Review: Crankbrothers' New Synthesis E Alloy Wheels

Feb 11, 2020
by Mike Kazimer  
Synthesis E alloy wheels review

Crankbrothers have announced the addition of several new aluminum options to their Synthesis wheel lineup. Like their carbon counterparts, the aptly named Synthesis Alloy wheels feature a front wheel with a slightly wider rim that's said to be more compliant, which is paired with a stiffer rear wheel.

There are four different wheelsets in the lineup, with intended uses ranging from XC / trail riding to e-biking, but it's the Synthesis E wheelset that's reviewed here (E stands for Enduro), with Crankbrothers' branded hubs.

The front wheel is priced at $239, and the rear is $359 USD. There's also an Industry Nine 1/1 hub equipped version, which goes for $299 for the front wheel and $499 for the rear. The wheels are sold individually rather than in sets, which means you could choose to go with the fancier rear hub to get quicker engagement and still save a little money on the front hub.
Crankbrothers Synthesis E Alloy Details

• Intended use: enduro
• 29" and 27.5" options
• 6013 T6 aluminum rims
• 31.5mm inner rim width (f) / 29.5mm inner width (r)
• 32 Sapim Race spokes rear / 28 Sapim D-Light spokes front
• Engagement: 17º
• Boost spacing
• XD, Microspline, and HG freehub options
• Weight (29"): 2,072 grams, 939g front / 1133g rear
• Price: $598 USD; $239 front / $359 rear

On my scale the wheels weighed in at 939 grams for the front and 1133 for the rear, for a total weight of 2,072 grams for the set, including rim tape and valve stems.

Synthesis E alloy wheels review
The front rim has an internal width of 31.5mm, and the rear measures 29.5mm.
Synthesis E alloy wheels review
The graphics are subtle and nearly flush with the rim, which makes wheel truing easier.


Along with using two different rim widths (the front measures 31.5mm internally, and the rear measures 29.5mm) Crankbrothers also used different spoke counts and spoke thicknesses in order to achieve the ride characteristics they were looking for.

The front wheel is laced with 28 Sapim D-Light spokes, and the rear is laced with 32 Sapim Race spokes, which measure 1.8mm in the center vs. the D-Lights, which measure 1.6mm. The good news is that Crankbrothers didn't try and completely re-invent the wheel here – tried and true J-bend spokes are used, laced in a three-cross pattern.

The hub uses a three-pawl design that interfaces with a 21-tooth drive ring, creating 17-degrees between engagement points. The Industry Nine option uses a six pawl driver and 45 tooth drive ring that results in 4° between engagement points.

Synthesis E alloy wheels review
Synthesis E alloy wheels review
The rear hub uses a three pawl design and ratchets on a 21-tooth drive ring.

Ride Impressions

I've had two different sets of tires on the Synthesis E Alloy wheels so far, and both seated and sealed without any issues. These wheels saw action on a couple different test bikes, but the bulk of the testing took place with them installed on a Norco Optic. I typically run a 2.5" front tire and a 2.4" rear tire, a setup that worked especially well with the Synthesis E wheels. The concept of having two different different rim widths isn't new, but it does make a lot of sense. The wider front rim helps support the wider tire, while the rear rim width works well with the slightly narrower tread profile. Running two tires with the same width works just fine as well - remember, we're still only talking about a 2mm difference in inner width dimensions here.

The wheels felt solid and comfortable, although when it comes to judging compliance I'd be hard pressed to name an aluminum wheelset that I've ridden in the last couple of years that felt too stiff. Now, I could rattle off the names of carbon wheelsets that were on the harsher side of the scale, but with aluminum that harshness isn't nearly as common. Still, the Synthesis wheels didn't give me any reason to complain as far as overall ride feel goes, no matter if I was plowing through a jumble of roots or trying to see how fast I could blast through a berm. They're nice and quiet, too; the freehub emits only a subtle clicking sound when coasting, and there weren't any distracting spoke pings or twangs to be heard.

Synthesis E alloy wheels review
A full speed rock smack caused this dent, but it was the only ding that occurred over three months of riding.

The only issue I ran into was my own fault – a mis-judged bunnyhop during a night ride caused me to smack the rear wheel into a square edged rock as hard as possible at full speed. That resulted in a dent and a flat spot one one side of the rim, but the tire stayed on and I didn't lose any air. I've since straightened the dent out as much as possible, and the wheel's still going strong.

When I pulled the freehub body off the Crankbrothers hub I found that some moisture had made its way in, sneaking past the rubber seal the sits between the freehub body and the hub shell. There wasn't any rust, and the cartridge bearings themselves were all spinning smoothly, but it's worth a mention. Of course, I live in a very, very wet part of the world, especially this time of the year – riders in drier climates likely wouldn't have anything to worry about.

Speaking of hubs, the 17-degrees between engagement points on the Crankbrothers hub isn't the fastest out there; riders who place a high priority on have ultra-quick engaging hubs would be better served by going with the Industry Nine option. Personally, the slower engagement didn't bother me once I was out on a ride, but I did notice it when switching to a wheelset with faster engagement.

Synthesis E alloy wheels review


+ Comfortable ride feel
+ Proven design: J-bend spokes, 3-cross pattern


- Not the fastest engaging rear hub

Pinkbike's Take

bigquotesThe Synthesis Alloy wheels are a welcome addition to Crankbrother's wheel lineup. The market for wheelsets in this pricepoint is extremely competitive, but the Synthesis Alloy E wheels are well built with a straightforward, no fuss design that makes them worthy of consideration.  Mike Kazimer


  • 48 0
 Am I literally the only guy on here that didn't get selected by Crankbrothers to test these wheels!?!?
  • 22 1
 It sure seems like it. You must have missed the sign-up on
  • 25 7
 We are committed to developing solid products that are well tested that can improve the riding experience. We believe this requires listening to riders feedback, great engineering work and a lot of testing. Professional riders have been and still are a big part of our testing protocol, but they are not those ones that are going to buy our products. To further improve what we do, we believe we need to involve more regular riders, people like us, that ride in different areas and different conditions to prove that our products can be enjoyed everywhere by everyone. Do we want their feedback? Hell yeah!
  • 5 3
 Crankbrothers support commenters Big Grin
  • 5 0
 @crankbrothers: honestly it’s a smart strategy in a market that’s flooded with “we’re the best, trust us.” I didn’t get your wheels to test but I’d much rather get feedback from real riders than watch a “sick edit” of someone who could shred on a Huffy if they needed to.
  • 4 0
 @DrPete: The same people that get given top of the range wheelsets and then new ones when they break the original ones.

