Industry Nine produces a variety of wheels with custom anodized hubs and thick aluminum spokes, all built from the ground up in its Asheville, North Carolina, facility. The company is perhaps best known for its blingy spokes and hubs with rapid-fire engagement that have their own distinct buzz that's highly sought by many and loathed by others. While I9 was certainly not the first company to make a hub with high engagement, aluminum spokes, or even straight pull spokes that thread into the hub, they were one of the first to successfully do it on one platform.
For 2018, the company updated its aluminum mid-weight wheel, the Trail245, hoping to create a stronger package without significantly increasing weight. The all-new model, the Trail270, uses the same I9 Torch Hub system as its predecessor, is available with 27.5-inch or 29er rims, and with 24 or 32 spoke holes. The hubs are available in XD and HG, and even with Shimano's Micro Spline design that's needed for the new, not-quite-available XTR gruppo (I9 is one of only a few companies that have been granted the license to produce that driver).
I9 Trail 270 Wheelset Details
• 3-degree engagement via 6 pawls, 120 point drivering
• 27mm rim inner width, 31mm outer
• Colors: customizable
• Front Axle compatibility: QR, 12x100, 15x100, 15x110 boost, 20x110 Boost
• Rear Axle compatibility: QR, 10x135, 12x135, 12x142, 12x148, 12x157 Superboost (32h)
• Freehub compatibility: SRAM XD, Shimano HG, Shimano Micro Spline
• Weight: 1,650g (32h set), 1,560g (24h set), 1,605g (as tested - 32h R, 24h F)
• Warranty: two-years
• MSRP: $1,245 USD (as tested)
I've ridden various iterations of Industry Nine's wheels on and off for over a decade and am currently testing a set of Trail270 wheels with a 24h front and 32h rear spoke configuration.
I have them set up on a Pivot Trail 429 with 157+ Superboost spacing. It's slightly unorthodox and not "out of the box" having a different spoke number front and back. However, it's a set-up that anyone could purchase and I've found it to work really well for me.Construction
Industry Nine's wheels are designed to work as a system, and there are several things that set them apart. The hubs and spokes are both made in-house in Asheville, North Carolina. Nearly everything is machined and assembled on-site, and if you happen to be in the area, they're usually more than happy to give a quick tour and show you the entire process - it's pretty cool and a story in and of itself.
You can also customize the wheels in different colors, hub combinations, and even spoke counts. They have a nifty tool called the "ano-lab" on their site that lets you mess around with different ideas.
Driverings and pawls. The internals of the hub are precise, and the tolerances are very tight.
Both the hub shells and spokes are aluminum. The hubs start out as a 12-foot long rod before being cut, lathed, and machined down to the shells. The axle, end caps, freehub body, and spokes, as well as the steel drivering and pawls, all undergo a similar process. The drivering and pawls are made from an A2 tool steel for strength. According to I9, the aluminum parts can be cut and milled down in a matter of minutes. However, the harder steel parts take several hours.
The hub has six pawls that are phased to work in two teams of three to get the 120 points of engagement. In order to get that number, the driverings and pawls are made of a wire EDM cut A2 tool steel. Engineer speak for "really damn strong." It takes longer to manufacture but, without this, the drivering would either have to be much larger to get that much engagement or the tooth profile would have to be reduced which would compromise strength.
The spokes are made out of aluminum and thread directly into the hub. It's also worth noting that I9 also offers hubs for traditional j-bend wheel builds.
When I asked Industry Nine's David Thomas "why" aluminum, he said, "Aluminum is what we're good at. We can make a lightweight spoke that more confidently threads directly into the hub, and also create a lighter and stiffer wheel. You get the ride qualities of aluminum, a high stiffness to weight ratio, minimal elongation, and it's easy to machine. Plus, with the aluminum, there are the options for anodization that don't exist with steel."
The trail rims are designed in-house by I9 and are 27mm wide internally with a 31mm outer width.
I've probably spent more time on Industry Nine's wheels than most other wheelsets out there, and although you can go with a flashy color combination as I have for the Trail 429, I would say that being able to be fashion savvy (or utterly obnoxious) is the least important part of the I9 package.
There are two aspects to these wheels that I see setting them apart from a lot of other options, and that's the high engagement in the rear hub and the stiffness of the wheel build. The high engagement is certainly noticeable in more technical terrain when I find myself "ratcheting" up and over roots and in juicy sections of trail. It's not as apparent when I'm actually riding I9 wheels as it is when I'm back on another set that has less engagement, but it's also noticeable when I'm tired and pedaling squares.
Hopping through roots and rocks and choosing poor lines, but the Trail 270's held strong for me.
One can build a set of I9's up to be really damn stiff. Some people argue that it's too stiff for them but that's ok, not everything is for everyone. I personally find that out of all of the wheels and rim iterations that I9 makes, their Trail wheels work best for me and give a great ride quality that's stiff but not too much so. I can say that I've primarily ridden the 24-hole iteration and in switching to the 32-hole on the back of my Trail 429, I did notice a substantial increase in rigidity, but I also really like the way that the bike handles with that change. The wheels feel confident and planted, power goes to the ground, and I don't feel much flex.
The Trail 270 wheels come across as light and lively, comparable to any other high-end wheelset. Coming from the old I9 Trail 245 wheels, the wider rim profile is nice and helps fatter tires find more traction. I wouldn't run much larger than a 2.5" tire on these, and I9 recommends a 2.2-2.5" tread which encompasses most any "aggressive trail" tire I would currently choose to ride.
The clogless valves are great when the trails are mucky and you need to drop air pressure in the name of traction.
As far as the durability of the rim goes, I've had zero issues with the new Trail 270 after nearly a year of riding on them. I have gone through several other brand's wheelsets in that time, but these haven't as much as dented. I've been riding them in a variety of places ranging from high speed, rocky, and leaf covered singletrack on the east coast, to fast and flowy trails out west.Issues
As I stated above, I haven't had any issues with the Trail 270 wheels. I9 used to include a valve stem in their builds that had a tendency to clog with sealant, but that has been replaced with a "clog-free" version and so far, so good.
The Trail 270 wheels do have a maximum recommended weight limit of 210 lbs for the 24h and 230 for the 32h. At 150lb, I'm well within that range, but some riders may be more suited to their enduro or DH options.
The one question that I've heard countless times is "What if I break a spoke?" I9 includes a couple of extra spokes with each wheelset, and they're available at many (but certainly not the majority) of bike shops. However, they're not as common as a J-bend spoke, and you can't just cut and thread something to the correct length on your own. That being said, I9's product, in my experience, tends to hold up better than a lot of other wheels. Pinkbike's Take