By Vernon Felton
Ride the trails in Pisgah National Forest long enough and you're sure to hear it: the characteristic raawwwrrrr buzz-saw howl of an Industry Nine freehub. You can't throw a rock in the woods without hitting somebody out riding a set of I-9 hoops.
Mountain bikers have a tendency to rock the local team colors, so it's probably no surprise that many North Carolina riders choose to roll on the bling-tastic wheels that come out of Industry Nine's workshop in Asheville.
But there's more than sheer localism at play here. I-9 makes an impressive set of wheels, which sport one of the fastest-engaging hubs on the market (every three degrees), custom-machined aluminum spokes, and front and rear hubs that easily convert to just about any standard on the market. They also take a hell of a beating—Pisgah riding isn't for the faint of heart.
Competition in the wheelset market, however, is brisk and you don't stay competitive by staying complacent. Accordingly, representatives from Industry Nine have been telling us for months now that new hubs and (for the first time ever) I-9 rims were in the making. Yesterday, they officially unveiled their new "Torch" wheel and hub platforms to the public.
Lighter, Stronger Hubs
The Torch series hubs will be utilized on all 2013 Torch series wheelsets. The Torch hubs still sport Industry Nine's innovative six pawl freehub for a very speedy three degree engagement. Everything else about the hub, however, is new.
For starters, the Torch-series hubs are 100 grams lighter than their predecessors. Next, Industry Nine claims that the Torch hubs have less drag and, conversely, better sealing from the elements than any of their previous hubs.
Finally, both front and rear hubs sport universal end-cap conversions, which is to say you can run these things with just about any fork up front (quick release, 15 or 20-millimeter thru axle) and any 135 or 142 standard out back. They also have a 150 platform for DH types. As you'd expect, the freehub happily accepts 9 and 10-speed cassettes. Want to run SRAM's new single-ring drivetrain? I9 offers Torch with a SRAM XD1 driver body as well.
If you like the idea of Industry Nine hubs, but are not feeling the love for their aluminum spokes, the company offers their "classic" version of the Torch hubs, which sport a more traditional hub flange that accepts old school, J-bend spokes.
Two New Torch Wheelsets
New hubs are just the beginning. Industry Nine set out to make a lighter, stiffer and stronger wheelset and that meant lacing those new hubs to new rims and spokes.
The Torch rims are wider (23.4-millimeter inner rim width), deeper and lighter (by up to 100 grams apiece) than the 2012 offerings. The rims are tubeless compatible and come with rim strips and tubeless valves with a removable core for easy sealant application.
Torch spokes are fatter than in years past, which should result in improved lateral stiffness and less risk of impact or abrasion-related spoke failures. All wheels feature butted driveside spokes, which utilize a thicker diameter near the hub; this reduces the risk of the chain sawing through the spokes, which could happen if you knock the crap out of your rear derailleur and then shift past your largest cog and right into the spokes. Some people also suck at adjusting the low screw on their rear derailleur and bung things up the same way.
Finally, both the spokes and hubs utilize a finer thread pitch, which should make the wheels easier to true and reduces the risk of the spokes de-tensioning themselves over time.
Trail 24 Wheelset ($1,150)
Industry Nine bills the Trail 24 as "the ultimate everyday go fast wheelset". They are the lighter of the two Torch wheelsets, thanks to their 24 Hole 2/1 lacing pattern and welterweight Trail rims. Accordingly, I-9 has a 200-pound suggested rider weight limit on the Trail 24s. Trail 24 wheels are available in 26 (1,420 grams), 27.5 (1,460 grams) and 29-inch (1,520 grams) versions.
Trail Wheelset ($1,170)
The Trail wheelset uses the same rim as its lighter sibling, but pairs it with 32 butted spokes for extra stiffness and durability. Accordingly, the suggested rider weight is higher on this wheelset (you're looking at a 220 pound limit).
The Trail is available in 26 (1,490 grams) and 29-inch (1,600 grams) versions.
The Trail and Trail 24 come with all red or all black hubs/spokes with black or silver rims, but Industry Nine is known for its custom options and that's true here as well. To that end, you can get hubs and spokes (for an upcharge) in Silver, Blue, Gold, Orange, Pink, Purple, and Green anodized finishes. As mentioned earlier, for an upcharge you can get wheels outfitted with SRAM's new XD1 driver body (to run the new XX1 group), a Lefty-compatible front hub and/or a rear singlespeed hub. Hybrid ceramic bearings are also a custom option