by Marc Basiliere
October 18, 2013
New material, new thought. Plus hubs and bars.
When a new material is introduced to an application, it is not uncommon for it to take the form of that preceding materials. Take early aluminum frames: the small-diameter tubes looked right at next to steel frames, but it wasn’t until they grew substantially (were later shaped) that the material’s true potential was realised.
In much the same way, a shift in mindset may be required to truly take advantage of the benefits offered by carbon fibre and other composites. Take, for example, the Wave and Stealth rims and wheelsets from Italian manufacturer Alchemist. Removing un-stressed material from rims is nothing new: Mavic, Crank Brothers, and Fulcrum all machine unneeded aluminum from their high-end rims. And Stan’s new Valor carbon rims have added reinforcement at the nipple seats. Alchemist’s Italian-made offerings are on another level altogether.
Built in Italy using what Alchemist is calling “Ridge Reinforcement,” the Stealth Enduro rim and wheelset take a form that – while not impossible – would be difficult and expensive to create in aluminum. The IMPACT-PROOF resin used contains plastic polymers said to increase the rims’ ability to absorb impacts. Spoke holes are offset to reduce dish on both front and rear wheels and angled to reduce stress on the otherwise standard nipples.
When delivered as a wheelset, the Stealth rims are laced to the substantial-looking hub above. All sharp edges and diamond-like facets edges, the hubs’ disc mounts flow directly into spoke flanges, directing brake force straight to the rim. As shown here, the hub bearings are mounted in a titanium ring, designed to isolate them from any spoke-generated hub deformation and to keep the balls spinning happily.
Does anyone else want to see a polished version of this hub in the sun?
What’s the bottom line? These 24mm (internal) rims build up into a 24-spoke 1,560g wheelset that retails for €2,400. Rims alone are €750 apiece and weigh an impressive (for their intended use) 405g. 26in and QR fans cover your eyes: Stealth rims and wheels are only being offered in 27.5in diameter with thru axles (15mm front / 12mm rear) and either Shimano or SRAM XD (XX1/X01) driver compatibility.
Aimed at the cross-country and marathon markets, the Wave wheelset uses similar Ridge Reinforced construction. Again built with 24 Sapim straight-pull spokes and IMPACT_PROOF resin, the Wave rims also feature an offset design and angled spoke holes. Despite weighing 3.6% more than Alchemist’s previous 29er wheelsets, the Wave is said accelerate 4.8% faster thanks to (and we’re getting into dodgy translation here) a reduced gyroscopic effect (perhaps the mass seems has been moved inboard).
While no claims are made about the Wave hubs’ disc cooling ability, they sure do look neat. Spoke flanges flow from one to the other and on to become disc mounting flanges. The design will no doubt raise grumbles related to mud and cleaning- but we don’t care: the turbine shape probably looks fantastic in motion.
All told, the 29er-only Wave wheelsets weigh in at 1,350g (less 30g for Lefty lovers). Front wheels can be had for 15mm thru axles or Lefty forks; the rear are sold with 135mm QR and 12x142mm axles for either Shimano or SRAM XD drivers. Pricing is slightly more attainable at €2,2000. The 345g rims are available separately for €680 apiece.
How about a Lefty hub that can be removed independently of the disc carrier? The BSS (Brake Separation System?) does add 4g to the standard carbon/alloy Lefty model- but should reduce faffing when stuffing Leftyfied bikes in the car boot. It looks like a fairly straightforward system, with the rotor remaining with the left bearing and the drive-side axle cap holding the hub together when assembled.
There’s all sorts of crazy stuff (in a good way) in the Alchemist catalogue, but as a final taste let’s take a look at the P0501 handlebar. The 710mm width and 9° backsweep are nothing new, but the bars are – like the rims and hubs – handmade in Italy. The offset (~5mm) clamp allows for a subtle rise or drop but what’s really interesting is the secondary hand positions at the bars’ centre. That’s right- there are bulges for an aero tuck on those mid-ride gravel or paved stretches. Bar ends are OK, and the P0501s can be trimmed as narrow as 640mm. IMPACT-PROOF resin again makes an appearance, though no claims are made about vibration damping. At €210, these may be some of the least expensive European-manufactured handlebars on the market.
The wheels and bars above are all covered by a two-year warranty (extended to three on product registration) and a half-price crash replacement policy. While dealers are mentioned in the warranty details, Alchemist distribute primarily via their website. As of the time writing, everything looks to be in stock.