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Spank Spike Race 33 (2017) Wheelset (discontinued)

Average User Rating: (Excellent) Vital Rating: (Very Good)
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Discontinued
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Tested: Spank Spike Race 33 Wheelset

Rating: Vital Review

Review by Steve Wentz // Action photos by Jeff Cricco

It was only a few short years ago that Spank was one of the 'little guys' amongst some of the heaviest hitters in the component world. They had some colorful bars, pedals, and rims to upgrade your ride. Over time they have added tremendous versatility to their line of products, not just with additional components, but most importantly with specific product lines for all-mountain, downhill and so forth. Spank's Spike Race 33 wheelset slots into their lineup as an affordable gravity wheelset at just $499.99. Just as with their other products, Spank put a unique spin on this wheelset, no doubt aided by product feedback from their top freeriders and World Cup race team partnerships.

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Spank Spike Race 33 Wheelset Highlights

  • 26 and 27.5-inch (650b) versions
  • 28mm internal rim width, 33mm external
  • Oobah reverse well design
  • Bead Bite anti-burp ridges and dual bead nips
  • Dynamal alloy rim material
  • Tubeless ready
  • Shotpeen anodized rim finish with laser logos
  • 32 J-bend triple butted 2.2/1.7/2.0 spokes per wheel with brass nipples
  • 6-bolt disc hubs
  • 20x110mm or 15x100mm front axle // 12x150mm or 12x135mm rear axle
  • Increased hub engagement compared to model year 2015 hubs
  • Available with standard and XD driver bodies
  • Black, blue, red, and green color options
  • Weight: 2,050g for 26-inch wheelset // 2,130g for 27.5-inch wheelset (both with 12x150mm rear hub)
  • MSRP: $499.99 USD

Initial Impressions

Taking the Spike 33 wheelset out of the box revealed a nice looking wheelset that delivered on the promise of wide rims and a good tire seat. All spokes were evenly tensioned, and when put on a truing stand they proved to be straight and free of any wobbles. The wheels came with a good variety of axle adapters, so have no worries if you have a 157mm or 150mm rear hub.

The rims were of course unique, as they have a majority of the highlights that Spank has developed. Most noticeable is their Oobah reverse well design. This design essentially puts a wave in the middle of the rim well, something that Spank says improves strength and supports the vertical flange walls to prevent buckling.

Not having eyelets also keeps weight down by a few grams, something we have seen on more and more rims as of late. Spank claims this is because a traditional eyelet is in fact used to provide a deformation zone for pressure points caused by poor nipple seat design, and that they can be avoided altogether by precision machining the nipple seats at the correct angle directly into the rim itself. We have seen debates rage on the usefulness of eyelets for spreading out spoke load, but we chose to not worry too much until we got them mounted up and did some actual riding.

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Upon closer inspection of the rim, one can see six tiny ridges that run along the vertical and horizontal faces of the bead seats. This is call "Bead Bite" and is intended to help keep your tire from burping, another improvement the Spike 33 rim can claim on the competition.In addition to the traditional beadnip found at the top of the vertical inner wall, Spank places a second beadnip on the horizontal inner wall which is meant to hold the bead in place from the inside. Spank makes the rim from what they call “Dynamal,” which is a specifically developed alloy meant to marry the best features of both traditional 6- and 7-series alloys - i.e. strong enough to withstand the hits, yet not brittle so as to avoid cracking.

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Rims aside, the the heart of any wheelset is the hubs everything is laced to. Spank's own hubs have decently wide flanges, and interchangeable driver bodies for standard cassettes or for an XD driver body. We have been spoiled with aluminum driver bodies for some time now, and the steel XD driver body we swapped out surprised us with its weight. We understand the desire for some to use steel for standard cassettes, which limits the individual cogs from digging into the cassette body. However, with an XD driver body, there is no need for steel construction as the drive force goes onto a relatively large surface. The steel and aluminum XD and standard cassette bodies all cost the same on Spank's website, so it's easy for a rider to buy a different one if they so choose. The engagement mechanism has just 32 points of engagement, but that is something we are just fine with for a DH wheelset. Lastly, the front hub rolls on an aluminum axle while the rear is a steel affair.

