Crankbrothers took a different route with their Synthesis carbon wheels by creating front- and rear-specific rims. There's a stiffer rim in the back to better handle bigger hits, while the front rim is supposed to be more compliant in order to provide extra traction and comfort.
The Synthesis wheel system comes in three different configurations - one for XC, one for all-mountain and enduro riding, and one for DH. We've had the middle sibling, the Synthesis E on test for a number of months now to see how they fare in varied riding conditions and to see if they actually do offer a benefit over a traditional wheelset.
There are also multiple hub choices. Our test wheels were laced up with Project 321 hubs, and
Synthesis E11 Wheels
• Intended use: Enduro/All-Mountain
• Carbon rim, front and rear-specific "tunes"
• 27.5" or 29" options
• Project 321 hubs, 2.5-degrees quiet engagement
• Designed to fail in a propagation mode
• Lifetime warranty on rims
• 1,825g (29" wheelset)
• $2,399 USD
• $699 USD (rim only)
the wheels are also offered with Industry Nine's 690-point-engagement Hydra System hubs. Synthesis wheels come with a lifetime warranty, which covers rims that break during normal riding conditions. In other words, leaving them behind your car and backing over them doesn't count.
Synthesis isn't the first to offer front- and rear-wheel-specific rims, but they have taken the concept to the next level.Construction
The Synthesis carbon wheels are designed to work as a system and are the creation of Jason Schiers and Mello Bouwmeester. Both of these guys have quite the background in the bike industry, which we went a little more in-depth on with our "First Look"
of the Synthesis wheels last year.
The concept of the wheels is that with more compliance the front wheel can more easily find its way, and then with more stiffness in the back wheel the bike will track well. This is similar to how most riders run a little less pressure in their front tire than the rear. If the front wheel is too stiff, it won't flex and hold the trail. Rather, it will skip around and ride poorly. Conversely, the rear wheel has to be stiff to manage larger hits and power through impacts with more force.
Safe Failure Mode
After a lot of prototypes and back-to-back testing of wheels, the team settled on what they felt was the ideal combination of the two: a more compliant front and stiffer rear wheel. The front wheel has a reduced spoke count, lighter gauge spokes, and lower spoke tension. The rim itself is slightly lighter and is slightly wider than the rear. This is to pair with running a slightly wider tire up front and allow the tire to have a rounder profile.
The rear wheel's higher spoke count, higher spoke tension, and narrower rim stiffens things up and sharpens up the tire's profile for cornering. The rim flanges are made thicker to handle higher impacts. Crankbrothers claim that this combination of rim design and wheel build creates a more durable yet compliant ride.
As everything can fail, Synthesis wheels are designed to fail in a manner that is controlled, rather than catastrophic. Schiers claims he has been obsessive about the way carbon fails and has worked hard to figure out how to manage catastrophic failure ever since he made the first Edge/Enve wheels years ago.
The ultra-thick carbon sections have some traits in them that can't be duplicated in traditional thin-wall tubular-section rim types. The resin system used in the carbon is a special high-impact formula and the layup schedule is tailored to disperse impacts. Some of the layups and materials are similar to those that protect F-1 drivers in race cars where safety is paramount.
The wheels are available with Project 321 (left) or Industry Nine's Hydra hubs (right).
Schiers says that if the Synthesis rims do fail it would be in a propagation type mode, with the damage spread across a wide area of the structure. Like the properties of an aluminum rim, the carbon is constructed to produce a noticeable deterioration - a heads up - that will hopefully catch the attention of its owner before further damage leads to a complete failure. Schiers believes that anyone who is developing carbon wheels has a responsibility to manage their failure modes to ensure a safe and controlled event.Performance
I've spent many hours on the Synthesis E wheels. They've been my go-to on the Yeti SB130 I've been using as a test sled. That means I've had plenty of opportunities to compare the E 11's to the alternative carbon and aluminum hoops that I've swapped off and on more times than I care to count.
I'm happy to report that I experienced no issues. The high engagement of the hubs was great, and the wheels delivered an excellent ride quality. I wasn't easy on them either. I thunder cased multiple rocks and ignored that I was running seriously low air pressure at times, yet I never flatted nor suffered
any damage to the wheels outside of the standard rock gouges that are unavoidable in North Carolina.
|Eventually, I did get my groove back with the other carbon wheels and didn't give it much thought - until I swapped back to the Synthesis. The difference in ride quality was noticeable and substantial.|
The telling moment came after I had switched out the Synthesis E 11 wheels with another carbon wheelset. Same bike, same trails, but a very
different ride experience. I was getting kicked around and couldn't seem to find the sweet spot on the SB130 anymore. Eventually, I did get my groove back with the other carbon wheels and didn't give it much thought - until I swapped back to the Synthesis. The difference in ride quality was noticeable.
