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Crankbrothers Iodine 3 2014 Wheelset (discontinued)

Vital Rating: (Very Good)
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Discontinued
Crank Brothers Iodine 3 27.5" Wheelset
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Tested: Crank Brothers Iodine 3 Wheels

Rating: Vital Review

Review by Ian Collins // Photos by Fred Robinson and Ian Collins

When it comes to wheels we all know that Crank Brothers have had a big hole to crawl out of, and they are the first to admit it. When they tried to reinvent the wheel a few years ago and introduced a radically different proprietary wheelset, things didn't really go as planned. The first iterations had some serious issues with the internal workings of the hubs, and the initial implementation of the unorthodox spoke design wasn't quite right. Crank Brothers dealt with the hiccups and the criticism, but rather than abandon hope they continued to have faith in their design and persevered. With the 2010 wheelset revision they saw freehub warranty issues go from 17% to less than 1%, a huge improvement.

For 2014 the goal was not solely to work out the remaining bugs but also to continue improving on the successful elements of the wheelset. Reducing weight and price while increasing strength and reliability were all on the menu. The most notable improvement in this revision is the rim's profile. It sees a 2mm increase in width, with a lower sidewall height, and a deeper overall rim depth. All of these changes make for a stronger rim and a stiffer wheelset. Another element that was tweaked slightly was the bead hook. With the ever increasing popularity of tubeless setups, it's nice to have a rim that's built for the application and less apt to burp. The wheelset I tested is the Iodine 3 in the 27.5-inch size. It's mid-duty, mid-price and mid-weight, and it's time to let you know how it coped with four months of abuse.

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Iodine 3 Highlights

  • Rim material: 6061-t6, smooth weld joint
  • Shot peen finish with black + silver anodizing
  • Width (internal/external): 23mm/27.2mm
  • Depth: 19.5mm
  • Spokes: Sapim stainless steel,7075-t6 aluminum nipples
  • Front hub: Iodine, 6061-t6
  • Bearings: sealed cartridge 6805 (x2)
  • Front hub end caps: 15mm (installed), 20mm (included)
  • Rear hub: Iodine, 6061-t6
  • Bearings: sealed cartridge 6903 (x2), 6902 (x2)
  • Rear end caps: 12x142mm (installed), 10x135mm (included)
  • Freehub: 3-pawl, 21T, alloy
  • XD freehub compatible, available separately
  • Weight: 1780g (27.5in), 1850g (29in)
  • MSRP: $900 USD

Initial Impressions

After having the wheels meticulously bolted up by the Crank Brothers crew at the 2014 media launch, I gave them a thorough once over on my bike. What first caught my eye were the elongated aluminum “nipples.” These act as nipples but essentially make up half the spoke. The fact that they are wider in gauge than a traditional spoke also told me they might be a bit stiffer.

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Also worth mentioning is that on each wheel the spokes and nipples are the same length side to side all the way around, and that due to the design you can change a spoke/nipple on the fly without taking off the tire, the brake rotor or even the cassette. Since the spokes and nipples are half the length of a traditional spoke they also fit in a riding pack quite nicely. Pretty darn cool if you ask me. Another nice touch aesthetically is the shot-peened rim. I like the look better than anodizing, and it adds to the surface durability.

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On The Trail

After the first few sections of trail I immediately noticed two things, and they summarize my overall feeling on the wheelset quite well. First off, they were stiff. REALLY stiff. The only other trail wheelset that ever felt this snappy to me was made out of carbon. While those carbon hoops took the edge off and were a bit more resilient, they were also three times the price. That being said, while $900 isn't a “cheap” wheelset they retain the stiffness and solid feel that some much more expensive wheels have. I think this can be attributed to the huge aluminum nipples and the rather burly rim.

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The second thing I noticed was the not-so-instant engagement. This was my only serious complaint. In order to address previous issues, Crank Brothers says they exchanged precise engagement in the name of better durability. The hub uses a 3 pawl system with 21-points of engagement - that's a click every 17.1-degrees. Previously the Iodine 3 wheelset had 24-points of engagement.

