crankbrothers synthesis alloy wheelset review

Review: Crankbrothers Synthesis E Alloy Wheelset

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The Crankbrothers Synthesis range is made up of both carbon and alloy wheelsets, and there are wheels to suit everyone from XC racers to eBikers and downhill racers. For the past few months, I’ve been riding the Alloy Synthesis E wheels, E for enduro, not eMTB.

Like the carbon counterparts, the alloy Synthesis wheels are ‘tuned’ to give a more compliant front wheel and stiffer rear. Whereas the carbon wheels can be tuned with different layups, the alloy versions rely on rim width and number of spokes.

Crankbrothers E Alloy Synthesis features

Upfront Crankbrothers builds the alloy Synthesis with a wider 31.5mm (inner) rim which is said to be more compliant and suits wider tyre choices better too. The front-wheel also only uses 28 spokes which makes for a more forgiving ride and compliant ride.

crankbrothers synthesis alloy wheelset review
Front and rear specific alloy rims.

The rear wheel uses a slightly narrower 29.5mm (inner) rim and 32 spokes to create a stiffer wheel, and Crankbrothers supplies the wheels with rim tape installed and valves included. Our test wheels are the more affordable versions laced up with Crankbrothers’ own hubs, but if you wanted flashier hubs with more points of engagement an Industry Nine option is also available.

The 28 Sapim D-Light spokes in the front are 1.6mm J bend spokes, a common and easy to find spoke but also a slightly thinner gauge to the 1.8mm Sapim Race spokes found in the rear. Those slightly thinner gauge and fewer spokes aim to absorb impacts and be more comfortable on rough tracks, while the thicker and more numerous spokes in the rear make a stiffer wheel that can handle more of a beating.

crankbrothers synthesis alloy wheelset review
Subtle decals.

Each rim is finished in black with subtle logos and branding, along with two classy grey patches which are labelled front or rear. The decals on the rim feel more like transfers than the usual stickers which enhances the look and means they don’t catch on wheel truing jigs.

crankbrothers synthesis alloy wheelset review
Crankbrothers own brand hubs work well.

Our test wheels with Crankbrothers hubs both use a 6 bolt disc pattern and the rear hub features a 3 pawl design. If you wanted higher engagement then the I9 version has a 6 pawl design. Both HG and XD freehubs are available, and Microspline should be an option soon too.

If you’re on a bike that isn’t running Boost hubs then you can choose to buy the alloy rims on their own and lace them to your hubs of choice. Crankbrothers has all the documentation online for building the wheels too making sourcing spokes and getting the tensions correct much easier.

Crankbothers E Alloy Synthesis Ride Impressions

I’ve been testing the Alloy Synthesis on a Commencal Meta AM 29, a big enduro bike with 170mm travel up front and 160mm on the rear. It’s a lively bike considering the amount of travel, but as it carries so much speed through rock and drops, it can be pretty tough on wheels.

crankbrothers synthesis alloy wheelset review
Tyres seal and inflate easily.

My first few months of riding the wheels were with a set of VeeTire tyres mounted to the rims. I had no issues mounting the tyres and inflating them tubeless even with a standard floor pump. The past few weeks I’ve been running a Kenda Pinner Pro on the front and Hellkat Pro on the rear. The Kendas are a slightly tighter fit, but not in a problematic way, and were again super easy to inflate using just a floor pump.

In all my mountain biking I’ve come across plenty of carbon wheels that were too stiff, but alloy wheels all feel comfortable to me. The only issue with alloy being that some rims are made of a softer material and tend to bend easier than others.

crankbrothers synthesis alloy wheelset review
Just a few cosmetic marks over the review.

The Synthesis alloy follows my findings, and the wheelset proved to be comfortable and compliant, never once feeling overly stiff on the front, and not flexing on the rear. The rims have also performed an admirable job of shrugging off rocks, with only minor dings and cosmetic scratches appearing over the past few months of riding.

crankbrothers synthesis alloy wheelset review
And a few very small dings.

I have had to take a spoke key to the rear wheel once, but it appears something was trapped in my rear wheel, possibly a branch, which bent one of the rear spokes and gave the wheel a slight wobble. A few moments in the truing jig was all that was needed to bring them back to shape and the wheel has stayed true since.

Although I get to test plenty of high-end kit including wheels with a much higher level of engagement than these Crankbrothers branded models, I didn’t once feel the 3 pawl hub was a limiting or irritating factor and only noticed the difference when swapping between bikes. In the more recent dry and dusty riding conditions the hubs have been great, but in wetter months, it’s worthwhile keeping an eye on the freehub as moisture can creep in after a good soaking.

Crankbrothers Synthesis E Alloy Wheels Overall

Although the idea of ‘tuned’ wheels with different rim widths isn’t a new one, I love the fact Crankbrothers has trickled the tech down to more affordable levels with the alloy Synthesis range. I also like the fact that the wheels don’t come in pairs so you can mix and match them if you want, or build your own with a rim only purchase.

The Crankbrothers Synthesis E Alloy is a no-nonsense, well-built wheelset. The J bend spoke and 3 cross design isn’t anything revolutionary but it’s smart and simple and means spare spokes are easy to find.

Rim strength is also excellent and I’m impressed that I have just a few cosmetic marks even after some really tough rock strikes and almost daily punishment in recent weeks.

Review Info

Brand: Crankbrothers
Product: Synthesis Alloy E
From: Extra
Price: £199.99 Front, £299.99 Rear
Tested: by Andi Sykes for 3 months
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