In Issue #116 of Singletrack Magazine, David tested and reviewed six sets of carbon mountain bike wheels
How much difference can wheel weight really make, out in the real world? I try to test blind (Ed: not that blind we hope!), tending not to look at numbers until I’ve ridden something and formed impressions. Sometimes I’m wrong, and looking at the numbers corrects me. Sometimes though, the difference is obvious, as with these. On a 20% road gradient near home, I realised I was pushing slightly higher gears than with most other wheelsets on the same bike.
The Ridgeline is Boyd Cycling’s carbon fibre mountain bike wheelset. The small US brand offers one other wheelset for mountain biking called the Kanuga, which uses the same hubs and spokes but with a lightweight alloy rim instead. Interestingly, Boyd markets the Ridgeline as being the heavier and more robust option for trail riding. It’s available in 27.5in and 29in diameters, with Boost and non-Boost hub spacing, and you can have the wheels built with Boyd’s own hubs (as we have here), or you can have them upgraded to White Industries CLD hubs for a nominal fee.
Boyd Ridgeline Carbon Wheels Feature
- Available in 27.5in and 29in diameters
- Carbon fibre rims w/hookless sidewalls
- Tubeless ready with included tape & valves
- External rim width: 33mm
- Internal rim width: 26mm
- Rim depth: 24mm
- Designed for 2.1in – 2.4in wide tyres
- Boyd Quest hubs
- Centrelock rotor mounts
- 6-pawl freehub mechanism w/4.3° engagement
- Shimano & SRAM XD freehub bodies available
- CX Ray spokes & brass nipples
- 3x lacing pattern w/28 spokes front and 32 spokes rear
- Actual weight: 1713g
- RRP: $1650 USD (£1235)
These aren’t the most compliant wheels we’ve tested, nor the most on trend with a relatively narrow 26mm internal width, but there’s a lot to like about them. For a start, they accelerate quickly and seem to have very little rolling resistance compared to others, making it a little easier to gain and keep momentum. These weren’t the only wheels around this weight that I found myself pushing higher gears uphill on, but they were the ones for which it was most noticeable.
There’s a lot to that, and frankly, more than I have the tools to precisely investigate. Drag in the rear hub, number of pawls and teeth inside it, rim width affecting tyre contact patch at a given pressure; lateral, vertical and torsional compliance, weight distribution from the centre to the edge of the wheel… all of these things affect the exact way a wheel behaves. Uphill, if you stop pedalling, you don’t lose speed at a linear rate, meaning even marginal increases in hub pickup might make a difference to climbing. Differences that seem tiny from moment to moment can also result in dramatic changes to your fatigue level near the end a big day. And that’s where the Boyd Ridgeline wheels shined in our group test – these wheels are both light, and fast.
Boyd has built these up on easily replaced J-bend Sapim CX-ray spokes, along with Shimano’s Centerlock rotor standard – there’s no six bolt option on Boyd hubs. Centerlock is a little less common, but does make it quick and convenient to fit or remove rotors, which is worth thinking about if you do a lot of wheel swapping between bikes.
The whole wheelset is made with great attention to detail, and one small thing particularly stuck out: the valve nuts. Tubeless valve nuts aren’t something that tend to be thought about much. Some have a flange, or are nicely anodised, but beyond that they’re simple objects. Occasionally, problematic combinations of tubeless valve and rim need the nut to be tightened right down, possibly with pliers, which wears the knurling off and means you then always need the pliers.
Boyd got annoyed, and solved all of that with something that seems staggeringly obvious in retrospect: wingnuts. Rather than a typical wingnut design, this is a flat, asymmetric ovoid, giving your fingers lots of leverage when tightening or undoing the valves. Riding these wheels, it’s reassuring to know you’re not going to be struggling with one of the smallest, but potentially the most annoying components if something does go wrong.
These aren’t the softest riding wheels, but their character wasn’t so harsh. Despite low tyre pressures of around 17PSI, the rims took no damage from any of the rockiest trails we tried, including the delightfully named “Cock Punch”, which nowadays is a trench containing a series of small waterfalls and about a billion large square rocks.
Boyd states each carbon rim weighs 450g (470g for the 29in version), which means they aren’t the lightest carbon rims out there. The emphasis here has been to build a robust and reliable wheel first and foremost, over something that is race day-only. Combined with the sealed bearing hubs, serviceable freehub, brass nipples, J-bend spokes and replaceable rim tape, they’re also designed to be highly serviceable in the long run, making these one of the easiest to live with wheelsets in our group test.
These are nicely finished and exude a calm attention to detail, giving us no trouble of any kind during setup and testing. A light, versatile wheelset tough enough to ride on a Saturday, and fast enough to race on a Sunday.
|From:||Boyd Cycling, boydcycling.com/|
|Tested:||by David & The Singletrack Test Squad for 2 months|