isn't a huge deal, nowadays many people like to use a super light rim tape and a set of presta valves to set their wheels up tubeless. Once a rim is drilled for schraeder this is no longer an option. I personally prefer the rubber to rubber seal and snugger interface that ghetto tubeless provides when utilizing a cut tube for a rim strip. However, some of the gram counting riders out there may value saving a nominal amount of weight more than decreasing the risk of burping their tires.
Long Term Durability
I haven't had a substantial amount of time on these wheels yet, so time will tell how the hubs hold up. So far, so good. As for the rims, they seem to be very tough. I had a couple of close encounters which resulted in loud rock to metal rim impact and they held their own just fine. I didn't have any huge crashes, but I did have enough minor get-offs and failed berm bashings that it would have been quite evident if these weren't in it for the long haul. On the contrary, they have held up great so far.
What's The Bottom Line?
If you're looking for a no-frills downhill wheelset for your current rig or you're building a new one and want to save a few bucks without cutting corners, these have your name on them. The rims are damn tough, the hubs are smooth with nice engagement, and it is an altogether solid wheelset which comes in at a competitive weight. In a word, simply utilitarian - just the way I like it.
For more details, visit canfieldbrothers.com.
About The Reviewer
Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.