By Seb Kemp
I sampled many of SRAM's new wheels last February, at the company's annual Trail House media event. Most of the summer was spent trying to beat the circles out of the RAIL 50 wheels. Each of SRAM's new wheel offerings left me impressed, so I was curious to see how the top-of-the-line Roam 60 carbon hoops would fair.
Weighing in at 1,600 grams with tape and valves, the Roam 60s are tough enough to endure demented levels of abuse but nearly XC-light, making them suitable for anything from XC to all-mountain daily use.
• Available in all three wheel sizes: 26,” 27.5" and 29"
• Unidirectional and woven carbon fiber rim
• 21-millimeter inner rim width
• UST compatible
• Sapim CX Sprint bladed, straight pull spokes
• Available with 11-speed XD driver body for SRAM XX1 / X01
• DT Swiss Star Ratchet freehub
• Easily convertible to all axle types
Claimed Weights (weighed in lightest possible configuration):
• 26" - 1515g
• 27.5" - 1570g
• 29" - 1650g
"It's the only wheel you need. By layering extra material onto stress points, Roam 60's rim design makes it light enough for long climbs yet strong enough for the toughest enduro races. UST compatible, its 21-millimeter-wide rims give you greater stability around corners while its lightness and low inertia make for a more explosive ride. If you love to ride, this is your wheel."
SRAM's designers spent plenty of time figuring out exactly where the rim needs material and where mass can be reduced in order to make the rim as light as possible without sacrificing stiffness and impact resistance. The Taper Core profile of the carbon rims is optimized to complement the properties of this particular material. Carbon is very good under tensile loads but not so good under compression loads unless layered in a very specific pattern. Hence why on the Roam 60 carbon rims there appears to be more material under the clincher sidewall, and the rim's sidewalls are reinforced along the wings to withstand major impacts. The sidewalls then taper in along the center reducing overall mass.
By selectively layering woven carbon fiber at high-stress points and using unidirectional fiber throughout, SRAM creates rims that yield a remarkable level of strength and durability--while remaining lightweight and responsive. Carbon can be made to make stiffer or stronger products, it can also be used to make lighter products, but SRAM designers chose to make the Roam 60 rims similar weights as their own Roam 50 aluminum rims (already pretty light) and make them comparatively much stronger.
I could not alter the rim's shape or make it anything less than a perfect circle. And I made a lot of errors out on the trail. Struggling to modify my riding from summer bruising to winter caution due to the blue skies that fooled me into taking dry-weather lines at peak time speeds. This led to a great deal of sphincter-puckering moments, neck-jarring flat landings and overly zesty corners. In short, total idiot, bone-headed, ham-fisted riding that the Roam 60 wheels handled without a complaint. They might be light but they also appear damn stout, thankfully.
The ROAM 60 wheels are not as wide as some of SRAM's other offerings nor its competitors' product. At 21 millimeters as opposed to the 23 millimeters on the Rail 50 wheels we previously tested the difference isn't huge. While these rims certainly could be considered wide compared to some rims in this weight category they aren't as wide as they could be, in my opinion. Riding the Rail 50 and Roam 60 wheels back-to-back yielded zero conclusive evidence of needing wider rims (I couldn't really spot much difference in tire profile or feel, if I'm honest) it would be nice if they were wider so the inner garage-nerd in me just knew they were wider. Of course, they are light, damn light, so having wider rims might mean more weight. Is that something I'd swap? Well, the wheels are light enough that I noticed the difference in acceleration and maneuverability.
ROLLING AND WEIGHT
These wheels are damn light. It really does mean that they are nearing XC race light standards, but these wheels really are as stiff and durable as much burlier all-mountain wheelsets. You could put these onto a light bike that you might ride on aggressive terrain and have no worries, or you might try and lighten your no-holds-barred trail slayer.
Although SRAM designed the hub to their specifications, DT Swiss is manufacturing them. Inside the hub the proven and much respected DT Swiss internals make maintenance and replacement very easy. The SRAM wheels use the patented Star Ratchet precision system with extremely high load capacity and reliability. Throughout the (unseasonably dry) winter testing period there was no problem keeping the internals running smooth, partly because they are well-sealed and resilient. but also the tools-free system makes it extremely easy to clean up if necessary. And at that price you would hope these wheels would last many years.
Twenty-two hundred dollars is a lot of money, there's no denying that. But for carbon fiber high-end wheels it's...well, is competitive the right word? I could not really fault these wheels. They are noticeably svelte. They made long rides feel shorter and made the next corner accelerate toward my tires faster. They are tough, so tough I'm amazed I couldn't ruin them with some extremely bullish riding. I love that the internals are reliable and familiar, there's a single spoke length and I could transfer these wheels across bikes with the interchangeable end caps).