By Vernon Felton
By now you may have heard that SRAM has unveiled a ridiculously light carbon-fiber wheelset called the Rise 60.
How light is it?
At 1,330 grams (that's with old school QRs, front and rear), these things aren't rockin' a spare gram anywhere. The 29er version, by the way, weighs in at 1,420 grams. The Rise 60 will sell for $2,000 a pair and should hit stores in February of 2012. If that sticker price makes you shake an angry fist at the sky, there is also an aluminum-rim version (the Rise 40), which is considerably heftier (1,720 grams), but only costs $550.
But getting back to the carbon angle here… The Rise 60's sport an asymmetric rim constructed from unidirectional carbon fiber, laced to a SRAM hub with twenty-four Sapim CX Rays (in a two-cross pattern). The Rise 60 is a trail-riding wheelset; accordingly, you're looking at a front hub that converts from standard QR to QR15. Likewise, the rear hub swaps between standard QR and a 142X12 thru axle.
Shaving the pounds off your bike, of course, isn't the end-all-be-all. Or to put it another way, it doesn't matter how little rotational weight you are lugging about if you're rim suddenly combusts or your hub goes tits-up in the middle of some out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere chunk of wilderness. SRAM, for their part, contends that the Rise 60 is not just your garden-variety weight weenie wheelset. Durability, lateral stiffness and quick engagement were also design prerogatives for SRAM.
The true test of a wheelset, however, is in the riding, so I'll stop the spec-sheet talk here and now.
Here's what we did: we pulled a brand new set of Rise 60s out of their box and immediately subjected them to one of the nastiest, gnarliest, trails on the East Coast: Pisgah's infamous Farlow Gap trail. Farlow is several miles of rock, root, chunder and sphincter-puckering descents. There's a rock garden here that may just be the nastiest assembly of terra firma you could ever encounter on a bike. Put it this way, we just finished riding the rock garden on the pro downhill course at Beech Mountain, and that rock garden on Farlow, for my money at least, is tougher still to clean. So, yeah, we took one of the lightest wheels on the planet and subjected them to a hard day of rain, boulders, log overs and general mayhem. We also battered them about on Pisgah's Black Mountain trail system. In a few minutes I'll send this post to the web and we'll hit the famed Pilot Rock downhill on these wheels. So, yeah, we've tossed them into the breech and then some.
Amazingly, the Rise 60s are still perfectly true. No whimpering, no snapping, no stuck-pig squealing from the rear hub. Acceleration is abso-friggin-lutely mind blowing. We've shod one of the new Intense Carbines with these things and, damn, the bike practically flies up climbs.
Of course, we've only begun our testing, but damn, pretty impressive all the same. We'll see, of course, how they hold up over the long run. Should be interesting.
What could be improved? Well, again, this is all very premature rambling, but part of me wishes these were UST models (you've got to run rim-strip and spooge to make these tubeless) and the 19-millimeter inner-rim width is acceptable, but I'd love to see them wider still since I run 2.35 and 2.4-inch tires on my trail bikes, and appreciate the footprint that a wider (say, 21-millimeter internal width) rim affords.
On the whole, however, we stand impressed with the new SRAM wheelset. The Rise 60s appear to be major contenders in the high-end wheelset market and it's nice to see the affordable Rise 40s as a performance option for riders who can't stomach shelling over that much cash for a wheelset.
Stay tuned for a long term test and coverage in Bike magazine