What are my final thoughts?
- Very Stiff Build
- Reasonable Weight for an AM Build
- Look Great On My Black Frame
- Wide 32mm Rim
- Easy Axle Change
- 20mm End Caps on the Front Hub Fall Off Without Warning
- Only 24 Points Of Engagement
- No Color Options
- Proprietary Spokes
- More Expensive than the Competition
Honestly…the positives of these wheels do not outweigh the negatives for me at this price. When I am paying almost $1,000 for wheels…they need to be almost flawless. The annoyances of the axles makes the set feel “unfinished”. Yes…they are stiff…but so is the competition at this price. When you are building wheelsets above the $800.00 range, there needs to be a multitude of options with near flawless manufacturing. The engagement of the rear hub also has to be 72 point or greater. I have had zero issues with the Chris King and Industry Nine hubs in terms of durability. There are people out there still using Chris King hubs that are over 10 years old. I was really missing the higher engagement on the trail.
I hope that TE and the guys over at Ellsworth can take my criticisms as constructive. They build an incredible frame, but these wheels need some work if they are going to compete in this price range. As they sit right now…they do not feel like $1,000 wheels.
What would make them $1,000 wheels?
So…now that I have said they are not $1,000 wheels, what do I think would bring them up to that level in the mountain biking wheel world?
It’s A Good Start
These wheels are a good start with the wide rim and stiff build. The problem is that at this price level, a stiff wheel build is expected not a luxury. I would not even consider buying an AM wheelset over 500 dollars unless they are very stiff and hold a line through hard corners and rock gardens. The wide rim is an added bonus, but the rim industry as a whole is moving in that direction already.
You can have your reasons for going with a 24 point engagement drive, but it is not going to help sales at this price level. Engagement makes a huge difference on the trail. When we started sessioning a long rock garden, the gap in engagement started to become a huge annoyance. Up the engagement as soon as possible.
- Find a new way to attach the front end caps where they won’t fall off…this is a must.
- Offer Colors – I know that colors do not affect performance, but all of the wheelsets in this price range (minus Mavic) offer a range of at least hub colors. As riders are spending more money on frames and time picking out parts, they like things to match. If they are given two options with all things equal, they are probably going to pick the one that matches their frame if they can. I can’t tell you how many Ellsworth’s I have seen with multi-colored Industry Nines.
- Make the rim tubeless compatible – The space at the valve stem does not allow these rims to run tubeless. Having the option to run a tubeless setup on an AM designed wheelset would be a great option. I have switched a lot of sets over to the Stans Flow rims for this reason. They are light enough to run tubes but also run tubeless easily.
- Include several spokes with each wheel build – Having proprietary spokes is not as much of an issue if you already have some on hand.
- Price – Bring the price down. 990.00 for mountain biking wheels is too high (even with custom colors).
The competition really raises the bar when it comes to wheels. With some changes, these can be a great set, but until then…3 chilis.
Mountain Biking by 198
For more reviews and mountain biking info…visit our website at Mountain Biking by 198.
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