Chris King's production facility in Portland, Oregon, has been cranking out mountain bike hubs for decades, but it was only this year that they introduced their first complete wheelset. The MTN30 wheels use US-made FusionFiber rims that are laced to Chris King's Boost Centerlock hubs.
If the name FusionFiber sounds familiar, that's because Revel and Evil also use the material for their own rims. It's still technically a carbon fiber rim, but a nylon polymer is used to hold everything together instead of epoxy. The process of laying up the rims is automated, and the final product doesn't need any sanding or deburring – there's no need for any finishing work or clearcoating. The rims are produced by CSS Composites in Utah, and the assembly of the wheels takes place at Chris King's facility in Oregon.
MTN30 Wheel Details
• FusionFiber thermoplastic rims
• 28 Sapim D-Light spokes, 2 cross pattern
• Inner rim width: 29mm
• Made in USA
• Lifetime warranty
• Weight: 907 grams (27.5" rear) / 808 grams (29" front), 1715 grams total.
• Price:$2,550 USD
• More info: chrisking.com
The use of a nylon polymer instead of epoxy allows the rims to be recycled at the end of their life, although it's worth noting that they're not going to end up as rims again. Think tires levers, stems, or other items that can be compression molded from chopped up fiber. The MTN 30 rims do come with a lifetime warranty – in the event that one breaks, Chris King will send out a shipping label, rebuild the wheel with a fresh rim, and service the hub if necessary while they're at it.
The MTN 30 wheels are available in 29”, 27.5” or mixed wheel configurations, all with Boost spacing hubs and Centerlock rotor mounting. There's a wide range of hub color options, everything from silver to gold. Speaking of gold, the MTN 30 wheels aren't cheap – they're priced at $2,550 USD. DESIGN
The MTN 30 rims have a 29mm inner width, and a depth of 23.5mm, numbers that fall right in line with what's become the norm for rims designed for all-round usage. Visually, there isn't anything that immediately sets the rims apart from a 'traditional' carbon rim – they're black, shiny, and the fibers can be seen when the light hits them the right way. Both wheels use 28 spokes laced in a two-cross pattern.
Chris King's machined aluminum hubs are renowned for their high quality and durability – they even make their own stainless steel bearings, which are claimed to burnish and become faster rolling with time. “Sorry, I'm going to be a little late – I need to ride more so my wheels spin even more smoothly” seems like a great excuse to get out for a longer ride than usual. A T10 torx is used to adjust the preload ring on each hub that pushes against the angular contact bearings. It's something that typically needs to be done once or twice as the hubs settle in, and then it rarely needs adjustment, at least in my experience.
At the heart of the rear hub is the RingDrive, which delivers 72 points of simultaneous engagement. That equates to a fairly quick 5-degrees between points of engagement. There are faster engaging hubs out there – I9's Hydra hub checks in at a near-instant .52-degrees between engagement points – but 5-degrees is still plenty quick, and I never found myself wishing for anything less out on the trail.
A basic hub service is a fairly simple procedure, and Chris King has easy-to-find videos and documentation on their website. A special tool is required to fully disassemble the hubs, but that's not something that should be necessary more than once every year or two.
Chris King's Ring Drive has 72-points of simultaneous engagement.SETUP
Getting the MTN 30 wheels set up was a straighforward procedure, which is pretty much a given these days – wider rim profiles, and the tubeless tires designed for them typically make it simple to get a tire seated and sealed without any swearing. I will say that I've gotten spoiled by Reserve's Fillmore valves this season. Yes, they're expensive, but the speed that they fill a tire and the lack of clogging has made me wish that all wheels came with them. The valves on the MTN30 wheelset are nice, and the top cap even has a little flying hub etched into it, but they don't work as well as the Reserves.
My one gripe when it comes to setting up these wheels has to do with the fact that Chris King only produces Centerlock compatible mountain hubs – the 6-bolt option is no longer in their catalog. I get it, Centerlock is probably lighter and it is easier to install, but I have a stack of 6 bolt rotors, and a non-existent stack of Centerlock rotors. That means I had to use an adaptor in order to use a 6 bolt rotor, which takes away the convenience of the design.
I used Continental's Kryptotal DH tires for the majority of the test period, without inserts, and with pressures set to 21 psi for the front and 23 psi for the rear. The wheels started off the test period on a Santa Cruz Nomad V6, and most recently were installed on a Trek Fuel EX.PERFORMANCE
It's getting harder and harder to tell carbon wheels apart, at least when it comes to ride feel. That's a good thing, since it means you're less likely to end up with a set of wheels that seem like they're trying to rattle your fillings out whenever the trail gets rough. The days of brutally stiff wheels seem to be mostly behind us as rim profiles and carbon layup have evolved.
The MTN30 wheels fall squarely into the 'comfortable' category, and even when pinballing down some of the jankier trails on Vancouver's North Shore I never felt any harshness. Now, could I notice the supposed 50% increase in damping compared to 'traditional' carbon fiber rims? I wouldn't go that far – the MTN30 wheels traded places with a Reserve 30|HD wheelset and there wasn't a dramatic difference in ride quality. If pressed, I'd say that the MTN30 wheels felt a little more muted at higher speeds in chunkier sections of trail, but again, we're not talking about a night and day difference here. When it comes to tangible differences in compliance, SRAM's ZeroMoto wheels are one of the only options I've tried where the extra flex is immediately noticeable.
As far as stiffness when cornering goes, the wheels offered plenty of support, and no matter how much I squared off a turn the spokes never made any noises to express their displeasure.
The hub engagement was quick and extremely solid, and the trademark 'angry bees' noise when freewheeling was actually less pronounced than I'd expected. Using a different freehub oil could probably change that, but I'm personally a big fan of hubs that don't make much noise, so the fact that these hubs weren't overly loud is a plus in my book. WEIGHT
The MTN30 wheels are slightly lighter than their counterparts in this category - the 29" set weighs 1746 grams. For comparison, Roval's Traverse wheels and We Are Ones Union wheels weigh 1840 grams, Evil's Loophole wheels weigh 1940 grams, and Santa Cruz's Reserve 30|HD wheels weigh 1880 grams. 100 grams isn't that much in the grand scheme of things, but it all adds up, and for gram conscious riders it's worth noting that the MTN 30's aren't overly heavy. DURABILITY
Other than a quick adjustment of the hub preload and one brief trip to the truing stand for the rear wheel, the MTN 30 wheels haven't needed any maintenance, and those are adjustments that are typical for a set of new wheels. I've smacked a decent number of rocks and roots that were hiding in piles of moon dust, and so far they've taken all those hits in stride. The bearings are still spinning incredibly smoothly – there's zero grittiness or resistance. They just keep going and going when the wheel is spun.
Trail conditions were extra-dry and dusty for the majority of the test period – I'll put in some additional miles now that the rains have returned and update this review if any issues arise.
On the lighter side for this category +
Pleasantly neutral ride quality
Centerlock rotor mounting only