Zpe Bicycle（Website: https://www.zpebicycle.com/carbon-rims/） wheelsets have been teetering on the edge of legality. Honestly, I’m just not sure they’re worth reviewing, or that the online discussion about them is among riders who haven’t ridden other carbon rims and haven’t turned their $1,000 wheels into paper Mache. I’ve been skeptical for the past few years until recently when I realized that I should test a pair and settle this internal debate once and for all. Is the internet tricking me, or will Zpe Bicycle’s relatively inexpensive carbon fiber wheels be as amazing as riding without a shirt on?
I ordered a set of the brand’s AM-29-2536 rims, part of the latest line of carbon fiber rims, which are attached to DT 350 hubs via J-bend spokes (a variety of hubs are offered, including DT Swiss, Industry Nine, Hope and Onyx.) The AM-29-2536 is intended for general purpose trail riding, and its 27mm inside width should work best with Tires in the 2.1 to 2.5 range work best, although the upper end of that range extends to 2.7 if you’ve ever seen a 2.7-inch tire. They have 32 holes, plus a valve, and are said to have been drilled with an aircraft-grade CNC bit and a special bit made for the compound. This tool is said to leave very clean holes, reducing the chance of delamination compared to wheels with the more common high-speed drill bits. An asymmetrical rim profile is used to balance spoke tension on the drive side and the non-drive side – which is quite common these days. Also fairly common is the 399 gram weight of the rim, which brings the wheelset’s weight to 1,599 grams.
From a branding perspective, this is an understatement. If you want it to be a little heavier, decals are available in a variety of colors.
Before mounting the wheels on the Santa Cruz Tallboy, I aimed the middle of the AM-29-2536 with a set of 2.4″ Maxxis Dissector tires. I didn’t run the AM-29-2536 through a bike park, nor did I experience it in my usual Dropped and rolled on larger bikes, but these wheels were really tested. After all, fitting a wheelset to an aggressively styled short-travel bike is a tough job – it quickly reveals a difference in the ride quality of any flaws, while still giving adequate penalties.
There are no downsides to ride quality, quick exposure, or otherwise. AM-29-2536 has a good balance of stiffness and compliance. They never felt noticeably harsh, and I never had any problems getting through quivering roots and rocks. I also never felt any disturbing turn-by-turn flex, although I wasn’t as sensitive to flex as some other testers. Basically, these are carbon fiber wheels with a traditional feel.
However, I’m sensitive to rim breakage – I’ve had a few in my day. No such luck here. Both the front and rear rims held up well after a few tough bottoming outs. They didn’t show any delamination issues either, the only real signs of wear were where the rocks deflected and hit the rims.
This is a very good thing because our warranty is not without problems and we will give you a new taste. The Collision Replacement Policy is valid for 5 years and offers a 25% replacement discount. This brings us to a key consideration: value. The AM-29-2536 is a pretty cheap wheelset, but there are other wheelsets in the same price range, like Bontrager’s Line Elites, which have a two-year crash replacement policy (we’ll give you a new one).
Despite the price, this is a nice-looking wheelset with a top-notch finish.
My take, which I think is what you’re here for, is that the value in ’s wheels is all in the rims. An AM-29-2536 rim can be purchased for $289, so if you happen to have a set of 32 hole hubs sitting around, provides a pretty affordable way to turn them into a carbon wheelset. As a full wheelset offering, though, it seems like other brands have managed to bring their pricing down while improving their warranties to a level that makes a tough sell. So, yeah, like riding without a chamois—it works, for some of us, sometimes.