Tough alloy wheels prove reliable and ensure optimum tyre profiles front and rear, which is a benefit that trumps rivals
Crank Brothers Synthesis Enduro Alloy wheels target a vertically softer front, to better track the ground, and a rear that transfers rider power and inputs.
Crank Brothers Synthesis wheels treat each end of the bike differently, and focus on creating a more compliant front and stiffer rear wheel. It’s a system originally designed around carbon rims with specific widths and lay ups, but the US brand now offers more affordable packages built from good old alloy too.
Own brand hub versions are just under £500, while pricier, Industry Nine, 1/1 hubs with a faster (4º) engagement cost an extra £200. The sleeve-joined and welded alloy rims are also sold alone for £100 and weigh around 560g each.
The alloy Syntheis uses a broader front rim to square off the tyre and give a more planted feel and extra transverse (lateral) grip at aggressive lean angles. The rear is narrower, to encourage faster rolling from a more rounded tyre profile and sharpen directional changes when steering the bike with feet.
Built three-cross with easy-to-find J-bend spokes, the front uses fewer (28) Sapim D-Light spokes to increase absorption and hand comfort and the rear 32 Sapim Race spokes to boost energy transfer and momentum. Crank Brothers’ three-pawl hubs have a relatively slow (17º) engagement, which might be a consideration for those after a snappier feel up technical climbs, but used extensively they haven’t missed a beat in terms of reliability.
Synthesis’s end-specific goals make perfect sense, and the carbon versions won out recent wheel test, but how does performance translate for a fraction of the price? To find out, I rode these solo and then back-to-back with their carbon counterparts (the Crank Brothers Synthesis E wheelset) to see what an extra grand and 140g less weight feels like on the trails.
Compared to alloy wheels in the same price bracket, ride feel is comparably tight and solid as the best in class, and I’ve not dented or dinged the rims. There’s definitely less zip and urgency accelerating compared to the pricier carbon version though, but that’s expected considering these aren’t particularly lightweight.
In terms of compliance and ride feel – after all, that’s the Synthesis US – the alloy wheels don’t pack the same punch as top-tier versions. There’s little of the marked increase in grip and tracking at the front tyre that’s immediately noticeable on the carbon packages, so they’re more hectic and less planted and dull on the same trails with the same tyres at the same pressures. This isn’t to say they don’t stack up compared to other quality alloy wheels, or are overly harsh and transmit excessive vibration though.
The Crank Brothers Synthesis Enduro Alloy wheels are not as comfy or as fast as a the more expensive versions using the same concept (who’d have guessed?), or noticeably better damped than other decent alloy wheels available (that can also be considerably lighter for the same cash). This means you do have to splash out to get the most from Crank Brothers’s concept, but these tough alloy Synthesis wheels proved reliable and ensure optimum inflated tyre profiles front and rear, which is a benefit that trumps other alloy rivals on its own.