Tuned wheels anyone?

Product Overview

Crank Brothers Synthesis E11 Wheelset


First ride on Crank Brothers Synthesis E11 carbon wheelset


New carbon wheelset called Crank Brothers Synthesis E11 comes with different tunes, spokes and widths at the front compared to the rear.

>>> Best mountain bike wheels: a buyer’s guide

Yep, the new Crank Brothers Synthesis carbon wheelset is stiffer on the rear than the front

Crank Brothers Synthesis E11 need to know

  • Front wheel designed to be more compliant to better corner and track the ground.
  • Rear wheel is focussed on stiffness to give acceleration and durability.
  • Synthesis E11 enduro wheelset uses carbon rims with mismatched widths front and rear: internally 31.5mm and 29.5mm respectively.
  • Sapim CX Ray front and CX Sprint rear — 28 front and 32 rear
  • Synthesis is the product range, there are enduro, downhill and XC wheelsets, and you can get all three with a choice of top end Project 321 hubs or cheaper Crank Bros hubs.
  • E11 means these are the enduro wheels (rather than the DH11 option or XCT options for downhill or XC), and 11 means it comes with the posh Project 321 hubs.
  • Available in 29er or 27.5in in the E version and DH11, 29er only in XCT.
  • Lifetime warranty on the rims, including crash damage.
  • Project 321 for hubs use magnets not springs to disengage the pawls and let the freehub spin when you’re freewheeling.
  • They ain’t cheap: £2,150 with Project 321 hubs and bladed spokes, £1,500 for the Crank Brothers hub and standard spokes

Stiffies vs Feelies

Until now it’s been easy to group carbon wheel builders into two camps, the Stiffies and the Feelies.

The former boast ultimate strength and stiffness, like Enve, while latter sing the praises of ride feel and trail cushioning, like Stans.

Crank Brothers is a little of both now, thanks to the Synthesis wheel programme that features a different tune to its front and rear wheels.

The front has more compliance built into its design to improve cornering and damping on the trail, while the rear is stiffer vertically to give you some pop out of the corner and because it takes more of a beating as you ride.

It doesn’t stop there though, the Synthesis E11 wheelset we have here features mismatched rim widths front and rear: 31.5mm and 29.5mm respectively.

Why those precise measurements? Crank Bros says it’s the optimum size for running 2.3 to 2.5in tyres, and to provides a rounded and wide profile on the front, paired with a squarer and faster rolling narrow profile on the rear.

The spoke count is mismatched too, 28 front and 32 rear, and combined with the varied width should also help reinforce the tuning differences.

Crank Brothers isn’t the only brand known for innovation, exclusively partnering with Project 321 for hubs that use magnets to disengage the pawls. By using magnets as a pull spring (opposed to mechanical or magnetic push springs) to move pawls into the drive ring, the hubs can be less draggy and quieter, it’s claimed.

Like a shouty hub? You can get a ‘Loud’ pawl design as an aftermarket accessory. There are 6 pawls and an amazing 144 points of engagement (every 2.5°).

Synthesis comes in three different options, this enduro line, a DH design and an XC or trail version, and you can get all three with a choice of Project 321 hubs or Crank Bros hubs for a lower price.

Crank Brothers Synthesis E11 review

A different tune front to rear makes total sense to us because it’s the rear wheel where you’re much more likely to loose tension in the spokes, and it’s the rear where most of us add a few psi more air pressure to make up for the increased load it has to bear. And who wouldn’t want a more cushioned ride up front for rough descents?

So the concept is great, how about the application?

A days uplifting on Innerleithen’s steep and gnarly downhill tracks produced no punctures and no rim damage whatsoever, at the Synthesis launch. And that’s not just the mbr wheels, 15-odd other journalists sailed through despite a dozen crashes. That’s far from proof that these are tough wheels but it’s a good start.

I whipped the E13 TRSr carbon wheels out of my YT Capra longtermer and slotted in the Crank Brothers Synthesis E11 without noticing much difference in weight. The Synthesis wheels are neither remarkably light nor remarkably heavy, instead they’ve been built for performance, Crank Brothers says. That’s a sensible approach for an enduro wheelset that offers a lifetime warranty on the rims, including crash damage, 10 years on the hub shell and three years on the driver internals.

The pickup is impressive from the Project 321 hubs, and it made my Capra feel quicker to sprint into a trail or pick up speed out of corners, and the whole package felt comfortable and well damped.

Check out the magazine for a full test coming up soon.

Does the rear feel any different to the front? It’s hard to say from a day’s riding on unfamiliar trails with unfamiliar tyres, but there are hints that this wheelset could be the real deal and perform as well as Crank Brothers boasts. I did feel an exciting pop out of the corners that can only come from a stiff rear end.