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  1. #1
    dwt
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    Are carbon rims cost effective?

    Totally lacking the coin to even imagine owning a carbon wheelset, I hope the answer is no. Sour grapes, ya know.

    What are the benefits and can an alloy rim come close enough to qualify as better for price and best buy?

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  2. #2
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    Nope.

    They're lighter, they're marginally stronger.

    But even the very cheapest are $150+ each, that's a lot of beer more than an good quality alloy rim. When it comes down to it you won't go any faster and they'll still snap if you hit a rock hard enough.

    They do feel awfully bling though...

  3. #3
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    The real answer is that it depends. How hard do you ride your wheels and how often do you replace them. They are much more than marginally stronger. The Santa Cruz Syndicate was running them (ENVE AM rims) on the WC DH circuit this year. They were the only team not changing wheels after every run. They did change the wheels between practice and race day, but never because there was an issue. It was just part of their standard maintenance.

    For most people the rims from Enve and Easton will probably be the last they ever need to purchase. I have yet to see a rim issue with either of those companies, but you do see some broken spokes and cassette issues with the Eastons. The cassette issues with the Eastons are due to people not taking the time to lube the freehub internals which takes about 60 seconds total.

    There have been several failures on the Chinese knock offs from rock impacts, but that is to be expected. They are using a completely different material. Not all carbon is equal.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salespunk View Post
    The real answer is that it depends. How hard do you ride your wheels and how often do you replace them. They are much more than marginally stronger. The Santa Cruz Syndicate was running them (ENVE AM rims) on the WC DH circuit this year. They were the only team not changing wheels after every run. They did change the wheels between practice and race day, but never because there was an issue. It was just part of their standard maintenance.

    For most people the rims from Enve and Easton will probably be the last they ever need to purchase. I have yet to see a rim issue with either of those companies, but you do see some broken spokes and cassette issues with the Eastons. The cassette issues with the Eastons are due to people not taking the time to lube the freehub internals which takes about 60 seconds total.

    There have been several failures on the Chinese knock offs from rock impacts, but that is to be expected. They are using a completely different material. Not all carbon is equal.
    +1 Well said.
    I might add if you're a weekend rider or a rider that goes up 2-3 times a week, doesn't really pound on the bike that hard, I would say no. If you are heavier and more abusive, it's worth a look.

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    Check out the cheep carbon rim threads that are out there if you are interested in carbon on a budget. Many of us have had good lick with Light Bicycle rims

  6. #6
    dwt
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    Quote Originally Posted by mazspeed View Post
    I might add if you're a weekend rider or a rider that goes up 2-3 times a week, doesn't really pound on the bike that hard, I would say no.
    That would be me. Carbon frame pretty much ruled our for FS bike as well. Aluminum all I really need, not to mention can afford. Bars & cranks another story
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salespunk View Post
    The real answer is that it depends. How hard do you ride your wheels and how often do you replace them. They are much more than marginally stronger. The Santa Cruz Syndicate was running them (ENVE AM rims) on the WC DH circuit this year. They were the only team not changing wheels after every run. They did change the wheels between practice and race day, but never because there was an issue. It was just part of their standard maintenance.

    For most people the rims from Enve and Easton will probably be the last they ever need to purchase. I have yet to see a rim issue with either of those companies, but you do see some broken spokes and cassette issues with the Eastons. The cassette issues with the Eastons are due to people not taking the time to lube the freehub internals which takes about 60 seconds total.

    There have been several failures on the Chinese knock offs from rock impacts, but that is to be expected. They are using a completely different material. Not all carbon is equal.
    +2 You can feel the difference immediately with a good carbon wheel set! When I started using carbon Havens on my Firebird, the difference in acceleration was amazing. Plenty of other benefits and less gyroscopic effect.
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    As unusual as it may sound, it seems to me that carbon rims tend to pay off more when durability is a major concern. The above example of the Santa Cruz Syndicate is one I regularly give people who ask me this. If I recall correctly, last I heard was that Minaar raced the same set of Enve wheels for no less than five World Cup races this year.

    However, for a high end aluminum mountain rim you'll probably be paying at least $75, while the least you'll probably pay for a carbon rim from a top manufacturer is in the $600 area. Enve DH rims mentioned above are in the $800 area, which a top end Mavic alloy DH rim is $100. Now obviously this is a major cost saving for full time DH racers, having to have a couple sets of wheels per year, rather than a couple sets per weekend, especially when taking in to account spoke and wheel building costs.

