These days your rim choices fall into either one of two camps, carbon fibre or traditional alloy. Both materials have their merits and a careful consideration of your intended use will determine which one may be more appropriate. Today's high quality alloy rims are an excellent & cost effective choice for most cycling disciplines but there are of course several reasons why you might want to consider the more costly option of a carbon fibre rim. If you're contemplating a custom set of wheels we can discuss the pros and cons of each material. I will delve into the carbon fibre options after looking at what is available in the world of alloy rims. If you have any questions I would be happy to assist you on your eventual rim choice.
YOUR ALLOY OPTIONS...
Cognoscenti Cycles has narrowed the field considerably for the alloy rim options that we presently carry. We have partnered with a select number of companies to provide you with the best and most reliable alloy rims on the market, HED, Pacenti Cycle Design, Boyd Cycling, DT Swiss, A-Force , H Plus Son, Astral Cycling, Velocity and Kinlin. These manufacturers provide us with a wide selection of alloy rims for almost any cycling discipline with very predictable quality control. If your needs fall outside of these 9 top makers I will make every effort to source what you desire.
Alexrims: Alex Global Technology got started in 1992 with a concentration on high end rims made at their Alex Shan-Zhen Chinese factory. Alexrims has a fairly broad selection of different rim profiles for everything from road racing to MTB to Fatbikes and BMX riders. Their rim technology exploits some of the common approaches found in other leading rim manufacturers. Things like wear indicators on the sidewalls, proper eyelet construction and welded joints on some of their rims. They also use higher end material like Scandium for their Super Light rims. Some models are also tubeless ready. Distribution seems mainly concentrated in Asia at this time.
A-Force: A-Force is a relative newcomer to the world of alloy rims. After a successful fund raising effort founder Jan-Willem van Soest was able to realise his dreams to design and have manufactured his own rim. The AI-33 is a toroidally shaped 700C road rim made from AF9X-T6 alloy with a depth of 32.5mm. It employs a wider platform of 26.2 mm ( 19.2 mm internal width) which makes for an improved tire shape. They claim that it's dead easy to set up for tubeless use. At approximately 475 grams in weight it's a reasonably light rim. A-Force have rims with both options of internal as well as external nipples. Though the internal nipple design looks stealthy it does demand that the tire be removed to enable future truing. Available in 20, 24 and 28 spoke hole counts. New rim designs are coming for the 2018 season. Stay tuned!
Astral Cycling: Owned by Rolf Prima, Astral rims are made exclusively in the USA at their factory in Eugene Oregon. Their alloy rims are all tubeless ready and some exploit an asymmetrical design that shifts the spoke bed over and therefore helps to equalise tension on the drive side and the non drive side of the rear wheel. A great idea! Astral caters to road, MTB, tandem, touring and gravel riders needs.
Boyd Cycling: The fine folks at Boyd Cycling have a few alloy rims worthy of your consideration. One of my personal favourites is the Altamont Ceramic coated rim. A very high quality rim that boasts a better braking experience especially enhanced by the use of Swissstop BXP brake pads. They promise that their ceramic coating will not wear down. The ceramic coated rim is also bead blasted which helps the anodisation to penetrate the rim surface better. The standard version weighs in at around 490 grams and the "Lite" version at 445 grams. The Altamont has to be one of the most versatile rims in todays market. It could work very well for your clincher cyclocross wheel set or your gravel bike, or even on your touring machine. Tubeless ready and available in 20, 24, 28 and 32 hole spoke counts.
DT Swiss: Another european company with an excellent selection of high quality rims for both MTB, road and commuter wheels. They also feature eyelets, welded joints and machined side walls and are comparable to Mavic in sound design and good quality control. Their asymmetrical A440 rear rim is a good choice when building 11 speed wheels that require additional dish. The sides of their rims often incorporate wear indicators on their breaking surfaces enabling you to easily determine if a rim requires replacement.
HED: Steve Hed began his enterprise in the mid 1980's concentrating on refining racing wheels through extensive aerodynamic testing and research. Hed produce wheels for most racing disciplines and have offerings in carbon fibre and alloy. Here I would like to mention some of those alloy rims that have gained favour with many cyclists. The Hed "Belgium" immediately springs to mind as a perennial favourite. Available in two widths, the 23mm C2 and the 25mm Plus enables you to add tire volume and smoothness to your ride. Clincher and tubular versions available in 20, 24, 28 and 32 hole spoke drillings.
