If you’re upgrading your ride, tops on the list is always a good wheelset. In the past, the price gap between aluminum and carbon wheelsets was huge, but over time, that gap has been significantly reduced. Take Niner’s XC Carbon wheelset, for example. They are aggressively-priced starting at $1400 and deliver a huge bang-for-the-buck.
Niner XC Carbon Wheelset Features:
- Full carbon rim (30mm depth, 30mm outside and 24mm inside)
- 28 spoke count front and rear
- Sandvik Stainless Steel Spokes (14/15G, Straight Pull, Alloy Hex Drive Nipple)
- Stan’s BST rim profile for tubeless excellence
- BOOST front/rear axles with 142×12 rear option (Torque Tube for RS-1 also)
- Can convert to XD Driver (separately)
- 21-tooth/17-degree engagement (same as Shimano)
- Weight: 1525g (complete)
- MSRP: $1400-$1550
Competitive Niner carbon hoops
House-brand components can sometimes get a bum rap. In the past, this was completely understandable as cheap components were stamped with Company X and sold en masse to hit a specific MSRP. But, today, bike manufacturers have access to a vast set of white-label components and/or have the ability to source their own from a variety of overseas factories that can meet their specific requirements.
When it comes to carbon wheels — and carbon anything, for that matter — it’s a labor-intensive process that involves cutting and then laying up hundreds of sheets of carbon. That hand-laid process is a huge reason why carbon anything is significantly more expensive than the variety of alloys on the market. But, that process can provide fine-tuned performance and strength not available in other materials. And, thankfully, there are more and more affordable options coming online every year.
For the past several months, I’ve had the 2016 Niner Jet 9 RDO in the house for testing. My test build featured the XC Carbon Wheels as an upgrade and I appreciated every mile aboard these carbon hoops.
No modern MTB wheelset should be set up with tubes. Once you get the hang of seating everything, there’s no getting around the extra traction and comfort going tubeless provides (not to mention, rotating weight reduction). I know it’s only a matter of time before I have an on-trail blowout, but after thousands of tubeless miles, I’ve yet to have any catastrophes (knocking on wood). On that note, Niner has chosen to license Stan’s Bead Socket Technology (BST) for easy tubeless living. The result? Tires seat easily and stay seated. I have had to add a little bit of sealant over the past few months and they do lose their pressure faster than tubes, but it’s worth the slight trade-off for lighter weight and better performance.
The tested hubs featured a Boost 110 front and 142×12 rear axles with a standard Shimano/SRAM 11-speed driver, but both a Boost rear and XD Driver are also available. Note that the endcaps are not interchangeable because spacing is different, so no swapping these around.
The hubset has performed well with excellent stiffness and engagement (in spite of being 17-degrees on paper). Straight-pull spokes should reduce failure over time and are easily-sourced for replacement purposes. The rim profile is asymmetrical for optimized performance and at 30mm deep/30mm wide, they look substantial.
But don’t let that girth fool you, these offer respectable rolling weight and that 24mm internal width delivers straighter sidewalls for improved trail grip and comfort. Amongst other XC wheelsets on the market, that 24mm width puts these in exclusive company as most are narrower with only a few options fatter than that (Reynolds 29 Trail and Roval Traverse SL Fattie come to mind). But, admittedly, Niner’s wheels are more trail-purposed instead of svelte XC racers while still maintaining a competitive fighting weight, so a spec comparison against skinny XC wheels is a little unfair.
On the trail, all that goodness bubbles to the surface as these wheels react in a jiffy and provide excellent lateral stiffness under hard cornering. They spin up nicely and offer pinpoint responsiveness when needing to make mid-climb adjustments to overcome an obstacle. Something that’s worth noting is the quietness of these wheels and the chatter reduction they provide. Carbon wheelsets are always a worthy upgrade and these have proven themselves.
One downside is the proprietary rear hub and hub internals. Many others simply spec their bikes with proven DT Swiss internals. It bumps the costs up slightly, but makes servicing a breeze. Sourcing replacement parts may be a little more difficult, but Niner isn’t going anywhere. I have experienced some superficial scratching from flying rocks, but otherwise these wheels look and perform great.
- Have remained stiff and true
- Can take more abuse than a typical “XC” wheelset
- Holds a line well and tracks through the rough stuff
- Stan’s BST makes seating tires a breeze
- Freehub spins relatively quietly
- Available in modern hub spacing options for the latest rigs
- Scratch easily (superficial, but still)
- Would be nice to have DT Swiss rear hub internals
- The on-paper 17-degree engagement seems bad, but it’s not a big deal in the wild
- Boost or RS-1 front hub spacing only (modern bikes only)
The Bottom Line: Niner XC Carbon Wheels
There are tons of hoops out there to choose from. But, if you’re going to upgrade, you might as well get something with a more modern shape and width. The Niner XC Carbon wheels offer a modern profile with excellent performance at a reasonable price point.
Buy Now: Visit NinerBikes.com
Carbon wheelsets are increasingly within reach. No longer do you have to spend $3000 to get a good set of carbon hoops and Niner's XC Carbon wheelset is proof of just that. They are flexible as XC/trail wheels and deliver fuss-free performance.
- Lateral Stiffness
- Ride Quality