We are big fans of the world in which we ride our mountain bikes, and getting outside to enjoy nature on two wheels will always be a privilege. As we continue to exist in an overly consumptive society, an increasing number of cycling brands are redefining the way products are manufactured through the lens of environmental responsibility. FORGE+BOND is a brand-new company taking such an approach to manufacturing carbon fiber wheels and accessories. By utilizing thermoplastic carbon fiber, they've found a way to drastically reduce their waste and impact compared to typical carbon processes while achieving significant performance benefits.
- Fusion Fiber thermoplastic carbon fiber
- Intended for enduro and aggressive trail riding
- 29-inch only // complete wheelset only
- Hookless/tubeless rim
- 28 and 32-hole options
- 30mm inner rim width
- 38mm outer rim width
- 22mm rim depth
- Sapim D-Lite spokes
- Includes rim tape and tubeless valve stem
- Industry Nine Hydra hubs
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
- Weight (32 spoke, verified): 1024g rear // 946g front // 1970g wheelset
- MSRP: $2,599 USD
FORGE+BOND enters the market with an enduro and gravel wheelset manufactured by CSS Composites using their proprietary FusionFiber material. If CSS Composites sounds familiar, it's because they make products for brands such as Evil, Chris King, and Revel using FusionFiber. Like typical carbon manufacturers operating overseas, any brand can go to CSS Composites, open a mold, and choose how they want to leverage FusionFiber to create a product. The difference with FORGE+BOND is that they are based out of the CSS Composites facility in Gunnison, Utah, and are only focused on pushing the boundaries of thermoplastic carbon in bicycle wheels and components. They know FusionFiber better than anyone, and their goal is to continue pushing the limits of the technology to drive innovation that will be incorporated into future FORGE+BOND products and shared with partner brands.
So what is FusionFiber? It's a thermoplastic carbon fiber material made from long-chain nylon polymers. FusionFiber uses the same carbon fibers found in typical carbon production, but the glue that holds everything together is a high-grade nylon instead of an epoxy. This difference drastically changes the production process, recyclability, environmental impact, and performance characteristics of FusionFiber wheels.
Unlike pre-preg carbon fiber, FusionFiber does not need to be stored in freezers before use, lowering production emissions. Cutting, layup, and shaping are fully automated, reducing waste, the potential for human error, and production time. Any excess material created is fully recyclable due to the lack of epoxies and can be chopped and compressed into other products, such as tire levers.
Once the material has been methodically laid up, heat and pressure bond the carbon and nylon before being forged into half a rim. Two halves are then pressed together before a spoke bed is set in, again using heat and pressure. Spoke hole drilling and wheel lacing are also automated, and rims are powder coated instead of painted to reduce VOC emissions. In total, building a wheel takes around 10 minutes, and rims require no post-production sanding or deburring, eliminating the production of harmful carbon dust. As the cherry on top, by manufacturing and shipping wheels from Utah and using Industry Nine hubs made in North Carolina, the carbon footprint of the FORGE+BOND wheels is reduced by around 30% compared to carbon wheels produced outside of the US (when shipping to the US).
On top of being better for the environment, FusionFiber does offer a distinct performance difference compared to traditionally made carbon. The main difference is that epoxy-cured carbon is naturally stiffer and more brittle, and building in compliance or comfort usually comes at the cost of compromised durability. FusionFiber's nylon matrix offers more give and flex at the microscopic level while remaining incredibly durable. This best-of-both-worlds phenomenon gives FORGE+BOND the ability to build wheels with material in key areas for higher impact resistance and lateral support while maintaining excellent vibration damping. You can see this concept in action via the wave-like design of the rim that places extra material around the spoke to increase strength while reducing the overall weight. FORGE+BOND wheels are tested to withstand a minimum of 275% of the UCI standard for impact resistance, as well as a minimum of 950 lbs of spoke pull force.
FORGE+BOND is launching with the 30 EM 29" enduro wheelset and the 35 GR 700c gravel wheelset. Both are specced with Industry Nine hubs and retail for $2,599 USD. Before you rip off the scroller on your mouse heading down to the comments to complain about the price, the 30 EM is on-par with other high-end carbon wheels. You can purchase carbon wheels for half the price, but you won't be riding sustainable, USA-made wheels that offer noticeable performance benefits (more on that below).
