The law of averages is the principle that a particular outcome or event is inevitable or certain, simply because it is statistically possible. Roll a dice for long enough and you’ll score a six. Ride the trails of north west Scotland, it is a near certainty that you (or at least I) will clatter into a waterbar or two.
At the start of this impossibly beautiful early summer, I spent a few days clattering around the bone-dry trails of Kintail, Applecross and Skye. We zipped down dusty singletrack that was running faster than ever, pinning over exposed bedrock and guiding front wheels into slot trails, Scalextric-ing down the hill. As good as those Scottish hills are, they are frequently blighted by the waterbar. These range from a six-inch wide ditch that can be ridden across without thinking, through to wheel-swallowers and bigger. If you want to maintain any semblance of flow down the hill your bunnyhop game needs to be “on point” as the kids say. Regardless, there is an inevitability that you’ll catch sight of one too late, or simply mistime your pop.
This would be the ultimate test for the Acros Enduro Race Carbon wheelset – having survived everything my local trails and a couple of Lakes trips could throw at them. Would they make the grade?
Acros Enduro Race Carbon Wheels
Acros is one of those brands that many will have heard of before. The German company is by no means as well known as lot of component manufacturers on these shores, but its headsets and bottom brackets are well respected, combining decent value with longevity. A flick through the glossy Acros catalogue while checking a few details for this review also reveals that pedals, bars and other sundries are also available. Not far off a one-stop shop for finishing kit, actually.
A few months back, and the Acros Enduro Race Carbon wheelset arrived in the Singletrack office. Like all the wheels in its range, the Enduro Race Carbon is built around the company’s own hub and rims. Our specific test set is a 29er Boost (F+R) pairing, but a 27.5in version is available and both diameters can be bought in Boost and non-Boost options.
Working from the outside in, the Acros carbon rims are asymmetrically drilled “to offer better spoke tension and optimise the wheel’s stability”. The rim’s internal width is 29mm – not as wide as some, but a long way off being narrow. I reckon around the 30mm width, as these are, is about the Goldilocks size for my riding. It provides ample support for tyres from 2.3in up to the whopping 2.6in Bontrager XR4s I used for most of the test period, without squaring off the tyre profile too much.
The Acros nineteen hubs are attached to the rim via 28 Sapim CX Ray spokes, either end. There’s nothing fancy going on at the hub – just good old j-bend spokes. This test set came with a SRAM XD Driver, but a Shimano freehub is also available. The hubs use a six-bolt rotor attachment. Acros use “nineteen” to classify all their hubs – from road through to downhill. Rather fittingly, the Enduro Race wheels come with the nineteen enduro hubs. These aren’t rebadged catalogue jobs, but made in Acros’ factory in Renningen.
Our 29er Boost wheelset weighed in at a nudge over their claimed 1500g once valves and tape had been fitted, which given how strong we’d expect an enduro-ready wheelset to be, is more than respectably light. They sit alongside to XC-oriented wheelsets in Acros’ range (as well as some road offerings). If the £1,299 price tag is a little steep for you, then your only option is to buy an Acros hub, and build it on to a cheaper rim. Overall though, £1,299 looks like reasonable value, and sits well alongside similar wheelsets from DT Swiss, Enve and others.
The wheels came supplied with tubeless tape and valves. It’s been a long time since I had a pair of wheels that wouldn’t mate easily with a pair of tyres. I’m pleased to say that the Enduro Races did not buck this trend. Both the Maxxis High Roller IIs and Bontrager XR4 tyres that I fitted needed a little bit of thumb strength to pop the bead on, but no more than a leisurely puff of a track pump to mount.
On The Trail
Back in Scotland, those times my skills let the side down, I heard the horrible clunk of carbon smashing into rock, thinly damped by squidged tyre. Spokes twanged and I involuntarily winced. A couple of hits were bad enough that I stopped to check the rear wheel was running true and there was no damage to the poor tortured tyre and rim. Time and time again, the Acros rims held true. To put this into perspective, the riding group that I was with suffered one written off rear wheel (alloy) and some solid dings. After a week of punishment and several more mountain excursions closer to home, the Enduro Races are still rolling as round and smooth as day one.
Giving them a close inspection in preparation for this review, there are some cosmetic scars – scuffs to the rim, mainly, plus some slightly tatty decals, but other than that, there are no clues to the battering they’ve taken. Equally impressive was that despite repeatedly feeling rim against rock, I suffered no pinches to the tyre wall or bead. The rim walls are rounded and broad, removing any edges to bite the tyre on compression. Good news.
Other than having an apparent built-in forcefield, how did the wheels ride? Well, I’ll be honest. They were largely anonymous. If they were anything other than a test set, I probably wouldn’t have thought about it any further. I should clarify, that as far as I am concerned, “anonymous” is a huge compliment when it comes to wheels. The Race Enduros were neither too stiff, nor too flexy. (Although, truth be told, stiffness is hard to fully appreciate when strapped to a six-inch travel bike with 2.6in wide tyres).
Pick up from the rear hub never felt laggy, if not having quite the same insta-power feel of thr DT Swiss Spline wheels I tested recently. The hubs are showing zero signs of play or tiredness after four months of testing. They’ve probably had the best weather for testing that I have ever, ever experienced, but have still been subjected to a few wet, gritty rides and a care-free maintenance regime. A relatively light wheelset is always a boon when climbing, and shedding a few grams compared to my usual wheels was noticeable. It also means that running a tough dual ply tyre doesn’t feel quite as tractor like as it might on a heavier wheel.
Lets get picky. There was a little more flex at the rim than some other carbon wheels. When really pushing the 29er wheels through rough corners, they felt slightly less direct than a couple of other wheels that I’ve ridden recently. This should be put in the context of harder ground than normal and a million and one other variables that contribute to ride feel on any given day, from rider weight through to suspension settings through to what side of the bed I got out. Is a bit of flex in the wheel a bad thing though? I don’t think it was detrimental to ride feel, and may actually be beneficial on a hardtail where compliance is welcome.
Worth your cash?
It’s an age old question with higher end bike components, especially when it comes to anything made out of carbon. Extra £££s doesn’t necessarily promise huge leaps in performance. Wheels are certainly one of those areas. There is an argument that while carbon rims may shrug off impacts for longer, at least an alloy rim will bend rather fail immediately when things go badly, badly wrong. I’ve often been a subscriber to this point of view… partly fuelled by the lack of pennies in my bike fund. It’s always hard to comment on longevity during a product test. We could report back in three years time, but by then the wheel is unlikely to be available, and your money has gone elsewhere. My Acros experience has been wholly positive, however. They function superbly as all-rounders – don’t let the Enduro tag put you off. While I have no doubt that they will more than stand up to the rigours of competitive enduro types, they make an outstanding trail wheelset and quite frankly, they’re light enough to front up at an XC race. Given you’ve got both a training wheelset and a race-day wheelset in one, that makes them very versatile, and even, dare we say, good value.
The decals look and feel a bit cheap for the price, but I think they’d be really easy to remove altogether should you wish, leaving a very classy, stealth wheelset. If you are drawn to flashy ENVE logos, then that might be less appealing to you though.
A superb wheelset, that will cover 99% of most people’s riding. They have been tough, reliable and represent good value compared to some of the more established carbon wheelsets on the market.
|Product:||Enduro Race Carbon|
|From:||Oxford Products, oxfordproducts.com|
|Tested:||by Tom Hill for 4 months|