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Aluminum Versus Carbon MTB Wheels

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11/12/2014 8:26 AM

Dirt Magazine had an interesting chat with Rob 'Box' Cooksley about the merits of aluminum and carbon rims. It's definitely worth a watch if you're on the fence about the upgrade.



Catch the full article here. What do you run and why?

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11/12/2014 10:30 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/12/2014 10:30 AM

I find this very interesting.

I recently purchased a set of the Chinese carbon wheels, as a replacement from stans rims, and i have found them to be pretty rock solid. They have come a long way from their beginnings, and i think the quality gap is almost non existent now. They also offer competitive warranties as well, without having to pay 250 dollars for the warranty, like Reynolds' RAP program.

Also, you can message major makers, like light-bicycle, and get a response within a couple of hours... pretty good for being on the other side of the world.

Working in a shop, Ive seen a lot of destroyed wheels, carbon and not. The name brand stuff breaks too *cough, enve, cough*, dont let anybody say otherwise. We've seen the best brands de laminate, crack, or have spokes pulled through.

I also found it amusing that the guru happens to be wearing a shop t shirt with a big ol' enve logo on it.




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11/12/2014 12:21 PM

ENVE breaks BUT.........they have great warranty Customer service. My ENVE AM rims broke twice....
When paying 3000-4000 dollars for a wheel set, take into account the following.

ENVE
Quality of product ----- 12.5%
Customer service ------ 87.5%

Enough said......

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11/12/2014 2:58 PM

How did that work for Avid and their brakes? Here is a free replacement set....here is another free replacement set......oh...here is another free replacement set. Houston we have a problem. meh....not so good.

The Enve value proposition is smoked. Fuggedabowdit. They make nice products but everyone else has nearly caught up quality wise and at a fraction of the price. There are too many legit options at 1/2 the price OR LESS. Enve also have had way to many reviews with rims cracking or other problems to justify the price differece.

Yea, warranty is nice, but are you paying for the rim rebuild? Do you have an extra set of wheels so that you can ride while your warranty wheel is getting shipped back and forth across the county via ground shipping? Don't you have a race this weekend?

The failure mode of carbon rims in general is less than ideal. Crack a carbon rim vs dent an alloy one....

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11/12/2014 4:10 PM

It's only fair to point out that light-bicycle does have a warranty system, and are very active with messages. I inquired about having some custom work done, and i was getting emails back within the hour. They also speak fluent English, and were more polite than most North American companies i deal with on a regular basis.

Ever tried to get anything warrantied from Chris King? Good luck.



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11/13/2014 1:47 AM

jazzdhiman wrote:

ENVE breaks BUT.........they have great warranty Customer service. My ENVE AM rims broke twice....
When paying 3000-4000 ...more

You're like an Apple fan, but for MTB stuff

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11/13/2014 8:19 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/13/2014 8:21 AM

jazzdhiman wrote:

ENVE breaks BUT.........they have great warranty Customer service. My ENVE AM rims broke twice....
When paying 3000-4000 ...more

Great customer service only goes so far. What's the price of all the down time waiting for a new rim? Like DubC said.

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11/13/2014 9:36 AM

EXACTLY my POINT Big Bird. My ENVE wheelset broke on Comfortably Numb, I had to hike out 6km into the trail. Then it took 2 weeks to get my rims back. Good Customer Service has no value in cases like this.....

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11/13/2014 7:17 PM

jazzdhiman wrote:

EXACTLY my POINT Big Bird. My ENVE wheelset broke on Comfortably Numb, I had to hike out 6km into the trail. Then it took 2 ...more

Please excuse me Jazzdhiman. I overlooked the obvious. Continue… …OK I will. I know mechanics at Santa Cruz and I've witnessed it in the pits. Enve wheels kind of break a lot. So why should the consumer pay so damn much for the R & D that these companies are getting? I'll just stick with some nice comefy alloy rims on my next few bikes, until the price of carbon rims comes down, or the quality makes a substantial improvement.

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11/14/2014 9:01 AM

One thing i noticed, is that many new carbon rim companies are getting wider, and wider (ibis 41mm? please vital, get a review ASAP!), while more established players are sticking to narrower widths with their alu rims and carbon rims.

I personally prefer the wide rims, it feels like i have more grip, especially when cornering. Does this make me faster? I dunno. It would be interesting to see if somebody like mavic, or shimano will start to develop wide rims in alu (or carbon). My thought is the mavic enduro wheels, which have numbers and features that look like an antiquated wheelset, yet for some reason have a pretty big presence. am i missing something?

I wonder if there is a reason they are holding back... it kind of reminds me of bars... the standard was narrow, and alu...now they are beastly in width, and available in carbon.

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11/15/2014 2:51 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/17/2014 1:27 AM

CuddlyToast wrote:

One thing i noticed, is that many new carbon rim companies are getting wider, and wider (ibis 41mm? please vital, get a review ...more

We actually just had our first chance to ride the Ibis/Derby wheels on Friday. They're interesting. It rained the day before so traction was pretty awesome to begin with, save a few slippery corners. There aren't many rocks where we rode, but lots of roots and off camber bits. 3,900ish feet of climbing and descending in Santa Cruz, CA.

At 35mm internal they're the widest we've tried. Specialized comes in at 30mm. The guys at Ibis encouraged us to drop the pressures to 20psi up front and 22 out back, but if conditions were faster/harder packed I think I'd like to stay in the 24-26 range to prevent any squirming. It was pretty wild climbing up the fireroad and seeing all the tires looking so low.

The combined effect of lower pressure and a wider rim made the bike feel calmer and quieter through the rough - almost like how going from a stiff carbon wheelset to an aluminum one feels. Anne Caro mentioned to us that after trying them she wouldn't ride such a wide rim in the back because she prefers the "spring" and accurate feel of a narrower rim. Up front she was all about it.

Tire choice gets interesting since they square off all but the widest of tires. A pair of 2.3 Minion DHF tires seemed to lose their bite when really leaning it over on flat or slightly banked turns, but traction was improved in all other scenarios. Would love to do some back to back testing with these and the narrower alternative in the future.

I believe American Classic is making wide aluminum wheels. Specialized is offering them as well.

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11/15/2014 8:31 PM

That makes sense.

I have noticed what you're talking about with squaring off the edges, but I think brand makes a difference too. I find that a high volume schwalbe tire, works much better than a equivalent width maxxis tire, which always seem narrower.

I ride in a lot of root/hard pack, so something like a rocket Ron is pretty dreamy with the extra width. It doesn't have massive side knobs, which might be why. I usually have to put man tires on if I make the trip out to the Rockies though.

One benifet I have found with carbon hoops, are that the rims work better for lots of tubeless swaps. If an alu rim gets a solid love tap, it's tubes for the rest of its career, which is lame.

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