    However, for most of us, even those who race other disciplines, we probably don't go through rims at nearly that rate, if we even go through rims at all. So if you look at the weight difference between the lightest alloy vs. carbon cross country rims they are very slight. It looks like DTs top XC alloy rim comes in about only about 40g heavier than their carbon XC rim (at 1/8 the price), and Stan's has a rim that cuts that difference to 20g. Enve's lightest carbon XC rim is actually heavier than a number of alloy XC rims out there.

    In road applications the differences are even less. From the list on Wheelbuilder.com, Zipp and Enve's lightest carbon road offerings are comparable in weight to the tried-and-true Mavic Open Pro, while Stan's and Velocity's alloy rims weigh in below anything carbon.

    There are stiffness and performance issues that are added to these factors for race day applications, but these are just probably the initial factors for average trail riders.

  9. #9
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    That's a tough one to answer. Guess it all depends but one can look at it this way.

    There was a time when Al bikes were very expensive. Or........Even Aluminum rims were expensive. If people didn't do the development and people were not willing to purchase and become the guinea pigs to sort these things out, we wouldn't have all the cool tech that we have now. Do we need carbon rims? No, not really. But then again, people could have said that about Al rims too years ago. Do we or can we benefit from carbon rims? Again, that depends on you.

    I at first was not willing to spend teh $400/rim a couple of years back. I'm currently trying and testing out the rims and so far am loving them. There are a few people out there that have not found them acceptable. I feel this could be more a feeling out the industry more than anything else. I'm sure with the Al rims over the years, there were a lot of failures.

  10. #10
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    Good answers. If you go through rims a lot, then carbon is worth it. If not, then not.
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  11. #11
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    I bought my mtb a year ago when I got into it and have noticed a huge difference with the Light Bicycle rims on DT Swiss.

    Specie stock wheels have a bad rep and my build is numbers wise the same as competing carbon rims so I can from say experience that one IS capable of noting huge differences when going from 'normal wheels' to a high end build. If my rims ever become damaged due to their perceived low-quality sourcing then I will happily (weird, I know) shell out for Enve rims because I see value in having these wheels now.

    I have been very close to upgrading my frame to one of the many current high end FS carbon frames, but those desires have dissolved after having these wheels put on.

    I noticed the front end was easier to pull up, the ground forces had a lesser effect on handling, I can now turn the bike with less muscling, I can get more done while remaining in the same gear, etc. I found only a few posts describing the wheels as having a potentially amazing effect on performance when I researched the topic months back, so I do not mind coming off as such.

    Maybe I could have payed half of what I payed for these wheels by going with Stans Arch EX rims and Hope Pro Evo hubs and received most of the improvements...idk. As with just about everything in mtb, your mileage may vary applies.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Art.C View Post
    I bought my mtb a year ago when I got into it and have noticed a huge difference with the Light Bicycle rims on DT Swiss.

    Specie stock wheels have a bad rep and my build is numbers wise the same as competing carbon rims so I can from say experience that one IS capable of noting huge differences when going from 'normal wheels' to a high end build. If my rims ever become damaged due to their perceived low-quality sourcing then I will happily (weird, I know) shell out for Enve rims because I see value in having these wheels now.

    I have been very close to upgrading my frame to one of the many current high end FS carbon frames, but those desires have dissolved after having these wheels put on.

    I noticed the front end was easier to pull up, the ground forces had a lesser effect on handling, I can now turn the bike with less muscling, I can get more done while remaining in the same gear, etc. I found only a few posts describing the wheels as having a potentially amazing effect on performance when I researched the topic months back, so I do not mind coming off as such.

    Maybe I could have payed half of what I payed for these wheels by going with Stans Arch EX rims and Hope Pro Evo hubs and received most of the improvements...idk. As with just about everything in mtb, your mileage may vary applies.
    I TOTALLY agree that über lightweight wheels are a game-changer if you are swapping them for "regular wheels". When I first put mavic SLR's and tubeless rocket rons on my bike, I had the same effusive praise you have offered. The bike was instantly transformed.

