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 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 IndustryNine.net
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 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
- Weight: 1865 grams
- MSRP: $1000
More Info: Visit CrankBrothers.com
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 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 EllsworthBikes.com