SRAM's XC wheels put through their paces
There are three categories in SRAM’s wheel range — Rise, Roam and Rail — aimed at, in order, XC, trail and all-mountain applications. However, there is a bit of crossover between the groups, and the cross-country specific Rise wheels are more than capable of being ridden on a trail bike. Which is exactly what I’ve been doing for the last nine months.
Like the Roval Control Carbon wheelset we’ve tested previously, the Rise 60 uses a hookless carbon rim. Eliminating the bead hook saves weight and, according to SRAM, also makes the rim more resistant to dings and impacts due to the walls being a constant thickness. It’s also cheaper and simpler to manufacture.
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At 405g for a carbon rim, it isn’t that light, especially considering it lacks a hook, but the 21mm internal width is about right for XC use, and it’s fully tubeless compatible.
Out of the box the hubs are configured for quick-release dropouts, but you can convert them to thru-axle front and rear simply by swapping a couple of the included spacers. The rear hub is fitted with a XD driver body for 11-speed use, and there’s also an optional 10-speed body.
Both feature SRAM’s Double Time hub and pawl geometry, which means four-pawls interface with a 26-tooth ratchet ring resulting in just under 7° of engagement. This is a pretty standard pick-up, and certainly on par with Shimano.
SRAM builds the wheels with 24 Sapim spokes using its Solo Spoke concept. This means one spoke length is used throughout the entire wheel system, making it easy to source replacements. These bladed spokes add lateral stiffness, and are slightly more aero than round spokes, but you will need to hold the flat section in place while truing them.
That said, it’s not something I’ve had to do, because after nine months of hammering I’ve had zero issues with loss of tension. The hub bearings are also as smooth as the day they arrived, but sadly I can’t say the same about the cassette body.
The outer freehub bearing seized solid during testing, and actually became frozen to the end cap, so that when I removed the cassette it pulled right off the hub. It can be replaced easily enough, but there’s very little sealing in this area, so it may become a job you’ll need to do regularly.
To make a fair comparison, I’ve back-to-back tested the Rise 60s against Shimano’s latest XTR wheelset. The XTR hoops are about £900 and weigh 1,684g — 182g heavier but £700 cheaper than the Rise 60s.
The weight difference is not to be sniffed at, and nor is the price, but the biggest difference is actually in how both wheels felt on the trail. The Rise 60s had a soft, forgiving ride, but weren’t as lively or responsive as the XTR wheels, which accelerated quicker and carried speed better.
The SRAM build quality is just as good as Shimano’s, and the carbon rim can easily cope with some hard impacts, but unfortunately the sealing in the cassette body is a bit of a weak point, and there are faster rolling wheels that are just as light, for a lot less money.