Truth be told, the first place for bike manufacturers to skimp is with the wheelsets. They’ll slap a Shimano XTR rear derailleur on a $2500 bike because it attracts attention, but chances are you’re still getting a questionable wheelset that will let you down. Just make sure you enjoy that rear derailleur and turn a blind eye to your flexy and always-in-need-of-truing wheelset. But hey, you’ve got a sweet derailleur.

Mass-produced wheelsets are a dime a dozen and while some can deliver a quality ride, far too many should be outlawed from bike shops everywhere.  I’ve ridden enough wheelsets to know immediately the quality of hoops I’m riding. Take the venerable Yeti 575, for example. I rode that bike at Interbike 2007 with a high-quality set of XTR wheels and loved it but then when I got ahold of the Yeti 575 Enduro kit with Mavic Crossride wheels, I questioned my love for the bike.

Don’t get me wrong, the new Yeti 575 is a phenomenal bike for the money, but the entry-level Mavic wheelset makes it ride like a wet noodle. The list goes on-and-on with every entry-level parts spec I’ve ridden. If you’re going to spend money, you can get by with SRAM X.7 or Shimano SLX derailleurs, but you must not skimp on your wheels.

Yes, they are spendy, but optimizing the rotational mass while enabling you to track straight through the rough stuff is just what a good pair of wheels will do for you.  So, if you’re in the market for a new set of all-mountain/enduro wheels and have say, $1000 to spend, just what wheelsets should you look at? Here’s my short list.

Industry Nine Enduro Wheelset

Industry Nine has hit the industry by storm in a few short years. Their hubs are now legendary and on par with the industry-standard, Chris King. Straight-pull spokes laced to custom wheels, Industry Nine keeps all R&D, design, manufacturing and assembly under their thumb to ensure consistent quality.

The Enduro wheelset is the workhorse of the I9 lineup. For those who demand strength and performance with the ability to flow the park and pound out the singletrack, the I9 Enduro wheelset is the trick.

Industry Nine Enduro Wheelset

Industry Nine Enduro Hubs

Industry Nine Enduro Wheelset Specs

  • Front hub is compatible with every axle design on the market
  • Rear hub features QR or 10/12mm thru-axle with 135mm spacing
  • Drive features 120 point, 3 degree engagement with a 6 pawl mechanism
  • EN rim (28mm wide, welded in black or white)
  • Weight: 1840 grams
  • MSRP: $985

More Info: Visit

Crank Brothers Iodine All Mountain

Crank Brothers is well-known for thinking outside the proverbial box. Their component designs are always hot-looking and almost always perform as good as they look. The new Iodine wheelset is built using a proprietary Twinpair spoke pattern that eliminates eyelets from the rim surface and instead pulls via central fins from the inside of the rim. This drastically improves stiffness and performance. Overbuilt hubs roll on sealed cartridge bearings for durability and smooth rolling. Front hubs are convertible between standard quick-release and 20mm thru axles with an available 15mm adapter.

Crank Brothers Iodine Wheelset

Crank Brothers Iodine Wheelset

Crank Bros Iodine Wheelset Specs

  • Unique Twinpair spokes (24) connect via vertical rib
  • 21mm inside rim width
  • 25mm rear axle
  • Drive features 6-pawl design
  • Split QR levers
  • Disc brakes only
  • 2.3-2.5 in. tires recommended
  • Split quick-release levers
  • Convertible between 9mm and 20mm with 15mm thru-axle option
  • 6 pawl design with 7.5-degree maximum engagement
  • Tubeless-compatible
  • Weight: 1865 grams
  • MSRP: $1000

More Info: Visit

Ellsworth All Mountain Wheels

A relative newcomer, the first designs performed well, but needed some work on fit-and-finish details. After a few emails with owner, Tony Ellsworth, I got the skinny on the new, updated wheelsets from Ellsworth. Now with a wheel for every discipline, the workhorse of the line will likely be the All-Mountain wheelsets. Looking at the specs of these wheels, they feature class-leading width (29 mm) and weight (1695 grams) with the promise of still yielding a high-quality roll with the lightest weight–all while delivering the widest rim profile of the bunch. Front hubs are interchangeable to any axle size and end caps have been vastly improved (I’m told they might be difficult to change, but that’s a good thing since changing them is a rare occurrence).

Ellsworth All-mountain Wheelset - Front

Ellsworth All-mountain Wheelset - Rear

Ellsworth All Mountain Wheelset Specs:

  • Revised “semi-permanent” axle options (no more end caps falling off)
  • Unique look with black rims and chrome spokes/hubs
  • Low-profile chrome 32×32 hubs
  • Front Hub: 20 mm thru-axle with 15QR or 9 mm QR options
  • Rear Hub: 9 mm QR with 12 mm thru-axle or X-12 options
  • Class-leading 29 mm rim width
  • Class-leading 1695 gram weight
  • MSRP: $1000

More Info: Visit

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


  1. Marc… thanks for pointing that out. I was wracking my brain trying to remember Dave Thomas’s Web site, so thanks for posting the link. He does make great wheels.

  2. Which one these wheelsets have proprietary bits? I see the Crank Bros spokes are proprietary. That drives me insane as replacement parts can be a pain to find. Also if the small quirky company goes (eg Rolf) out of business then your pricey wheelset is done if you break parts

  3. couldn’t agree more. That’s ultimately (among other reasons) why I went with mainstream (King-NoTubes-Wheelsmith).

  4. I’ve now had the Iodine wheelset for a few weeks and can honestly say that they are absolutely solid. Love the quick engagement and solid lateral stiffness. I’ll report a full review in the coming months. So far so good! Nice Chris King-esque freewheel sound too. 🙂

  5. Looking at the Ellsworth XC wheelset to go with the Epiphany. Your thoughts? What are pawls (pardon my ignorance) and why are there 3 on the Ellsworth and 6 on the others? Is that really important?
    Finally, is this listed in order of your preference?


    • @Len… good move man. When I rode the Epiphany last year at Interbike, it was equipped with the Ellsworth XC wheels and I was impressed with the combo. Typically, XC wheelsets exhibit a bit more flex than I like, but I didn’t notice any at all. They are lightweight and I’m sure they will perform well for the long haul.

      Your question about Pawls is a fair one. A pawl is essentially the number of internal teeth that engage the freehub or cassette to allow you to actually turn the rear wheel. The more pawls the faster the engagement, but if you have too many pawls, there’s more drag. So, the trick is to find the happy medium between quick engagement and minimal drag. Tony Ellsworth believes in simplicity and faster rolling while many others sport a higher amount of pawls for faster engagement.

      In the end, it’s personal preference.

      I can provide some feedback on the Crank Brothers Iodine wheels at this point (look for a full review shortly) and they are solid. I’ve been really impressed with them and would definitely recommend them. But, if you’re looking for the XC wheels, you could go with the Cobalts.

      Good luck… sounds like you’re on the right track! (Oh yeah… not in order of preference… purely arbitrary.)

  6. What does the weight of the rim strip that you would have to add to the I9 wheels set bring the total up to compared to the IODINE wheel set?

  7. I have someone offering me a 2009 set of Ellsworth wheels for a good deal. he says they are 31mm wide. I am trying to work out if they are these wheels and he has the width wrong, or if they are a different set. DO you know if they had a downhill version in 2009 that was 31mm wide? many thanks

  8. Chris… I’m checking on that now. I looked through all the literature and I don’t see any mention of tubeless (which I’m sure you already knew). Of course you can use Stan’s to run them tubeless, but hang tight and I’ll get you an answer on whether or not they are naturally tubeless-compatible.

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