First Look: Spengle Carbon Monocoque wheelset

by Tom Hill 0

  • Model: Carbon Monocoque
  • From: Spengle Carbon
  • Price: €1,490 “naked”, €1,790 “plug ‘n’ play”

Ah, the nineties… *cue wavy lines and flashback sequence*. The decade that mountain biking went truly mainstream, bikes developed suspension, better braking, multicoloured anodising was de-rigour and designers went wild with some of the new materials that were becoming available. As a teenager, I would thumb through copies of MBUK, MTB Pro, MBi and any other magazine I could get hold of, lusting after bikes and components I couldn’t afford.

Carbon, but not the nineties

As well as huge leaps forward in bike design, there were a few cul-de-sacs along the way. Whether it be flex-stems or magnesium frames, it was inevitable that some products would fall by the wayside.  Manufacturers like Spin, Spinergy and Spengle experimented with carbon monocoque wheelsets. All looked striking, space age and promised much. By and large, all failed to deliver. Whether it be weight, price, reliability or pure longevity, spoked wheels won out in the long term. A bit of me was sad that they didn’t live up to the promises; they looked so futuristic and just pretty damn cool to my teenage eyes. I was therefore intrigued when a good few months ago I was followed on Instagram by @spenglecarbon. Maybe this was my chance to live out those twenty year old dreams?

New-school

Bang up to date

Right, Oakley Frogskins and Rox t-shirt safely put away, that’s enough reminiscing. Spengle is more than a nineties name dusted off and slapped on some new products. The company is the same as the original, with CEO and design duties passed from father to son. It’s first product is the culmination of three years of work at the drawing board and in testing, and Spengle claims that technology and production methods have finally caught up to its original ambitions.

There’s little mistaking the Spengles for anyone else’s wheels

Spengle has a longer term ambition to expand into specific wheelsets for road, and one presumes gravel, but for the time being it has a single wheel, which it claims covers all off-road requirements from gravel to XC to full enduro.

Spengle claims that “elbow” at the hub helps spread forces across the whole wheel

The wheel is a tri-bladed (don’t call them spokes) monocoque affair – strongly evoking those wheels of the past. You’ll be glad to hear that it ticks a fair few modern boxes as well. 650b (only, for now), bolt thru, boost and non-boost options. Oh, and disc brakes, of course.

But why?

We imagine that the looks of the wheel will attract and repel in equal measures – and there is no doubt that for those that are attracted, then looks may be reason enough to purchase. For most of us though, it will take a lot to win us over from tried and tested spokes. Spengle’s marketing motto is “Spokes Suck”… we’d argue that they really don’t. In fact, they build into a light, strong package relatively cheaply. The Spengle Monocoques have a lot to live up to.

Love or loathe?

The Spengle website promises big things, but is perhaps a little light on hard facts and a little high on hyperbole.

Apparently the wheel optimises braking force distribution, while the carbon blades give complete control back to the rider and minimise air turbulence increasing stability at high speeds. We have to say that we’ve never particularly felt our spoked wheels were unstable, or lacking control – but some wheels do ride better than others – we’ll hold judgement until we’ve ridden the Spengles and can make a real world comparison.

Only available with a Shimano cassette carrier for the time being.

The “elbow” to each blade is also meant to dampen trails vibrations – which is certainly something that we can see a real benefit from, especially on a rigid gravel bike. We’ll report back.

Ninja

The wheels come with a lifetime warranty and two year crash discount replacement service. As mentioned, they are built for the rigours of enduro, and weighing in at a claimed “sub-2000g” are no lightweights. That weight should guarantee robustness – hopefully it won’t overly penalise how lively the wheels feel. We’ll also strip the wheels down for an official GritCX weight, as always.

There’s little detail on the hubs, so we’ll strip things down and get a fuller lowdown from Spengle in time for our full review.

“Plug and play”

As well as selling the wheelset as-is, Spengle also offers a “plug ‘n’ play” option. This includes thru-axles, a Shimano 11-speed cassette (a range of ratios is available, but no Sram XD driver for now), disc rotors and a choice of Schwalbe tyres. We’ve gone for G-One Bites for gravel duties. Despite the wheels being designed for tubeless, the fully built option comes with inner tubes fitted.

Gravel ready

Pricing is currently only available in Euros, but a pounds sterling option will be available in due course. The wheels cost €1,490 or €1,790 depending on whether you choose to go for the pre-prepped option or not.

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