Industry Nine hubs have been making a lot of noise recently.
Once you’re finished appreciating that brilliant pun, take a minute to think about the nature of wheelsets. Not long ago, the term would apply only if the hub and rim both came out of the same factory. But the growing number of carbon rim manufacturers helped launch a new paradigm for the pre-laced. Instead of designing their own hub or just slapping their label on a generic one, they instead will pick a hub that’s already universally trusted and build around it.
Until now, Crankbrothers’ premium wheels, the Synthesis 11, were built around Project 321 hubs. But the Industry Nine Hydras have become possibly the most sought-after spinners since Chris King, so they were the logical choice. They’re also logical because, at least for now, I9 is one of only two other hub brands that Shimano is permitting to produce a Micro Spline freehub body, the heart of its surely soon-to-be-growing lineup of 12-speed drivetrains.
The U.S.-made I9 Hydra hubs are known for their 690 points of engagement, achieved by six alternately engaging pawls. Crankbrothers Synthesis wheels are known for their optimal trail feel, achieved by their front- and rear-specific rims and spoke configurations. During development, Crankbrothers attempted to nail down the perfect balance of stiffness and compliance, and found through blind testing that riders overwhelmingly reported the best results with a stiffer rear wheel and more compliant front. That aspect of the Synthesis isn’t changing. Crankbrothers was able to achieve the same ride quality out of the I9 hubs as with the hubs originally used with the Synthesis wheels. Crankbrothers is still using bladed steel Sapim spokes instead of I9’s proprietary aluminum design. And the original hubs are still available as a lower-priced option on the cross-country/trail and the enduro Synthesis wheelsets, pricing out at $1,700. But the new $2,400 Synthesis 11 wheels, including the DH version, now come with the Hydras instead. Crankbrothers still offers a lifetime warranty on their rims, and I9’s 2-year warranty carries over to the Synthesis 11 hubs.
Oh, and we almost forgot to mention, the I9 hubs and rims that make up the Synthesis 11 wheels have matching trademarks, so they still meet that classic definition of a ‘wheelset.’