Back in June 2014 I had a new set of wheels built up. The rims and hubs came from Kappius Components, a boutique company out of Colorado, founded by father and son Rus and Brady Kappius. Two high achieveing cyclists and engineers who believe they can make a better hub and rim than is currently available on the market.
I’ve looked at their hubs previously – you can catch up here:
In 2014 I had two of the new KR29 rims built onto a KH1.5 front hub and KH2 rear hub. The wheels were built by Joe Dodd, who now works at Summit Cycles in Sydney. He is probably the best wheel builder I know, and is certainly the go to guy in Sydney. That said, shout outs to Jonny Bell of Noble Wheels and Ben Spurrier from Condor Cycles – two other guys who have built wheels for me in the past that have been faultless.
Last July I also put down some words on what I thought of the wheels. You can read that review here, and it would probably be worth doing so before carrying on.
Ok I’ll trust you.
The next six months
Soon after posting that review I took off to Europe for a stint of marathon and stage racing, plus a whole lot of riding in destinations for my day job. So it was a bit of a case of trial by fire. I did have the spoke tension wound up to the right tension before leaving though, as the DT Aerolite spokes had stretched quite a lot.
The series of races overseas were… wet. And rocky. And time between them was the same. The wheels took a beating. But they also handled it admirably. The 30mm wide rims allowed me to run super low pressures and they just never burped. The 240 points of engagement made for easy ratcheting through rock gardens at the Sudety MTB Challenge, and rolled really well. In some downtime in Livigno I had the rear bearings replaced, and the front a week later. Considering the conditions we had been racing and riding in, and the washing and general ill-treatment, they had done really well.
Just before leaving Livigno I had a spoke break, right at the edge of the nipple. Towards the end of the next marathon I had another break. Same place. Back home, I had one break at the Croc Trophy. And then while riding in Atherton after the stage race was done, I had another. And then another in Pemberton at a National Round… something was up.
I contacted Rus and Brady and they explained their first run of rims has about 0.1mm off on the spoke hole drilling, in terms of diameter. Brady suggested the DT Squorx Pro-Lock nipples, as their shape angles towards the flange as best as possible.
But there were some other issues as well – I couldn’t keep the bearings tight. The tiny 1.5mm allen key grub screw would back off every ride or two, and certainly through a race when riding hard. While so much about the wheels was awesome, these two niggling problems were letting them, and me, down.
At this point I’ll be sure to say that I paid for the set of Kappius wheels – like so many of you I like to have nice things – and what Kappius Components have created are some very nice things. But I also did get rims from their first production set, and one of the first sets of hubs available too.
After contacting Brady he knew I was upset about the niggling issues and he let me know they’d made some changes to the axle and hub bearing adjustment. As a show of good faith, Brady sent out some new hubs, including an upgrade to the KH1.5 rear (so with the carbon hub shell) and some DT Revolution spokes and DT Squorx Pro-Lock nipples so I could get Joe to rebuild the rims (with some new decals sent too – it’s the little things).
I had the wheels from Joe in a very quick turnaround, and with tape and valves the set weighed 1400g on the nose. Sweet! The biggest thing I noticed though was how much better the bearing adjustment setup looked. It’s still the same system, but it seems to cover more thread, and just hold much better.
It also seems to be a little better sealed, which should work nicely in the longterm.
Functionally, the wheels feel no different. They don’t feel quite as stiff in this variant, but I’m yet to have the spokes brought back up to tension after settling in. I’ve raced on them about four times, and they have not let me down. As a side note, the new end caps are fine with a Shimano QR, although my current bike is 142×12.
I’m a firm believer that one of the most important things you need to choose for a wheel set is your rear hub (and your builder) and the updated KH1.5, like the KH2, is one of the best choices. You might think that having so many points of engagement is only to sound cool when you’re freewheeling. But when you realised how precise it lets you be on a loose rocky climb, or on a technical climb where there are lots of tiny pedal movements, you start to get it. Getting on the gas right away out of corners is also way better, and I’m certain it reduces chain slap as your free hub doesn’t have as much room to play around.
With no more spoke issues, I’m completely won over by the rims. They might not be as easy to fit a tyre to as say a NoTubes rim, but they’re not far off. I’ve never had to use a compressor to inflate them (but do anyway when one is nearby) and I can run as low as 19 psi in the front with no burping. Lower doesn’t feel any good, I’m too heavy.
I’ve had Enve rims on Hope hubs, Crests on DT, Crest on Shimano, Stans Valors, Crests on Taiwanese hubs, and these two Kappius variants in my bikes in the past few years. Hands down the KR29 wheels are the best riding wheels, with the Valors close behind. The KR29 gets ahead on bearing life and stiffness
These should be my racing wheels but they just don’t come off my bike. They help make it feel a lot better, and the reasoning is probably three fold. The low weight means they accelerate very well. The take up helps, but also means you get everything out of you and the bike anytime you start pedalling again. Every corner. Every step up. You’re just moving forward, sooner. And the rim profile and width is a winner. 30mm isn’t an all-mountain width. At about 360g there’s no weight penalty with it.
The changes to the hubs are how all of them ship now, and same for the rims, their valve holes are that little bit larger. Go have a look at the Kappius Components website to see their range of hubs, rims and other gear – including road and cross clinchers and tubulars. They make hubs to suit a Lefty, hubs and rims for fat bikes, XX1 drivers, and of course the original KH1 with the hollowed out cassette.
Best of all, the passion and knowledge that drives Kappius Components is second-to-none. They are perfectionists. There are already Kappius hubs being designed to work with the new Boost standard, because as engineers, the Kappius duo know that it will be better. Once we all have new frames and forks…
Remember, your bike is really only as good as your wheels.
Pricing – from $USD1799