by Dave Anderson
September 17, 2013
They're carbon rimmed and have a healthy dose of science in the shape of a 'Nano Surface Technology' finish
The USE XC 29er wheels are aimed squarely at the cross-country end of the rider spectrum. They’re only available in 28-spoke front and rear, they’re carbon rimmed and have a healthy dose of science in the shape of a ‘Nano Surface Technology’ finish on the wheelset, which claims to cut both drag and mud build up in order to keep rotational weight low to maximise all your effort.
The wheels come tubeless-ready with a chunky, deep section rim. Although it measures a healthy 25mm externally, the thickness of the carbon reduces that to a skinny 17mm internal width, which doesn’t do anything to increase tyre footprint and traction over an equivalent aluminium rim. The 30mm-deep shiny-treated nanorims do however help shed deep mud. The rims are mated to USE’s own-brand hubs using Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes in a two-cross pattern. The whole wheelset weighs in on our scales at 1800g, compared to a claimed 1743g.
Wheels are obviously a fairly integral part of a bike and are also one which can have a real effect on the ride quality offered. There’s a fine balance to be made in the stiffness on offer to ensure a wheel doesn’t twang and twist too much when steering through rock gardens, while still being compliant enough to not transmit every bump to the rider. It also must maintain grip and traction when needed, be not so stiff that it deflects off everything and not so compliant that it deforms around everything, either. In 29in wheels, where too much flex can translate to stay rub when stood up and putting down the power, this balance becomes even more important.
In use the XC 29ers feel to have this ‘just right’ balance point. They spin up to speed with relative ease and maintain a line where they’re pointed, without too harsh a ride feel. No squirming when honking out of the saddle up climbs and predictable when pointed down rocky chutes. They don’t have too much deflection when speed rises and the going gets rough, allowing you to concentrate on keeping the speed up.
The previously mentioned ‘Nano Surface Technology’ mainly had to deal with rather unseasonal dust throughout the test period. We can see how mud would struggle to gain a purchase on the non-stick, highly polished finish of the rims, although rocky trail riding will take its toll as gouges and scratches build. We can see the appeal of the non-stick properties if you’re desperately looking for every competitive edge but the fractional gains may not have the same appeal to the average trail rider.
The CNCed hubs performed flawlessly throughout the admittedly fairly dry test period, though sealed cartridge bearings should see them shun the worst that winter has to offer and makes replacement quick and easy when they do go. Pick-up from the six-pawl, 30-point freehub was quick and in the long term unnoticeable, which can probably be seen as a good thing too.
In fact over the longer term the wheels just spun and did their job. We found nothing especially remarkable about their performance but likewise no real issues brought themselves to our attention either. A reliable set of wheels that just didn’t seem to light our fire but also didn’t really give any reason not to like them either. Given the price tag, maybe we expected something more.
Overall: Not the lightest racer’s wheel set out there, but with a nice balanced ride feel – at a price.