H Plus Son: This Asian rim maker specialises in alloy clincher rims and offers 7 different rim profiles weighing from 490 grams up to 790 grams for their heaviest rim. Each model of rim sports a welded joint and 5 of their models are made from G609 alloy which boasts a 30% increase in strength compared to regular 6061 alloy. The 470 gram "Archetype" is one of their more popular rims and offers a tear drop shape with a slightly wider profile which enhances tire performance and comfort. Sidewalls are machined for accuracy and best braking surface. The "Hydra" is another rim worthy of consideration.
Kinlin: Kinlin was founded in 1927 and is headquartered in Taiwan. In the last 3 decades they have sold more than 30 million rims. Their motto is "Quality products were born of quality materials". They stand behind their KLM41 and KLR60 alloy as well as their proprietary "T-10" process which involves cold working their material to enhance its intrinsic strength. Their "Super Alloy Series" features their very own KLM41 aluminium alloy, which is infused with manganese and niobium producing a very strong metal which out performs other aluminium alloys like 6061.
Pacenti: Pacenti Cycle Design is the brainchild of Kirk Pacenti who has been in the bicycle industry for over two decades. In 2009 he turned his attention to the design and manufacturing of high end rims. His interest in the 650B rim for use on MTB's has introduced this rim size to the American MTB community. He also has championed a slightly wider rim that produces a different more desirable tire profile that enables riders to use a bit less tire pressure for a better overall feel and ride. All the Pacenti L-Series rims exploit this feature and have grown greatly in popularity because of this. I recently built up a set of the new Pacenti Forza road rims. I was very impressed with the quality and happy to see that the rear rim exploited an asymmetric spoke bed, which increases the non drive side spoke tension. A welcome innovation that I wish every rim manufacturer used.
Sun XCD: In 2012 the former president of Suntour Japan returned to the bicycle industry with a brand new company. The emphasis was now exclusively on touring and randonneuring components. They have a single offering in alloy rims with a double wall rim with stainless steel eyelets weighing in at 490 grams. CNC machined side walls and spoke configurations of either 32 or 36 hole. Classic silver finish only.
Carbon Fibre Rims:
Cognoscenti Cycles has chosen a few select companies to answer our carbon rim needs. I feel that the companies we have selected represent a very good cross section of high quality and well designed carbon rims at a few different price points. Here is the list of the companies that we have partnered with. Ax-Lightness, Enve, Boyd Cycling, FSE, HED, Astral Cycling, Mcfk, Kappius Components, NOBL, NOX Composites, Gokiso, We Are One Composites, Atomik Carbon and Venn. If you desire a specific carbon rim outside of this list I'd be happy to try and get it for you!
Atomik Carbon: A relative newcomer to the world of carbon rims, Florida based Atomik Carbon has put their energy into producing affordable MTB rims that are made in Taiwan. Utilising a 33mm wide hookless design and constructed from premium Toray 700 and 800 fiber are rims that are weighing in between 370 and 420 grams. Atomik also has entered the market of Fat Tire wheels with their Atomik Carbon Phatty which is an 85mm wide, 32 hole rim weighing in at about 580 grams.
Astral Cycling: Operating out of their factory in Eugene Oregon, their carbon rims benefit from many years of extensive testing from their parent company Rolf Prima. Their rims are drilled for external spoke nipples and are tubeless ready. The Veil series of rims are available in depths of 32mm, 42mm and 60mm.
Ax-Lightness: This German company makes all their products in house. They have several different components but I will concentrate only on their wheels. They have achieved an incredibly light rim weighing in at less than 200 grams for their Ultra 25T. This super light rim has been designed to withstand very high spoke tension, partly due to its unique design that does not drill the rim for the spoke nipple bed. Instead the nipple seats are all hand done ensuring no need for any drilling and therefore disturbing any of the carbon fibres. The end result is a rim that can withstand a tension of over 5000 N! That is twice the amount of the their highest competitor. Unreal. This means that their wheels can be built up to very high tensions with no worry of breakage.
Boyd Cycling: Headed up in Greenville South Carolina, Boyd Cycling is a relative newcomer as far as carbon rims are concerned. Their carbon fibre rims are designed in house and built to their own specifications in Taiwan. They also had a specially made brake pad to best suit the characteristics of their carbon rims. Their rims have been available since 2011 and are gaining in popularity. Spoke counts from 20 holes through 28 are available as well as rim depths of 28mm, 44mm and 60mm.