The difference between the ride quality of the Synthesis wheels and their high-end competitors is quite remarkable. Upon riding these wheels, it's easier than ever to comprehend that there's a lot more to a wheel than it just being stiff and strong. Compliance and ride quality directly translate to comfort and control on the bike. Just like the difference in vibration damping an aluminum handlebar has vs a well made carbon bar, it's easy to feel the difference in the ride characteristics of the Synthesis wheels.
Compliant and comfortable ride+
High engagement hubs+
Benefits could be negated if not used in the full system
|Crankbrothers have designed a wheelset that validates their claims - the Synthesis wheels have proven to be compliant and durable. The wheels deliver a better ride quality than many other options currently on the market, and if they fit your budget I recommend them for riders searching for durable, high-performance carbon wheelset.—Daniel Sapp|
If you're on very light carbons, they're either a brand or wheels I wouldn't trust or XC variants vs something that will stand up to the abuse of AM/Enduro.
I have a set of 26 Light Bicycles on DT Swiss 240s and CXray spokes. Enduro build. Thrashed hard and still true. 1450g.
IMO, the benefit is a lightweight build that lasts much longer than the aluminium equivalent.
The light-bicycle AM930 is 440g/rim (same internal width) and is $280/rim. So just under 200g (about 1/2 lb) difference for the wheelset if you get the same hub/spokes/nipples, etc. About a $300 cost difference between the rims for a wheelset.
Stan's flow MK3 are a similar weight at 527g/rim (slightly lighter), but the EX3s are 618g.
light-bicycle seem pretty established, however, which good customer service, etc.
Great comeback crank brothers! Dropper is top contender too! And of course, those mallets
He ended up going with LB. He ordered dt240 J-bend hubs with the rims. They send him wheels with straight pull hubs, and the wheels were built so much over tension that the nipple holes were bulging and distorted.
They refused to replace the wheels, but did eventually replace the rims. He was left with hubs he didn't want, and left paying the bill to have them built here anyway!
LB service is terrible, judging by what he went though. And while they might make good rims, they build a terrible wheel!
Hi mate, I have a set on my hardtail (enduro build) and another on my DH bike (DH build, obviously). Just got back from Whistler on the DH bike actually. After 3 years, there is a very slight buckle in the back of the DH bike's wheel, which I think is due to a bent spoke.
I've had very good experience with both wheelsets. One was built by a local guy here and the other was built by LB themselves.
I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. Great wheels!
Designed to fail I'm a safer manner, is the point. All rims have a point of failure - ALL. It's nice to know someone actually engineered them to fail in a way that will be less likely kill me.
In any way I would hope DFMEA is something known to people who design bike wheels this expensive no matter the brand
@privateer-wbc: Never said SC wouldn't break, there's no such thing as an unbreakable part. Just wanted to point out that it's interesting CB decided to appeal to customers this way, it's the first time I've seen any company do that. Bold move, let's see how that pays off.
If you like alloy rims you should keep riding them, but I've destroyed every alloy rim I've had and was constantly trying to true and bend them back into shape. A bent alloy rim will never ride quite right because you have to use uneven spoke tension to get them straight. I got quite good at re-lacing a wheel with a new rim, but I'd rather not do that if I don't have to.
Carbon wheels will never bend. You will never have to try to bend back the sidewall where it was bent by a rock strike, or use wonky spoke tension to get them true again. Yes, if they break they will need to be replaced, but with the way these are built you should be able to at least finish your ride until you can go home and get your rim replaced for free under CB's lifetime warranty. And BTW I don't know of any alloy wheels that have a lifetime warranty.
These carbon wheels are much lighter and stronger than alloy rims with a comparable width profile. Carbon can be tuned for stiffness in specific axis in ways that alloy can not.
In short, these are the best wheels I have ever ridden, alloy or carbon, and arguably the best wheels on the market. Of all the upgrades I have ever made, these wheels provided one of the most noticeable improvements. They are also very practical. I9 hubs are proven, and I will never have issues getting parts. Similarly, replacements for the standard J-bend spokes can be found at any shop and are easier to install & true than straight pull or some other proprietary spoke. The 28/32 3 cross spoke pattern is proven and if anything a little overbuilt. I don't anticipate having issues with broken spokes like I did with the Rovals I had for the last few seasons.
Yes these wheels are expensive, but I see them as an investment. With the lifetime warranty I will use them for many seasons and put them on whatever new frameset I get. Furthermore there are cheaper versions with cheaper hubs and spokes that will offer 99% of the performance.