    But one can go lightweight w/out going carbon.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salespunk View Post
    The real answer is that it depends.
    No it really doesn't. An Enve wheelset costs £2500 here in Englishland, a Hope DH wheelset costs £250, less if you work the charm. If a rider is busting ten complete wheelsets a year he needs to pump the tyres up harder, or lose weight, or he's on the World Cup and gets parts free or trade.

    There's lots of really good arguments for carbon, the stiffness, strength, that 'omg I'm rocket powered' feeling that comes from really, really good wheels. But I can't see a sane argument based around cost effectiveness. It needs a lot of man-maths to argue that one wheelset is worth the same as a really nice off the peg bike.

    Then again, I'm on some Chris King/E13 wheels at the moment, so I know all about the maths of expensive bike stuff...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stumpjumpy View Post
    I TOTALLY agree that über lightweight wheels are a game-changer if you are swapping them for "regular wheels". When I first put mavic SLR's and tubeless rocket rons on my bike, I had the same effusive praise you have offered. The bike was instantly transformed.

    But one can go lightweight w/out going carbon.
    I agree, well, more depends on the kind of riding you like to do. I posted somewhere else regarding "what a wheel should be". In the end, I said something like weighs nothing, uber strong, holds the tire at a good width and costs nothing. In the end, it's all a compromise with those traits.

    Now I'm a trail rider that likes to run wide, low pressure tires tubeless. Think airing down a rock crawler's tire. In my experience through out the years, running the wider tires with the "lightweight" Al rims created a problem because the light rims were not wide enough. This cause the tires to feel like they wanted to roll off the rim (at the lower pressures I like to run). So the only solutions were to run wider/heavier with the wide tires I like or narrower/lighter rims with narrower tires (or wider harder tires (kind of defeating the reason for running the wider tire)).

    So for myself, this was the answer. Finding the wider carbon rims that come in at weights close to the narrow, lightweight Al rims. Once again, all a compromise.

    So going back to the original question of the OP, as I said earlier, it all depends. $400+ was too much for me to "experiment". $150-$165 is worth it to me and so far I am liking it.

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    I have been running Aluminum wheels for the past 10 years or so..my current set i had to get trued twice this season if i remember right.

    However, i do believe a carbon rim will outlast aluminum, simply because you can send your carbon wheels to get repaired/patched, which in the end, may be slightly heavier..and i mean slightly from the looks of things, but if you are constantly bending your rims, i would look into carbon for the simple fact of what i mentioned above, and as mentioned earlier, they are more durable and more stiff.

    i am even considering going carbon, just debating if my bike could support 650b, or stick with my 26" wheel size, or sell my bike and go with a 29er setup..

    I have seen those Chinese wheels on ebay and such. I guess if i was to order a wheel like that, i would just order the rim, send them off to a place that builds wheels and have them install the hubs and spokes that i want for those rims. However, i dont run tubeless, so i am also not too concerned if they can seal or whatever, but more so inner width, durability and so on.

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    Hi "fix the spad" i´m going to build a set with E13trs Rim and Chisk King Hub´s, so can you give me a review

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    My wife and I both race Cat 1, and do plenty of 50milers and endurance events. Also started racing Enduros (mostly dh-ish) this year.

    She's 120lbs, and started the year racing on ztr podium rims (1230g) laced to a dt240. These are super light and spin up fast. Via sponsorship, she got some carbon wheels this year as an option... but those carbon wheels weighed almost 1600g-- I was nervous. I presumed that for such a lightweight rider, the lightweight wheels would trump any stiffness benefits she might enjoy from carbon. She went back and forth between both wheelsets for a few races (using same tires on both, both tubeless). After a few back to back race weekends, she said she wanted to run the carbon wheels full time. She said everything-- responsiveness, stiff handling, spin up, power transfer, steep climbing, reckless descending.... all felt MUCH better on the carbon wheels, even when I challenged her-- I was surprised.

    Makes me wonder... if you had to chose between having a carbon frame with alum wheels, or alum frame with carbon wheels.... I'd lean toward the latter, based on my wife's and other's testimony

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Setra View Post
    Hi "fix the spad" i´m going to build a set with E13trs Rim and Chisk King Hub´s, so can you give me a review
    Certainly.

    Built with King ISO hubs and DT Supercomp spokes, brass nipples.