I buy my own stuff which is never top of the line, I used it until it breaks or wears out and then I buy another one. Low cost, good performance, great looks and reliability are the most important factors.
  • 3 1
 @jaame: i also buy my own stuff and I always try to find top of the line or almost top of the line for the best possible price. When it comes to wheels I buy used good hubs and new high end alloy rims. And I wear most of them out. I am actually going to ask CB where to buy their rims to have them as a set for local riding that I will lace to a pair of old DT hubs I have lying around.

Honestly? i think they should make their own hubs with more POE to keep them as an alternative to slightly pretentious Industry 9.
  • 4 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I think I9 hubs are bit overpriced and over hyped too. Especially the fronts. I mean, it's literally a tube with another tube held in the middle by two bearings. How anyone can charge more than $70 for a front hub is beyond my comprehension. I would actually be more likely to buy a hideously overpriced rear hub if I was getting the front for next to nothing.

I've used mostly Spank rims for the past several years. I also know and ride with a few employees, and I know from talking to them that buying a good quality off the shelf hub is not easy. They ended up making their own, which turned out to be a real labour of love even with in house production facilities.

Looks are really important, and the CB wheels on test do look very good. Very nice. I was surprised by the weight actually. The POE doesn't really bother me but the weight... it is more than I thought. I couldn't tell by riding them though. The feel of the front, I don't want to sound corny but it does offer a different ride feel. It's something I rate highly, and never even thought about before.
  • 1 0
 @jaame: I have Spank rims on my DJ. I love them!
  • 21 6
 as for all these people talking about POE, if your main riding is focused downhill its much better to have a low POE to reduce pedal kickback and also having float in the rough will give you more control and keep your cranks from working their way up as you smash a rock garden. when testing these rims I had no idea it had a low POE, it felt like a normal hub.
  • 3 0
 That's pretty brilliant. And makes a lot of sense. Thanks!
  • 4 0
 Finally someone Smart comment about poe! High poe on dh, Welcome snapped chains and pedal kickback
  • 18 1
 They look sick!
  • 16 0
 They look way too normal to be Crankbros. Nice subtle graphics though.
  • 9 0
 They certainly look handsome.
  • 6 0
 @twozerosix: these has been a change of the guard at Crank Brothers. They used to be design focused. Now, the are engineering focused.

Crank Brothers have always been innovative. Now they are leaning towards innovative, but being more practical also, and they have come a long way in terms of reliability.

People need to forget the past faff. The new guard had pulled the ship together and they are going really good things.
  • 3 0
 *The new guard has pulled the ship together and they are doing really good things.*

My stupid thumbs never do quite what I ask them to do.
  • 2 0

Hopefully this is true. Crank Bro’s came out the gate swinging early on. After multiple failures with Crank Bro’s products over the years though, I don’t even consider them anymore. Hope they can bring the engineering to the design, like you are saying.
  • 3 0
 @jimeg: I’ve had two sets of pedals - mallets and candies, and they have both been very reliable.
The mallets have been on my bike about 50% of the time since 2013, including a trip down the fast lane of the freeway at 110km/h. I think that classes as reliable.
The brass cleats wear out quickly, which is the only downside.
  • 1 0
 @privateer-wheels: thanks for the update. Egg Beater pedals were/are a staple in CX and wish the rest of their equipment had the same balance of practicality, engineering, design.
  • 34 26
 Any MTB wheel/hub with worse engagement than 10º should be banned from sale. 21 POE? Were they purposely trying to make the slowest engaging hub they could to "motivate" folks to fork out more cash for the i9 hubs? I'm no super fast engagement snob, but 21POE is seriously slow for any kind of MTB technical riding.
  • 20 5
 POE isn't always more is better according to some riders. There are racers that actually remove pawls (reducing POE) out of their hubs to reduce resistance and have the wheels roll faster. I don't know how much of a difference it makes, but their claim is faster wheels both uphill and downhill.
  • 79 1
 Hi Ferisko - as mentioned in the article, we have two hub options, the option that is reviewed here, as well as an I9 hub option, giving 4 degrees of engagement. We usually give the more premium version to the media to review, but we often hear the comment that riders want to know what the more affordable version is like to ride, so for this launch we listened to that feedback.
  • 5 1
 @rossluzz: I suppose it depends a lot on where and how you ride. I am also completely fine with the 18T ratchet on my road/commuter bike. I can also understand the efforts to minimize the drag in racing situations. But in this case I'm afraid it is nothing more than a bad case of cost cutting or a way of making the up-spec pricier version more attractive.

I'm also not a fan of DT Swiss selling their mid spec 1700's wheels with only 18T ratchets and their 1501's alloy sets with 36T ratchets. But at least they offer a relatively cheap way to upgrade the ratchet to a finer one (54T).
  • 7 0
 If it makes you feel any better, at least you have options across the entire price range. I bought a brand new Kona Process 153SE exactly one year ago. Now I'm pretty well stuck either building a custom wheel up or buying basic stuff since 142mm is now apparently a gravel standard.
Cheapest I can do an I9 rear would be $600.
  • 10 2
 @crankbrothers: I know. And I'm sure the hydra hubs have an awesome ultra premium engagement. But at what cost? My point here was that, IMHO, mid level alloy MTB wheelsets should not come with such a low POE. Maybe leave the high/top end as is with hydra hubs but make the entry-level a bit more of mid range for those $600.

Than again, what do I know. I'm more of a carbon top end option kind of guy myself, so not really target market for these.
  • 10 0
 @Ferisko: the will be offered with I9 1/1 hubs! They are a good deal cheap than Hydra, with 90 Poe. Rims also available on their own to build with any hub you like.
  • 5 8
 @Ferisko; Agreed! $600 US for 17' deg engagement is poor!
  • 6 1
 @privateer-wheels: Oh, the option is 1/1 and not Hydra? ... got to ease up on that speed reading. Makes more sense this way.
  • 14 0
 @Ferisko: Our Synthesis Carbon 11 series Wheels are equipped with the Hydra hub, while the Synthesis Alloy premium option is equipped with the 1/1 hub.
  • 22 0
 This "moar is betterer!!1" nonsense about POE is getting out of hand. Kinda same as the "carbon is superior to aluminum" hype, that's fortunately starting to calm down a bit. I get that in some situations it's better to have quicker engagement, in trials stuff and such, but in normal mountain biking people make way too much ruckus of it. As the article says: you don't pretty much think about it on the trail, but you notice that it's different when switching to higher POE.

