A Different Looking Wheel
In a copycat environment of genric carbon wheels, I gave this one a close look and came away pleased. With the proliferation of Asian carbon production, house brand wheels and many new wheel brands have come up to compete in the crowded all-mountain wheel landscape. Some of them are quite good, but they are getting harder and harder to differentiate. Unless one is very heavy or rough on equipment, it’s hard to decipher the differences among many of the latest carbon wheels.
Quai ISOS 33 Highlights
- Carbon rims
- 33mm internal width
- Radially-Staggered Lacing and offset rim profiles
- Quai 102T drive system
- Rim weight: 490g
- Complete wheelset weight: 1,800g
- Price: $1,299
The wheel we tested is the ISOS 33 with Quai’s 102t hub for $1,299. At first glance, 33mm seems like an odd internal rim width, but given our experience, it seems like the Goldilocks size at this point for all-mountain riding. Slightly narrower 30mm rims are quite good, as 2.3 to 2.4 tires have caught up in design to have the ideal profile for this rim width. But as wider acceptance and better tire designs in 2.5 and 2.6-inch tires arrive, 33mm is a good step-up to give these tires good girth, support and tread profile. And we’re confident that in two years or so, these will still be very relevant. We’ve tried 35’s as companies volleyed products in that space and that was clearly too wide for many tires.
The Quai 102T Hub
Again, it’s hard to differentiate in this space since it seems like many have adopted DT Swiss 240 or 350 hub systems. It is quite expensive and pretty generic looking but it is very, very reliable. Nothing wrong with this go-to hub, but it usually steers the price and the look of the wheelset. Quai sells their version of this wheelset at $1,599.
So I took the chance and got the house-brand hub version, the Quai 102T for $1,299, which translates to a huge $300 difference in price. This wheelset went from ‘competitive’ to ‘compelling’ depending on how acceptable or how great these hubs perform.
Sniff test went very well as they look great, much better than DT 350s. Bearings were smooth as silk and that ratchet was oh-so-satisfying. It felt like a Swiss timepiece and I was surprised to feel those 102 points of engagement. Duh… that’s why they call it the 102T, I realized. It feels quite precise and it makes this distinct but not obnoxious ticking noise when turned. So far so good.
Radially Staggered Lacing
Are you old enough to remember the Cane Creek or Velomax hubs of old? They were odd-looking with a hub flange that was much wider on the drive side. The idea was to make the spokes shorter since the wheel dish on that side was more severe, given the presence of the cassette in that space. This equalized spoke tension a bit and made for a stronger, better wheel.
The science behind Radially Staggered Lacing is the same but it uses the rim to achieve shorter spokes for the drive side. It pays homage to the old Cane Creek concept but uses modern materials for rims not available before. An added bonus is the hubs don’t look strange and the wheel gains a unique, muscular look. 10mm is the spoke length difference enabled by this rim so all the drive side spokes are that much shorter. The rims are offset too so that contributes too in equalizing the spoke tension. Plucking the spokes like we always do, the note on the drive side spokes is very close to non-drive, indicating spoke tension that is pretty close.
With this rim design, spoke tensions are closer to equal and the bracing angles are improved, resulting in a stronger triangle. Do you remember isosceles triangles and the Pythagorean theorem? We don’t; so let’s not go there.
How does it perform?
Coming in at just $1,299 for a cool looking wheel with real science behind we were excited to check it on the trail. The tires mounted right up tubeless and the new Specialized Butcher Grids we used looked full and stout. We used a Tallboy 4 for the photos but plan to use this on the new Specialized Enduro for additional testing.
The ratchet is a joy to use with quick, accurate engagement. We never had an issue on our rides and not too loud to distract from the ride.
The wheels were very responsive, laterally stiff on the rear. At 33mm, they are aggressive and I can sense they’re stiffer than the 29s or 30s I usually ride. The high mountain riding season is closed though by the time I got this, so I wasn’t able to take these up to Downieville or Tahoe for the long, fast downhills to get a sense of their high-speed ride quality and deflection.
It does seem strong, stout and dialed and that’s what I want for a bike like the Enduro, Megatower or these heavy Levos in the stable.
So who is Quai?
I talked to Frank Chin at length and I was pleased to learn more about the company. Their US office is in Southern CA and they do their manufacturing in Taiwan. They fully understand product engineering and its positioning in the market. And they hope to offer a compelling, competitively priced product backed by a stellar product warranty. Other key players in the company are:
Steve Metz- Patent owner of RSL “Radially Staggered Lacing”. Steve has been in the cycling industry for 20+ years.
Mike Wang- Quai brand owner- cycling industry for 20+ years and wheel specialist. Collaborating with various small wheel brands around the world.
Vital Stats of the Pro Model
Rim Weight: 490g
Rim Offset: 3mm
Spoke Type: Straight Pull
Spoke Diameter: 2.0-1.8-2.0
Spoke Count: F28 x R28
Spoke Tension: 120KGF MAX
High Profile: 26 mm
Low Profile: 20 mm
Outer Width: 39 mm
Inner Width: 33 mm
Front Bearing: 2x
Rear Bearing: 4x
Hub QUAI HUB 102T
More Information: www.Ridequai.com