Best known for its striking full-carbon Mojo and Ripley full suspension bikes, Ibis Cycles has more recently begun to dip its toes into the component market as well. In 2014, Ibis launched its wheel game with the introduction of several high-end carbon wheelsets that included the 928, the 941 and the 741 that Chipps tested and reviewed here. Two years later in 2016, the Californian mountain bike brand rolled out its second generation wheel range, which included redesigned carbon models, and its first alloy wheels called the 738 and 938. You can check out all the details of Ibis’ latest wheel range here.
The wheels we’ve been razzing about on are the latest 738 Aluminium wheels. The first number refers to the wheelsize diameter (27.5in), and the last two numbers refer to the external rim width (38mm). So if you’re rolling on wagon wheels, it’s the 938 you’ll be wanting to check out.
But lets hold up there and rewind things back a moment.
With the original 741 and 941 carbon wheels, Ibis showed that it was firmly wedded to the ‘wider is better’ concept early on. Those original wheels featured stiff carbon rims, and a substantial 35mm internal widths designed to help balloon regular trail tyres to offer more volume, more casing stability, and a greater contact patch. Great in theory, but as Chipps discovered however, not all current mountain bike tyres enjoy being stretched onto a wider rim, with some tyres developing bulging sidewalls and a comedy mohican strip of tread on top. If anything, Ibis was perhaps a little too ahead of the game.
Since then though, more tyre manufacturers have started developing their tyres around wider rims. There’s been an explosion of 2.5-2.8in wide tyres on the market, including the new generation of Wide Trail tyres from Maxxis, which are specifically built around rims with a 35mm internal width. In fact, Maxxis’ Wide Trail tyres were developed in conjunction with Ibis and it’s Enduro World Series team, so they’re designed to be a perfect fit.
As such, our experience with the new Ibis 738 wheelset would prove to be a little different this time round.
Rightio. So I’m not going to bore you with all of the specs, but if you must have the nitty gritty details, check out our detailed first look of the Ibis 738 Aluminum wheels here. The basics are this; the 738s feature shallow asymmetric alloy rims that provide a 34mm internal rim width. Ibis claims they’re suited for tyres between 2.35in to 2.8in wide, so they’re designed to cover most trail tyres up to plus territory.
Our test wheels arrived with tubeless tape and valves pre-installed, and to begin with we ran them on a Cotic FlareMAX with a 2.8in wide Maxxis Minion DHR II on the front and a 2.8in wide High Roller II on the back. For the latter part of testing, we fitted them to a Whyte T-130 with Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5in Wide Trail tyres front and rear. Tubeless setup was reliable with all tyres tested, though after a few tyre swaps the rim tape started to look a little worse for wear, with a few folds and nicks causing some slow leaks over time. Rim tape is a perishable item though, and is easy enough to replace.
The alloy hubs feature a 6-bolt rotor pattern, and can be had in Boost (110x15mm front & 148x12mm rear) or non-Boost (100x15mm front and 142x12mm rear) options. The wheels are available with Shimano or SRAM XD freehub bodies, and replacements are available for £60 each.
I’m a big fan of normal wheel builds without proprietary spokes and such, and the Ibis 738 wheels slot into the ‘normal’ category. There are 32 stainless steel J-bend spokes per wheel, which are laced in a regular 3x lacing pattern with externally adjustable nipples. Because of the asymmetric rim profile and its 5mm offset, the spoke length is exactly the same front and rear, drive and non-drive. So a couple of 273mm long spokes is all you need for spares, which is bloody brilliant. Along with Enduro sealed cartridge bearings inside the hubs and a user-serviceable freehub mechanism, the 738 wheels promise to be easy like Sunday morning.
With the matte black finish, shallow rim profile and short hookless sidewalls, the 738 wheels are a fairly unassuming wheelset in terms of looks. In terms of ride quality, they’re just as unassuming – in a good way. Unlike Ibis’ original carbon wheels, the 738s are far smoother and far more compliant overall. There’s none of the amplified noise you get from a hollow deep-section profile carbon rim, and along with the deathly silent freehub mechanism, the 738s whizz along the trail stealthily and efficiently. They’re not quite as compliant as the Stans Flow MK3 wheels, but that’s largely down to the wider rim width and the effect that has on stability with the tyre casing.
Side-to-side rigidity is very good overall, and much of that is down to the sensible weight (1939g confirmed) and traditional wheel build. But it’s the effect the wide rims have on the tyre profile that offers the greatest performance benefit on the trail. The 34mm inner rim width helps to broaden the base for the tyre’s beads, while the short hookless sidewalls also minimise how much the rim ‘pinches’ the tyre, avoiding the lightbulb effect. The increase in stability this provides the tyre casing is noticeable, and especially when running lower tyre pressures.
It must also be said that the 738 wheels and 2.5in Wide Trail Minion DHF tyres are a match made in heaven. Whereas non-WT Maxxis tyres have been hit and miss when fitted to wide rims, the newer WT versions are completely at home, with a gently rounded profile that sticks the shoulder tread out where it should be. Setup at 22psi on the front and 25psi on the rear, the Minions delivered gobs of traction thanks to the larger contact patch. Cornering grip over loose soil and rocky hardpack is insane, and so very predictable, with zero casing wobble when cutting through rapid berms. I’ve tested the Maxxis WT tyres previously, and you can check out my review of the Minion DHF and DHR II here. However, I’d only had the chance to run those tyres on rims up to about 31mm wide. The 738 wheels are only 3mm wider internally, which doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but the extra platform took the Minion’s traction and predictability to a whole other level.
Performance was similarly reliable with the 2.8in wide tyres, and we’ll have a full review of the new Maxxis High Roller II and Minion DHR plus tyres coming soon. What we can say right now is that this particular combination with the DHR II on the front is without doubt the stickiest plus tyre combo we’ve ever used, with far more usable traction in typical UK conditions than what you normally get from your average plus tyre. Finally, plus tyres that aren’t solely designed for riding in California!
Aside from the rim tape, we’ve had no durability issues to speak of. The freehub mechanism is easy to change over, and servicing is straightforward. On the note of the freehub, pickup is reasonable thanks to the 4-pawl mechanism and 10° engagement, though there are of course faster hubs on the market. If buzzy hubs with super fast engagement are more your bag, then it’s worth noting that Ibis’ latest carbon wheels come fitted with the buzziest; Industry Nine Torch hubs.
With its generous 34mm internal rim width and shallow rim profile, the Ibis 738 wheelset is ideally suited to the new crop of ‘plus/minus’ tyres around the 2.5in – 2.8in width. Paired to the likes of the Maxxis Minion Wide Trail tyres, the 738 wheels deliver outstanding traction, a compliant ride, and plenty of steering precision required for darting through rock gardens at speed. They are very impressive performance wise, but like a good wheelset should do, they perform their job with very little fanfare.
At over £600 for the set, they are pricey for alloy wheels. Compare that to the Stans Flow MK3 wheelset (£525), or the Mavic XA Elite wheelset at (£450), though they do come we’ll underneath DT Swiss’ premium Spline One XM 1501 wheels (£809).
The advantage the 738 wheels have over those other options is in their ability to comfortably accommodate plus tyres. So if you owned a bike such as Ibis’ own Mojo 3 that’s capable of running regular 27.5in tyres or up to 2.8in plus tyres, then this would be a highly versatile wheelset that would allow you to experiment with different sized rubber, without having to buy a second wheelset. And that makes the price a whole lot more attractive.
|Tested:||by Tom Hill & Wil Barrett for 4 months|