I'll give one more benefit of lesser POE that hasn't been mentioned, less pedal kickback.
  • 7 6
 @rossluzz: Racing is not "MTB technical riding". Sure removing pawls might decrease friction a bit, and in a race you're pretty much pedaling all the time. But for most riders there will be a lot of stop/start pedaling and ratcheting, where having a 17 degree hole before the power gets to the wheels is a big ass deal.
  • 8 1
 @blowmyfuse: Shame on Kona for still doing non-Boost in 2019. I was all ready to say "you got it last year but your didn't get last year's model", and then I looked it up, and holy shit there is 10x100 and 12x142 on the 2019 Process 153 SE. WTF?

Also, why "stuck" doing a custom wheel? There are plenty of online and retail shops that will build you a wheel of your choosing for not too much more than a pre-built (and machine-built; even the cheapest the custom builds may have a little more human touch). And there are still plenty of 142 rear hubs around.
  • 11 1
 @just6979: I’ll be honest, I didn’t ride them long enough but the biggest issue with hubs is the reliability. If they hold, I wouldn’t care much about POE. Have 36 on my DT and couldn’t be arsed to have more despite having technically challenging climbs that may require using ratcheting technique, the only situation where POE actually matters. If the hubs hold up and spares are easily available then I’m happy.

These wheels are worth looking at because of how compliant rims are despite being plenty stiff in corners.
  • 2 2
 @hirvi: I get what you are saying, but in this case there are 2 extremes to the spectrum. On one side is the extreme you mention, "moar is better" with hubs such as i9 hydra which have pretty much instant engagement (hydra is like what, 0.5°?) . Then there is the other side of the spectrum with hub engagement of 15° or more. Occupied by such as DT Swiss with 18T ratchet or 24T pawl, some older Shimano hubs, American classic or these CrankBros.

Luckily most of the manufactures "got the message" and offer hubs in the middle. Hope, new Shimano hubs, Mavic ITS4 and ID360, e13, DT Swiss 36T and 54T ratchets etc. all in the range of 6° to 10° which seems like reasonable compromise for cost/durability/speed of engagement.
  • 13 1
 The POE argument is moot in my opinion. It is what it is. You pedal, it turns the wheel. I don't see the need for super fast engagement that realistically is maybe an inch or two of movement different at the pedals. I would much prefer a reliable freewheel that never skips and doesn't need cleaning more than once a year. Those tiny teeth sure must need keeping clean in order to engage reliably all the time. In the weeks I've been using these wheels they haven't skipped, they haven't woken up any sleeping squirrels, and I haven't had to take them apart to clean them. Just as well because I haven't got a 12mm allen key.
  • 9 1
 @jaame: if you ever want to wake up those damn squirrels without spending a fortune... go Halo Supadrive... fk me that sound! I will be installing it on my race BMX to mess with commuting roadies. Sandbagging big time. Oh I’ll pass that hipster on his kids bike. 30 seconds later, he is behind me? No way? Oh, he has a 54t chainring there... BZZZZZ! - he is coasting?! BZZZZZZ!!!!!
  • 7 2
 @rossluzz: Those racers aren't cleaning technical lines that require ratcheting the climbs a lot. Also, less pawls means you're more likely to snap the overloaded pawl(s) you left in the hub.

People who remove pawls also ride without sealant in their tires-not the sharpest knives in the drawer.
  • 10 2
 @hirvi: Zero pedal kickback on Bontrager hub with 108 poe and DT 54t star ratchet. And on technical climbs where ratcheting then stabbing the pedals with a lot of torque fast engagement is super helpful. That's not trials riding, just mountain biking!!
  • 6 0
 @crankbrothers: I still think you guys make the smartest CF wheel set out there.
  • 6 1
 @WAKIdesigns: one other scenarios that ratcheting helps - long deep puddles where you can get by with a ratchet, but would otherwise submerge your foot on a full pedal stroke.

I hate wet feet Razz
  • 4 0
 @hirvi: It's not "more is better". It's "you need enough". As an all-around trail rider, I'm fairly happy with 10-degree engagement, happier with 5 degrees, and definitely would not be OK with 17 degrees.

And I don't get the less-pedal-kickback argument. I ride bikes with a high level of anti-squat (Pivot, Ibis) but have never experienced actual pedal kickback, except when I demoed a SC Bronson (which had terrible kickback). For me, pedal kickback is a non-issue.
  • 7 0
 Kazimer, whats the combo of running wild enduro fronts on both ends like? I've had good luck with the matched front/rear combo, but tear off the rear knobs frequently. Do the tougher front knobs hold up any better, or is it a different reason?
  • 11 0
 I run that set up when it's extra wet out. It's not a full-on mud spike, so it's more predictable on slippery roots / and rocks, but there's lots of traction in the muck.

Tearing knobs off isn't as much of an issue when the ground is relatively soft, and I haven't run into any durability issues so far.
  • 6 0
 the rears wear out way quicker and not as grippy as the front based on my experience.
  • 3 0
 @jaydawg69: i agree with Kazimer, soft soil, better for the Wild Enduros, if you have too many rocks and abrasive trails, a Rockr2 in GumX in the back helps a lot.. compromised mud clearance, but its a tougher tire..
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: So kinda like running two Muddy Mary's (as you do in the winter in the Pacific North Wet)... how do they compare to that set-up?
  • 1 0
 @Lagr1980: the Rockr2 is great for hard and nasty terrains, but spinning up the pavement climbs is quite PIA, with Enduro casing it weights around 1.2 kg and the thread is far for quick rolling...but they are worth that hassle. Smile
  • 3 0
 @mikekazimer: I just noticed that you got the magix on the rear? That's bold move.. These are prone to get the lugs torn, harder rubber under the top layer?
  • 2 0
 @Lagr1980, as I said above, this is what I run when it's super sloppy out - it's hard to tear knobs off when the ground is soft and squishy.
  • 8 1
 These don't seem bad, but multiple spoke lengths and thicknesses mean carrying a bunch of spokes for when you snap one (and if you get after it, you snap spokes on even the priciest wheels).

