Video & Written Review:
Full disclosure: my team, Kasel Cycling, is sponsored by Crankbrothers. That said, my goal is to review these wheels like any person would if they opened up their wallet and forked over some cash for new hoops – which I did. My previous post gave some insight into the Trance Transformation so this post is to shed some light on how the wheels have performed after 115 miles of grade “A” Big Bear, CA fireroad, singletrack, and rocky downhill.
So how to evaluate these new wheels? First, let’s address the aesthetics. Hands down, Crankbrothers wheels turn heads like the smell of hops make mountain bikers itch for beer. Whether you like them or find them funky looking, you take notice. I like how different they look – how simple yet complex the spokes look. Clean lines extending from the large hub to the eyelet-less rim. Like the picture shows below, a wheel is a wheel, but Crankbrothers has gone as far as you can go in restyling how well a wheel looks:
So how does it roll? Short answer: quite well. Compared to my previous stock 2009 26″ wheelset (WTB LaserDisc), I dropped nearly a pound of rotational mass with the new Iodines! A one pound loss on a 5″ full suspension trail bike is akin to a ninja gaining an extra 1″ on his sword. There’s going to be a whole lot more carving, dicing, and slaying on the trail! Better yet, I haven’t converted the wheels to a tubeless setup using Stan’s sealant, so there’s still weight to be shed! (Note – the Crankbrothers wheels are super easy to convert to tubeless since there are no spoke eyelets in the rim to tape over and I plan converting the wheels in the coming days.)
Six days and 115 miles in Big Bear have provided me with an early impression of the ride characteristics of this wheelset. The first thing I noticed upon hitting the dirt was the subtle sound the rear hub makes when coasting. Not as crazy loud (and annoying, IMO) as a Chris King hub, but noticeable nevertheless in a confident reassuring way.
Not taking the easy way out by using the Snow Summit sky chair, all the fun in Big Bear requires climbing and the weight reduction in the wheels was appreciated. I otfen found myself staying in the middle ring (32 teeth) of my 3×9 setup instead of dropping down to the granny ring (22 teeth) on the fireroad climbs. I attribute some of this to being stronger and fitter, but after 4+ hours in the saddle during one of my rides, the drop in wheel weight allowed for this.
When it came time to point the bike downhill, the Crankbrothers wheels really shined. My previous wheels were showing their age, flexing and creaking with every rock strike and off-camber turn. Where there was once was flexing and play there is now confidence-inspiring stiffness where I spot a downhill line and nail it. The wheels have freshened my old Trance up and I find myself attacking lines I had shied away from with my the old wheels. For example, at the 3:55 mark in the video above, I attacked the rocky section, whereas I would have scrubbed some speed using my old wheels.
While I can’t comment on the long-term durability of these wheels, I can say that I’m really impressed after the first 100 miles on these hoops. Several riders in Big Bear commented on and asked me about the wheels, confirming that these wheels make a visual statement. As for how they roll, my 2009 Trance felt refreshed and full of life. Prior to the new wheels, I found myself avoiding riding the bike, in large part because the ride felt harsh, without spirit. The Trance’s verve has been renewed and the Crankbrothers wheels are to credit for the transformation.