Corima: This French company began in 1973 but didn't begin to work with carbon composites until around 1988 when it offered its first carbon disc wheel. All Corima's rims are designed and made in their factory in France. Their rims have made their way into the pro peloton and seen victory in major European road races. On their own complete wheel sets Corima favours the use of proprietary and unconventional spoking patterns which may not be to everyones tastes but they also make rims with standard spoke hole configurations as well. Their carbon fibre is either 3K or 12K and everything is produced in house.
Curve Cycling: Based out of Melbourne Australia, Curve Cycling produce UCI approved carbon road/cyclocross clincher and tubular rims as well as MTB rims. Spoke hole counts from 16 to 32 are offered. They have a special breaking surface to help dissipate heat when descending on non-disc breaks. A crash warranty is offered should you suffer a mishap that kills your rim.
Derby: Established in 2012, Derby offers a super wide MTB carbon fibre rim that is advancing the current wide rim revolution, enhancing the performance of existing MTB tires and improving many aspects of off road handling and rim durability. Available in 26, 27.5 and 29er's, at weights from 440 grams up to 520 grams. Rim widths of 40mm for 26" and 45mm for 29er's are available.
DT Swiss: DT Swiss now has a number of different carbon fibre options, including carbon fibre/alloy hybrids that utilise the best of both worlds. DT Swiss offers many of these rims as part of complete wheels and may restrict their availability to wheel builders who might want to procure their carbon rims for custom wheel building. At this time I have access to a few carbon fibre rims of note like the XRC 320 which is a fully carbon rim fit for the cyclocross rider who is looking for the ride of carbon in a very low weight. Available in 28 hole only and rim sizes for 26 and 29er's. MTB riders might want to look at the XMC 350, a 28 hole only rim for both 27.5 and 29er wheels weighing in under 400 grams.
Duke: Duke Racing Wheels is a French company designing high end racing and MTB wheels. Their 3K carbon rim is designed and tested in France. It now has an asymmetric design that compensates for discrepancies in drive side and off side spoke tension. Available in 650B as well as 29". Very light weight at 310 and 330 grams respectively. External nipples and a tubeless ready design with 24.8mm internal width enhances tire volume and stability. Their "anti-burp" system assures that tires will not blow off when ridden tubeless.
Enve: Enve are manufacturers of high quality carbon fibre bicycle components. They have a wide selection of rims that cater to most all cyclings needs. They offer numerous complete wheel sets of their own design. Enve has a unique brass 10mm nipple that must be used when building or repairing their wheels. Enve offers a 5 year manufacturers warranty and a lifetime crash replacement guarantee. Their carbon rims are quite expensive but boast a high degree of popularity among those looking for top notch rims.
FSE: This acronym stands for Filament Spin Evolution. The name helps to describe the process by which this companies carbon fibre rims are made. Instead of the ubiquitous method of tedious hand laid up carbon sheets that are carefully overlaid using proprietary mold's and several sessions of heating and trimming of material, their rims are made in an entirely different manner. The aforementioned method was completely abandoned in favour of using stranded carbon fibre that passes through a resin bath ensuring that each fibre has precisely the same amount of resin. This patented process is not done by hand but by computer assisted machinery guaranteeing unparalleled accuracy and repeatability. This new method apparently increases the overall strength by 40% and also increases stiffness by a similar amount. The claimed roundness of each rim is within .3% and there is also a reduction in weight with no strength penalty. This is the only US company to use this method of construction. I will be testing their rims in the near future and posting my review on my blog. Stay tuned.... It looks like a game changer!
Gigantex: Gigantex began in 1998 with just 18 employees and now in 2016 employees more than 220 people. This is no small operation and is definitely one of the major players in the world of carbon fibre rims. With factories in both Taiwan and the Czech Republic, Gigantex is busy making rims for numerous clients who apply their name to these rims. Gigantex has developed some major innovations and currently holds over 50 patents for its carbon fibre products. Their rims are all done by labour intensive methods that require skill and expertise for hand laying up of the carbon fibre. They produce their own line of complete wheels named Equinox.