Bontrager Line Comp 30's are about the same weight, have 54poe with the option (for 20 bucks) for 3 extra pawls to set up with 108poe, and ride great! Seals aren't DT or i9 good, but neither are the seals on the Crank Brothers hubs.

Oh-and the Line Comps are $300!!

Crank Brothers have worked hard and stopped making awful disposable products, but unless you get a set of these for waaaaay below list price, they're a lousy deal.
  • 8 0
 In my experience the Line Comp 30s that were OEM on my Slash 9.7 were made of a realllllly soft alloy, and I turned mine into a stop sign shape inside of two months, which was really disappointing. When I sought to lace a new hoop to that hub, I was pretty limited to rim choice as it was 28H. Two thumbs way down. So the benefit of upgrading the driver internals was lost on me. I ditched the hub on BuyNSell, and moved on to 32H Shimano hubs.

No doubt the Bontys are less expensive, but in my opinion, there's good reason.

Lastly - and perfectly serious question for all - does anyone ride with spare spokes? In 30 years, I honestly never have. If I ever did some self-supported touring I might, but I never do when trail riding.
  • 14 0
 @peleton7 I never see broken spokes on my builds, and I build for a good many people who get after it! Broken spokes often happen, as far as I see, in wheels with low tension or really uneven tension, where by certain spokes will fatigue faster than others. At properly high tension and with even spoke to spoke tension, spoke failure should be rare. Definitely an exception rather than a norm as you seem to indicate.

Most wheelsets have a couple length spokes. If you have J-Bend spokes, pretty much every shop should be able to cut you a $1 straight gauge spoke to make do until you find a shop with one of the (two commonly stocked) Sapim spokes. As far as these wheels go, they aren't out of the ordinary with spoke lengths or spoke selection. Matter of fact they use two of the three spokes I most commonly use. What's good, is they have dropped the proprietary spokes - that is a solid win.

Otherwise, like sngltrkmnd, I never carry extra spokes. This wheelset wouldn't make me rethink that either, knowing both the D-Lights and Races are reliable.
  • 3 0
 @privateer-wheels: what are your feelings on aerolites?
  • 6 1
 @garrisond5: I’m also a custom MTB wheelsmith in Toronto. My peer @privateerwheels, above, puts it well. The smartest wheelsets are often mixed and matched in terms of core parts - by definition to fit anything custom is to fit it to its fact-specific purpose and application. That’s the whole reason behind the Synthesis wheelsets, or pro riders using custom rubber, or mixed rubber, or custom shock linkages etc. - you name the tech example. Folks complaining about “carrying extra spokes around,” with respect, really don’t understand the build process or the maintenance ease with custom or high-end quality wheels such as these. As my fellow wheelbuilder stressed, “just run what you (or the local emergency shop) brung,” as the saying goes, until safely home and you can swap out any broken spokes with matching replacements - broken spokes being, in my experience as well, extremely rare. (Rims and hubs typically break first, not Sapim D-Light or Race premium Belgian wire.) The Race and D-Light are extremely high-quality “swaged” (butted) spokes designed for MTB applications, but they’re also inherently mainstream and easily ordered even individually (Ryan at is Canada’s most professional Sapim supplier and will cut almost anything for the consumer or shop user). They just seem exotic and rarified as most of us - unfortunately - are used to straight-gauge spokes, the “humdrum Harry” of spoke designs. Which is to say fine and more than respectable, nice when meeting your mom at the local coffee shop, but with limited durability, questionable handsomeness, and no standout performance features. Swaged or butted spokes do more with less weight...which leads me to your specific question.

I won’t speak for my colleague here, but odds are he would agree generally that any extra butting - or it’s extreme manifestation, blading - only means more performance and durability for many riders. Bladed spokes have an aero profile without any lost integrity due to the way they are chemically and mechanically flattened. Indeed they’re actually stronger than straight-gauge or even rounded butted spokes, because they flex more, which means that the material sustains a greater volume of shock and stress cycles before eventual failure (years later). Thousands more in many cases. They often ride better, particularly up front, for those exact same reasons of designed flexibility. Thus, on the highest-end wheelsets in MTB one will sometimes find the range-topping (and wallet shocking) Sapim CX-Ray. To the new wheelbuilder or purchaser the CX-Ray seems like a peloton special made for the Tour; to experienced wheelsmiths the CX-Ray is a super durable rocket ship of a spoke. Aerolites are rough DT Swiss equivalents, with classic DT quality. I would say go for them, as long as you’re not riding downhill or are over, say, 190-205 in riding gear. Even then, with a 32-hold build, expert assembly, and something like CushCore installed you would probably still be fine. I ride enduro on a front wheel built up with 1.8-1.5 mm DT Revolution butted spokes on a highly compliant Stan’s ZTR rim. I have had absolutely zero issues. Hope that helps. Just make sure your builder has/you have a quality aero spoke holder to prevent winding when lacing them - the only major theoretical drawback to building with aero wire. Just takes more time and skill. Hope that helps!
  • 5 0
 @HogtownWheelsmith: Quality content! Thank you, well put!
  • 6 0
 I would argue that bladed spokes are the easiest spoke to build and prevent wind up. A $5-10 plastic spoke holder is all that is needed, and you will visually spot spoke wind up in a bladed spoke pretty fast as you approach higher tension if you don't use one. These tools are simple and straightforward to use - just hold the base of the blade of the spoke nearest the nipple when you turn the nipple, to prevent the spoke from turning with the nipple. Sapim Race/D-light spokes also wind up (Race less so than D-light), but it's impossible to see in a round spoke unless you go out of your way to put a flag in each spoke - this is why many experts don't recommend builders with little to no experience use thinner butted spokes. 1.5mm butted sections will wind even worse if you aren't using proper technique and good working methods. But I disagree that a new builder should stay away from bladed if they have the coin. The are expensive, but they are easy to build with - arguably easier than a round spoke. Also, they work very well for aggressive riding due to the production process they are a good deal stronger than a round spoke of the same weight. For reference, a CX-Ray is both lighter and stronger than a Sapim Laser spoke with a 1.5mm butted middle section. And on round Spokes with middles sections butted that thin - I personally find them a little to flexy under heavy braking and in fast corners, and especially with deeper angulation - but that's just me. Likely not a big issue for most Southern Ontario riding, but they start to show their weakness on steeper more technical trail, and I would say especially in the front wheel where most of your brake power is. For smaller less aggressive riders, and more tame terrain, Laser/Revolution spokes are pretty good - my 120lb girlfriend is actually on Revolution spokes front and rear - I wish I could tell you she loves them, but truth be told we could use spaghetti for spokes and she wouldn't know the difference. As Hogtown noted he is using them at the front end of his rig with success here in Southern Ontario, so your mileage may vary. But I think one thing we'll agree on is that Sapim Race and D-Light spokes are very high quality with very low rate of failure and replacements are easy to source.