Carbon FS bike frame = $2900
50% price premium
Aluminium mtb rim = $150
Carbon mtb rim = $500-700
%400 + price premium
Is there a manufacturing reason for this or are we actually being gouged?
It would be interesting to compare the costs of open mold carbon frames to your scenario. LB/Nextie rims are $150-225 so they are nearly at parity with aluminum, and from what I recall of frames, it's the same situation, which would suggest that "name brand" rims have much more killer margins than frames.
The ride of the Synthesis wheels has been really impressive. Control with the front wheel is confidence inspiring, the strength of the rear wheel has really sealed the deal. The width gives an ideal shape to my tires of choice (DHF/HR2 currently) so traction is never a problem. A lot of internet chatter has been posted here and elsewhere about the compliance of the front wheel and it's been misconstrued or worse (IMO) as 'flex' in the pejorative sense. I disagree and I think the only way to truly convey that is to demo these wheels if you possibly can.
*I'm 6'5" and about 235# on the bike so I'm not easy on equipment.
@castlecrew I am on the Project 321 hubs, and I had the rear wheel tension checked at my LBS in late April and found the tension was still spot-on.
@skelldify Haha thanks to the 30 Day Ride Challenge my tally is a bit ahead of last year's pace.
Id rather get myself a Hope/DT set. Upgrade my drivetrain to 1x12 (Think shimano XT), Install a dropper while im at it (still havent got one). Get some new bars and a little shorter stem. Oh and i might be able to fit a set of Hope brakes with floating rotors in the same budget as well.
I get this is clearly aimed at people who spend more on the bike than i do on a car.
I might get one someday. But i also want to mention that the flag in front of my name kinda gives away that im not doing massive descends on my local trails. the style of riding i do is a bit XC-ish.
And i dont want a million levers on the bars. I think i might just go to a 1X first and then install a dropper while im at it.
Good plan, I had 2x, a dropper and Fox CTD all on the same bike once, waaaay too many cables and levers!
But to be honest. Wen i pay so much for a mountainbike im afraid to crash it. Therefore i ride it to slowly.
However, I can not conceive a world in which I would be just as happy to invest that same $700 in just one rim.
And yet I can conceive a world where Yoan Barelli is my personal bike mechanic...so perhaps I am broken after all?
Between me and my mates we have destroyed around 8 LB carbon rims in the last 4 years! And all of mine, 3 off, have been when using DH tyres on their heaviest duty so called 'DH' rim.
Ive Still got one on the front that isn't cracked but I will be taking it off soon as personally i think they feel horrible compared to alloy rims.
A heavy duty DT swiss rim will easily out last a LB carbon rim.
For comparison I have been riding a Stans flow Ex mk2 on my 26" hardtail for 5 years and it has just given up after re-truing for probably the 6th time.
The Spank Trail Bite 295 rims that I use were cross shopped against the equivalent LB and Nextie hookless rims at the time...and the weight penalty to price equation on the rims alone meant the Spanks got the nod. Even the wheel builder was impressed with the value and build quality - enough to recommend them to other clients to this day.
When did I ever say I rode DH? I just ride XC in the rocks!
And I'm running the 29" Bead Bite 295 rims... don't recall them weighing anywhere near that much. About 490 grams each and the wheelset they are in is custom and is built for a rider weight of 105 kg...
But then I buy everything in AU$....
In which countries it will work? Turnaround time?
All I can see right now is 80 grams and $700.
I actually build DH wheels with the spokes on the low end of recommended tension for the rim, and it has a huge impact on how durable the rim is, i.e. you get a lot less dents, buckling, and pinch flats.
Just my two cents. I'm also interested to see what reasons there might be, as my reasons are pretty much from personal experience and just anecdotal.
Why on earth would you buy something 4x the price?
Carbon wheels are so stupid expensive and do nothing better
this plus the e-bike content really makes me question PB's Core-ness, though I'm probably late to that party.
Tested to destruction next to a £300/£400 wheelset. Because 700 quid for a rim is a f@&$ing joke!
They also found that a really well made aluminium rim (Newmen) was stronger than most carbon rims and only one out of the carbon group was substantially better (= worth the price).
Engineer: "Guys, our products always break, it's affecting our reputation and sales. We should do more testing and design our products to be more durable."
PR guy: "That sounds like a lot of work. How about we call it "Safe Failure Mode", pretend we made stuff that way on purpose and add $100 to the RRP"
$700 for a rim, hahahahaha get f'kd CB
So this basically means that the amount of wheel flex doesn't really matter because you adapt to it? Oh noes! All the millions in marketing dollars to get pundits waxing lyrically about "compliance" for naught!