Few people like to admit when they’re a bit hesitant about something but it’s probably fair to say that until you’ve bought your first set of upgrade bike wheels, you’re probably just a little bit trepidatious about the idea.
We think that it’s a huge shame to be held back by the unknown because fitting better hoops can breathe new life into your bike and revitalise your experience of riding.
So, to spread the word, we’ve teamed up with Elitewheels to try to remove some of the worries and mystique about replacing your wheels.
Elitewheels 2.jpeg, by Elitewheels
Before we do that, though, let’s address another typical concern for mountain bikers: carbon wheels. While they might be all very well for roadies, surely they’re nowhere near strong enough for off-road duties? It’s a common misconception and one we’ll put right with our case study here of Elitewheels' super-tough – even e-MTB-ready – Gnar Trail 29er wheel.
If there’s any message we want to share, it’s that upgrade wheels are well within the reach of most riders and upgrade carbon wheels are well within the reach of most mountain bikers.
But how can you achieve this? Read on…
The most important thing you need to do when going through the trouble of upgrading your wheels is to make sure the new products you buy truly are the best you can find for your budget. Elitewheels all but guarantees this, offering some of the most heavily research-and-design-infused wheelsets at prices that put other equivalent brands to shame.
Elitewheels 3.jpeg, by Elitewheels
With almost a decade of experience dedicated solely to the production of carbon-fibre bicycle wheels, Elitewheels has become one of the most respected names in after-market upgrades. Part of the reason for this is that Elitewheels manufactures its wheels at its very own factory, meaning it has complete control over production.
Elitewheels’ quality testing control is one of the most intensive in the industry with lateral and radial stiffness, trueness, rim impact, and 20,000km loaded wheel testing. And having its own factory also allows the brand to adapt to new technological innovation, much of which stems from its own dynamic in-house design team.
How to buy upgrade wheels - what you need to know
So how do you go about making sure the new wheels you order are actually suitable for the bike you own? Here are five simple questions you need to be able to answer:
- What size wheels does your bike use: 29in or 27.5in/650B?
- What brake interface do you have: Center Lock or six-bolt?
- What axle width does your bike have? And does it use axles that are thru-axles or quick-release?
- What freehub body do you use? Before ordering any new wheels, make sure they will be compatible with whichever gearing system you use, such as Shimano, Shimano Micro spline or SRAM XD.
- And finally, do you want to use clincher or tubeless tyres? All Elitewheels are tubeless-ready but not all accept clincher tyres.
Elitewheels Gnar 29er.jpeg, by Elitewheels
If you’re going to upgrade your wheels, not only do you want performance but you want durability. Few carbon wheels for mountain bikes come as well prepared to handle the challenges of off-road riding as Elitewheels’ Gnar Trail 29er. In fact, it’s so strong it can even handle e-mtb duties.
Suitable for a range of mountain biking disciplines – including XC, trail, and AM riding – the Gnar Trail 29er is a true masterpiece of wheel engineering. Weighing in at 1,615g, the Gnar Trail 29er’s spoke holes have been reinforced to handle the increased torque from electric motors, while the rim’s carbon-fibre lay-up has been specifically chosen to increase strength from impacts that can be more common when e-bike riding.
But the real technological beauty can be found at the heart of the Gnar Trail 29er – its all-new Frequency hub. So let's look at the Gnar Trail 29er's highlights in more detail.
Elitewheels Gnar 29er hub.jpeg, by Elitewheels
The Frequency hub around which the Gnar Trail 29er is built is the site of the wheel’s most impressive technological developments. Designed and manufactured by Elitewheels, and CNC machined out of 6061 aluminium, it complies with tolerances of 0.02mm, which allows for sealed cartridge bearings to fit better, leading to increased bearing life and lower rolling resistance. The hubs use larger NBK 6903 steel bearings, the freehub uses NBK 17287 steel bearings, while the pawl’s use of two teeth increases contact area and enhances longevity.
However, while longevity is always welcome, performance is what riders really want. Mountain bikes have different gear ratios to road and gravel bikes, meaning that high-engagement hubs are essential on technical terrain that has to be ridden at lower speeds. To that end, the Frequency hub has 320 points of engagement thanks to Elitewheels' pawl and ratchet system, which has 80 ratchets and eight pawls, staggered into four groups of two.
The result is the second-highest engagement of any hub on the market – only bettered by Industry Nine Hydra hubs, which are far more expensive – and it means that the Frequency hub simply makes technical sections easier to ride.
The Gnar Trail 29er uses 28 Sapim CX-Ray spokes laced in a 3X pattern for superb power transfer, handling, and durability. As we mentioned, the spoke holes are reinforced with 38 layers of carbon fibre, allowing it to resist up to 349kgf (measurement of force).
Elitewheels Gnar 29er rim.jpeg, by Elitewheels
The Gnar Trail 29er features an asymmetrical rim profile with a 3.5mm offset, which allows for even spoke tensions. It’s made from high-quality T700 and T800 carbon fibre, supporting ultimate performance, and it can accept tyre widths ranging from 2.2in to 3.1in. It also comes pre-installed with tubeless rim tape and tubeless valves.
Elitewheels’ testing control is second-to-none, and nowhere is this more apparent than with the Gnar Trail 29er. The Gnar Trail 29er specifically underwent:
- 4 vertical and 20-degree offset impact tests of the rim and wheel
- 6 vertical and lateral stiffness/compliance tests of rim and wheel (lateral tests on both sides of the Gnar Trail 29er were done as the wheels are asymmetric)
- 2 roundness and trueness tests of the rim
- 1 wheel longevity test
- 1 max tyre pressure test
- 1 torque fatigue test
- 1 spoke pull-through test.
Because of its conviction in the Gnar Trail 29er’s build quality, Elitewheels provides a three-year limited warranty and even offers a crash replacement policy.
While the Gnar Trail 29er is a fantastic option, it’s not Elitewheels’ only upgrade mountain bike carbon wheel. You could also try…
An ultra-modern six-spoked carbon wheel, the Drive Six mtb was designed from the ground up by Elitewheels to performs as great as it looks. And it looks incredible.
29er Pro Series $739
Designed for XC and AM, the 29er Pro Series features a modern rim shape. Paired with the high-precision Elitewheels Pro hubs, these wheels excel on even the most challenging terrain.
27.5er Pro Series $739
Tested among the exacting requirements of the Downhill World Cup Circuit, the 27.5er Pro Series offers additional sidewall support and is an all-rounder wheel option that can be used in all-mountain and enduro events.
To see Elitewheels' full range of mountain bike wheels, visit: www.elite-wheels.com.