And personally I love CX-Rays, both building with them and riding them, but they are so expensive, you'll really have to want that extra modicum of performance and weight savings. If you are the type that has to have the best of everything, and no experience is spared, it's THE spoke.
  • 3 0
 @privateer-wheels: Well put - strong outline of the various products and methodologies! My point about the spoke holders is more to just avoid the makeshift method of using pliers (which work but can scratch spokes), or, worse, using nothing at all to prevent winding. This is all good advice ultimately, and yes, winding is certainly possible on the D-Lights as well (Lasers are the worst for winding in my experience, though often worth the extensive effort).

As anyone reading these comments will note, we take bike tech pretty seriously in Toronto - and ironically so, given that we don’t have any actual mountains here. But hey, it’s like anything else: sometimes the passion burns a little brighter in paradoxical locations. Lots of people join the US Navy from landlocked states; the best tennis players in the world are now from the Balkans; if you want to study Russian history go to university in Illinois; if you want a Michelin star open a sushi restaurant in Europe; etc. My point is that the industry has some legitimate expertise on the East Coast, too. Either of us would be happy to chat spokes with anyone willing to reach out to us. Wheels are a passion here.
  • 4 0
 @HogtownWheelsmith: Aye! Don't use bog-standard off the shelf pliers to hold spokes!

And indeed, Toronto does have some good mechanics and wheel builders, and some great riders to boot. I was pleasantly surprised after moving here from Newfoundland, to be in such good company.
  • 3 0
 @privateer-wheels: Gotta love the Rock!
  • 10 1
 Depending on how good they are, they might be reasonably priced. Ti model soon?
  • 8 0
 A test set of these wheels were sent to me about a month ago. I didn't get any technical specs or pricing information at all - though I am familiar with the design goal of the Synthesis wheel system from past experience. From appearances and several rides on them, I would agree that $600 is a fair price for these wheels. Ti components would drive up the price, so I am curious to know what you'd want to change about these and how would titanium improve the product?
  • 1 1
 $600 is for the base model. If you go I9 rear hub, you're now at $740, I9 front hub and you're at $810. That's a good deal for I9 equipped wheels - but you can also get a I9 Enduro S 1/1 rear wheel for $445 from some retailers, so maybe not. Personally, I'd consider these a bargain if they were offering the I9 hubs on a complete wheelset for $600, but at $800 I'm not as interested.

HUNT wheels offer a great value, but the reliability is questionable. It's Tairin Wheels out of Canada that has me curious (about $450 for 120poe rear wheel manufactured in Canada.)
  • 15 7
 In a world of Halo Supadrive, I9 Hydra, King and more 27t engagement is a bit questionable...
  • 7 4
 Yep, lots of talk in this comment section about how POE doesn't actually mean anything and can actually be better. Surely this isn't a Pinkbike comment section??!

I tend to rely on personal experience. I went from selling my bike with high engagement hubs to demoing a few bikes lately. Demo'd a Santa Cruz MegaTower with those DT Swiss 370 hubs and noticed the low engagement right away. Things like trying to get in quick extra pedal strokes before somewhere I need speed... it felt like I lost 1/3 of the power I was putting down. And tech climbing it was really obvious... but also technical slow descending... get in short pedal strokes to move around obstacles and such was much worse with low POE.

People will disagree, but after riding both styles back to back on my local trails... I can't go back to low POE.
  • 3 1
 @islandforlife: Agreed. I once went from an I9 hub to something standard and ditto to every thing you wrote about.
  • 2 0
 @islandforlife: sounds like my Onyx problem... totally agree that once you’ve had instant engagement it’s hard to go back.
  • 9 5
 It appears these are just slightly heavier than average aluminum wheels with well below average hub engagement. The compliance angle makes a little sense on carbon wheels, but it’s a bit of a joke on aluminum. At least they’re priced reasonably.
  • 11 1
 The rims are also available to build with on any hub, FYI. And Crank Brothers will offer them with I9 1/1 hubs too.
  • 9 0
 If you haven't demo'd their wheels yet? Take note of spoke count- and tension, as well as front/rear specific design. Wheel mass and hub details aren't all there is to this system.
  • 10 0
 It's not the compliance alone, it's the difference front to rear that is the big deal here.
  • 9 0
 @sngltrkmnd: There is some validity to what you are saying imo. Wheel building is not just a sum of the components. There is a definite art to it. Its cool to see Crank Bros taking a nod from something you'd usually have to go custom for.
  • 6 0
 @Svinyard: I agree. It's a good idea and one that works.
  • 16 8
 Ibis wheels are $100 cheaper, 5 mm wider and 200 grams lighter
  • 4 4
 These have impressed me even compared to Hope hub/Spank, DT Swiss 1900 wheels I've run recently. The $500 alums from Ibis are hard to beat and hold up great.
  • 1 0
 Doesn't get much more stark than that. (Add in 10 degree engagement.)
  • 7 3
 i have been testing the wheelset for the past three months and have been blown away by the durablity of the rims,
take it from someone who is aggressive on wheels,these are by far the most durable rim i have used whilst riding in the south of spain (malaga)

couple that with the fact that they are very light for an alloy rim and at an affordable price i can honestly say as a privateer racer i would definatley consider buying this wheelset,
plus it comes tubless ready with valves set up ready for use!
  • 10 3
 I thought the front tire said Cum. Jokes on me.
  • 1 3
 I hear it's the secret ingredient in their rubber compound.
  • 5 0
 @4thflowkage: It puts the lotion in the basket or it gets the hose.
  • 2 0
 Tubeless sealant. All natural and easy to whip up a batch yourself.
  • 1 0
 I thought your post didn’t have the word “jokes” in it.
  • 5 0
 Anyone know of an affordable rim pair that are non boost? Just looking for wider rims and it seems impossible to find them non boost.
  • 2 0
 Check this mate. This guy's built 3 sets for me and i'll be ordering another one next year. Plenty of 142mm.
  • 1 0
 tuning in !
  • 1 0
 @mybaben: That looks amazing, but shipping to canada is a nightmare when it comes to mtb parts
  • 2 0
 @zombiejack33: Oh shoot! That sucks. Sorry about that mate. Frown
  • 2 0
 Talk to your local shop.
  • 1 0
 @DHhack: trying to avoid markups
  • 2 1
 Rims aren't Boost, only the hubs are.

