Review by Brandon Turman // Action photo by Courtney Steen
Over the years we've seen a recurring theme coming from the SRAM camp - every product is designed with the intent to increase control and confidence on the trail. That goal was present when crafting the new ROAM 60 carbon wheels as they strived to find the right balance between outright strength and vertical compliance. Geared at enduro and trail use, these wheels are claimed to be "durable enough for hours in the saddle, yet light enough for race day." The evolved wheelset sees the jump up to a 30mm internal rim width, uses SRAM's own hub internals for the first time, and retains Read More »
Review by Brandon Turman // Action photo by Courtney Steen
Over the years we've seen a recurring theme coming from the SRAM camp - every product is designed with the intent to increase control and confidence on the trail. That goal was present when crafting the new ROAM 60 carbon wheels as they strived to find the right balance between outright strength and vertical compliance. Geared at enduro and trail use, these wheels are claimed to be "durable enough for hours in the saddle, yet light enough for race day." The evolved wheelset sees the jump up to a 30mm internal rim width, uses SRAM's own hub internals for the first time, and retains several rad features intended to make things easy for riders. How do they hold up to some real-world abuse? Let's dive in...
- Usage: Enduro, trail
- Wheel Size: 27.5-inch (650b) only
- Rim Construction: Carbon, hookless, asymmetrical, tubeless ready
- Inner Width: 30mm
- Driver: SRAM XD, non XD
- Driver Mechanism: Double Time with four pawls
- Bearings: Sealed cartridge
- Disc Brake: 6-bolt compatible
- Front Axle Sizes: QR, 15x100mm, 15x110mm Boost, 20x110mm, includes RockShox Torque Caps
- Rear Axle Sizes: QR, 12x142mm, 12x148mm Boost
- Spokes: 24 steel bladed, black, double-butted 2.0 to 1.8 arranged in a 2-cross pattern, all the same length
- Nipples: Brass, external
- Colors: UD fiber, bake-on labels, matte clear coat, includes seven color decal pack
- Weight: 1,625g claimed, 1,700g measured (3.75-pounds)
- MSRP: $900 USD front, $1,000 rear
The new 27.5 only ROAM 60 wheelset slots into the carbon wheel game at a medium weight and medium price tag, bumping up ~100g overall from the last generation. That added weight is likely due in part to an increase from a narrow 21mm inner width to a trendy 30mm - a value selected to provide the benefits of a wide rim while not going too far for current tire designs. The 505g hookless rim is highlighted by a "a proprietary lay-up design to increase thickness and stiffness at critical stress areas. The tapered, terraced, carbon architecture ensures the greatest weight savings without compromising strength."
Like many rims these days, SRAM makes use of an asymmetrical profile. By moving the spoke holes relative to the rim, some of the spoke tension on the typically high-tension driveside can be shifted towards the non-driveside. More even spoke tension results in a more balanced and more durable wheel.
We also see the move from DT Swiss hub internals to SRAM's own design, known as Double Time. This new system uses two perfectly aligned pairs of pawls and a 26-tooth ratchet ring to create 52 points of contact. Because 26 is not evenly divisible by four, only two pawls engage at a time. This results in a pretty quick 6.9-degree engagement. SRAM touts that by not reducing ratchet tooth size reliability is improved.
Each wheel comes with a variety of tool-free, threadless axle caps to adapt the wheels to popular axle sizes. As a nice bonus, the caps have identical widths so you don't have to determine which side is which. SRAM/RockShox Torque Caps are also included, which increase the contact surface area between the hub and fork dropouts. Combined with a solid axle this is meant to create a stiffer interface, giving you a more responsive front wheel and more control thanks to less bushing bind in your suspension.
In a similar fashion to the axle caps, SRAM has designed the wheels to use a single spoke length on both sides of both wheels, which is a really convenient feature. The straight-pull hub is paired with double-butted bladed spokes. SRAM prefers bladed spokes as they are easy to hold onto, allowing for a high and consistent tension to be applied during wheel assembly.
Pulling these carbon beauties out of the box, you'll find great attention to detail and build quality. Spoke tension is high, logos line up well, there's some nice machine work on the hubs, and the perfectly aligned bladed spokes don't touch for a quieter ride. Hubs were snug, a touch on the loud side, and felt as though they'd spin forever in our hands. Thanks to the generous inclusion of seven colors of rim decals, the subdued dark grey on black appearance can be spiced up to match just about any ride.
Following a quick axle cap swap on the front hub to make use of SRAM's Torque Cap design, tire installation was a breeze thanks to the tubeless ready design. The rims came pre-taped and just require the installation of the included valve stems, which make use of a lower profile o-ring seal. You're on your own for sealant, however. The rims aren't overly deep so you can get away with a short/medium valve stem or replacement tube in a pinch.
Our 27.5-inch test wheels used 12x142mm rear and 15x100mm front axles, and were initially paired with a 2.4-inch Maxxis Highroller II EXO tire up front and 2.3-inch Specialized Butcher GRID in the rear. Both tires inflated with a floor pump and minimal fuss.
On The Trail
Over the past nine months we've ridden the ROAM 60 wheels on a huge variety of terrain - from rocks to roots, desert to slop, these things saw it all. Locations included Moab, Whistler, Squamish, Durango, Sedona, Hurricane, and Saint George with a healthy sampling of rowdy trails in each spot.
What's most noticeable about these wheels is the nicely damped trail feel. Where many carbon wheels are overly stiff and can lead to a jarring ride, the ROAM 60 wheels provide a comfortable ride that won't beat you up. This is thanks to a good amount of vertical compliance built into the carbon rim. You still get great positive feedback from the trail, so the precision benefits of a carbon wheel aren't lost.
