Review: Industry Nine Trail 29 wheelset

Stiff in corners with fast engagement, but a touch harsh

29er Wheels
Industry Nine Trail 29 wheels retail for $1195.

Industry Nine Trail 29 wheels retail for $1195.

The Lowdown: Industry Nine Trail 29 wheelset

Industry Nine has a reputation for making some of the finest works of rolling machined art, boasting hubs and spokes made in the USA to exacting standards in a variety of anodized colors. The Trail 29 wheels are noticeably stiff in corners and feature quick engagement thanks to an 120-point, 3-degree freehub, making them a solid choice for technical trail riding. However, the 23.4mm wide alloy Trail 29 rims deliver a harsher ride and provide less overall traction than some ultra-wide carbon rims we’ve ridden.

Stat Box
Rim Type: Tubeless ready Rear Hub: Zero dish, singlespeed 142×12 thru-axle
Rim Material: Alloy Assembly Method: Hand built in Asheville, N.C.
Braking Surface: Disc only Wheelset Weight: 1630 grams (as tested)
Rim Width: 23.4 mm inner/28mm outer Rider Weight Limit: 220 pounds
Spokes: Industry Nine – 2.9mm/2.7 butted MSRP: $1195 (as tested)
Front Hub: Industry Nine 15mm thru axle Rating: 4 Flamin' Chili Peppers 4 Chilies-out-of-5

Pluses
Minuses
  • Quality craftsmanship
  • Harsh ride quality
  • Variety of anodized colors
  • Alloy hoops can’t compete with carbon hoops
  • Laterally stiff
  • Bead unseating with low tire pressure
  • 120-point engagement rear freehub

Full Review: Industry Nine Trail 29 wheelset

It wasn’t until last year that I bought my first 29er. It’s not that I thought big wheeled bikes were a bad idea, it’s just that I could never find a bike that had the right geometry paired with a wheelset that delivered quick and nimble performance like a 26-inch bike. That and the fact that the larger diameter wheels equated to lateral wheel flex. Being able to flex a 29er wheel enough to hit a bike’s chainstays just didn’t sit well with me, so as one of the few remaining holdouts, I stuck with 26-inch wheels until last spring.

Trail 29 wheels come in either all black or a host of different anodized colors.

Trail 29 wheels come in either all black or a variety of anodized colors.

When I finally found a 29er that had quick handling, the next task was finding a set of wheels that wouldn’t negate the lateral stiffness of the frame. Enter Industry Nine. Their proprietary straight-pull 2.9mm/2.7mm-wide butted aluminum spoke design that threads at the hub — eliminating the need for traditional nipples – allegedly delivers a noticeable improvement in lateral stiffness. So I ordered a set of Trail 29 wheels with a zero-dish singlespeed-specific rear hub to see if they lived up to the hype.

Among the characteristics that sets I9 wheels apart from other wheel options is anodized color options. I grew up in the early 1990s and have always been a sucker for colorful anodizing. But on this mission I kept matters understated by ordering “none more black” in an ode to Spinal Tap; black hubs, black spokes and black rims.

Beautiful craftsmanship and machining.

Beautiful craftsmanship and machining.

Aesthetically speaking, the I9s are simply gorgeous wheels to look at, especially when rocking bright orange, red, pink or green anodizing. But even in the understated black, they’re true works of CNC art. Not only do they look stellar, but also the sound of the 120-point, six-pawl rear freehub is music to a singlespeeder’s ears. With an incredibly precise three degrees of engagement, the Torch rear hub is an essential weapon for singlespeeders or anyone who loves to devour technical terrain.

Even the slightest backpedaling motion engages the Torch hub, making most other 15-degree engagement hubs seem lazy and loose. And despite what you might think with so many points of engagement, the Torch hubs have incredibly low drag thanks to a new four-bearing rear hub design that reduces interaction between the hub shell and the freehub body under coasting.

Coming from a set of Stan’s Arch EX wheels, from the very first hard corner, it was clear that the 32-spoke Trail 29s make most traditional 29er wheels feel like flaccid scraps of aluminum. Mounted on my Ibis Tranny 29 with 142×12 rear thru axle, 15mm front thru axle, a tapered head tube and a thick BB92 bottom bracket, adding the Trail 29 wheels made the already sharp Tranny 29 even more precise, resulting in more effortless and faster cornering exit speeds.

The 120-point, three-degree engagement Torch rear hub is a boon for technical riders and singlespeeders.

The 120-point, three-degree engagement Torch rear hub is a boon for riding technical trail.