Unless you mean you're looking for _wheels_ with wide rims on boost hubs. In which case there are many places, online and brick & mortar, to pick out custom wheels.
  • 1 0
 Buying a wheelset at the LBS is never an option
  • 2 0
 @just6979: oh its so clear now, should have asked you first i guess.
  • 4 0
 These rims are available to order by themselves it seems, so you can order a 28H front hub, and a 142 (or 135) rear hub of your choice and lace away.
  • 4 1
 @zombiejack33: "Anyone know of an affordable rim pair that are non boost?" Answer: "All of them." You're welcome.
  • 2 0
 @just6979: they are all affordable? oh wow thanks!
  • 6 1
 @zombiejack33: All rims at all price points are non-Boost. Rims have NOTHING to do with Boost.

(Perhaps a non-Boost frame is less likely to fit a big tire on a really wide rim, but that's still not the rim being Boost or not, that's the whole system of tire and wheel. It still might not even fit a big tire on a really narrow rim.)
  • 5 1
 @just6979: so rims arnt boost? but hubs are? then what are wheels with non boost?
  • 5 0
 @zombiejack33: Yes. Yes. Umm, "wheels with non Boost" would refer only to the hubs.

They could have any rim, provided the rims are the correct diameter for the frame and are mounted with a tire that is the correct width for the frame. (Noting that rim width has an effect on tire width, so the size listed on the tire may not match the actual measurable size of the mounted and inflated tire, depending on the rim.)
  • 8 0
 @zombiejack33: Oh wow, lots of confusion here... Yes mate, like said above; rims are simply rims. You build the rims mounted to the "hub spacing" of your choice, which is either standard or Boost. (142mm or 148mm). The hub or axle spacing is what is standard or boost, because it needs to match the frame sizing, which is standard or boost! All good now?
  • 2 0
 @mybaben: for sure. So I’ll get boost rims with non boost hubs. Jk. Thanks for the site recommendation again, those guys look pure quality.
  • 1 0
 @zombiejack33: LOL! Yeah they do great work! I've been very happy. Sorry about the crappy shipping thing to CAN. Frown
  • 2 0
 @mybaben: no worries! Honestly I don’t think they can tax bike parts (had a few orders from jenson/wolftooth never given duty) but they do assign duty to clothes. Cbsa are kind of random so I order 1000$ rims and they get confused it means an extra 200$ tax plus payment fee of 10$ easy to throw things out of budget Smile
  • 2 0
 Great local Canadian wheels available in all widths, great hubs, great prices.
  • 2 0
 @Boosting: they can also build you whatever you want, usually competitive pricing to any custom builder, and you can walk in with the problem to get it fixed instead of mailing it away on your own dime. Gotta pick the shop/mechanic that knows what they are doing, no different than many of the custom builders you can find that end up building an inferior product with little to no after sale support.
  • 4 0
 @zombiejack33: Jenson is one of the few companies that include duty in their price for shipping to Canada! Chain reaction offers it also but you have to pay it separately. Definitely something to take into account if the company your ordering from doesn't include duty fees.
  • 1 0
 I wanna boost my rims too. Or super boost. If my tires fit. I'm riding a Fezzari Schleyer e-edition.
  • 1 1
 @zombiejack33: my head hurts
  • 5 1
 I’m a custom wheelsmith in Toronto with a heavily scientific approach. Currently building up a non-boost “curated” wheelset (includes everything needed to ride, not just laced rims). Happy to tailor something for you. Feel free to DM me or email:
  • 7 0
 Every UK reader switched off at “moisture in the free hub”
  • 4 2
 Mid range aluminum wheels are wheels. I ride on the north shore, eagle mountain, Burke mountain, and was sent a set of wheels to test.

They come out of the box nicely true, and the nice subtle graphics gives a great first impression. You don’t notice the lack of POE at all once you start riding but on the parking lot test you notice it. I’ve ridden prototype version of these wheels down top of the world hitting all the sharp edged rocks without any issue or going out of true, and then down earth circus (berm mania...) on Creekside at full speed with full confidence.

Most important thing for wheels for me is how they hold up over time is support. Crank brothers has been very responsive and helpful to me when I’ve had questions or issues with their stuff, always responding quickly and solving my problem - even when it was my fault.
  • 7 6
 I wonder if crankbros could have made these lighter but opted for them to be heavier so they carbon wheels seem light in comparison. It seems that most modern carbon wheels are not much lighter than their alloy counterparts. Both I9 and Stan's have comparable alloy wheels that come in around 1800g for a set.
  • 2 5
 Same for DT Swiss. Though, those ~1800g alloy sets probably don't fit into the sub $600 price tag of these. And the mid priced $500 to $600 wheels are usually a closer to or slightly over the 2kg mark.
  • 6 0
 As I understand it, wheel weights better the two materials are similar because the carbon offerings are designed to be more compliant, rather than strictly *lighter* than alloy. Sure, the lightest wheels out there are typically CF but that doesn't mean the most durable ones are *necessarily* alloy.

I've been on these alloy wheels for just a short time after two seasons on the carbon model, and I do notice that they don't seem to spin up quite as quickly as the fancier version, but thinking about price point, I think this is a fair compromise for a $600 wheelset. From a ride quality perspective these less expensive hoops seem to ride just about as well as the far more expensive ones. That said, I cannot speak to durability of the alloy wheels just yet. I need to put some more time on them.
  • 7 0
 I think just like their carbon rims, they could have made then lighter. But then you likely give up some durability, or they will cost more, or maybe even both. My experience on their carbon rims has been very good. I have had complete piece of mind riding them hard (for me) and I run Exo casings with no inserts. With aluminum rims, there is always the fear of denting the rim in the back of my mind
  • 9 0
 @EKrum - wouldn’t buy anything from Stans other than kids Crest 24” and for downcountry/ trail - the Arch Mk3 in general. Flows suck, they are soft for the purpose and I’ve seen toomany with nipple ripped out through the rim. at least Arch has decent durability at that weight range. But would never go Flow over DT XM481 or these CB rims.

