Crank Brothers shook up the wheel scene with its high-end Synthesis E11 wheelset. The Synthesis E brings the same tuned apporach to rim width and spoke count to a lower price point. But does it still have the same high performance ride quality?
The Crank Brothers Synthesis E here is the brand’s more affordable carbon package that opts for own brand hubs and traditional round spokes.
This adds a bit of weight, but the ride feel is almost identical, and there’s a bonus of saving over 500 quid.
Crank Brothers’ Synthesis wheels pack in a ton of technology with the front and rear being tuned differently to offer specific ride characteristics.
Each rim is specifically designed accordning to the way front and rear wheels interact with rider loads and terrain, so there’s a differ ent spoke count (28F and 32R), different tensioning and also rim width at opposite ends. The carbon lay-up comprises a complex, shallow carbon rim design using thicker fibre sections in impact zones, like rim walls and spoke bed, with less material elsewhere.
Designed to be more compliant up front (and wider at 31.5mm to better match fatter leading tyres), the rear wheel is then tauter and thinner for better acceleration and reduced rolling resistance. The wheels aren’t super light, but do accelerate super fast and also feel extremely snappy bouncing between corners and picking up speed or while climbing. The E version’s Freehub engagement isn’t the fastest, but it’s quiet and positive and never skipped a beat during testing.
What’s really special about the Synthesis package is how well the front wheel grips, tracks and holds a line. The 31.5mm front rim resists vibrating and chattering as grip breaks away, and that’s without any side-effects such as excessive flex or vagueness to steering response either. And, in a similar way to how Zipp’s Moto wheels improve off-camber hold and comfort, this is a big deal when riding, to the point the Synthesis allow you to turn harder and more confidently than any other wheel on test through multiple tricky test track corners.
Overall compliance is slightly behind Zipp’s Motos, but what we prefer is there’s still the stiffness and directness you’d expect from a carbon wheelset, especially in the much more positive and speedy feel from the rear wheel.
Crank Brother’s Synthesis is a special product that lives up to its billing. For £2,150, the top end version is even lighter and adds freehub engagement points for more precision in technical climbing, but you get the main advantages here with the supple front rim and its subtle ability to scrub off less speed and grip more than rivals on really sharp terrain. This translates to a sense of running less tyre pressure or a softer compound in terms of calmness, but since they still feel really rapid too, this Synthesis is one of the best carbon MTB wheelsets available.