I have been fortunate enough to demo a set of the new 26" I-9 Torch Trail wheels for the past week. I'll start off with first impressions: Wow they are light! I actually asked if I had the carbon rim models by mistake. The rim has a unique texture to it, but I was assured that it was aluminum.
The hubs have GREAT engagement, it is very fast and when riding there is no dead spot in the engagement. I-9 claims 3 degree engagement, and the engagement that I noticed was very positive with no issues. These hubs are not loud, but have a mild buzz. After riding them throughout the test, I didn't notice it. Also, the hubs are serviceable with your hands and axle swaps are very simple. The adapters just press in and pull out.
The spokes are super blingy, being anodized red and very light. Also noticeable during the ride is the stiffness. I was able to notice that the front end of my bike seemed much more precise and stable due to the rigidity of the wheel. The rear end was probably stiffer as well, but my particular frame has enough flex that I couldn't really tell. I am also using a rear quick release and not a thru axle.
The rims set up tubeless and I had 0 issues over 7 rides with the system using 2.25 Maxxis Ardents. They are 23.4 mm wide on the inner dimension. The outer is 28. They give tires a great footprint.
I have heard in the past that I-9 wheels tend to have lots of drag in the bearings, but holding them in your hand and spinning the wheels, it is not any more noticeable than other wheels.
The only con is the price, but these are hand built in America and are the stiffest light wheels out there by far. If you want the best, it does cost money somtimes.
For some background, I ride cross country/trail in the Bent Creek area of NC. I usually ride a handbuilt wheelset with sram X-9 front hub, XT rear, double butted spokes, and Mavic 521 rims set up Gorilla Tape tubeless. I-9s save over 2 lbs although I am not going to pull them apart to weigh the difference exactly. The difference in acceleration and handling is considerable. I would say this is the biggest feature.
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