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Setup

Aside from feeling a little heavier than what we've been used to, the wheels were nearly ready to go. We went to setting them up with a host of tires from Maxxis, Specialized and Bontrager to check the tubeless compatibility. Spank states the Spike 33 wheelset is 'Tubeless Ready' on their website, though they'll take some extra materials and expense to do so. There was no included rim strip that would make the wheelset tubeless, no tubeless valves, and no sealant. That may sound like asking a lot, but more and more complete wheels do include those things. We have had great outcomes converting many wheelsets to Tubeless using Gorilla tape to seal spoke holes in the past, and continued this tradition on Spank's wheelset. The Gorilla tape we had was one inch wide, not the full 28mm inner width of Spank's rims, but with a rim seam that was sealed we saw no issue. We taped up the rims, added valves, tires, Stan's sealant, and inflated.

The wheelset held air for a few minutes, but we could hear air coming out and knew the seal was not good. Why did we not double layer Gorilla tape to reach both sides? That'seasily answered by the fact that the rims are very difficult to mount tires onto. Spank's reverse rim profile does not allow for the tire bead to sit 'in' the well of the rim like most, creating a more difficult mounting process than standard. Just one strip of Gorilla tape resulted in broken Pedros plastic tire levers and ten minutes of fighting.

The rim seam on Spank's wheels are not pinned or welded, but are joined using a sealed pressure fit and bonded sleeve. However, on our rims, we noticed a crack in the material that was used to seal the rim's seam. At this point, the rim's joined sections were off ever so slightly and allowed for some air leakage. We taped the rims once again, having to go all the way to the sidewalls of the rim and further than we originally thought. Once we taped over the Bead Bite ridges, spoke holes, and took the time to double up every piece of tape we laid, the wheels worked as a tubeless setup. Sure, we could have just put a tube in, but we really wanted to see how these wheels worked as they were advertised. If you are planning on using tubes in the wheels, that will for sure be less headache.

Following our tubeless setup issues, Spank released this video tutorial detailing the ideal procedure. They suggest running a thin polyamide tubeless tape to retain the Beadbite ridges and ensure the easiest tire installation possible.

 

On The Trail

Once we finally had a seal in the tires we headed out, ready to see what punishment the wheels could take. We beat them up at Angel Fire's famously rocky Pro GRT, Mammoth's rough National Championship track, the packed potholes of Winter Park, steep sections of Vail's bike park, and again on Northstar's sharp-edged slopes. Aside from Fort William, we couldn't recommend a better collection of slopes to test wheels.

At 30/31 PSI, the wheels have a nice stout feeling. Side to side and up and down, there was very little deflection or wiggle. The wide, 33mm outer profile no doubt helped with the stout feeling, as did the spokes. Spank uses custom 2.2/1.7/2.0 butted spokes on their Spike Race 33's, a combination of thicknesses that provide for strong J-bend areas while still keeping the weight down as much as possible.

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We ran pressures from 25-34 PSI, depending on where we were riding and which tires we had on. Through the range of pressures we had very few issues. Tire profile wise, the 28mm inner width creates a nice in between - it doesn't square standard DH tires off too much, yet provides some additional sidewall stability. We had no issues with tires rolling off or burping, even at lower pressures. One cut sidewall was perfectly acceptable through our months of testing, we dare say we deserved it with some of the pressures we ran to really try to find our limits.

Both front and rear wheels went through months of abuse with little complaint. No spokes loosened up, and there were no big dents in the wheels despite the rough terrain they were subjected to. A small truing was needed after the two month mark, but it was easy to do and straightened both wheels out to within 3mm of center.

