First ride: SRAM Rise 60 wheels
Dang, just when I was about to get “29” tattooed on my chest, in came a set of high-end SRAM carbon 26er trail wheels.
Never has my Stumpy felt so alive.
SRAM ran what appears to be a sweet press camp in France. The cool bike journalists were invited, and they did a fine job of conveying the features of the wheels. Check out the writeups via Google search.
I didn’t get to go to the media camp, but my friend Jon Watt — Mountain States DS, 4X, DH, SD and XC hero, MMBSii manual model, genius, decent guy and SRAM engineer — sent me a set of wheels to try. That’s rad. Thanks Jon!
The basic notion
• SRAM wanted to create a light and comfortable, yet braaapable, trail wheelset.
• The freehub is unique and clever, and it has very fast engagement. It’s quiet too.
• The wheels easily swap between QR/15mm front, 135/142mm rear.
• Internal rim width is 19mm.
• The rims are not UST, but they work with tubeless conversions.
• The wheels are light. I’m talking 1,330 grams in 26″, 1,420 grams in 29″. That’s more than a pound lighter than my old Sun Charger 27s, which were not super heavy.
• Retail for these wheels is $2,000. Wow. What sucks is they ride so well it gets you thinking … Hmm, I only need the one kidney. …
SRAM Rise 60 wheels
SRAM Rise 60 wheels
SRAM Rise 60 wheels
Q&A with Jon Watt
Hey Jon, what was your role?
I was the primary design engineer for the Rise 60 wheels. I did the design work on the hubs along with defining the test requirements for the hub, rim, and complete wheel. The carbon rims were designed and made at Zipp.
[SRAM bought Zipp Speed Weaponry, a leader in carbon road wheels, in 2007. — Lee]
What were your goals? What sort of experience or feel?
The goals for the wheel were to make the best XC race and trail riding wheelset, without sacrificing strength and stiffness. They aren’t the lightest wheels available, but our goal was to have a good balance of weight, strength, stiffness, inertia and responsiveness. Quick engagement in the hub was also a priority.
What makes them special?
A good ride experience from a wheelset isn’t just about just one factor such as weight, stiffness, durability, etc. You can have the lightest wheels in the world, but if they are flexing all over the place, you won’t be able to go as fast or enjoy the ride. It’s the combination of weight, strength, stiffness, inertia and responsiveness that make a wheelset do its job. What makes these wheels special is they have an ideal balance of these variables that make them ideal for XC and trail riding.
Couple other specifics:
• 54 tooth ratchet ring for quick hub engagement
• Super easy end cap interchangeability for different axle configurations
• Assembled at the Zipp factory in the USA
• Sapim CX-Ray spokes [24 on each wheel, laced two-cross]
What was the hardest/most interesting aspect of developing these wheels?
There were plenty of challenges. Here are some that come to mind:
• Finding that optimum balance of weight, stiffness and strength required a lot of iterations and testing to get right.
• We went through a lot of iterations of rims with Zipp to get them where we want as well. With aluminum rims, if you put a ding in the bead wall, you can keep riding them. Carbon rims don’t bend, so they have to hold up to the type of abuse that would normally dent an aluminum rim.
• The torque inputs that a rear hub can see are higher than most car engines will put out! If you could bolt our Rise 60 rear hub onto an F-150 motor, it could withstand the torque. Designing a hub that can withstand this torque, but remain under our weight target was a challenge. [Cool!]
• Non-threaded end caps. I wanted to use non-threaded end caps for these to eliminate the risk of them coming loose or not being adjusted right. I had to come up with a design that would feel smooth in your hand outside the bike, as well as smooth in the bike with the QR cranked down. There also had to be no room for them to come loose since there is no adjustment. So keeping them smooth and without play in and out of the bike was a bit of a challenge.
The Rise 60s went onto my Mighty Stumpjumper (26). I’ve been riding this bike for two years, and I know it well.
Suspension: 140mm front and rear. Pressures at factory recommendations. Rebound fast but not bouncy.
Old wheels: Sun Charger 27s — not the fancy new Charger Pros like on Captain America; the older ones with plain rims, spokes and hubs. Those wheels have been rolling four years on two Stumpies, and they are still running without complaint. At 1/4 the cost of the Rises, Chargers deliver great value.
Front tire: 2.3 Butcher Control. A light/fast tire for how grippy it is, but, not in any universe, an especially light/fast tire. Tube with 33 psi.
Rear tire: 2.3 Ground Control. Pretty light, pretty grippy and rather fast. Tube with 35 psi.
I took the Stumpy 26 to Heil Ranch near Boulder, CO. I’ve ridden this trail 100 times. It’s a perfect place to compare bike parts. My riding partner was Evan Powell, an ex skills pupil and current pro DHer. The pace was as quick as it gets (unless you’re riding with Jon Watt).
• The freehub is very quiet and feels very positive. Sometimes, especially on cold days, freehubs have trouble with my F-150 torque. No issues with the Rises. The quiet, instant, solid engagement feels Pro.
• Wow, holy cow, the bike feels quick. Taking a pound off your wheels — especially at the outside of the circle — will do the job. I was accelerating so explosively I kept apologizing to Evan.
• The wheels take the edge off hits. I could swear the bike felt smoother than normal. In fact, I added a couple clicks of low speed rebound damping so I could feel more connected with the turns.
• This is the real measure: We were truly pinning the descent. I was focused on the task at hand — pump the rocks, sprint, rail this turn, flick into that turn, don’t let Evan wax you — and the bike felt awesome: as good and predictable and consistent as always, but with an extra dose of snap and smoothness.
If you are in a position to consider $2,000 wheels for your bike, 1) congratulations on making smart life choices, and 2) definitely consider SRAM Rise 60s.
I’m preparing to switch to a 29er trail bike, but I gotta say these wheels give my trusty Stumpy 26 a whole new liveliness. That bike was fun before. It’s funner now. Good thing Rise 60s come in 29 too.
Next: Slap the Rise 60s onto Captain America for some pump track testing.
Know more. Have more fun!
Join the leelikesbikes mailing list:
Bought your book with Brian Lopes. best skills book by far. It has been a huge help. Even switched to flat pedals recently.
I currently ride a 2011 stumpy fsr 29er comp. I have been debating switching back to a 26er for the lighter weight and better “flickability”. I was wondering why you are switching to a 29er (we know what Lopes thinks about 29ers)? Would these rims be worth putting on my bike if I stay with 29?
I live about 50 miles from Austin,TX. Count me in if you ever come this way for another clinic.
• Why I am going 29? I owe everyone a full analysis of this decision, but basically I believe 29s will let me ride faster, smoother and easier — especially uphill. I am an aerobically average athlete, and I believe the big wheels will help me hang with the elite riders I’m coaching. My tests show I can still “flick” a 29er just fine.
• Hell yes, get some great wheels for your 29er. I think with 29ers, light, stiff wheels are more important than ever. If you want to go all the way, check out these Rise 60 wheels or the Roval carbon wheels. If you want to get some great wheels for a bit less, check out the Rise 40 (aluminum rims), Roval aluminum wheels or Sun Charger Pro 29s.
When I get my 29er, I am going to try hard to ride some high end carbon wheels like the Rise 60s. I’ve ridden the Roval carbon wheels on an Epic, and those were awesome as well.
I look forward to riding in Austin again!
Wow, amazing how attitudes change! As a non elite rider I always thought 29ers were better, but thought I ws wrong because everyone who “knows” about riding told me so. So for the last year I put my 29er away in shame and rode my 26er while secretly lusting for my 29. When I worked at the bike shop the boss told me I should learn to f@#^ing ride and forget about 29ers as they were a crutch for bad riders. Even you said that it is commonly known that 26ers rode better. Hey, but what do I know.?
We are living a revolution right now.
• Early 29er adopters tended to be relatively unskilled riders. As an S employee told me, “The Epic is the fastest bike made, but it’s ridden by the least skilled riders.”
• Modern 29ers are pretty great.
• Bigger wheels help sucky riders ride better (or, more likely, continue to ride suckily) the way suspension does. Bigger wheels are a more efficient solution to bumps than more suspension.
• Unless you are riding a 20″ BMX bike with flat pedals and a loincloth, don’t judge anyone who wants to ride a bike that helps him enjoy the experience.
• Your boss probably sucks, and he has no idea.
It is amazing that the wheels made that big a difference. What is your opinion on height restrictions for 29? I am 5’5″ and 125 pounds and feel like 29 would be a handfull. Also, is Heil Ranch currently ridable?
Just rode the bike again. The wheels do make it feel really quick.
I can’t speak to other bike makers, but I know Specialized pays attention to the details. If you try a 29er in your size, it will be dialed.
Heil was good a couple days ago. Some snow up top, but not bad. I don’t know about Picture Rock.
“Bigger wheels help sucky riders ride better (or, more likely, continue to ride suckily) the way suspension does” so Lee are you saying it is a crutch for less experienced riders? and I would also add clips to that last too….
Do you think novice/beginners should hop right on a 29er?
should LBS’ be pushing them as hard as they do? or at least as hard as they do here in MN.
Like James said we know what Lopes, James Wilson, sven martin and other big names in the industry think of 29ers and I would consider them as credible as you when I’m going for opinions on MTB.
