Following up from my first look post here , here are my thoughts after nine months with the 1238g Light Bicycle RM29C06 flyweight wheels through an autumn, winter, spring and now into summer at home in Switzerland.
In starting to write this review, I first went to look up the origin of a quotation that I felt would be appropriate. It seemed like the sort of cryptic, multi-layered observation that might come from the pen of a great leader of the 20th century like Mikhail Gorbachev, or an insightful scientist and philosopher like Karl Popper. Nope, turns out it’s from Futurama. Oh well. But the sentence itself is still worth considering: “when you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all”.
How did we get here??
Ah yes, I’ve had a set of Light Bicycle wheels for what probably seems to you guys like several years. To be totally honest, it seems that long to me that they have been sitting in our spare room, almost pristine. If you’re after the tech specs and stats, it’s best if you go back and take a look. I managed to get out on a single ride here along the Aravis chain in the last throes of summer before snow came to the mountains, then more snow, and then even more snow.
From December on, skis replaced wheels, although our scales can testify that even a morning of XC skiing isn’t enough to offset a fondue lunch. To everyone’s astonishment, ski season lasted until mid-April, and some of the higher passes around us are still under a shrinking layer of snow now. The season here is compact, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in fantastic mountains.
An early false start on the riding front in April saw Rachel and me trudging through muddy fields, before eventually deciding that if we were cold going up a 15% climb, we probably wouldn’t want to come back down. Not being natural mountain hermits (I like my mod cons), we took this as a sign and bailed for home, but not before I mistook the crust on a half-metre deep bog for solid ground. Wheel test number one, they survived the bog of Jussy true as a die… Needless to say, DT Swiss hubs know how to cope with DT Swiss weather and mud, which arguably makes them ready for almost anything else that northern Europe can throw at them. I have another pair that have survived with three seasons of cyclocross in the UK and Luxembourg, and are still on their original bearings…
Back to summer on the Light Bicycle RM29C06 Chinese carbon wheels
The last few weeks here have been nothing short of fantastic weather-wise, and have seen me and Rachel out and off-road at every available opportunity. Being some of the first people to ride sections of singletrack in six months offers an amazing mixture of excitement, nerves and unbridled terror on discovering tree and landfall that definitely wasn’t there last year. Whilst the pilot has been variable in his handling of these sub-optimal moments, the Light Bicycle RM29C06 carbon wheels have been perfect – solid, sure-footed and, erm, impact-proof? I have had several moments in the last few weeks where the thought has crossed my mind “oh, that was a bit heavy, I bet there’s a dent now” (can you tell I’m a reformed Stans alloy user – hello, my name’s Chris and I have a problem…), only to discover a 280g carbon rim can really take the hits. Last year I would have put this down to my relatively lithe frame, but carrying an extra few kg of “survival supplies”, I’m forced to conclude that it must just be that the wheels are well-made. Un-smashability aside, surely these moments must’ve left them a bit shy of true, I hear you ask? Well, again, I have been pleasantly surprised. When the wheels arrived, I was amazed at the evenness of the spoke tension – you usually can rely on the stiffness of carbon to get away with a slightly more lax build, but presumably the lightness of the rims puts the ball back in the court of the builder. Strong CX-ray spokes and a good build mean that everything is rolling straight as it was on day 1.
Final thoughts on the Light Bicycle RM29C06 carbon wheels
I have made it an almost certainly unnecessary rule of mine to never write reviews of things I haven’t raced with. Years ago, this was simple – I probably raced 3 weekends in four through the summertime, and only a little less in winter time. Until last weekend, it was over a year since I pinned on a number. You see what I put myself through for you, dear readers. And so it was that the Elsa Bike Trophy (named after the local milk company Estavayer Lait, SA) provided an unexpectedly ideal testing ground. Living life car-less (and I can’t begin to tell you what a blessing that is in Geneva!), we decided to ride to the start in Estavayer. With limited carrying capacity, a crucial-to-my-hygeine-plans event towel and a saddle bag to carry, I did that thing that everyone knows not to do. I hung a plastic bag full of crap over my handlebars. You know what’s coming. The people walking towards me didn’t. I didn’t either. As my front wheel stopped dead under the force of a towel, spare tube and CO2 canister, and the bike teetered on the brink of pitching me face-first onto the tarmac, I just had time to think how much I had enjoyed having the wheels intact. The panic of trying to unstick everything in time for me to try to true it up before the race start ensued. But no, still true. What magic is this? Even some, ahem, “creative” race lines couldn’t cause me problems, no pinging of spokes, no burping of air, nothing. My only slight criticism would be that the top layer of lacquer scrapes a little easily when there are flying rocks to contend with, but perhaps that isn’t so surprising!
Possibly the most astonishing of all to me, I decided after some deliberation to take the wheels away for a much-needed week of mountain biking and decompression in Riva del Garda. I figured they had stood up to rocky, bumpy French singletrack, rocky, bumpy Swiss singletrack, and my recent lack of form, and I didn’t really want to take the wheelset with a rear hub that was going to tell me how weak I have become (always been). I had forgotten quite how incredibly steep, technical, slippery and amazing the Gardasee descents are, however, and only remembered when the two of us found ourselves slip-sliding, bums on tyres over green limestone and dragon’s tail roots at a 30% grade. A week of rediscovering form and daring, and 300+km of riding later, and I can happily report I have finally knocked the back wheel out of perfect true, but by a rather lame 1mm. A quick turn of the spoke key was all it took to return them to box-fresh status.
On the whole, and I mean this as this highest praise I can give a bike component, they just work. I would have no concern in reaching for these wheels for all xc-able duties in the future. The understated graphics don’t have the wow factor that a new set of Enves do, but then you don’t have to spend anything close to Enve money to get hold of a set. The hubs have a fantastic, and totally-deserved pedigree for durability and reliability. The rims and build, probably the biggest unknowns when ordering from the other side of the world are totally dependable. They just work. Exactly as you want of wheels. You want to fit them, forget them, and ride as though they aren’t a thing. And that’s exactly what this set from Light Bicycle do. They shave a whole lot of weight off your bike weighing on 1238g, but don’t make you ride any more sensibly. When you do things right…