It wasn’t too long ago the idea of carbon mountain bike rims would make my head hurt. But, as more and more riders were using them successfully I started to feel comfortable giving them a try. Of course the stratospheric costs of the premium carbon wheels [over $2K] didn’t compute. I stumbled upon a discussion about Light Bicycle carbon rims on MTBR. The cost was reasonable $200/rim delivered to my door all costs in. The customer service and warranty support seemed excellent so I took the plunge. $400 and 1 month later a box showed up from China with some pretty sweet looking carbon rims inside.
I’ve got a client who fabricates composite parts for the aerospace industry and I help them with their quality management system. So looking at a well made composite rim is a pleasure and the LB product didn’t disappoint. Appearance is certainly not the most important thing for a rim, but a company that can build a product that’s finished to a high level of perfection gives you some confidence in the fact they got other details in hand. The rims were straight and weighed ~412g each which is within the specification on LB’s product page. As a comparison the Velocity Blunt 35 is an aluminum rim of the same size/width and it weighs 555g.
This rim is a hookless design which is purportedly stronger and deals with rock impacts better. I haven’t test that out, but I can say this is the easiest set of rims I have ever setup tubeless. 1 wrap of Stan’s tape a a few scoops of sealant then the beads pop into place with a snap using 1 CO2 cartridge. No leaks or hassles. No burps or problems on the trail. I like it! :)
Brent at Velofix.ca built up the LB rims with Hope EVO Pro2 hubs and Sapim Race spokes.
- Front wheel weight = 784g
- Rear wheel weight = 912g
These wheels were mounted in my Pivot Mach 6 + Pike rig and abused on our rocky and rooty coastal BC trails for over 5 months of regular shredding. At the end of that I gave them back to Brent for a touch up and he said they were still running perfectly straight. They do have a few scuffs and light scratches rocks, but nothing to be worried about.
How do they ride? There are two main benefits:
- they accelerate well [lighter weight]
- corner and steer precisely [stiffness and wide rim supports tire better]
Is it worth the extra cost?
That depends on how much extra. The difference between a LB carbon rim and a comparable Velocity aluminum rim is $100/rim. So that means a aluminum wheelset is going to cost me $700 using the parts I typically spec and a LB carbon wheelset will cost me $900. I would pay the extra $200 for the performance upgrade. If you asked me to pay $600 or $1200 extra I’d say forget it.
Interestingly I have spoken to riders with ENVE wheelsets that cost $2K+ who also owned LB rims and they couldn’t tell a difference when riding them.
I’ll keep rolling with these carbon rims and see how they hold out long term. I do know 3 or 4 other local riders with LB carbon rims with as much as 18months of use on them and everyone likes them as much as I do. I’ll probably get a wide 29er set of LB rims for my Krampus built up with Hope hubs for tours where weight is more important than bombproofness and ultimate traction/float.