As to carbon, if CB would send me some I could comment, so far I haven’t ridden anything even remotely compliant that is not a very light XC racing rim. And we all know virtually all carbon rims fail like any other - they don’t dent, they don’t come out of true, they just crack and require lifetime warranty. However... CBcarbon rims seem to be the most durable since the bead wall is very thick. Possibly thickest out there, while they still weigh like competition. CBros and those funky ZIPPs seem as the only carbon rims worth checking. Everything else feels like bullshit as usual. Time and time again I ride something that is loud and stiff as hell
  • 5 0
 @WAKIdesigns: @crankbrothers What're the chances of hooking up WAKI for some test spins?
  • 6 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I agree that Stan's rims are soft.

Spank wheels are really good but they don't look anywhere near as good as the Synthesis Es.

I would definitely buy a front one. Rear, maybe for the sake of aesthetic continuity.
  • 7 0
 @sngltrkmnd: I got a pair of these alloys from them for a test. With carbons I’d need to smash them during the summer to tell. I don’t mind wasting a 100$ rim from time to time as I did with EX511 last season, but this is where I draw the line. That hit that took out my 511, that would highly possibly demolish the carbon rim too. The difference being, if I waste a widely available alloy rim, I get a new wheel within 3 days.
  • 8 7
 I got some as well in the mullet configuration.

The boxes were sweet, double boxed and MADE IN TAIWAN - not China, which is an instant win in my book, especially as I didn't have to worry about wearing my NBC suit to open them.

Fresh out of the box, nice looks. Satin black with gloss black graphics. Sweet feeling bearings, quiet freewheel. I feel a lot of the weight is in the steel freehub body. I bet it would lose 100g by switching to alloy.

It was nice to have a mullet wheelset to try, and the new DHR2 2.4s mounted up easily with a floor pump. Rims pre taped and valves installed was a new one for me. I'm used to doing it myself and I don't enjoy it, not least because it adds to the cost and the setup time. You get new wheels and you just want to ride, but you can't because you forgot to order tubeless tape last week.

Anyway I ran mine for a couple of rides on a Mega 290 which was an interesting experience because I've been using that bike for months in 29/29. Threw the 27 on the back and it was a lot different, especially around tight turns. The smaller wheel which is definitely a lot stiffer than the existing DT wheel made it corner like an animal. I almost fell into a few turns until I got used to it. Catching backsides was easier too, and the wheel never felt like it was flexing over rocks or through berms.

I got a Capra 29 a couple of weeks later and set it up with the mullet wheels. I did a few days of riding - Leeds Bike Park, Danny Hart's bike park, some trail centres.

Totally impressed with the wheels to be honest. They look sweet, the price is good. The bearings are nice, the weight is acceptable. I might be tempted for the i9 rear hub if I were to buy a set - and the great thing is you can buy a set in any configuration you want. I'd been itching to try the mullet configuration for over a year and these wheels make it easy without having to make a custom set.

I think as a concept the wide/light front and narrow/stiff rear definitely works. The front does track well through off camber bits like at Hamsterley Forest. Line holding is definitely better than on previous wheels I've used. Pinged it off the rim a few times too but no dents which proves they are definitely harder rims than Stan's flow.

On the back, nothing much to report. The wheel has clocked up some serious air miles and hit a few rock gardens at full whack and it's still straight. It did what it was supposed to do.
  • 1 0
 I don't really get the different rim widths. If anything I prefer a wider rim on the back cause my rear wheel makes the better use of the extra support. I actually have a skinny i25 on the front of my bike and an i30 on the back. Actually bought a wider time for the front but still don't feel the need to switch and I run my front tire at 20psi unless im doing rocky stuff or lift access.
  • 3 2
 These things are RAD! I've been running a set for a little bit now, testing them out and I was pleasantly surprised. After running carbon wheels for last while I wasn't sure how I was going to like going back to alloy. I thought if I was going to notice anything it was going to be the weight. But it's not something that has even crossed my mind while riding. The compliance is balanced well, I've actually found them to be a little more forgiving on the rough stuff. And J bend Spokes!! I think I was most stoked about this. I've certainly not been kind on them, back country missions to bike parks days and there have proved their strength. They come out of the box taped and valved and tires went on a breeze. Stoked on these!
  • 6 6
 17° between points of engagement is absolutely awful! At that point they might as well make it a freecoaster... I understand that not everyone is about that high engagement price but come on, even super low end hubs don't have that slow of engagement.
  • 4 5
 I mean even Shimano alivio hubs have more engagement points on them, and I have that stock on my $700 starter bike...
  • 1 0
 Not sure...about this. My mechanic at the local shop said the wheels might stop rolling down the trail if the rims are different widths. Maybe I read it on an mtbr forum though?
  • 5 2
 Am I the only one who came here expecting e bike wheels?
  • 3 0
 Coincidentally, Crankbrothers does make a Synthesis Alloy E-MTB wheelset as well, using the same concept as these
  • 13 14
 4 degree engagement is pretty fast. Shouldn’t even be a complaint. The faster engagement you want then you sacrifice hub: cost/maintenance/strength

You pinkbike guys are losing perspective you test too much high end gear
  • 27 1
 "Speaking of hubs, the 17-degrees between engagement points on the Crankbrothers hub isn't the fastest out there; riders who place a high priority on have ultra-quick engaging hubs would be better served by going with the Industry Nine option. Personally, the slower engagement didn't bother me once I was out on a ride, but I did notice it when switching to a wheelset with faster engagement." - Me
  • 7 5
 @mikekazimer: That is a bit sugar coating it though, isn't it. "isn't the fastest out there" should really read "is among the slowest out there".

Just for kicks, name a hub with slower engagement? I can start with DT Swiss hubs of which some still come stock with the 18T ratchet. Other than that I can't think of anything that is less than 24 POE.
  • 4 0
 You still listed it as a con didn't you cheeky bastard?
  • 5 2
 @mikekazimer: just because you didn't notice the bad until you experienced something better doesn't make it not bad. If you drove a shitbox AMC Pacer and never experienced a Rolls Royce, it doesn't mean the Pacer is good. It's still shite.
  • 3 1
 @Ferisko, DT Swiss was the first hub that came to mind, and some of the previous generation Shimano hubs as well, but you're right, it's on the slower side of the spectrum.