With 32 points of engagement on the hubs, the Spike 33's are on the lower end of average in terms of engagement. We don't mind this too much in downhill applications though, as we are coasting, braking, or putting in multiple pedal strokes most of the time as opposed to small ratchets. On a trail hub this would be more of an issue, but we never noticed it as a bad thing while riding. The welcome benefit of the 32 engagement points was the lack of noise coming from the wheels. We didn't sound like a pack of buzzing bees going down the hills, and there is something to be said for larger, more durable points of engagement as opposed to tons of micro-contact points.

Overall, the Spike Race 33's offered what we can best be described as a solid, robust ride. They were strong, didn't dent much, and held up well. Only on one occasion did the rear hub come loose and develop a rattle, but that was quickly remedied when the axle was tightened. Yes, the Spike Race 33's are a bit heavier than some other race wheelsets out there, but the tradeoff is the durable nature of the wheels. Through rocks and rough stuff, they do not deflect or come off line easily. Some of that is most likely due to the stout build and some of it due to the slightly wider seat the tires had. They don't accelerate the same as some higher end offerings, but for $500 the wheelset is less than some high end rear hubs on their own. 

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Things That Could Be Improved

While we never experienced an issue with the rear wheel's lacing pattern, it could be better. On the outside of the driveside flange, the spokes orient backward instead of forward. If one were to drop a chain to the inside of the cassette, that chain would be more likely to shear spokes at the J-bend area instead of sliding down spokes and possibly wreaking less havoc. This is not a big deal and would largely go unnoticed by many riders. If it happens, however, it might end your day or weekend. Lacing the back wheel correctly could possibly save some headache later.

One thing that we would like to see improved would be the rim's seam. We experienced a very slight separation in the seam on the rear wheel, and this caused our tubeless setup to lose pressure. We re-taped the wheels, covered all the ridges with tape to fix the problem. The only downside to this is that Spank's technology goes largely unused with smooth surfaces now covering their formerly pronounced Bead Bite ridges. For this reason they suggest the use of a very thin tubeless tape.

Lastly, the hubs could use a bit of help. While not an issue while riding, the front wheel's axle caps are fairly loose in the hub. When we would put our wheel into the dropouts, one cap would always catch and rotate slightly sideways. Another time while transporting the wheels, an axle cap fell out and almost got lost. A more snug fit might alleviate some headaches.

A curious thing we noticed on Spank's website is that the aluminum and steel driver bodies are the same price. Why not spec this wheelset with an aluminum freehub body (or axle for that matter) and save some weight? Based on Spank's measurements, replacing the steel for aluminum in these parts could save upwards of a third of a pound. An aluminum rear axle is unfortunately not offered as an upgrade. If this was the burliest wheel out there, made to survive anything, this complaint would not come up. However, this is billed as a race wheelset, and those weights add up over time with acceleration and deceleration.

Long Term Durability

Following seven months of hard riding, we've been very impressed with the durability of the Spike Race 33 wheels. They not only survived but thrived in some of the roughest environments we could throw at them. They have very minimal dingers in the rim walls, the front wheel is just ever so slightly out of true, and the rear is in good shape. The steel parts can only add to the durability, and the use of normal, non-proprietary spokes and nipples is an added benefit. The brass nipples made the small amount of truing we had to do easy as can be, and being brass as opposed to aluminum can only help with the long term durability of the wheels. We see no reason why these wheels won't last a long time. If you do need a fix, the cost might be a dollar or two at the local shop instead of waiting a few weeks for custom spokes, nipples, or pieces.

What's The Bottom Line?

Spank has made a good wheelset with the Spike Race 33's, but there are of course some things to improve upon. The bottom line on this wheelset is that it comes down to what you are looking for. If you are looking for a strong and durable wheelset that won't break the bank, this should be in the running. If you are looking for the outright best race wheelset, there are some better options to be had but they'll cost you. We must keep in mind that $500 is the price of some rear hubs alone, and for an entire wheelset to come in at that value it should be commended.

