by Kevin Shiramizu
The Loaded Precision X-Lite wheels are something of a rarity these days. They do not employ a fancy lacing pattern, they use a normal number of conventional elbowed spokes, and the rims are made out of 6066 T6 aluminum. While other companies are out there clambering to reinvent the wheel, Loaded has gone the other direction, making refinements to their craft along the way.
X-Lite Wheelset Spec Highlights
- 32 Hole X-LiteTrue Bead Technology (Tubeless Ready)Rims
- 6066 T6 Aluminum Rim Material
- Flash Welded Rim Joint
- 21mm Inner Rim Width
- Shot Peened Finish
- Quad-Butted Seamlessly Drawn Spokes
- X-Lite Aluminum Spoke Nipples
- 15mm or Standard 9mm QR Front Hub Axle Configurations
- 135mm Standard QR or 12x142mm Thru Axle Rear Hub Configurations
- 3 Dual Action Pawls with 24 Engagement Points
- 7 Different Hub and Nipple Colors
- Available in 26, 27.5 and 29-Inch Sizes
- 26-Inch Weight: 3.65-pounds (1656 grams)
- MSRP $769.99
Looking at the specs and the rim profile, above, a few things jump out.First, Loaded uses a reinforced internal beam to reinforce vertical rigidity of the rim. Second is the use of 6066 aluminum combined with a T6 heat treatment process. Most manufacturers use 6061 or 7005 aluminum. Loaded says the use of a different alloy at the T6 temper, in combination with the internal beam, allows them to use thinner rim walls to reduce weight.
Without knowledge of the above, these hand built wheels appear to be no nonsense 32 spoke hubs laced to eyeleted rims using black quad-butted spokes. The rims can be set up semi-tubeless, and like just about anything these days can be run with the messy goo should you don't want to deal with tubes. Mounting a pair of 2.3-inch Specialized tires was painless and easy to do. The fact that these are 32 spoke wheels means that if you break a spoke out on a road trip, you will easily be able to find a suitable replacement at a local shop. A lot of shops don’t and can’t stock all the model and brand specific spokes for the exotic wheels available. Note that Loaded uses aluminum nipples with a 13 Gauge outside diameter and typical 14 Gauge inner diameter. This makes it easy to replace spokes while boosting the strength of the nipple, and the rim eyelets have been crafted accordingly. Out of the box, fit and finish on the wheels was great, with everything evenly tensioned and true/round as a hand built wheel should be. The included X-Lite Race Day titanium skewers were also noticeably light - maybe too light? I hit the trails to find out.
On The Trail
The weight of the wheels was immediately noticeable, and seemed to improve my acceleration. More spokes makes for a stiffer wheel, and the use of 32 of them shows through when slamming into berms and trying to stick high in off camber chatter. They also rolled nice and smooth with the freewheel showing no drag out of the box, which was nice. Having to deal with hub break-in time is always a hassle. The wheels rolled for about 10 hours of trail smashing before needing a quick re-tensioning, which fits right in line with my experience on most quality hand built wheels.
Things That Could Be Be Improved
With just 24 engagement points, the rear hub can be slow to engage, especially when compared to other options on the market. While this doesn’t matter much when the wheel is rolling fast, start/stop climbing and pedaling out of slower corners are times when more engagement points is a welcome treat.
At 21mm, the inner rim width is also a few millimeters narrow for a "trail" wheelset, which means modern high-volume tires behave erratically at times.
Long Term Durability
The included titanium skewers are incredibly lightweight, but that’s one part of my bike that I would rather take on an extra few grams to have a steel, closed cam skewer for safety. The rear skewer came loose every other ride or so, and while it only took a few seconds to pull over and snug up, that’s an issue that can be solved with an extra 30 grams of material.
The wiggles and hops in the rims that I was able to put into the wheels mostly came out with regular truing maintenance, but if you’re hard on your wheels and really get after it in the rough stuff, you may be better off with beefier offerings than the X-lites. Loaded also makes a wider, more heavy duty AmXc wheelset for those types of riders.
What's The Bottom Line?
You already have enough to worry about with pondering what size your wheels are supposed to be, and instead of cramming marketing lingo down your throat, Loaded's no-nonsense approach is refreshing when you could be out there riding mountains instead of sifting the mountains of hype. Overthinking the wheel is an easy thing to do these days, so I commend Loaded for doing something that works and is free of gimmicks. However, for the money, I think there are other very competitive and arguably better wheel options when it comes to hand built 32 hole wheels, especially given the way modern day trail bikes are spec'd and ridden. If the point is to customize and select color options, rim options (UST or width choice) and hub spacing/axle options, there are other routes to investigate within this same price range. That said, the X-Lite wheels are relatively lightweight, come at a reasonable price, and have proven to be reliable on the trail.
For more info on Loaded Precision's lineup, visit www.loadedusa.com.
About The Reviewer
Kevin Shiramizu has been riding mountain bikes for over 15 years. During that time he accumulated multiple state championships in Colorado for XC and trials riding, a junior national champ title in trials, and went to Worlds to get his ass kicked by euros in 2003. His riding favors flat corners and sneaky lines. After a doozy of a head injury, he hung up the downhill bike for good in early 2010 and now foolishly rides a very capable trail bike with less protection and crashes just as hard as ever. He likes rough, technical trails at high elevation, but usually settles for dry, dusty, and blown out. He spent five good years of his youth working in bike shops and pitched in efforts over the years with Decline, LitterMag, Dirt, and VitalMTB. He also helped develop frames and tires during his time as a guy who occasionally gets paid to ride his bike in a fancy way in front of big crowds of people.