And @Boosting, it is a con, because it's a detail that many riders will be looking at when comparing this wheelset against others in a similar price range.
  • 6 1
 @mikekazimer: comparison is a thief of joy Big Grin
  • 4 4
 Cant believe y'all deleted my comment on how ibis has a set of wheels that is $100 cheaper, 5 mm wider, and 200 grams lighter? Just trying to help out my budget oriented friends.
  • 10 2
 It wasn't deleted, it had just dropped below the threshold. Looks like Crankbrothers deployed an army of commenters on this one...
  • 3 1
 @mikekazimer: TBF we did actually get a free set of wheels, in exchange for being asked to comment on this article Confused
  • 2 1
 @mikekazimer: @jpculp LOL. I feel your pain. Mine got down voted too. All I said was $600 for 17' engagement was lame. I was serious. I have a wheel builder in the mid west who I've used 3 times, and he'll build me a set of race face ARC 30s with Hope Pro4s for $550. Oh well...
  • 1 0
 I got a set of Hunts a few months ago. As long as they continue to hold up well, they will be my go to wheels. They are cheaper, lighter, faster engagement, and same width as these. $450 shipped. Shipping took two days.
  • 1 2
 Heavy wheel set even for aluminium. Even at this price point you easily can get a wheel set which weighs 200 gr less. And i don't see the benefits for a 32 spoke rear wheel. 28 works great for almost everything except maybe downhill
  • 1 1
 That’s a fair concern. However, it really depends on the spokes and ride characteristics desired. Crankbrothers wants stiffness and reliability from the rear hoop here. You’re absolutely right that 28 is often more than sufficient - though only in the right circumstances. A 28-hole build can work even in downhill on a super stiff rim/spoke combo, along the lines of the system wheels from i9 or a premium Mavic wheelset, both of which use gigantic, stiff spokes. But the Crankbrothers wheels employ quality standard-type alloy rims and conventional J-bend spokes with a maximum tapered diameter of 1.8 mm. So they’ve gone 32 to give the wheels extra peace of mind when set loose in the wild. Personally, when I have a set of wheels leave my workshop with a rider it’s nice to know that I’ve armoured them for a greater range of rider weights, riding styles, and bike users (and abusers). The extra four spokes in going to 32 is one way of doing that. Disclosure: I was not one of the wheel testers here. Like a lot of us, I just enjoy a good wheel discussion. Pinkbike needs more thoughtful wheel reviews and in general more long-form, analytical content. That stuff drives reader volume and, just as importantly, drives the highest-quality feedback in the forums. Perhaps Pinkbike could add a “Wheel Gauntlet” category to its annual bike test feature series? The latter has become a strong contribution to bike journalism and a feather in Mike Kazimer’s cap as chief.
  • 5 6
 The 17 degree hub literally ruins the whole wheelset, all that slop makes climbing with flat pedals a nightmare. Im guessing they are rebranding a $40 Formula hub and throwing it in a $360 wheel.
  • 9 11
 I got a chance to test these out (only a bit as its been real wet). I'm an average rider but can say they are a nice all around wheel and a bit more comfortable at times then my carbon hoops (I'm not smashing it on every ride). I don't love the hubs and the wheels are a bit heavy. That being said, they ride nice and come out of the box similar to a custom build I'd do with a slightly different front to back setup. Internal width is spot on for me, as I'm 2.4/2.5 minions...the extra up front is right what it should be imo. Cool to see an alloy wheel get some of the same attention as a highend carbon one. Taped and valved and packed well was a nice touch for sure and they definitely were true'd really well.
  • 15 3
 Heh, it’s quite interesting how they invested in sending these to what seems to be a lot of people. A daring marketing strategy. At the same time what’s better? Internet is so wide and accessible that I honestly couldn’t be more arsed what journalists think anymore, unless they break something.

I got a pair for a test too. Hubs, let’s be honest, they are a bit short on POE, and folks who measure their... hub value by how many POE it has per dollar will always complain.

So let’s focus on the rims. And they are very nice. They ride very very nicely, everything seems smooth. Carbon bladi bla, the most compliant thing about carbon is the ability to criticize own purchase after spending so much money. rims Excellent finish quality, installation of tires is very smooth, better than on DT Swiss. I really appreciate that everytime I need to fix a flat. They definitely feel more compliant than DT Swiss Ex471 but it maybe due to width. I’d totally consider these rims for trail riding as spares and CB says they will set them as spares as well. My single one only worry is the thickness of the rim sidewall, even thinner than DT. But I didn’t have a chance to ride them on DH tracks. After all, no matter how thin DT feels, they can-take loads of beating without denting.

Did I say how smooth they roll? Yes they do. Luxury!

And please People - don’t whine on POE unless you are climbing like JK Weed or a trials rider... If you can do a pedal kick over 4ft gap, then I’ll get ya, other than that... leave it to professionals. You are not signaling any technical prowess, Riding skill or buyer instinct, only first world whining potential
  • 17 20
 I've spent the past 4 months on a pre-production set of these in 29" on my Chromag Surface. I've also spent considerable time on the carbon Synthesis enduro wheels, so that helps for comparison purposes. Like the carbons, these alloys have a nice compliant but not sloppy/flexy feel up front. I found that the rear wheel was more comfortable on my hardtail compared to the stiffer carbon rear wheel, but it is still a very stiff and responsive wheel. In my time, I did get a handful of very minor rear rim dents, likely from a series of rides where I was running too low air pressure ~15psi on lighter casing tires. I get the sense that the aluminum is less soft than the Stans Mk3 and Raceface ARC rims, but not as rigid as the DT EX471. Generally speaking, the carbon wheels rode quieter and I think that's what helped them feel faster (or maybe its the ~100g less weight on each wheel).

The rear hub engagement isn't great on paper admittedly, but the hub has been reliable and fairly well sealed. These alloy wheels are about 1/3 the price of the carbon wheels with the same hubs, so from a performance per value proposition these are winners in my book.
  • 1 0
 Wheels no thanks but those tires are awesome
  • 1 0
 Low engagement hub is better for bikes with more pedal kickback.
  • 1 0
 Does anyone think this is a gimmick?
  • 2 2
 2072 grams = 4.567978 pounds
  • 6 0
 That 0.000008 of a pound is a deal breaker for me.
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