The Risk of the Wrong, Reward of the Right Rim by @thebikecompany

the right rims

As the direct interface with the tire your rim choice plays a critical performance role on trail.  Here is a crash course on what to assess on a rim purchase.

Tubeless Interface– At this point tubeless performance is a must have requirement for top level mountain bikes.  UST, reinforced, or skin wall – all are successfully run without tubes at this point.  Not all rim manufacturers have tubeless tire retention to an art.  Even some of the highest profile, most expensive, carbon fiber rims require riders to utilize tubes for appropriate tire retention.

Rim Width – Tire shape, trail performance, and rider safety are all tied to the correct interface of tire width and rim width.  Rims that are too wide for desired tires square the edge of your traction pad resulting in chatter and excessive tire wear.  Rims that are too narrow for your tire are much more likely to have retention issues which may cause crashes resulting in product damage or rider injury.

Ease of Maintenance – fact – as great as it looks internal nipples require complete tear down of tubeless tape, etc in order to true, change spokes, or adjust tension.  It just is what it is…

Strength/Weight – Rim longevity is a product of use pattern (do you make stop signs out of wheels in 30 days or are you nimble and never ding them?) Your desired performance level, product lifespan goals, and wheel builder skill set will all play a role in rim selection.  Newer wheel builders often benefit from a stiffer (typically heavier) rim as they are easier to build.  Top level wheel builders are able to work with lighter more delicate rim technology and incorporate leading spoke technologies while producing product with the same longevity of heavier wheels built by less experienced mechanics.

Price – Not in the standard terms of actual cost, but how the cost will affect your on trail comfort and decision making.  Will the ultra light, most sexy, “unobtain-ium” rims give you the extra acceleration, turn the right heads, etc?  Or do those same rims have you guessing about your pace through the chunky rock section as you calculate potential cost of a cracked carbon rim ding?

Are you capable of digesting all of the caveats on a wheel build to maximize your budget and trail experience?  Is your resource capable of helping you digest it?  Recently an industry acquaintance related an unfortunate experience one of his riding buddies went through.  The friend also had industry ties and ended up with the “deal he couldn’t pass up” on a new setup.  The bike (which originated from a sponsored rider) was reconfigured to suit its new owner including wider, more confident tires.  These new 2.4” tires were mounted on 18mm rims for about the first three corners of the ride until they blew off at the first drop.  A pair of broken collar bones left the rider with plenty of time to research what happened.  None of his resource network were well enough informed to prevent this – even being aware of his intentions or riding larger tires.

As one of the more expensive component sets on a modern mountain bike it is important to get it right the first time.  Trail performance, longevity goals, aspirations, riding setup, and budget should be reviewed by riders with their resource.  The noted aspects above that help The Bike Company consult clients about proper rim choice apply to spokes, spoke pattern, and hubs.  There are wheel builders who are true artisans (like BikeCo.com’s staff) and there are wheel builders who lack product understanding or skill set which may prove painful of rider’s wallet and body…

Demand More – with The Bike Company.  See you on the trails – nate@bikeco.com

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