Visit www.spank-ind.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Steve Wentz - Age: 31 // Years Riding MTB: 20 // Height: 5'8" (1.73m) // Weight: 180-pounds (81.6kg)

"Despite what it looks like, I'm really precise and calculated, which I'm trying to get away from. I'm trying to drop my heels more and just let it go." Steve is able to set up a bike close to perfectly within minutes, ride at close to 100% on new trails and replicate what he did that first time over and over. He's been racing Pro DH for 13+ years including World Cups, routinely tests out prototype products, and can squish a bike harder than anyone else we know. Today he builds some of the best trails in the world.

Spank Spike Race 33: Strong and Affordable

Rating:
The Good:

Price is good, holds up well through rough conditions. Holds up tubeless well

The Bad:

Folds easy around the rim bead.

Overall Review:

I had these rims laced to my DH race bike and was very pleased with how they held up. If you are looking for an affordable option that is sturdy and strong, this is a good choice.

Cornering was good and didn't feel much flex coming from the wheels. Charging down technical aspects of trail it was commanding and true. I didn't find the wheels to get out of true easily and this was good for racing.

The rims were set up tubeless and I never once folded the tire over on the rim.

Overall I feel like it is a good choice for the money, however there are some other options I would consider if price isnt a concern.

I did find that any rocks, trees, or anything else that happens to hit the rim bead causes devastation. Maybe I was just unlucky with this rim when I was using it, however, It was easy to bend back with pliers and it always held tubeless even after the fact.

Specifications

Product Spank Spike Race 33 (2017) Wheelset
Riding Type Freeride / Bike Park, Downhill
Wheel Size 26", 27.5" (650b)
Rim Material Aluminum
Rim Spank Spike Race 33 Rim: MGR Dynamal Alloy, 33 Outer Width, F/V Presta Valve
Weight: ±480g (26"), ±500g (27.5")
ERD: 529mm++ (26"), 554mm++ (27.5")
ETRTO: 559x28mm (26"), 584x28mm (27.5")
Inner Rim Width 28mm
Hole Count 32H - 3 Cross Lacing
Tubeless Compatible Yes
Rear Hub Spank Spike R135/142, Steel Freehub, Shimano (XD Available)
Rear Axle 12mm x 135mm, 12mm x 150mm
Front Hub Spank Spike F20/15, 15mm x100mm Adaptor Included (12mm x135mm Sets Only)
Front Axle 20mm x 110mm
Disc Mount Type 6 Bolt
Spokes J-Hook, Triple Butted 2.2/1.7/2.0
Nipples Brass
Colors Shotpeen Anodized with Laser Logos: Black, Red, Blue, Team Edition Black/Yellow, Team Edition Black/Green, Team Edition Bearclaw (3x Spank Decals on Team Edition Models)
Weight
  • 4 lb 8 oz (2,040 g)
  • 4 lb 9.7 oz (2,090 g)
  • 4 lb 8.3 oz (2,050 g)
  • 4 lb 11.1 oz (2,130 g)
Miscellaneous Key Technologies: Bead Bite, OohBah, Dynamal Alloy
Front Adaptors Available: QR, 15mm x 100mm, 20mm x 110mm
Rear Adaptors Available: QR x 135mm, 10mm x 135mm, 12mm x 135mm, 12mm x 142mm, 12mm x 150mm, 12mm x 157mm
Price $499
More Info

Now you can add traction and stability to your ride without sacrificing speed. SPANK Industries is a longtime leader in the development of wide rim technology. The SPIKE Race 33 Rim is the evolution of SPANK’s infamous SPIKE Race rim line up. With a 28mm inner profile, the SPIKE Race 33 combines the wide stance of its predecessor the SPIKE 35 EVO, with the light weight of SPANK’s legendary Race 28. The Race 33 was designed to optimize tire spread across a wider array of tires options, without squaring off tire profiles, making it ideal for anyone in need of enhanced traction and stability without compromising speed on track. Sturdy Dynamal alloy construction paired with SPANK’s acclaimed OohBah rim design, make the SPIKE Race 33 one of the strongest alloy hoops on the market. Equipped with SPANK’s patented Bead Bite anti-burp tubeless system, the SPIKE Race 33 offers unmatched tire security and performance with or without tubes.

For more info, visit the Spank website.

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