Love Mud is the in-house component brand for Sonder, providing a lot of the parts for the Sonder complete bike range. The range includes everything from bars and stems, saddles and seat posts, through to wheelsets. The Hobo tested here is Love Mud’s 29er mountain bike offering, and it’s priced at just £229 for a set – and yes that’s for both wheels! Coming in at half the cost of many other aluminium wheelsets, we were eager to find out if the Hobo’s performance was as impressive as it’s price tag.
The alloy rims feature 32 hole drilling, and they’re laced to Love Mud branded Boost hubs with stainless steel J-bend spokes in a standard 3 cross pattern, with brass nipples for added durability. Interestingly, the hubs can be adapted to run on a regular Boost 110/148 bolt through setup, or with 110/141 Boost quick release forks and frames. The hubs shells are made from forged 6061 aluminium and are 6 bolt compatible only. They run on full sealed bearings for longevity and the rear is loaded with 4 pawls to deliver 36 points of engagement. Although our wheelset came setup with a SRAM XD freehub body, I swapped in a Shimano freehub to set the wheels up on my Orange Stage 6 with its Shimano Deore XT 1×11 drivetrain. It’s easy to switch between freehub bodies – just pop the end caps off and pull the free hub body off the axle, which also allows for easy servicing.
The wheels are designed to go up tubeless with just the addition of 34mm rim tape and a set of tubeless valves. With a generous 29mm internal width, the Hobo’s are designed to suit tyres ranging from 2.2in to 2.6in, which should cover most riders’ requirements with current tyre trends for a variety of riding styles (Ed: for now…).
Claimed weight on the Alpkit website is a substantial 1208g for the front wheel and 1309g for the rear. Turns out they’re a fair bit lighter than that though, as our test wheels came in at 1050g on the front, and 1185g for the rear. That’s well over 100g per wheel lighter compared to the claimed weight, so Love Mud may be doing itself a disservice there. At a total weight of 2.23kg, sure, they’re not what you consider as being particularly lightweight, but in reality they’re not too far off the weight of a comparable Flow S1 wheelset from Stans No Tubes (2.13kg).
Setting wheels up tubeless these days has never been easier with the array of pumps and tubeless specific tyres on offer, and getting tyres to seat and inflate on the Hobo’s was a testament to this. I just taped the rim with some 28mm rim tape (yes, Alpkit recommend 34mm but I didn’t have any on hand) added valves and a good glug of sealant and then used an Airshot-style inflator and bang, up they went. I’ve been using a variety of tyre brands on the wheels including Specialized, Vee Tire Co. and Maxxis, and so far all have gone up first time and stayed seated and inflated throughout use. Unlike some other wheels out there that have caused me a lot of grief with tubeless setup (often wheels that are much more expensive than these), the Hobo’s were pain-free.
I’ve been using these wheels on and off, alternating with another set of test wheels, since the start of May. Conditions have ranged from dry, dusty, rocky mountain rides in the Alps to the more usual wet sloppy trails that I call home.
Initial rides on the Hobo’s were during a relatively dry period and from the start I immediately got on with the wheels. Although they’re not the lightest in the world, they didn’t feel particularly heavy and the pickup was quick enough. As the weather conditions changed and once fast drifty trails became muddy brown rivers, the wheels carried on performing solidly and kept going even though they spent most rides submerged in axle deep slop.
The wheels have offered plenty of grip and confidence in all situations, whether smashing into rock sections with a total lack of finesse, or pushing into fast tight berms. They’ve always felt pretty direct with no significant flex or squirm, and are still looking dent free after some pretty shady line choices. In the steep sloppy trails of the Calder Valley they’ve performed just was well and have survived plenty of comedy crashes involving trees and unplanned dismounts – those being my specialities.
Durability wise the wheels have again been pretty solid. I’ve only had to re-true the wheel once after having a rock strike the spokes back at the start of July in France and they’ve stayed true since. The more pressing issue I encountered was about three months in when the freehub started making a rather odd rumbling sound while coasting. To investigate what was going on, I pulled open the rear hub, only to have shards of metal fall out onto the workshop floor. Turns out the inboard freehub bearing had collapsed, leaving a few half ball bearings crunching around inside. Some additional scarring on the freehub body between the pawls was also apparent, where the body had been grinding on the ratchet teeth. I got in touch with Neil at Alpkit/Love Mud/Sonder Bikes, who got things sorted quickly by sending out a brand new freehub. And thanks to the simple hub design it was 5 minutes of a job to get the wheel back up and running. Two months of abuse later, and they’ve been fine since.
Was this a failure of the hub design? I’m not convinced it was, as the hub itself is a relatively generic design used by other brands. I’d be more inclined to assume it was more likely a manufacturing tolerance or assembly issue with that particular hub. Regardless, the Love Mud Hobo wheelset is covered by Alpkit’s 3-year ‘Alpine Bond’ warranty that would cover you for any such manufacturing defect.
All in all I’ve been happy with the Hobo’s and how they’ve performed. They look nice and understated, have performed well and in my opinion offer great value for money. I wouldn’t recommend buying these if you want the lightest, most blingiest wheels out there at the minute. But if you’re after solid performance at an affordable, everyman price, then the Hobo’s are very hard to beat.
|Tested:||by Ross Demain for 5 months|