18 November 2009

bikefix Initial Review: Edge Composites XC Series 29er rims

I haven’t owned a 29er in a while, so until last winter, I was a bit vague on what components were out there for 29ers (particularly wheels). When I decided to build-up a 29er singlespeed, I needed to spend some time researching wheels and rims. Was I going to race it? Maybe, occasionally. Was I just going to blast the foothills with it? Some of the time for sure. Was it going to be a long distance trail singlespeed? Yes, I do believe that is what I want to do most of the time. Stiffness was a priority for me because I’m a big boy, and I had noticed a fair amount of flex during previous jaunts on 29ers. After talking to the Edge guys at Interbike in 2008, I was impressed with their products and, more importantly, that they seem to understand the rigors of mountain biking and focus their mountain components on durability and feel over light weight.

Don’t get me wrong, the company's XC Series rims are still light weight- the 29er clincher rim is only 380 grams. That is fairly light in this category, but there are other rims that weigh less. Before all the weight-weenies stop reading, I would like to point out that The Edge rim is wider and stiffer (by far) than anything else I’ve seen. Both of these traits enhance the ride and control that the wheels provide. It is so obvious that I could tell within a few minutes of riding and in my mind, I was comparing these to 26 inch wheels. Needless to say, I was impressed. Having a stiff wheelset is so important to me that I had these rims laced-up to the Chub SS hubs which I felt would create a stiffer wheel due to the Chubs' massive flanges (a Chub review is forthcoming). I think I was right about the Chubs helping with stiffness but I don’t have them on any 26 inch wheels to compare for sure. Anyway, I mention most of this because the Edge website only shows wheelsets built around only DT or Chris King hubs, but they can do other hubs if you call. They sell rims too, but suggest using only a very experienced wheelbuilder if you go this route.

Part of the stiffness I felt is due to my massive hubs and 20mm thru-axle, no doubt, but these wheels truly shocked me with their tracking and ride quality. The ride quality must have something to do with their being made of carbon fiber. They are not as harsh as one would expect from a setup this unyielding- it is a hard quality to pin down. I would liken it to going from aluminum handlebars to carbon handlebars.

One of the things that is special about Edge's rim compared to those from other carbon rim manufacturers is that they use a separate mold for every rim and drilling. Most manufacturers use a single mold and then drill-out the required number of spoke holes. With a separate mold, Edge can (and does) reinforce each spoke hole with extra material. This allows for higher spoke tensions and therefore a stiffer wheel. This is expensive, but badass.

These wheels have converted to tubeless with little trouble, but the tires that work best with the Edges are tubeless or tubeless ready models (my one try with regular Conti 29er tires only kind of worked). I have been successfully using the tubeless ready Geax Saguro 2.2’s on this wheelset. The Geax is a rather voluminous tire and so helps cushion some of the blows that such rigid wheels can transmit. I will race it at some point over the winter (or maybe spring) and for this I will install smaller, faster tires. It should be interesting to feel the difference. I will update the review as soon as that happens. These rims retail for $∞. Actually it’s about $ 850 each, which for most people is about the same. Complete wheelsets run from $2,070 to $2750. Will they prove to be worth it?



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