After some time the wheels did need one minor re-tension, but they never had any issues with going way out of true, and the rims were very tough. I had a handful of occasions where the rims bottomed hard enough on rocks that I could hear it, but the wheels were left unscathed with no dents or flat spots.

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Overall these had a solid trail feel. They accelerated quickly, were noticeably stiffer than a traditional wheel, and held their own in terms of durability for the four months I spent on them. When I swapped out tires it was easy to get them to re-inflate tubeless with just a simple floor pump, and they weren't excruciatingly painful to remove or install. That was refreshing to say the least.

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Things That Could Be Improved

As I mentioned before, the only major drawback to these wheels was that they didn't have a quick and positive-feeling engagement mechanism. Although these days $900 is considered a normal price for a mid-range wheelset, personally I think that price tag should award the consumer with a less pedestrian-feeling rear hub. Maybe it's me, but on technical climbs I really appreciate the feel of near instant power transmission. It's not a deal breaker, but it is something that could be improved upon.

My only other small quip was the slightly odd disassembly procedure of the rear hub. In order to take the XD freehub body required for the XX1 system off, one must first disassemble the rear hub. The axle is reverse threaded and requires a 12mm allen key. It took me a of couple days to find a 12mm allen socket locally, and while that isn't a huge deal there are definitely simpler ways to design a hub.

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Long Term Durability

In the time I spent on these wheels I was very pleased with them overall, and there wasn't anything glaringly indicative of any major shortcomings that could surface down the road, or should I say trail? In fact I think it's safe to say that they are stiffer and possibly tougher than the average traditionally built wheel. Time will tell. Providing that there is validity in Crank Brothers' claim that the hubs are virtually free of issues now, I see no reason why these shouldn't be in it for the long haul.

Crank Brothers includes a spare spoke, nipple, and washer with all of their wheels should you happen to break something and need a replacement. They also back the wheels with an attractive two year warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're looking for something off the beaten path and a bit less traditional, then this could be your wheelset. For $900 I think the freehub could be a bit more refined, but given the radically different (and inherently more costly) approach to the spokes, nipples, and rims, it's understandable that something has to give. While Crank Brothers have received heaps of criticism for their flawed wheelsets of the past, I have to commend them for having the guts to stay the course, and continuing to improve on a wheelset born out of a radically different overall approach. They have reached the goal of a competitive wheel from the weight, stiffness, and durability standpoints. Is it a game changer? No, but it is different. Is it a solid, refined wheelset that will get the job done? Absolutely.

Visit www.crankbrothers.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.

Specifications

Product Crankbrothers Iodine 3 2014 Wheelset
Riding Type Trail
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b), 29"
Rim Material Aluminum
Rim 6061-T6, Smooth Weld Joint, 27.2mm External Width, 19.5mm Depth
Inner Rim Width 23mm
Hole Count 24 Spokes
Tubeless Compatible Yes
Rear Hub Iodine, 6061-T6 // Sealed Cartridge 6903 (x2), 6902 (x2) Bearings // 12x142mm (Installed), 10x135mm (Included) // 3-Pawl, 21 Tooth, Alloy Freehub // XD Driver Compatible (Available Separately)
Rear Axle 10mm x 135mm, 12mm x 142mm
Front Hub Iodine, 6061-T6 // Sealed Cartridge 6805 (x2) Bearings // 15mm (Installed), 20mm (Included)
Front Axle 15mm x 100mm, 20mm x 110mm
Disc Mount Type 6 Bolt
Spokes Twinpair Sapim, 2.0 / 1.8 / 2.0 Butting // Hollow 7075-T6 Aluminum Spoke Pins // 147mm (27.5") Length, 166mm (29") Lengh
Nipples 7075-T6 Aluminum, 3.2x139
Colors Shot Peen, Flat Black Anodizing with Silver
Weight
  • 4 lb 1.3 oz (1,850 g)
  • 3 lb 14.8 oz (1,780 g)
Miscellaneous Elite-Level Aluminum Wheels for All Mountain
Skewers Not Included, Available Separately
2 Years Warranty
Price $900
More Info

Crank Brothers Website

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