As good as the I9 wheels were on the carbon fiber Tranny 29, the user who would really benefit most from a set of Trail 29 wheels is someone with an older 29-inch frame sporting a non-tapered head tube, a traditional bottom bracket, and 136mm quick release rear dropouts. Before buying a new frame, swap on a set of Trail 29s for an immediate improvement in cornering precision while preserving the lively feel of a traditional non-tapered titanium or steel frame.

At an average weight of 1630 grams and a max rider weight of 220 pounds, Trail 29 wheels are respectably light. Trail 29 wheels endured numerous days of hardtail abuse in Downieville without ever a hint of losing trueness. And as the ultimate test of durability, I ran the rear Trail 29 wheel on a seven-day, 420-mile adventure called The Commute – riding as much singletrack as possible from Lake Tahoe to San Francisco. The Trail 29 rear wheel remained true even after navigating technical, rocky trails such as Hole in the Ground, Tahoe Rim Trail, and Western States Trail all on a hardtail.

Trail 29 wheels are a great match to the Ibis Tranny 29.

Trail 29 wheels are a great match to the Ibis Tranny 29.

However these wheels are by no means perfect. After riding a set of 38mm inner/41mm outer carbon “wideboy” rims, these narrower 23.4mm inner/28mm outer alloy hoops felt harsh by comparison, especially over square-edge bumps. Although this might not be a big deal for full suspension rigs, for those who like to rip downhill on a hardtail, there’s more rear end harshness with the Trail 29 than a fat carbon rim on traditional double butted spokes. And because the wideboy rims are so much fatter and deeper in profile, they maintain nearly all the lateral stiffness of the Trail 29.

The other issue is maintaining bead seating under low tire pressure. Nothing is more irritating than when you’re running a tubeless setup and the tire bead unseats from the rim under low pressure after a slow leak. When you’re on the trail without a compressor in sight, the result is having to run a tube, which is a PITA considering other tubeless-ready rims I’ve run don’t have this issue.

The rear Trail 29 wheel endured the abuse of Downieville and the 420-mile “Commute” from Tahoe to San Francisco without ever coming out of true. Photo by : James Adamson – Dropmedia.tv

The rear Trail 29 wheel endured the abuse of Downieville and the 420-mile “Commute” from Tahoe to San Francisco without ever coming out of true. Photo by James Adamson/Dropmedia.tv

The only reason I’d hesitate to buy a set of Trail 29 wheels is because of the rims. Not that they’re bad rims; they’re durable as hell. It’s more the fact that after running wideboy carbon hoops, it’s hard to go back. This leads me to my dream wheel scenario: a set of carbon wideboy rims laced to Industry Nine Torch hubs and traditional double butted spokes. And for those who love the thicker, straight-pull butted and anodized I9 aluminum spokes, they’re also compatible with traditionally drilled rim holes.

In stock configuration, the Trail 29 wheels run $1195. Although there are carbon options out there for only a little more, they’ll be hard pressed to match the quality and performance of I9 hubs and spokes. I also love all the customized build options detailed on their website, allowing buyers to mix and match spoke colors, opt for custom lacing, add ceramic bearings, or even swap in alloy rims from other manufacturers.

I asked them about wideboy rims, and I9 informed me of a custom build program where a rider can work with their local bike shop to provide an approved rim – like Derby carbon hoops – and I9 will build the wheels up in-house. Carbon wideboy rims laced up to the blingy anodized goodness of I9 Torch hubs? I’m already drooling.

For more information visit www.industrynine.net.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


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  • I'mRight says:

    any product with a weight limit doesn’t belong in the woods. these wheels aren’t hyper-light and a 220lb limit says “were only semi-tough”.

  • adrian says:

    How much of the harsh feel is due to the thick straight-pull spokes? Most comments about harsh feel come from people swapping to carbon rims…which is why a lighter spoke is often used to provide a bit of give.
    I kinda doubt a carbon rim on the same setup would feel any softer, probably the opposite.

  • Timm says:

    Kurt, when/where is ManDownRIVER going to play next? Nice review btw.

  • ggg says:

    … personally see a friend riding Moab have an I9 special alu spoke snapped clean in half making the wheel unstable after the derailleur caught it up.
    Huge hassle to get the thing going again as no spares were in hand.
    FYI – Need to ship to I9 apparently to untension and then build up w/ new spoke.
    On the good side the engagement is truly insane.
    On the bad the hub sound is truly annoying I hate it.

  • Timm says:

    Man DownStream, my apologies

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