Brothers gonna work it out
The Crank Brothers Iodine 3 wheelset is unmistakably Crank Bros in looks and in solving the tubeless rim bed riddle in a unique way.
Crank Brothers likes to build things a bit differently from other component brands, designing pedals, posts, wheels and tools that both look and function like nothing else.
The Iodine range is designed for all-mountain use, the top-end elite model tested here or the Iodine 2 for £150 less. This is Crank Bros’ third go at building this wheelset, it’s wider and lighter this time around and stronger too, it’s claimed. It comes in a range of hub sizes including Boost front and rear, and you can even get 9mm skewers to fit it. Available in 27.5in or 29er and compatible with the SRAM XD driver here or Shimano as standard, it’s a versatile wheel.
Most modern wheels are tubeless ready, but in most cases this amounts to just using rim tape to seal the spoke holes and create a sealed rim bed. The Iodine is truly tubeless ready, with a sealed rim bed and a fairly shallow rim to secure the tyre against, and a double wall construction. I’ve tried the Maxxis High Roller II and a Specialized Hillbilly on the rim and each has gone on easily with a double barrelled pump, and an easy ‘pop’.
The rim measures 28mm across internally, perfect for anything up to 2.8in tyres though. The spokes are not secured inside the rim, as every other wheel builder does though, instead V-shaped spokes are looped through lugs, which are welded to the inner curve of the rim. These spokes then thread into really long, oversized alloy nipples, transferring weight more centrally on the wheel — better for acceleration Crank Bros says. A spare spoke and nipple come in the box in case of breakages, and the whole wheelset comes with a two-year guarantee.
The Iodine 3’s standard freehub body is made from aluminium and is in fact the only part the the wheelset that’s different from the Iodine 2, which uses a steel body, and that alone accounts for the 70g weight difference between the two models. If you’re running SRAM though, as I did in this test, you have to pay £94.99 more for an XD driver, pretty much negating any benefit you get from the Iodine 3, other than the coloured anodising. Inside the rear hub is a simple 3-pawl and 21 tooth ratchet system. The straight-pull hubs run on sealed cartridge bearings and they’ve stood up to four months’ riding and pressure washing without skipping a beat, and still spin as freely as when they were new.
A frugal 24 spokes is all that holds this wheelset together, but it’s surefooted and feels stiff and solid despite the minimal lacing. Too solid? I don’t think so, there’s a lively feel to the ride that really comes through on fast and rocky trails and encourages you to load the bike into everything going and come out with more speed. Casing jumps in Surrey and South Wales has yet to put a single ding into these rims despite my best and my clumsiest efforts, and the anodised finish still looks mint.
The Brothers have done good with their third incarnation of the Iodine 3, producing a reasonably lightweight wheel that’s reliable and strong. There’s a gripe coming though, these wheels don’t offer enough of an advantage over the good-value Iodine 2 model to justify the £150 extra you have to shell out. This is particularly true if you’re running a SRAM setup, which makes the wheels just that bit overpriced.