From pre-built wheels through to custom builds like we have done with Kappius, Light Bicycle and Nextie, there are a few points that are obvious.
- A wheel is about more than the sum of its parts – you need a great wheelbuilder
- Never neglect the quality of your hubs
- Pay attention to your tyre pressures
What’s all that mean? Well with our first build on Nextie 27mm rims we used light weight Circus Monkey hubs. With play we couldn’t remove and end caps that didn’t stay on unless in a bike – they were rubbish. having had those rims rebuilt on 24 hole Novatec hubs, with higher flanges and Pillar bladed spokes – we have an excellent set of wheels that were still under $AUD900.
Having ridden on wider rims like the Kappius rims, some Nextie 30mm rims, and the asymmetric 28mm rims from Light Bicycle, it’s clear there are advantages to wider rims. You can decrease your tyre pressure, have a larger contact patch, more grip, and even less rolling resistance on loose terrain. Kappius really rule this space when it comes to getting the combination of internal width, low weight and low rim height. High rim height looks cool but it does bring a bit too much rigidity.
After spending time on a set of Nextie 30mm rims on XTR/DT240 hubs with 32 spokes from the MarathonMTB service course, team rider Imogen Smith was interested in moving on from her NoTubes Valor race wheels to something wider. So it was time to spec something up and use what we knew (above) to build a good value carbon wheel.
Choosing the right hub
If you buy spokes and nipples and pay for a wheelbuilder to get your wheels together – you want to make sure the hubs are good. It’s a big cost to do all that again if you’ve opted for the wrong hubs. DT hubs with star-ratchets are a favourite, as they can change standards easily (well, not between Boost and non-Boost) and spares are readily available. Shimano XTR are excellent, as are Hope, Industry 9 and Project 321. Kappius feel amazing but I found they needed a little more attention than I tended to give them.
We opted for Centrelock not 6-bolt as we run Shimano and have for years, and they are lighter too. Centrelock rotors are faster to remove for travel as well.
Choose good spokes
And how many spokes you want. We went for 24/28 which is the same as the NoTubes Valor. If you’re over 75kg maybe consider 28/28. We opted for Pillar bladed spokes for the low weight and high fatigue resistance, with brass nipples in black. We chose brass as alloy nipples can have issues with corrosion if sealant leaks through your tape.
Choose the rims you want
30mm was going to be the minimum, and while I was very tempted to get another set of Kappius Components rims, our budget suggested otherwise. I like the idea of asymmetric rim profiles (again, something Kappius have done for a while) and so it was narrowed down to the Nextie 29AS30 rims. 30mm external, 25mm internal, 29″ asymmetric rims. I ordered a set in 24/28, matte finish and waited for them to be delivered. Payment is via paypal and it’s all pretty easy. There are plenty of other manufacturers, and I was interested in looking around but the rims I bought from Nextie in 2015 are going well, so it was worth trying them again. Besides, Chris Pedder had invested in the flyweight rims from Light Bicycle so it’s good to keep comparing manufacturers to give an informed view.
Pick your builder
Not so easy! I know a lot of great wheel builders. And Joe from Summit Cycles has often been the go-to guy. In this case, Nick Both from Play Bikes was cutting the spokes, so it made sense to get him to build the wheels too. Nick has built wheels for years and has a great reputation for doing so.
The wheels came in at reasonable weights.
At 1437g for the set, that’s not bad. Our Valors weigh 1280g (newer models weigh more with better hubs), but they have a 21.6mm internal width – not the 25mm here. The NoTubes 3.30Ti hub spins smoothly but just isn’t as durable as a DT Swiss 350. So 157g is a reasonable trade off to try.
The rims taped up easily and the rim internal was smooth and very consistent. The shape makes inflation easy, with the bead sitting low and popping into the hookless design when inflated with a track pump. It lacks the ‘Bead Seat Technology’ of the Valor rim or the profile of the Kappius rim that means the bead just doesn’t budge – but it works.
The wheels setup pretty easily and we put on Maxxis Ardent Race 2.2″ tyres. With an EXO protection model on the back, and non-EXO model on the front.
This was based on Imogen Smith’s choice, in part after testing so many Maxxis tyres through winter.
“Having done the tyre testing, it really gave me an insight into fine-tuning my preferences for racing and training. So I feel like I’ve hit a real sweet spot in my tyre preferences, and I feel I’ve hit the sweet-spot for what I need.”
Testing the Nextie wheels out
The first plan was to have them ready for Imogen at the Flight Centre Epic – but unlike going in and buying a set of wheels off the shelf, it’s not so easy when you’re doing a custom build sourcing parts from all over the place. In the end they were ready for the Queensland State XCO Championships in Mackay.
And the results? Well there are a number of advantages of the shift to a wider rim.
“I can run slightly lower pressures, and I get better cornering performance in the dry, loose terrain here in south east Queensland,” said Imogen.
“They also make for a more comfortable ride, which is important in longer races where you get quite fatigued.” This might have come into play more at Cape to Cape this year, but Imogen had to withdraw on Stage One with a back injury.
“The wheels were easy to get used to very quickly, they are slightly heavier than my last wheels but I wanted to get them on my bike for the extra grip and comfort. It’s almost like having slightly more supple suspension. I don’t feel a huge amount of difference in stiffness compared to the Valors.”
With only a few race days on the new wheels, we’ll let Imogen check back in later with a full review of the Nextie rims.
Rims: Nextie NXT29AS30
Hubs: DT-Swiss 350, 142×12, 100×15, CentreLock
Spokes: Pillar PSR X-TRA 1420