Last week Crankbrothers invited us up to their new facility in Laguna Beach, California, a whopping quarter mile from their old spot, to check out some new stuff they’ve been cooking up.
Love their wheels or hate them, Crankbrothers’ hoops are bold and recognizable. As with every Crankbrothers product, they’ve got serious style. Sometimes, that can be a liability. In fact, it’s fair to say that there’s a common perception within the bike industry that Crankbrothers, as a company, is all about design and “style” first and engineering second. Carl and Frank, the company’s founders (Crankbrothers comes from combining their first names) quickly point out, however, that every product they design is engineered specifically to solve a problem or to utilize a material, not to improve its looks.
So far, this all looks the same as the old wheels. But that’s where the similarities end. All the new wheels have undergone major changes to the rims, with wider and deeper sections for enhanced strength, stiffness and better tire shape, and shorter bead hooks to improve tubeless sealing and bead retention. Rim width goes up 2 millimeters for each line. Cobalt (XC) goes from 19 to 21 millimeters, Iodine (trail) from 21 to 23 millimeters, and Opium (DH) from 24 to 26 millimeters.
Crankbrothers chose to go with a proven three-pawl system, in which all three pawls are engaging simultaneously. The idea here is to provide reliability over buzzwords like fastest engagement. Considering the high failure rate of the previous wheels, I think this is a good approach.
So far, I’ve been on two rides aboard the $900, Iodine 3 wheels. At a claimed weight of 1,850 grams for the 29-inch hoops, they’re not the lightest wheels out there, but they’re not bad either. For comparison, the Easton Haven 29″ wheels are 65 bucks more and 65 grams lighter. Even if the total weight isn’t terribly light, the Iodines felt poppy and accelerated well. I didn’t notice any stiffness or tracking issues during high-speed or chunky sections either. The big question mark is how they’ll hold up to some serious flogging.
The Iodine wheels are available in two price levels. The top level, Iodine 3 goes for $900 and is offered in 27 and 29-inch wheel sizes. The $600 Iodine 2 is also available in these two diameters, including the best size; 26-inch. The Iodine 2 uses a different spoke and is about 50 grams heavier. All the wheels come backed by a two year warranty.