by Dave Anderson
February 9, 2016
Top of the line, spendy, carbon hoops. Are they really worth the money? Dave found out.
We ask a lot of wheels. We put them through a wide variety of tortures thanks to a combination of terrain, bad line choices, momentary lapses of concentration or simple brute force. We want wheels to be strong enough to cope with all this but at the same time we expect no significant weight penalty to the very place where weight matters most – the rotating mass at the periphery that we rely on to provide traction and continued forward propulsion. Wheels are the meeting place of several conflicting desires; strength, reliability, weight, flexibility, and getting the inevitable tradeoff right is a tricky proposition for any wheel designer/engineer.
Enter SRAM’s Rise 60, a wheelset that aims to cater for the XC/Marathon and Trail segment. 2015 saw a reworking of what was an already capable offering, and SRAM’s claim for the Rise series is a wheelset “engineered (with) the perfect balance of weight, inertia, engagement and stiffness to give you the right ride for XC and beyond”. There’s only two choices in the Rise line up, both carbon rimmed and this is the ‘lower’ spec. of the two – although it’s by no means a lesser option. For the pure XC racer there’s the high end Rise XX tubular rimmed wheels which otherwise shares all the same tech with its Rise 60 stablemate.
I first got the opportunity to ride a pair of Rise 60s at last year’s Roc d’Azur festival in the south of France. Strapped onto a Specialized Carbon Camber dripping with XX1 and RS-1 forks they created what looked to be a very light and very fast trail bike. A 40km ride on a good mix of ascending and descending fire-road and loose and rocky singletrack in the Esterel mountains confirmed those initial impressions. The bike felt snappy in acceleration; spinning up to speed was almost so effortless it seemed rude, and obeying the simple rule of “it’s someone else’s bike” I was happy to point the wheels down every descent and pummel them through repeated rocky step downs and drop offs. 40km later, after some sublime descending through mountain scrubland singletrack, and suitably dehydrated, salty and pinked up from the sun we spun back along the coast road to the festival feeling surprisingly fresh legged. For a first date it had proven a good one, and the ride had me keen to spend some extended time on the wheels on a familiar bike in familiar territory.
At the heart of the wheels are SRAM’s Double Time hubs which share the Solo Spoke technology of most of SRAM’s MTB wheel range. If you’re a frequent traveler, it’s a nice feature that only one spoke length is used for both sides of both wheels – so spares are easier to carry with you or source locally. The hubs are also Side Swap compatible with pushfit end caps, to accommodate most axle options. Like other SRAM hubs I’ve had on long term test they’ve proved reliable and well sealed and have required no maintenance or adjustment over the test period.
The redesigned 21mm wide carbon rim is now hookless and the carbon has been laid up in a way to maximise weight savings while strengthening the areas that need reinforcing. Unlike the previous incarnation, the Rise 60 is now supplied taped up and tubeless-ready and it also loses some of the deep section look of its predecessor. The hookless design makes it looks as if seating and holding a tubeless tyre in place is going to be a chore, but I found that getting the wheels suitably shod was a straightforward affair.
Weighing in at just over 1400 grams these are probably some of the lightest wheels I’ve run on any of my bikes. Previous light wheels have quickly shown their noodly character when headed down certain local trails, and created a bit of a pinball feel to the way they deflect off obstacles as you try to pick your way down them. By comparison the Rise 60s have let me retain much more control and precision. Despite fitting some more UK orientated tyres to those on offer on that first French ride, the wheels have kept that snappy acceleration feel.
Throughout the test period they’ve never faltered – they remain as true as the day they were first fitted. The hubs still feel smooth and every time I climb aboard they feel as nimble and as fast as a light wheel should do. Sure, they’re a little narrow in the current world of w-i-d-e that we’re all currently adopting, but it suits their purpose and they don’t seem compromised given the purpose for which they’ve been designed. There are plenty of worse choices out there but you’ll struggle to find many better.
Overall: A well balanced wheelset that manages to magnificently meet the weight versus reliability equation. They’re light, feel fast to spin up to speed, offer snappy acceleration, and they hold a line through rock gardens when needed without any unnecessary squirrelyness.