Rolling on the wide side


There are a gazillion things you can change to tweak the ride quality of your mountain bike. From changing the stem, handlebar length, saddle, tire, crank arm and a million other things, but rims has always been last on that list - unless your a roadie. For most mountain bikers as long as the rims is strong enough and can take a beating then it's good enough, period.

It had everything... well did it?

when I got the bike

a light and narrow rims with big tires, sounds like an ideal combo...

That's what I thought when I bought my new bike that came with a set of wheels from a well respected brand (got it second hand so the previous owner changed the rims). It looked like it had everything I need to ride down fast and climb like a goat on the steep hills of Kiara. It was a pair of 650B rims, had different spoke patterns on each side that was made out of a material claim to be stronger than steel and came with 2.3" tires which had 5 star reviews everywhere on the Internet. So the combo was a light and narrow rims with big tires, sounds like an ideal combo right?... if you just arrived in 2015 from 2005 in a DeLorean that travels 85 mph.

The failure

The bike felt like a piece of junk!

Let me put it this way the only great thing I remember about these rims were how easy it was to climb, that's it! Going down or ripping through switchbacks didn't inspire confidence at all. Taking a switchback always felt like it had a mind of its own, consistently had to make micro adjustment during and after a switchback. Even after tightening the spokes it felt the same. I know it's not my frame as every magazine reviewer wrote great things about the Bronson, but I never felt how good the bike feels when I got it. After a few rides the bike felt like a piece of junk!

I gave up on those rims when I was riding down a wide switchback in Putrajaya and fell without even hitting anything or braking. Mind you I've cleared that switchback hundreds of times on my hardtail with a pair of aluminum rims that has never been thru since Dr. Mahathir was still the Prime Minister.

rims off to BBS

Rims were warped after I took that switchback and I did what any sensible mountain biker would do when a component can't handle the abuse, had it fixed and then posted on BBS.

The dream

Today everyone dreams of owning a pair of carbon rims (just like at the end of 90's where everyone dreams of full suspension bikes), thanks to Enve and its wickedly sick decals on its rims. There's also the case of top pro riders were using it as well.

Well I can't afford a pair of Enve rims even if it was sold on BBS or if it was on clearance sale. So the hunt was on to get a pair of carbon rims where I don't have to sell my kidneys. A friend suggested Light Bicycles carbon rims since he's been running their 35mm rims for the past couple of months without problems. It didn't take me long to convince me to get one after looking at all the glorious pictures and user reviews sprinkle on their website and on bike forums. By this time LB had made a wider rim, 38mm nearly ~32mm internally, which right now at the moment (October 2015) is one of the widest you can find in the world.

The reality

In Kiara your ability to climb a root section is an achievement as bombing down roots that intertwine like a bowl of spaghetti.

when I got the bike

It took 3 weeks, just 3 weeks from the moment I transfer the funds to having the rims at my front door. Once I got the rims built I was like a kid who just got his first full suspension bike, ready to abuse it on any rocks, roots, switchbacks, stairs and mud that I can find.

One great thing riding with wide rims is the ability to run lower psi's, in my case anywhere between 14 to 19 psi, to gain more grip especially on roots when climbing up. Yes climbing I said climbing up roots. In Kiara your ability to climb a root section (there is quite a few of those) is an achievement as bombing down roots that intertwine like a bowl of spaghetti. Running 16 psi I hardly get any wheel spin when climbing roots and the grip is phenomenal when climbing up. Yes it might be a bit slower, maybe requires a bit more energy and feels like I consistently have a flat at the back that magically keeps on going, but I don't care as long as I can climb.

...basically no track stands and picking lines.

On the last day at Jerai after finally figuring out how to ride down the bowl of spaghetti roots that was longer than Rapunzel's hair and rocks that was loose and sharp the size of a football, it was time to see if these carbon rims will take the abuse. The trick to riding trails in Jerai was to go fast in a straight line and keep rolling, basically no track stands and picking lines.

at Jerai

Going down Jerai I was like a man possessed by the spirit of Aaron Gwin. Aku hentam the trail like a mad man and was so hard on my rims, tires and suspension that it looked like I was being chased by a babi hutan. After 3 hours of abuse, rims were still staying thru, no dents, no cracks spokes still tight and just a few micro scratches.

Happy is an understatement as to how these rims held up, I'm more like ecstatic. I'm completely sold on carbon rims by Light Bicycles. Besides being stiff and strong that could take any beating, one other added benefit was these wheels were easy to start spinning. You know when your at the foot of a climb and you start cranking your pedals and your rear wheel starts to move forward, some wheels feels like your dragging a huge rock strap to your rear end. Somehow on these wheels the rock vanished and made the effort much less of a drag, it felt lighter to start spinning on these wheels compared to any other rims I've had before. Can't say these wheels were lighter as the rim and tire combo were slightly heavier than the ones that it replaced. Yet somehow it was easy to get going on these wheels which allowed for a slight lower cadence on climbs or a slight larger momentum going up when spinning the usual cadence.

These rims made my bike a gazillion times better than the crap it was when I first got it. So here's my advise... if you have a new bike and thinking of upgrading your drivetrain (or some other stuff)... stop and start saving or break your kids college fund. Go get yourself a pair of wide carbon rims and run them at low pressure. You'll be conquering that bowl of spaghetti roots like a Jedi in no time.

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