Or should or would you recommend riders start on HT 26ers with flats, learn to ride as well as they can and then have 29ers as an option that may or may not allow them to ride better, similar to the switching to clips?
BTW love your book way better then Mountain Biking the Manual, not to bash chris ball, but his is more of a history of mtb with sweet pics and yours gets right to the meat of it, although I think your chart for HA is a bit off, All M 71-68? dh 66-68? shouldn’t it be more like all-m 66-69 and dh 63.5-66?
Thanks again for all your info!
keep it real!
>> “Bigger wheels help sucky riders ride better (or, more likely, continue to ride suckily) the way suspension does” so Lee are you saying it is a crutch for less experienced riders? and I would also add clips to that last too….
Big wheels, suspension and clip-in pedals can be used as crutches for sucky riders and tools for less sucky riders.
>> Do you think novice/beginners should hop right on a 29er?
Most, if they want to get the most enjoyment out of their riding, yes.
A hardtail 29er delivers some of the benefits of a suspended 26er — at a lower price while encouraging better skill development. Especially with flat pedals.
>> should LBS’ be pushing them as hard as they do? or at least as hard as they do here in MN.
Let’s face it, a 29er will give most riders a more pleasant experience right out of the box. If I own a shop, and a style of bike sells better and retains ridership better — hence more cloths, accessories, service, bikes for the kids, etc. — I’d sell it.
>> Like James said we know what Lopes, James Wilson, sven martin and other big names in the industry think of 29ers and I would consider them as credible as you when I’m going for opinions on MTB.
I don’t know how open minded and data-driven those guys are, but I’ve run timed experiments, and it’s clear to me that 29ers are easier/smoother/faster in a lot of common riding situations.
AND: They do not suck in pump/jump/slalom/tech situations. If you know how to ride.
I plan to own a 29er trail bike as soon as possible. Not as a crutch: As a way to make the most of my fitness and skills.
>> Or should or would you recommend riders start on HT 26ers with flats, learn to ride as well as they can and then have 29ers as an option that may or may not allow them to ride better, similar to the switching to clips?
Ideally, we’d all start on BMX bikes with flip flops when we’re kids, then we’d gradually step up the wheel size, suspension, shoe/pedal technology and carbon composition as we get more skilled and wealthy.
I’m fortunate and obsessed enough to have the chance to learn all wheel sizes. I’m mostly a 26 guy, but I can get it done on 20, 24, 26 or 29. As a matter of fact, Wednesday pump sesh was on a 20, Thursday’s was on a 26. I learn a lot by switching wheels, and I use that knowledge for my riding and coaching.
That’s not most riders’ reality. They have one bike, and they just want to have fun.
If you want to master the beast, try small wheels, no suspension and flat pedals. If you’re out there riding a rigid hardtail with clips, get off your high horse! Shoot, anyone who uses clips, suspension, padded shorts or prescription glasses shouldn’t be too dogmatic about people “buying their game.”
>> BTW love your book way better then Mountain Biking the Manual, not to bash chris ball, but his is more of a history of mtb with sweet pics and yours gets right to the meat of it, although I think your chart for HA is a bit off, All M 71-68? dh 66-68? shouldn’t it be more like all-m 66-69 and dh 63.5-66?
Thanks and ha! A book like that takes a couple years to produce. Angles have been changing quickly. I’ll update the third edition. …
Thanks Lee for the quick and percise answer… I’m pretty open minded and will definately give it a try, heck I struggled handling a 26er the first couple rides as I did come from a bmx back ground and was one of those “bmxers” that didn’t like 24s like you mention in your book but after a few rides on the schwinn home grown i was hooked and new i was in the right sport after my first serious down hill rip in the black hills, the next year I bought my giant reign and love it.
You are right in your book you need to pick a bike set it up right and then just learn to ride it and that is the best bike for you!
I guess for LBS I just don’t like how a lot of them are super closed minded when it comes to helping new riders, they just push the trends, clips, full squish, clips…. ect. at least where I live, I wish they had more clinics and demos so people can make up their own minds, that’s why when newbies ask me I point them to your site/book and tell them to get a work out plan like db combos, get strong and ride flats and then make up their mind!
Thanks again, Lee you rock, I hope I can get out to CO soon to take a clinic or better yet you come to MN I know I can rally a good crowd!
DUDE: I will be in MN this April coaching the first wave of high school mountain bike coaches. My team will also be building the Sea Otter pro pump track at the same time, so the trip has to be short, but I sure would love to rock a clinic.
I am not sure where the leaders summit will be held. Please keep an eye on the site.
Nice! april? kind of early for MN mountain biking, maybe not this year, 45 today and no snow. Hopefully it will be nice! I will definately keep my eyes open and then spread the word!