Syntace is a German-based manufacturer of high-end alloy and carbon fibre components. It’s the same company as Liteville; a brand well known for full suspension alloy frames with a suspension linkage lovingly referred to as the “sausage chopper” around the office.
Over the years, Syntace has made quite the name for itself with its almost over-the-top approach to product engineering. In this uncompromising pursuit of performance, the brand isn’t exactly one to jump on new trends. Things need to be tested properly first in the lab ya?
But having seen the benefits early on, Syntace was one of the first companies to really start pursuing the concept of wide rims. The current wheel range includes 26in, 27.5in and 29in wheels that feature internal rim widths from 28mm to 40mm wide. Up until recently, all those wheels have used alloy rims. Syntace has been known to make some pretty fancy carbon parts over the years though, and that engineering know-how has now spilt over into the wheel department and into the C33i wheelset we have here on review.
Unlike the alloy hoops, the Syntace C33i wheelset comes in 27.5in only (for now), but it is designed to cover pretty much every type of riding you can think of. On the website, the C33i’s intended use includes downhill, enduro, trail and yes, gravel. That’s quite a diverse range of uses, but at just 1580g for the pair they’re certainly lightweight enough for ‘gravel’, but are they tough enough for more extreme riding?
At the centre of each C33i wheel is one of Syntace’s own MX hubs, and being a Syntace item these are top quality items made to precise German tolerances at Syntace’s own factories.
The hubs are machined from 7075 Aluminium and come in plenty of different widths to suit most frames on the market including Boost, Non-Boost and 142mm backends. Syntace even offers a 12x148mm EVO 6 model that has zero dish and is found as stock equipment on Liteville bikes.
Front and rear hubs come with Syntace’s own MicroAdjust end caps that use minimal tools for adjustment and servicing. Threaded collars are fitted to one side of each hub axle (non-disc side on the front and non-drive side on the year) and are used to preload the bearings.
To set bearing preload, first you need to back off the 2.5mm Allen bolt. Then you tighten the collar clockwise by hand until you feel contact with the bearing, before backing off the adjuster by one notch on the gold end cap. To lock the collar in position, tighten down on the Allen bolt and away you go. The whole process takes less than a minute, and Syntace has been kind enough to list the instructions on the end cap itself.
This locking collar system is also used to hold the freehub into position and means that swapping from a Shimano HG to SRAM XD or vice versa is a breeze.
Swapping free hubs also gives you a glimpse at the precision machined ratchet engagement system. It’s an elegantly simple design that is made up of two rings with 45 interlocking teeth that rely on a single large spring to engage. In stock trim, the system has that ‘angry bee’ buzzing sound to it that I personally really like. Those of you who like your hubs to be silent will be happy to hear that Syntace offers a kit that helps to silence the system to some degree.
On a final note about freehubs, be sure to make sure that the hub end caps are firmly in place before adjusting the collar. We found with a Shimano freehub installed, the hub went together smoothly, but with a SRAM drive fitted a slight tap of the end cap is needed to ensure everything lines up. If you do ever swap over the drives and find your disc is binding no matter how you adjust the calliper, now you know why.
The triple sealed bearings in each hub didn’t need any maintenance throughout our time reviewing the wheels, and we’re confident that they’ll last for many rides. When it does eventually come time for a full strip down these are some of the easiest hubs to pull apart and pop back together.
On the outside of each hub are low profile, straight pull spoke flanges that hold 28 Sapim made spokes to the carbon rims. The smaller flanges are meant to reduce rotating mass, but it’s one of those improvements that are only likely to make a measurable difference when tested in a laboratory. Suffice to say I couldn’t tell if it made a difference or not.
The C33i carbon rims themselves are a deep-V section design with traditional double wall construction. Syntace claims that the design of the rim helps improve overall stiffness and that the C33i rim offers the same stiffness as other rims that are 2mm wider.
Speaking of width, we’re looking at an internal rim width of 33mm which is pretty substantial, yet Syntace claims that each rim weighs just 435g, which is exceptionally light for a rim that is designed to handle such a wide range of riding genres. As for complete wheel weights, the front wheel weighs 746g while the rear is 834g. Our sample wheels came without tape or valves and these weights are as supplied.
As with every aspect of these wheels, precision is king when it comes to the rim/spoke interface. Syntace uses a SmoothFit profile inside its rims to ensure that the angle that the spoke and nipple exit the rim is perfectly aligned. This makes manufacturing the wheel easier and also reduces stress on the rim to prevent spokes from pulling through, an issue we’ve seen in the past on some carbon wheel models.
How Do They Ride?
So that’s all the tech that goes into the Syntace C33i, so how do they feel on the trail?
For this review, Wil and I tested the wheels shown here on a couple of steel hardtails and on full-suspension bikes. In addition to this, David also got some ride time on a second set of C33i wheels on the Liteville bike that he has been reviewing for us over the summer. So, all in all, quite a varied selection of riding, on different bikes by different riders.
All three of us agree that the Syntace C33i wheelset is a quality piece of kit and are near indestructible. We’ve all had that terrifying moment when the exquisite carbon rims have smacked into a square edge obstacles on fast rocky descents, yet they’re completely unharmed. No worrying sounds, no visible damage and no wobble. Despite those hard knocks, bangs and whacks we still haven’t had to touch the C33i with a spoke key either. Seriously.
We found that both hubs developed some bearing play after the first week of riding, but after adjusting them via the procedure detailed above, they have been running smoothly with absolutely zero play. It’s always nice when an adjustment does what it says it will.
When originally reading through the blurb about the C33i and how Syntace emphasises the stiffness of the wheel, I was a little concerned as I don’t really like a stiff and unforgiving wheel. Earlier in the year David and I tested a slew of carbon wheels as part of a group test, and we found that too stiff of a rim made it difficult to hold your line on really rocky terrain. We also found that rider weight and riding style also makes a difference when taking stiffness into account.
With this in mind, I found the Syntace C33i wheels to be direct and firm, but not so stiff to the point that they upset the handling of a bike. David, on the other hand, found that the C33i were verging on the too stiff end of the spectrum, but this actually confirms what we discovered in our carbon wheel test earlier in the year.
Having had the C33i wheels strapped onto the Scott Genius 900 Tuned test bike, Wil spent a couple of months testing them with chunky 2.8in wide tyres. He got on with them very well in that time, coming away with a similar experience to myself, but the chunkier tyres obviously helped with trail damping, and as he’s also quite a bit lighter than me.
Things We Loved About The Syntace C33i
- Build quality
- Minimal tools needed for maintenance
Things We Didn’t Love About The Syntace C33i
- No 29er option
I suppose what it really comes down to though is are these carbon wheels worth the money? Well, yes and no.
Yes, they are a high-end piece of German engineering and are worth every penny that Syntace sells them for. But if you’re looking at these wheels and wondering if they are worth the upgrade over alloy, then I would have to say no. Sure they are stiffer (but not too stiff), lighter, and exceptionally well made, but they don’t drastically improve my riding experience, help me ride faster or give me more smiles.
Then again, it’s these wheel’s subtlety that is perhaps their best attribute. They are smooth, quiet, and properly light given their intended use. In our collective experience, they have been absolutely bombproof too. And if you’re someone who frequently ends up with bends, buckles and flat-spots in your rims, and you’re prepared to pay the coin for something that will last longer than a riding season, then we have no issues recommending these based on their durability and serviceability.
|Tested:||by Andi, Wil, David for 4 Months|