Thoroughly breaking the carbon fibre rim mould
It’s always a treat to see what the creative crew at Alchemist have been up to- and this year was no exception. The company’s new X-Sense wheel system combines a lot of interesting ideas about wheel lacing, carbon fibre, and tubeless compatibility- all of which add up to what will undoubtedly be a polarising whole.
The company’s new X-profile rims are a complete departure from the aluminum-extrusion-aping shapes commonly seen in the carbon world. Essentially a hollow-centred I-beam, the design has reinforcing rims and bulges throughout for a result that would be virtually impossible to create in metal. The nipples are seated in the base of the I-beam, making the tyre chambre hole-free and inherently tubeless-compatible. To maximise bracing angles, spokes are laced across the centreline, not unlike Shimano’s M965 XTR wheels.
As neat as that is, the industry has pretty much settled the spoke hole problem (using tape), so there must be another benefit, right? Well Alchemist claim that the X-profile actually allows the rim to flex vertically, absorbing loads without going past the fibre’s breaking point. No word on the comfort aspects, but it would stand to reason that the X-Sense are more comfortable than some of their more wooden-feeling peers.
The Un-Lock 2.0 wall profile might best be described as demi-hookless. Like many current designs, the design keeps the rim wall thick and without a distinct undercut for improved impact strength. Rather than sticking with easy-to-build vertical walls, however, Alchemist have angled theirs inward slightly, for improved bead holding and a reduced liklihood of burping.
Set to be available in three versions (with 26mm, 33mm, and 44mm inside widths) and two diameters (27.5 and 29er), the X-Sense series use Alchemist’s lovely carbon/alloy hubs and straight pull spokes. According to Alchemist’s Facebook page, pricing will be in the neighborhood of €2,300 (£1,700) when the wheels become available. If nothing else, it’s hard to think of anything else that would provide so much divergent thinking and attract as much attention for similar money.
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