by Marc Basiliere
September 30, 2013
Deeper profiles, stiffer sections, lighter weights
While Crank Brothers’ distinctive paired-spoke wheel systems show no shortage of innovative thought, the final products haven’t always been competitive in terms of weight and stiffness. For 2014, the company has taken a step back and re-evaluated its rim profiles, simplified the range, and feels that it has a truly compelling product. We took a peak at a number of prototypes while at Interbike.
As can be seen from the Cobalt 3 sections at top, Crank Brothers has removed the current rim’s central web, deepened the Y-section, and shortened the sidewalls for aluminum Cobalt (XC), Iodine (All Mountain / Enduro), and Opium (Freeride / DH) models. New rims will also be 2mm wider across the board, with inside widths of 21, 23, and 26mm respectively. The net result is an average strength to weight ratio improvement by 15%. Tubeless inflation should be easier too, and the hole-free tyre bed still needs no tape or rim strip to seal.
27.5in models will be added for all models, but shipping wheels with end caps for all relevant axle standards in the box means that the number of SKUs has dropped significantly and should make life on the sales floor much easier. Despite being stiffer, stronger, lighter, and more complete, wheelset levels 2 and 3 will see a $50 drop. All good moves.
At the high end of the range, the carbon fibre Cobalt 11 wheelset sees many of the same improvements- but in carbon. The new rim is dramatically deeper, making for a much meatier looking wheelset. Removing the internal web means that the bladders used to compress the carbon can be removed- they had stayed with the original rim. All told, that wheel sees a remarkable 50% improvement in its strength to weight ratio and may now be overbuilt for pure XC racing applications (no bad thing given their £1,600 / $2,200 price tag).
Weights have yet to be finalized, but taken together the changes should go a long way toward making Crank Brothers’ wheelsets contenders in an increasingly competitive arena.