Carbon wheels from the well-regarded Race Face stable. How do they stack up on the trail?
The enduro-rated, 31mm internal-width rim, Race Face Next R wheels use a smoothly finished UD (uni-directional) carbon composite lay-up.
The rims are laced three-cross onto fat, high flange, hubs with 28 spokes at each end, with the taller hubs providing a wider ‘brace angle’ and therefore better triangulation in the wheel build. Spoke holes are also offset by 4.5mm to help balance tension between drive and rotor sides and, in theory, both features should make the Next R stiffer at equivalent spoke tensions than rivals.
The chubby oversized Vault hubs also provide room for oversized bearings that ought to be more durable in UK conditions, and use four stacked cartridge bearings in the rear for greater lateral stiffness. This rear also provides rapid, three-degree, 120-point freehub engagement via six pawls, each with a notch for ‘double time’ engagement.
This design leads to a total lack of hesitation delivering power, and helps the Race Face Next R wheels feel super snappy. They’re the lightest on test too, and while that doesn’t automatically guarantee speed on the trail, they do deliver on this front with a real sensation of pace and urgency. Like many other carbon wheels, we’ve seen rims that a damaged rim previously, but we had zero issues with our set despite repeatedly hitting rocks during testing, and Race Face’s reassuring warranty covers two years with no questions asked.
By being stiff, fast and responsive, the Next Rs behave more like a traditional carbon wheel. Pedal power translates to rapid forward motion and they hold speed exceptionally well on smoother surfaces and bike park-style trails. Hard pedallers will love the immediate reaction under power and lack of energy loss, but riders with a downhill bias might notice extra feedback from the ground, less comfort and a bit more nervousness.
The flipside of this pace is a tendency to hammer over, rather than deform to, choppy terrain, and, during back-to-back comparison, Race Face’s package felt stiffest on test and more unyielding on repeated, embedded, rocks. One way of describing this is a sense of the tyres having 5psi more pressure or a harder rubber compound, especially compared to the softer Zipp wheels at the opposite end of the tautness spectrum.
If you’re after a fast rolling and fast accelerating carbon wheelset that noticeably tightens up your bike, the Next Rs will be right up your street. They don’t hold such tight lines or track off-camber as well as Zipp or Crank Brothers’ wheels, but there’s a lot to be said for carbon wheels that actually feel like you’d expect, rather than riding indistinguishably from an aluminium wheelset at half the price.