by Lee Trumpore
Due to the added benefits of reduced rotational weight, wheel selection has always been given special attention by riders looking to lighten or liven up their ride. With the increasing popularity of light, aggressive, and ~160mm travel all-mountain frames, the demand for equally capable parts often finds riders in a bind trying to balance cost, weight, and durability. These bikes are capable of keeping pace with DH bikes from not so long ago, yet they are light enough to be comfortably ridden up thousands of vertical feet. This has ushered in a new generation of wheels light enough for climbing, but strong enough to take repeated downhill abuse. This luxury comes with a hefty cost from many brands, so it is was exciting to hear that Spank Industries has been developing a 1650g complete wheelset aimed at the all-mountain and enduro racing crowd for just $600.
For the past few months they have been mounted to my Banshee Rune v2 and put through their paces in all types of riding in the mountains of Taipei to see if they are truly up for the task.
Spank Oozy 26AL EVO Highlights
- Hand laced and hand built
- 420g Spank Oozy EVOAL 26 rim - 26mm OD, 21mm ID, 19mm height
- Dynamal alloy construction with Spanks patented OohBah profile
- Triple butted, straight pull Sandvik spokes (2.0/1.8/2.0) *tested with 2.0/1.6/2.0
- 1 spoke length used throughout the complete wheelset
- Tubeless compatible
- Beadnip design to help prevent ‘burping’ and pinch-flatting
- Quad bearing rear hub with 27 point, 3 pawl engagement available in 135/142/150mm spacing
- Front available in 15mm (stock) an 20mm (end caps sold separately)
- Powder coat black and polished silver colors
- Available in 28 hole 3-cross lacing in 26”, 650b, and 29” diameter
- 1650g complete (26”)
- $600 MSRP
Spank uses a unique Dynamal alloy that is claimed to be 20% stronger than 6061 aluminum to build their Oozy rims, while their patented OohBah profile is designed to add increased structural strength and stiffness while allowing for much thinner walls. While the inner channel of most rims curves down to match to general outer profile of the rim, the OohBah’s curves up. The corrugated profile also adds additional rigidity much the same way a corrugated sheet metal roof can be walked across while flat sheet metal can be bent by hand. Proprietary forging and drilling profiles allow the rim to be constructed without point-loading the spoke nipples and thus eliminating the need for heavier eyelets. Combined with straight-pull stainless steel spokes, this equation should add up to a light, stiff, strong and durable wheel.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Spank factory to see how their wheels are made. This tour will provide some additional insight into what makes them roll:
On The Trail
I tend to judge wheel performance based more on what they don’t do, because other than carbon rims that have distinct ride characteristics, most wheels I’ve ridden all more or less function the same. With few complex moving parts, most riders make their choice based on technical specs and hope that the wheel does its job as trouble free and as long as possible. Sticking with that philosophy, I went with a set-it-and-forget-it approach: no tensioning, no truing, no special attention other than standard washing, and no lubrication other than the through-axle.
I mounted both cross-country tires and dual ply 2.35" wide Schwable Muddy Mary tires (more like a 2.7" on the Maxxis Minion scale) to confirm their fit and profile. However, actual riding was done entirely with a standard single-ply Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5" front and 2.35" rear combo with thin tubes. Pressures were in the 25 to 32 psi range. Fully suited up, I probably weigh in the neighborhood of 165+ pounds. While not the heaviest rider in the world, as a once-upon-a-time Pro downhill racer and occasional World Cup pack filler I can still put a proper beating on a set of wheels.
I used these wheels for everything from downhill racing on my all-mountain bike, standard cross-country rides, a nine mile climb to the top of Neng Gao Shan, and repeated local trail riding and shuttle runs on the steep and rocky trails around Taipei. In the course of testing I blew one rear shock and chewed through a set or rear brake pads in the belt-sander that is Taipei mud, but the wheels remained 100% trouble free. While I never specifically tested flat resistance, I experienced exactly one flat tire while jumping onto a sharp rock slab at full tilt. The single ply tires and low pressure surely deserve some of the blame for that one.After two months the hubs are as smooth and quiet as new, spokes are still evenly tensioned, there are no dents or cracks in the rims, the front wheel is arrow straight, and as the video clip below shows, the rear is just a few millimeters off (the result of a two hour shuttle run over the weekend).
Things That Could Be Improved
The BeadNip certainly does as it is intended and locks the bead solidly into the sidewall. While I don’t run tubeless, I can see this being a huge positive for anyone who has had trouble with burping in the past. The negative is that you most definitely need to use tires levers to get tires on and off. Though I was able to remount new tires a second time without the lever, I wasn’t able to get them off without one. Even after completely unseating one bead and removing the tube, I often needed to use the tire lever to get the second bead off the rim as well. As someone who has long been able to quickly mount/dismount tires easily with my fingers, this was annoying, and something to keep in mind for the aspiring enduro racer if you are one to switch treads often during an event. Not a deal breaker by any means, but certainly something to keep in mind. Spank is also aware of this being a potential issue and is working to find a more optimized balance of tire security and ease of mounting.
What's The Bottom Line?
Simply put, these wheels were everything they appeared to be on paper. Out of the box they were certainly light and extremely stiff, despite my pre-production wheels running thinner 2.0/1.6/2.0 spokes. On the trail they did nothing to draw attention to themselves by way of flex, loss of spoke tension, or unusual pinch flatting. I’d recommend them highly to anyone looking for a light, stiff, and durable all-mountain or enduro racing wheelset at a reasonable price. At $600, these wheels are a steal considering the cost of their same weight peers. Carbon might drop another 200 grams, but it'll cost you another $1000. That's a lot of Taiwan beer. They won’t be coming off my bike any time soon.
For more details, check out www.Spank-Ind.com.