Alex Rims Recon 3.0 Carbon Wheelset

Vital Rating: (Mediocre)
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Tested: Alex Rims Recon 3.0 Carbon Wheelset

We give these carbon hoops the proper rundown and test the meaning of value in a carbon wheelset.

Rating: Vital Review
Tested: Alex Rims Recon 3.0 Carbon Wheelset

Alex Rims might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think about flashy wheels, but they have been making rims in Taiwan since 1992 and have a huge offering from entry-level wheels to top carbon hoops. Alex has built a reputation for a great value. More often found OEM on complete bikes, Alex wheels are also used by privateer racers who need a dependable wheelset that doesn’t break the bank. We couldn’t wait to see if their new Recon 3.0 lived up to their reputation.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Light
  • Tool-free hub disassembly
  • Too stiff
  • Top layer prone to chipping
  • Average freewheel engagement
  • Not strong enough for aggressive riding

Highlights

  • Available in 27.5-inch (tested) and 29-inch
  • Carbon asymmetric rims with internal 30mm width and hookless bead
  • 28 bladed straight-pull spokes per wheel, 3 cross lacing, alloy nipples
  • Bear Pawls hubs, 15x110mm and 12x148mm
  • 6-bolt rotor mounting
  • XD or HG freewheel
  • Tubeless-ready
  • Weight: 27.5-inch - 1,735g (verified), 29-inch - 1,706g (claimed)
  • Two-year warranty
  • MSRP: $1,450 USD

Initial Impressions

We were pretty impressed with the wheels when we unboxed them. Their stealth, matte finish makes them hard to photograph, but they look deadly in the flesh. We received very little info about the technologies used, no funky acronyms, we couldn’t spot any ground-breaking marketing features and honestly, we were relieved. The well-finished wheels would just have to speak for themselves.

The hubs are made by Alex under the Bear Pawls name. They utilize a proven, four-pawl arrangement with 36 points of engagement in the freewheel. An alloy axle with four sealed bearings are found in the rear hub while the front uses two sealed bearings.

The rims have a nice, round profile and at 24mm tall, they don’t look too massive despite the telltale carbon rim profile. Like most recent carbon rims, they are hookless and asymmetrical to allow a more balanced spoke tension on both sides of the wheel, as well as a stronger build. The asymmetric design isn't something you'll notice without first having a good look at the rim.

Weighing in at 1,735g (without valves or rim tape), they are slightly lighter than a lot of the more expensive options currently on the market.

On The Trail

Alex Rims described these wheels as fit for “downhill, enduro, and trail conditions,” so we sent them over to Morzine, France, bolted them to a Santa Cruz Nomad and gave them the proper all-over-the big-mountain treatment. Long rolling climbs, steep technical uphills and downhills, bike park laps, rough alpine descents, root-infested secret tracks; the Recon wheels saw it all. To top it off, they received a thorough jet wash after every ride, tough love. We also alternated riding the Recon 3.0 and an alloy wheelset of similar size/weight to make sure we weren’t getting too used to their riding characteristics. After a month of this daily treatment, here is what we found.

Tire installation was fairly easy, and our 2.5-inch Wide Trail Maxxis Minions had a very good profile once sealed on the rims. We ran 23-psi front and 26-psi back, without any tire insert and didn’t have any issues with flat tires despite riding some questionable lines and landings.

Immediately, we noticed the stiffness of the wheels. They accelerated very easily when pumping or pedaling, overcoming the latent engagement and evident drag in the freehub. Pumping around a berm with the Recons produced a quick snap of nitro-like acceleration. The stiff construction resulted in precise steering - great when you need to thread the needle between sketchy rocks.

The downside to that stiffness is a ride that is not forgiving. The Recons require more effort to hold a line when riding in the rough. It was especially noticeable when switching between the Recon and our alloy wheels. With the latter, you could aim at a rooted, off-camber line without a second thought, riding the same line with the Recon 3.0 had the bike skipping around a lot more.