    Out of the box the Trs+ rims didn't have any packaging as such, just a paper loop with the E13 logo and rim's spec on it (32h, 26in/559mm etc), plastic film protected the logos, which are either laser etched or water transfers (I can't tell). If you're buying the rim by itself it doesn't come with any rim tape or tubeless valves.

    Rims specs come to 21mm inner width, 27mm outer. It's a very normal drilled rim, no UST profile* and a standard bead, welded, no eyelets. Both mine weighed exactly 370g, that is something that has struck me about these rims is how absurdly lightweight they are, short of carbon fibre I can't see any all-round use rims being lighter.
    *The rim wall does have square edges, so it may work well with UST tyres, it isn't UST spec though.

    The quality of manufacture is excellent, no welding bogeys or bits of loose metal still in the rim from drilling, both rims were exactly straight when it came to lacing them up. Tensioning them turned out to be pretty easy too, although without eyelets you need to go slowly. The LG1 rim has brazed in eyelets and the E13 blurb claims the TRS rims are reinforced at the spoke bed. I would still treat them as non-eyelet rims though, plenty of lube and add tension slowly.

    In use, they're fine. I've been using them since the end of July and no damage to report so far. Tyres pump up fairly narrow on the rim, think Mavic 21mm rims rather than Stans more balloon profile. Stiffness is much the same as any other alloy rim, it's good but it's more determined by the wheels build than anything else.

    They are really, really light though, so much so that it was instantly noticeable over the Alex Supra 30s I was using before (500g each). It's given me a little bit more snap on steep climbs, which is nice.

    Overall they're a more or less typical E Thirteen part, well made and light but expensive. The price is the only real sticking point I have with them, I paid £109 each for them, which is double what Mavic 819s or i23s and half as much again as a set of Flows or Supra 30s, it's not far off a set of Chinese carbon rims.
    I suspect if I ever taco one it will be replaced by an Alex Rims Supra 30, which is heavier, but has eyelets, is 30mm wide and works really nicely with fat tubeless tyres.

    But the E thirteens really are so very very light.

  19. #19
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fix the Spade View Post
    No it really doesn't. An Enve wheelset costs £2500 here in Englishland, a Hope DH wheelset costs £250, less if you work the charm. If a rider is busting ten complete wheelsets a year he needs to pump the tyres up harder, or lose weight, or he's on the World Cup and gets parts free or trade.

    There's lots of really good arguments for carbon, the stiffness, strength, that 'omg I'm rocket powered' feeling that comes from really, really good wheels. But I can't see a sane argument based around cost effectiveness. It needs a lot of man-maths to argue that one wheelset is worth the same as a really nice off the peg bike.

    Then again, I'm on some Chris King/E13 wheels at the moment, so I know all about the maths of expensive bike stuff...
    You would not be replacing the entire wheelset, though. Just the rim and maybe spokes on the same hubs.

    Most riders do not trash several rims a year in any case, so it would take may years for carbon rims to be "cheaper".

    It has been said that Steve Peat used one set of Enve rims for an entire World Cup season, while the previous year he went through 10-15 pairs of aluminium rims. I would consider that cost effective when comparing rim cost and the cost/time of rebuilds and service.

    I tend to be easy on wheels and have needed to replace just two disc brake rims in the last 12 years. Makes carbon rims totally not cost effective for me. Still wish I could afford a pair or three for the weight/stiffness-width advantage with little reliability change.

    Nothing like the change from rim brake wheels to disc brakes. With rim brakes I used to replace a rear rim every year and the front every two years. Add in 4-6 more pairs of rim brake pads than disc pads per year and that was very cost effective...

    ...except I started building "extra" wheelsets that I do not wear out. Now have 2-3 wheelsets for every bike I own.
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  21. #21
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    I will tell you what i think soon I am building up a set of Light Bicycle wheels and plan on beating the sheit out of them. I will report back!

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    Best Carbon wheelset 29"??

    I have a Tallboy carbon bike... Interested in getting 29" carbon wheelset. I do ride in some very rocky areas ....looking for a wheel set both light and strong enough to handle fast rocky downhill terrain. Thx!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bradpreo View Post
    I have a Tallboy carbon bike... Interested in getting 29" carbon wheelset. I do ride in some very rocky areas ....looking for a wheel set both light and strong enough to handle fast rocky downhill terrain. Thx!
    You could build up some Enve 29 AM rims to Tune hubs. That would be a pretty light setup that would go well with your Tallboy.
    Check out www.zencyclery.com for fully customizable, handbuilt wheels.