Gokiso: This Japanese company has produced one of the most amazing hubs on the market. It's detailed in my section dedicated to hubs. They are also now selling complete wheel sets that use their own carbon fibre rims. At present they offer 3 different depths to choose from. This range should satisfy most every cycling discipline. Their 38 mm depth is their most popular rim which has some aerodynamic advantages but is not so deep so as to create problems on a blustery day. At this time the rims are not available as a separate item but are only available as a complete wheel.
HED: Steve Hed was the man behind Hed Cycling and was responsible for bringing aerodynamic disc wheels to the masses in the mid 80's. Steve did extensive wind tunnel testing to make his wheels as aerodynamic as any in the world , if not the best. He also led the way in deep carbon rim design and influenced the trend toward wider rims for enhanced tire performance. Hed wheels have proven themselves in the pro racing circuit in every discipline from road races to time trials to track events. Off road riders also have options for both cyclocross and Fatbikes.
Kappius Components: Kappius carbon rims come in both clincher/tubular road versions as well as MTB rims for 29er's and 27.5 sizes. All the rims share certain design aspects like 150KGF maximum spoke tension, 225 lbs max rider weight, offset spoke beds for more even spoke tension and external nipples for easy truing. All clincher rims are tubeless ready and all models have a 3 year crash replacement warranty.
Knight Composites: This Australian company is the work of 3 individuals with extensive experience in the world of modern cutting edge bicycle design. They have combined their collective experience to both design and build some of the best carbon rims that are currently available using extensive wind tunnel testing. They offer both clincher and tubular versions in 3 rims depths, 35, 65 and 95mm. Their rims are advertised as appropriate for touring, cyclocross, triathlon and road racing.
Mcfk: This German company specialises in carbon production and has implemented several valuable features into their carbon rims. They have a carefully layered monocoque approach that increases overall rim strength. It also helps in keeping the weight low without sacrificing strength in key areas. They have also incorporated an asymmetric spoke bed which is not drilled, but created by a laminated construction instead, therefore increasing the pull through strength of the rim at a crucial place. The asymmetric spoke bed aids in balancing the spoke tension between the drive side and the non drive side of the wheel. Very few rim companies bother to take these all important steps.
Nextie: If you are really on a budget and you just have to have carbon fibre rims you might explore Nextie. These are inexpensive Chinese made carbon rims that may answer your need for affordable carbon rims. They offer quite a wide selection of various rim dimensions for BMX, MTB, road and fat bikes. I have yet to build up a set of wheels with these rims so I can't comment on what level of quality that Nextie has to offer. Having said that, they are very cheap so if they didn't last as long as expected or were a bit sub par in overall quality you can take some solace in the fact that your investment was relatively small.
Nox Composites: Based out of Knoxville Tennessee, this American company is the work of two engineers who started in 2012 to produce high quality carbon rims. Their rims incorporate a few design features that help strengthen the rear wheel, like an asymmetric offset that helps to equalize spoke tension by as much as 15%. Their published weights are between 335 and 430 grams. Extremely light for an off road carbon rim. They source their high quality carbon fibre from Toray in Japan. All their MTB rims are tubeless ready. Nox claims that they make the strongest carbon rim on the market. Their own in house testing bears witness to very impressive strength.
Venn: Velocite Tech is a Taiwanese company that has a new approach to making carbon rims. To my knowledge they are one of only two companies worldwide who have embraced a very different way to produce carbon fibre rims. They have abandoned the traditional method of hand laid carbon fibre strips that require many steps employing multiple pieces of carbon fibre to create a rim. Instead they use a filament wound process that uses computer guided machinery to wrap a continuous tow of fibres through a bath of resin that revolves around a mandrel. The benefits of this method include greatly increased accuracy , consistency, and tighter tolerances. For a fuller explanation of their methodology I would suggest looking at their website. I will be testing some of these rims in 2017 and posting a review on my blog.
We Are One Composites: The world of carbon fibre rims is dominated by Asian, European and American companies. This Canadian company designs and manufacturers their rims in house from their location in Kamloops British Columbia. This small firm is in the heart of west coast mountain bike country, a perfect place to test out their fastidiously made carbon rims. They already have winning riders racing to podium positions with their product. At this time they feature two notable rims. The "Agent 27.5" begs to exploit wider tires with a 30mm internal width. With a respectable weight of 480 grams and a 25mm depth this rim offers up suitable stiffness and the right amount of needed compliance. They boast easy tire mounting and challenge anyone to burp their rims. They also have the Agent 29 in both a 28 and 32 hole option at only 10 grams heavier. Nipples are external for easy truing.