When riding the park, the wheels did a great job as long as we didn’t push them too hard through the corners. When we started playing with inside lines in the berms, we started having issues at the back. A couple of spokes snapped near the nipples, some more came loose and quite a few nipples broke. This led us to think that the carbon rim/flat-bladed spoke combo is just too laterally stiff for that kind of game.

Things That Could Be Improved

Although the wheels are supposed to be tubeless ready, our pair was only provided with a traditional rim tape and no valves. Because the internal rim finish isn't as nice as the outside (it’s essentially raw carbon), we had a proper struggle to make our good old Gorilla tape stick to it. The raw carbon seems greasy and dusty, and even after trying to clean it and use a low heat gun to make the tape stick, we never managed to make the wheels perfectly airtight. The tires would seal easily and hold the pressure enough for long day rides, but sealant would carry on leaking through the spoke holes.

Sealant seepage

The finish of the rim looks great, but might also be too brittle. It had significant chips on a few spots after being hit by rocks. As mentioned earlier, the flat-bladed, straight-pull spokes might be a bit too stiff for this rim. When things went wrong, they were difficult to source. Alex providing a couple of spares in the box would be a very nice touch.

Rock chips
More chips

The alloy nipples look good and help save a few extra grams, but they are fragile, changing them for classic brass ones would add some peace of mind for the more aggressive riders, but the weight of the wheels would climb.

One of the several broken nipples.

A faster-engaging freewheel would do justice to the rims by giving an even greater feeling of acceleration when pedaling.

Long Term Durability

Despite our careless treatment and exorbitant pressure washings, the bearings were still rolling fine at the end of our test period, and the grease was still clean when we inspected the hubs. The tool-free assembly of the rear hub is a very nice touch and worth a mention. Apart from the chipping, the wheels are look fine despite all the abuse, and the decals seem particularly solid.

What's The Bottom Line?

At $1,450, the Alex Recon 3.0 wheelset offers a lower price of entry into the carbon wheel game. For the light trail rider who's not overly abusive, they may be a worthy offering if you don't mind some struggles with a tubeless setup. If you are an aggressive rider who likes to put bike and body in stressful, harsh situations, you're going to have to look somewhere else for less expensive carbon wheels or just stick to alloy builds.

Visit www.alexrims.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Jo Pauly - Age: 42 // Years Riding: 25+ // Height: 6'0" (1.83m) // Weight: 154-pounds (70kg)

Jo is a MTB guide and coach who lives in Morzine. He started exploring his local trails in the mid 1990's, worked as a mechanic, raced, and has been riding every day of the season, whatever the conditions, for the last ten years. When the season is over? He rides more! You're most likely to spot him looking for fast, fun lines on natural trails.

Photos by Johan Hjord

Specifications

Product Alex Rims Recon 3.0 Carbon Wheelset
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b), 29"
Rim Material Carbon
Rim 100% carbon construction, asymmetric and hookless design, AIT (Aluminum Injection Technology) at spoke holes
Inner Rim Width 30mm
Hole Count 28, front and rear
Tubeless Compatible Yes
Rear Hub Bear Pawls, 4 low resistance sealed bearings, lightweight aluminum axle, rubber-sealed end caps
Compatible with 8, 9, 10, 11-speed SRAM XD
Rear Axle 12mm x 148mm (Boost)
Front Hub Bear Pawls, 2 low resistance sealed bearings, lightweight aluminum axle, rubber-sealed end caps
Front Axle 15mm x 110mm (Boost)
Disc Mount Type Centerlock
Spokes Stainless steel black bladed, straightpull, 3 cross lacing
Nipples Aluminum
Colors Black
Weight
  • 3 lb 12.2 oz (1,706 g)
  • 3 lb 8.6 oz (1,604 g)
Miscellaneous AIT (Aluminum Injection Technology) – Reinforced spoke holes with forged aluminum to spread out the tension of the spokes throughout the rim rather than making weak spots. The aluminum lays within the carbon layers without compromising the rim.
Price $1,450
More Info

alexrims.com

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