What of wheel stiffness? Holding a line is easy to do, there's no sense of vagueness in hard corners, and they respond well to line changes, even with the slightly narrower than Boost axle size. The added benefit of the Torque Cap design is hard to discern without a back-to-back test, but when paired with a RockShox Lyrik you're in for a smooth and controlled ride with very little bushing bind.
Tire grip is excellent thanks to the wide (but not too wide) inner rim width. It's best paired with tires wider than the 2.3-inch Specialized Butcher GRID we initially ran on the rear, however, as narrower tires square off at this width. Once swapped out for a 2.5-inch Maxxis Minion DHF WT up front and 2.4-inch Maxxis Highroller II out back we were in predictable traction heaven with excellent sidewall stability. We experienced no burping on the hookless design while running tire pressures ranging from 24-30psi up front and 28-31psi rear.
That sensation of spinning forever in your hands translates to the trail, and you're met with a great sense of speed and ability to coast long distances with negligible drag. Paired with the decently quick 6.9-degree engagement, acceleration is easy and precise with a solid connection at the pedals.
So far, so good! Then what's the catch? For us, it came down to impact resistance. While the ROAM 60 wheels are light enough to be versatile for a wide range of riders, a little more material weight in the right areas could make all the difference in the world. It could also make them a bit too stiff. Such is the delicate balance.
Join Vital MTB Product Editor, Brandon Turman, for a test lap down the incredibly rough and fun Zen Trail just outside of Saint George, Utah:
Things That Could Be Improved
Impact resistance - During the course of our nine month test we broke three rear rims. The first break occurred just outside of Durango in rough alpine terrain at a decent clip of about 15mph through roots and baby-head rocks. The second happened while landing the final ~15-20 foot tabletop jump on Whistler's "Family Cross" course at the bottom of the hill, and may have been the result of an embedded rock in the landing. The third happened as shown near the 2:30 mark in the video above.
In all cases we felt light on the bike at the time of impact, so the breaks came as a surprise. Breaks occurred on one side of the rim while running tubeless with air pressures in the 30-31psi range on both the 2.4-inch Maxxis Highroller II EXO and 2.3-inch Specialized Butcher GRID. Luckily we were able to install a tube and finish all of the rides without further issues, something that can't be said of every carbon rim failure. The wheels take large rounded impacts well, however, surviving many hard landings on trails like Moab's Amasa Back and Whole Enchilada. Smaller, pointed rocks are the ones that'll get you.
In the midst of all these breaks we posed the following questions to SRAM: What would a paying customer be offered by customer service if they had cracked a rim? What's your replacement program like? Can individual rims be purchased?
The response we received was indicated that SRAM will make a valiant effort to stand behind their products and support customers on a case by case basis. They noted that in some instances the customer would be looking at a full wheel or rim replacement free of charge, with the exception of return shipping fees. They also noted: "Every product failure is treated on a RA basis and will be evaluated by a SRAM technician. The program to do paid repair/replacement varies by local market."
The wheels are backed with a two-year warranty, which states: "This warranty does not apply to damage to the product caused by a crash, impact, abuse of the product, non-compliance with manufacturers specifications of usage or any other circumstances in which the product has been subjected to forces or loads beyond its design."
What does that mean should you break a rim? Hopefully the customer service rep is in good spirits the day you or your shop calls in for help. Provided you were riding within the realm of reasonable mountain biking, explain how you were using the wheel and you should be covered. We're not entirely sure what would happen by the third rim break, however.
Leaking sealant on nipples - The factory tape job provided a pretty good seal with no pressure loss, though some tubeless sealant leaked through the spoke holes during the initial few rides. This has been known to lead to seized aluminum nipples. SRAM made a running change months ago to brass nipples, however, so the issue is moot.
Bladed spokes rotate quickly - Due to the compliance in the wheel, spokes are constantly tensioning and de-tensioning as the rim flexes ever so slightly. Following just one ride we noted nearly 75-degree rotation of some spokes on the rear wheel, although it's a quick fix with a spoke wrench.
Long Term Durability
Long term durability has been tough to evaluate due to the recurrence of a broken rear rim every four to six rides. That said, the front wheel has held up without issue for nine months. Spoke tension on that wheel is still excellent, never requiring additional tension. The nipples still turn, but they require you to hold the spoke steady while doing so. We experienced no loosening of the hubs or change in freehub sound or feel.
Maintenance wise, the straight-pull design makes it easy to replace a spoke if needed, especially since SRAM made all the spokes the same length. The hubs are sealed well in key locations, and the sealed cartridge bearings are relatively easy to replace when the time comes.
What's The Bottom Line?
SRAM's ROAM 60 carbon wheels have all the hallmarks of a great wheelset, including a fast, controlled feel on the trail, competitive weight, great engagement, good lateral stiffness, simple tubeless setup, and easy customization at a reasonable price point. However, if you're a hard charger, find yourself denting or breaking rims often, or can't stand the thought of being sidelined while SRAM's customer service helps you replace a rim, there are better options to be had. Our repeat experience with broken rims does not instill the confidence needed to attack rough descents or withstand long adventures, though the ability to ride out when a crack occurs is commendable. In our experience these wheels are great until they break, and could be just one more revision away from a truly awesome wheelset.
Visit www.sram.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
Brandon Turman - Age: 30 // Years Riding MTB: 16 // Height: 5'10" (1.78m) // Weight: 175-pounds (79.4kg)
"I like to have fun, pop off the bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when I feel in tune with a bike, and really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill." Formerly a Mechanical Engineer and Pro downhill racer, Brandon brings a unique perspective to the testing game as Vital MTB's resident product guy. He has on-trail familiarity with nearly every new innovation in our sport from the past several years and a really good feel for what’s what.