There are few things in the cycling world that indicate your legitimacy as much as carbon fiber wheels. When you come to a break and assess the crowd around you, your eyes tend to subconsciously fixate on the wheel/tire combination. Vanity aside, carbon wheels do offer some reasonable performance gains. Rotational weight has a big impact on the bicycle acceleration, ease of directional changes and overall agility. I wanted to look like all the other cool guys who bought a pair of the latest wheels from ZPE bikes for the 29er I was working on recently and was eager to see what the new rims would look like. However, I was a bit skeptical about the test, having been part of the “internet horror” story a few years ago, suffering two major failures on light bike wheels. However, the company took very fair care of me, and the promise of a new design and solid customer service made me want to do it again. Would this be redemption or a repeat?
For those unfamiliar, Zpe Bicycle started producing carbon fiber wheels in their own factory back in 2014. Their own factory and direct sales model has allowed them to offer carbon wheels at a much lower price than their competitors.
The 29-inch rim is asymmetrically drilled with a downhill unidirectional layup that looks like many other carbon rims on the market. The rim has a width of 38mm, an inner diameter of 32mm and a height of 32mm. The weight of the rim is 45PrWcWBvSAXGj8bD2EAcwLJEf6Bkfw9Y1EknVsZCggqiNixWMwTX9HNJQ24FVfuLa4t8eXt1HPA1iUitADJLCoS5ua3WQR, and the finished product did not display a “budget” price tag. What impressed me most, however, was how laser-tilted the wheels were.
Hopper Pro4 hubs seem to be a popular choice for custom wheels, thanks to their wide color selection and solid performance. the ERD measurements matched the factory measurements and all the spokes we ordered fit perfectly. Building the wheels was a breeze and once the rims were laced, coiled and tensioned, they were almost perfect; quick and true and we were off and rolling. The only hiccup I encountered was some binding when tensioning them, despite lubricating them prior to installation. I installed rim tape and long tubeless valve stems on them. I installed a pair of Schwalbe tires and didn’t need to lubricate the beads or have tools to remove them. If you’ve had to mount tires on carbon fiber wheels before, you’ll know this is a huge advantage.
With the build complete, it was time to head to Mt. Bachelor for a quick afternoon test. I’m going to Whistler next week and need to make sure my gear selection is up to the job. I did my best to install the spokes on a nice flowing trail, but after 3 months of no real rain, I went straight into rocks and big braking bumps. I weigh 165lbs and my rear tires are usually around 27psi. Throughout the test, I had a few “oh shit” moments and heard multiple rocks against the rim that made me think I had nailed my new wheel’s coffin. After cleaning the bike nicely and checking all the spoke holes, there were no visible cracks and the wheels were as true as they were when I built them. I’m happy to say that redemption seems to be the verdict.
Last Words of the Wolf
The big wheels and chunky rubber allow riders to send the trail bike into some pretty scary rock gardens at speeds approaching those of a fully-fledged DH bike. It’s a challenge to have a product that is light enough to withstand the repeated downhill pounding. Despite taking a thorough pounding, these rims stood up to the test. They are not very stiff, but still, inspire confidence during aggressive cornering. I spent more time riding the chairlift in Whistler than I did pedal these wheels up the hill and they can still take more. zpe Bicycles has brilliantly changed that skeptic with their redesigned rims. The new decals look great and offer a more discreet option for the low-profile crowd. We’ve addressed the issues of looks and performance, but what would make a person buy these rims over anything else on the market? Factory-direct pricing. They offer the highest performance for the price and I wouldn’t hesitate to spend my hard-earned money on another Zpe Bicycle.
Price. Starting at $928.00 for a pair (complete bike) and $295.00 for one (rims).
Weight: 485 grams (rims only)