We tested the 32-spoke build of the 30 EM 29" wheels, which for the time being, are only available as a complete 29" wheelset in the US and Canada. Direct-to-consumer international shipping is in the works, as well as adding 27.5" wheels. Rim-only options will only be made available in the future to retailers for custom builds. Our test wheels with 6-bolt Industry Nine Hydra boost hubs and an XD driver weighed 1970g, which is on par with many carbon enduro wheels. For comparison: ENVE M7 - 1956g; Reserve 30|HD - 1829g; DT Swiss EXC1200 Spline - 1670g; Stan's Flow CB7 - 1751g.
Like most carbon wheels nowadays, FORGE+BOND offers a lifetime warranty that covers manufacturer defects and ride-related breakage within the intended use of the wheels. Where the warranty program differs is that riders will have to send back warranty wheels (only having to pay the cost of shipping) so the FusionFiber can be reclaimed and recycled to make other products. Just another way FORGE+BOND hopes that by pioneering processes to create products that have a forever lifecycle, other industries and brands will begin to take similar actions.
Setting up the 30 EM wheels was as painless as you'd hope setting up all tubeless carbon wheels with thick casing tires could be. No tire levers were needed to slip beads over the rim lip, and both tires inflated with a standard floor pump. We tested the wheels with a Maxxis Minion DHR II DH casing up front inflated to 24psi and a Maxxis Dissector DoubleDown casing in the rear at 27psi. We didn't run any tire inserts, and FORGE+BOND says riders don't need to run inserts with their wheels, but the provided valves are insert-compatible.
On The Trail
The main benefit FusionFiber claims to provide on trail is its ability to dampen vibrations while remaining stiff and supportive in high-energy situations. A bold promise for a carbon wheel, we held this information from our tester to not taint their feedback. After a few weeks of riding throughout Southern California on dry, loose, rocky, and rough terrain, we were shocked to hear that the 30 EM wheels delivered a unique, best-of-both-worlds ride quality.
The wheels never felt too stiff or soft. Instead, they offered extra comfort and damping over chattery sections while remaining responsive and stiff through big hits and compressions. We enjoyed how they provided that snappy, instant feel we love about carbon wheels, allowing us to maneuver and pump our bike to generate speed out of rolling terrain. And the more energy we pushed into the wheels, the more they came alive. However, this stiff and active feel never came at the cost of compliance or control in tricky, technical descents.
Our favorite characteristic of the 30 EM wheels was how connected we felt with the ground, allowing us to ride more aggressively. We chalk this up to the rims' damping abilities which increased control, making it easy to hold a line through rock gardens, awkward corners, or loose sections. It was like the wheels wanted to remain glued to the ground until we wanted to move our bike around, at which point the wheels would spring to life with instant pushback and support. Overall, the FORGE+BOND 30 EM wheels rode as a complete system that responded to our input and managed trail conditions with a balanced finesse that we haven't experienced with many other wheels.
Our tester, Mikey Egan, is known for annihilating almost any wheel he rides but never experienced any issues with the 30 EM wheels. They are still rolling true, and spoke tension has remained consistent after numerous body-jolting impacts. The wheels might surpass the UCI impact standard, but any carbon wheel that can withstand the abuse of our hard-charging super-grom is undeniably durable.
FORGE+BOND obviously builds its wheels to be as strong as possible, but they know mountain bikers will find a way to break anything. If a rider does crack a FusionFiber wheel, they say the failure will be less catastrophic than with an epoxy-based wheel due to the lack of porosity in the rim from the forge and bond process. The prospect of shattering a carbon wheel into pieces at speed is frightening, so only having to deal with a crack or loss of pressure followed by a warranty claim definitely calms the nerves.
What's The Bottom Line?
FORGE+BOND has stepped into the carbon game with a USA-made enduro wheelset that offers noticeable performance benefits paired with a waste-nothing manufacturing process. They are expensive, but aside from the environmental sustainability benefit they provide, they are one of the few wheels (carbon or alloy) we've ridden that truly offers adequate damping and compliance without sacrificing stiffness or durability.
For more information, please visit forgeandbond.com
About The Tester
Obsessed with anything that has wheels, Mikey was born and raised in SoCal and can be found either at the beach or on top of a mountain. As a young kid, he rode BMX bikes as much as possible. Now as a bigger kid, he's grown fond of suffering on his road bike and getting sketchy with friends on his trail bike. A shop grom that loves to ask questions, he's never not tinkering with his bike setup seeking perfection.