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  24. #24
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    I have been saving for months for a Specialized Roval Control SL 29er set. I want a wheelset that is stiff and light with a lifetime warranty. Going through 2 aluminum rims per season and the time to build them is worth the extra money for carbon.

    Wheel is in rough shape? Just bring the tension down and back up and the wheel is good as new. You would have to replace a alloy rim in that case.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheepo5669 View Post
    I have been saving for months for a Specialized Roval Control SL 29er set. I want a wheelset that is stiff and light with a lifetime warranty. Going through 2 aluminum rims per season and the time to build them is worth the extra money for carbon.

    Wheel is in rough shape? Just bring the tension down and back up and the wheel is good as new. You would have to replace a alloy rim in that case.
    You're gonna love them, I have them on two of my bikes they will make huge difference in your riding and the fun factor.

    The acceleration is first thing you notice for the 2nd thing was way they kept speed in the flats and when you climb it will blow your mind.
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    This is a great thread guys - I'm not sure why I didn't see this earlier. Lots of good thoughts and experiences being shared here. I really appreciate that.

    I've been toying with the idea of trying a 29" carbon wheel set (probably ENVE AM on DT 240s with Supercomps). I certainly don't need them, but they do appeal to me.

    I'm currently running Flow ZTR on DT 240s. I've run several sets of Flows now and I must say I'm not overly impressed with Stan's stuff. The big issue I have is the amount of spoke de-tensioning that occurs when you put tight-fitting tires onto the Flow rims and air them up. Also, the rims dent slightly easier than the Mavics I owned previously. They're not butter, but I have to be careful not to plow with them or they will gets dents.

    My interest in the carbon rims is to get a stiff rim that will maintain a stiff spoke bed, provide great dent resistance, preferably a UST lip, and > 21mm inner width. The fact that the rims are light is of secondary importance to me, but I won't complain that it comes with the package. My one concern, however, is that I've heard some people who ride rigid (like I do) that the stiffness actually feels harsh because you've eliminate a lot of wheel flex that you were unknowingly using as "suspension". That has me a little bit spooked. Someone here on MTBR actually built a set of ENVE wheels and then sold them because of that - yikes!

    On a different note, you guys talk about the difference a wheelset's weight can make in performance [and feel] - for several years, my main trail bike used Mavic EX823 rims, DT comps, King Hubs, brass nips, and 1500g UST DH tires. That's both the front and back. You can't imagine the difference I felt when I built up a 29" singlespeed with 700g tires and Flow rims. It was about 5lbs of rotating weight that was removed. I instantly became a hero on the SS and people thought I was riding SS for years. It was simply all of the weight training I got from slogging around those DH wheels. I kind of missed the traction a little bit, but the ease of acceleration was just mind blowing.

  27. #27
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    I have been riding and racing a set of Light Bikes carbon rims since September. I've had zero problems durability wise and have about 800 miles on them. The biggest benefit that I have seen so far is that the rims retain their spoke tension and stay true no matter how hard I abuse them. I just recently took the wheels back to the builder and he was surprised to find that every spoke still had the same tension as the day the built them. My older light weight aluminum rims would need truing a few times a year. I can see the carbon wheels saving me money on maintenance costs.

    I can honestly say that I will never use aluminum rims again.

  28. #28
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    The ENVE wheels are awesome. Mine have run straight as a die since day one though i did explode a nipple when i got a stick in the spokes.
    Cost effective ? i bought the wheels 2 years ago instead of upgrading a bike, they are bloody expensive but i would do it again. They are a bit expensive to run on more than one bike though
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  29. #29
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    A few additional thoughts. First off the LB carbon wheels are a good value, but not nearly as durable as ENVE or Easton. If you ride low pressure and rocks probably not a great idea to ride the LB rims. Either stick with aluminum or pay the extra for better carbon. Be honest with yourself, do you really ride that hard? If the answer is yes Chinese carbon is NOT for you. Ride mainly XC with a few roots and the occasional rock. You will probably be fine. The value of high end carbon is DH durability with XC weight. The value of Chinese carbon is a somewhat stronger wheel with XC weight. Personally I will never ride anything but Easton or ENVE, but I am spoiled having ridden them for a year now.

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