Did you know mail order behemoth Chain Reaction Cycles also does custom wheel builds? We didn’t ‘til these turned up, and very fine they are too. This pair – Nukeproof Generator hubs laced to DT X430 rims with DT spokes and nipples – have already covered nearly 800 miles on my Cotic Solaris. They’ve been fed a diet of long, rolling moor-land stuff mixed with high-speed rocky fun and are rather doing well on it.
CRC’s wheels are built from scratch on site. Everything from the initial product selection through to lacing and tensioning, de-stressing, re-tensioning and finishing, happens in the factory. It’s the same process you’d go through if you bought a custom wheelset from your local bike shop and, while you’re clearly unlikely to be popping back to CRC on a Saturday morning for a quick re-true or spoke replacement as you might with your LBS, the build quality and choice of components is every bit as good.
Spoke tension details are supplied with the finished build, though arguably if you’re already in possession of the staggeringly expensive tension meter you need to make use of them then you’re probably far enough along the path of becoming a wheelbuilder yourself, you shouldn’t actually need to be told it in the first place (and probably wouldn’t be buying mail order wheels anyway…).
Scraping in under 2kg for the pair, they’re a not unreasonable weight for a wheelset specced to be light enough for all-day fun but tough enough for playing out. There’s already a couple of small dents in the rear rim, which either means the sidewalls are a little soft or I’m a clumsy oaf; given my propensity for running thin-walled tyres at low pressures to take the sting out of rocky trails, I know which one of those is more likely. The sleeve-jointed rim is the usual top quality you’d expect from DT Swiss: nicely round and nicely finished.
The front wheel went slightly out of true after an cat-related commuting incident but again, nothing unsurprising given the impact (cat: fine, rider: less so), and nothing which couldn’t be tweaked out after five minutes with a spoke key. And, speaking of tweaking, they’re laced with DT Comps in a perfectly normal, 32-spoke, three-cross pat-tern which means that replacing any component – be that spokes or nipples or even the hub or rim – is as straightforward as possible.
At 24mm the X430’s are not especially wide – 2.2in Geax Saguaros sit quite high and round on the rim, and wider tyres don’t really work well, but then wider rim profiles mean more weight. The spec machine giveth and the spec machine taketh away.
Bearings are sealed cartridge, and running as smoothly as new. The freehub’s been faultless, and is almost silent compared to Hope and Chris King. Pick up is quick enough, too (i.e. neither noticeably sluggish nor lightning fast). They come with some very neat 9mm/15QR converters for the front wheel (a version for 20mm axles is available, too). Almost too simple – I thought they were packing spacers and nearly threw them out with the box. Oops.
Overall: Versatile, practical, well-made wheelset. Nice price, too.