The CZR i23 is the first carbon rim from WTB aimed at gravel and cross-country mountain biking alike. The rims are lightweight yet, strong enough to build into an incredibly stiff wheelset. WTB has some faith in these new rims by selling them with a lifetime warranty for damage while riding.
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Our test wheelset arrived as a 28-hole version with a claimed weight of 345g per rim. There is also a 24-hole rim available, which is claimed to be 331g, making these some of the lightest rims designed for off-road use. While they might be impressively lightweight, WTB says their priority was to create a durable and robust rim. They have backed that up with an impressive lifetime warranty covering any damage that occurs while riding and a 50% cover for any damage that happens elsewhere.
The WTB CZR i23 Wheelset Build
The CZR i23 wheelset is a rim-only model, but WTB sent the wheelset built up with WTB hubs and DT Competition spokes to test. The overall build creates a strong wheelset with a total weight of 1,539g, including tubeless tape and valves. By comparison, the impressive FFWD Drift wheels weighed 1,580g with a spec that includes the excellent lightweight DT Swiss 240EXT hubs. Should you pair similar hubs with CZR i23 rims and lighter spokes, then an extremely lightweight wheelset offering impressive stiffness for under 1,400g may be achievable.
The max rider weight matches other premium wheelsets at 120kg. One factor where the WTB CZR's stand out is the maximum spoke tension, which is 110-120KgF, which indicates that the spoke bed can support high tension. This is a higher maximum force than some competitor rims, such as the No Tubes Crest CB7, which have a maximum tension of 105KgF.
The wheels arrived with WTB Resolute tyres measuring 700x42 and 44.3mm wide. As many riders will have found out, it can be a nightmare fitting certain tyres to rims, so I removed them to see how easy they were to install and inflate. Given the rim and tyre are from the same manufacturer, you would expect them to play nicely with each other when setting up tubeless, and they do – impressively so. The Resolute tyres were installed without any tyre levers or struggle, and a track pump inflated them quickly.
WTB CZR i23 Wheelset on test
Initially tested on a steel frame gravel bike, the wheels made an instant difference, with an overwhelming first impression due to the stiff feel in both the lateral and vertical planes. The WTB CZR i23's are stiff to the point of being noticeably harsher on forest roads, and rougher surfaced lanes. This was with tyres run at the lower pressure range of around 30-psi front and rear. While the rim will play a big part in how stiff the wheel feels, the build does too, and it's impossible to know which one for sure without rebuilding it all together. The level of comfort will also depend on the volume and pressure used.
The stiffness is also a positive aspect, depending on your riding style. Still, for anyone who is after a fast set of wheels, these absolutely deliver. Even when comparing to other carbon wheels, the response is incredible, with what feels like not a hint of flex when sprinting.
As speed builds, especially downhill, the wheels will skip over bumps, and the ride feels much smoother. As you begin to tackle fast corners, the stiffness then instantly responds and tracks with beautiful precision. For me, they made the tyre choice even more crucial, feeling like you can go faster and require more grip, but also a larger volume to help reduce the impact of the stiffness.
I also tested the WTB CZR i23 wheelset on a more race orientated, lightweight carbon gravel bike and here, they seemed to be far better suited to the style of bike. They feel rapid, with the stiffness and response being exactly what you want. A reduction in comfort is something that you would likely sacrifice for the extra performance gained.
What's the verdict?
There are two main types of rider that the rims will appeal to. Firstly, competitive gravel riders looking to build a stiff and responsive wheel, and riders looking to build a wheelset that combines weight with strength, backed up with a good warranty. WTB claim that no one has broken a CZR i23 rim while riding so far, which may sound like a challenge to some riders! However, such a stiff ride might not appeal to everyone, especially when bikepacking or embarking on long-distance rides where the stiffness may become somewhat uncomfortable.
Each rim retails for £500 even with a set of reasonably priced hubs, and the build will exceed £1,250. Fit a set of premium hubs such as DT Swiss, Chris King or Industry Nine, and that complete wheelset will near £2,000. While that is undoubtedly expensive, it is by no means the only rim that commands such a price. The specs on the wheel, both weight, sizing, and price almost matches the No Tubes Crest CB7 rim, and then there is, of course, ENVE's G23 carbon rim, which is also 23mm internal with a claimed weight of 330g in 24-hole, and a price of £1,050 per rim.
The WTB CZR rims could be fantastic to build the ultimate dream wheelset, either for gravel or cross-country mountain biking. Offering both stiffness and strength, these rims should last a while regardless of how tough you are on them. They cost a considerable amount but are backed up with an impressive lifetime warranty at least.