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: