DH-ability: Is it the rims?

Lee –

I recently rode my friend’s brand new Santa Cruz Nomad. He’s got it set up for heavy duty free ride and can run the Northstar DH trails on it. He’s got WTB LaserDisc FR (30MM wide) with 2.3 Weirwolfs on them. I ride a Heckler with similar compnents but am using the WTB LaserDisc XC (24mm wide) with the same weirwolfs.

My question is would simply rim width explain why his bike feel so much more stable and planted going down hill over things and around turns? His bike felt like a DH bike and mine like a XC bike.

Thanks, Scot

Curtis Keene rips Sticks and Stones back in ’03. Northstar will test any bike you bring. Warning: Cheesy animated gif.

Hey Scot,

You know those advice columns where the writer is sarcastic with the people who write in? I don’t want to become one of those guys, but this one tested me.

– Yes, wider/stiffer/heavier rims slow down a bike’s handling and make it feel more stable. But they won’t make a bike change categories.

– The Nomad and Heckler are different animals. The Nomad is slacker, longer, has more/better suspension and costs significantly more. That’s explains 90 percent of the difference you felt. Surprise!

– The other 90 percent is suspension setup. Make sure your bike is dialed. If you live in Norcal, go see Lars at Trail Head Cyclery in San Jose.

Rip some ‘Star for me.

— Lee

BTW: Those Weirwolf side knobs rule in Northstar’s moon dust. Cheap upgrade for DH: Rock some 2.5s.

From the archive: 2003 Cal State Championships at Northstar. Back when leelikesbikes first started …

5 replies
  1. scot says:

    Thanks Lee – I guess it seemed open for ridicule, but here goes my chance to respond with sarcasm… what does 90% + 90% equal? I guess the real answer lies in the fact that the Nomad gives you 180% better “everything”!

    On a serious note, I guess the simple question is – will the reduced tire roll and flex from upgrading to a wider rim (read 27mm or 30mm) make a signifigant difference in the way my bike feels in FR and DH conditions? Is my current set-up holding me back or do people use wider (i.e. stronger ) rims purely as a way to prevent breaking skinnier ones?

  2. leelikesbikes says:


    The Nomad gives you 180% better everything. That’s pretty good, but the Enduro gives you 190% better everything … 🙂

    Wider rims:

    – Are stronger. This is important for non-smooth riders, and for the rears of aggressively ridden all-mountain bikes.

    – Give you a better profile with a wide tire. Your 2.3 Weirwolves are pretty moderate. 2.5 Weirwolves would be silly on narrow rims.

    – Are heavier, which increases stability.

    – Are stiffer. This is why I like wide rims. When the braaap goes down, they don’t flex like narrow rims. When you mate stiff rims with a stiff frame, the braapability goes through the roof.

    – Increase confidence. See above. Confidence is the other 90% of the equation.

    90% bike choice, 90% bike setup, 90% confidence, 90% skill …

  3. Walt says:

    I have a SC Bullet and when I want to ride strictly downhill, I have an entirely different set of wheels with double wide rims and a 2.7 maxis minion dh special tire in the front and a 2.5 in the back. I don’t change the suspension or anything else, but those wheels/tires make all the difference in the world. Those big dh tires are like having another inch of travel and the wide rims give me motorcycle-like stabibity. The rest of the time I ride 2.5 wierwolfs on Azonic outlaws (wheels). I never go less than a 2.5 in the front, even on my trail bike.

  4. scot says:

    Thanks Walt – I’ll have to try it with the bigger set-up. I recently switched out my 100mm stem with a 50mm and it helped a bit as well. Now I wish I had a 132-136 front fork. When I got my Vanilla 125 a few years back it seemed big enough and now it’s a bit short.

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