As part of my ongoing ‘Project SYD’ I’m putting a plus sized test mule together to try out a few things. The Sonder Transmitter I bought (see here for full review) is excellent value but does suffer from some rather chunky wheels.
Hence my call to friend-of-the-blog, and long term titanium hardtail fan, Olivier. He’s just setup his own bespoke (see what I did there?) wheel building business, Les roues d’Olive, combining top of the line hubs with carefully sourced Chinese carbon rims. Each build is specifically tailored to your needs and meticulously hand crafted.
With the stock rims clocking in at 700 grams a piece I knew that I should be able to save a huge chunk of weight by switching to carbon rims. As my current setup uses a 3″ front tyre with a 2.8″ back tyre Olivier made the suggestion of going for a slightly narrower rim at the back.
A 40mm (internal) width rim at the front keeps the 3″ tyre as plump as possible, while a 35mm rear rim gives the back tyre a more rounded profile for better cushioning and to help prevent rock strike damage. The rims are also asymmetric, the spoke holes are off centre slightly which eliminates the need to ‘dish’ the wheel, the same length spokes can be used on each side! This means tension can be even and should keep the wheel truer for longer.
The rim design also has re-enforced spoke holes with material taken away from the areas in between. It’s one way of keeping the weight down on a big rim without compromising strength, I quite like the look but other options are available if you’re not so keen.
Hubs were a no-brainer, they have to be Hope! Apart from the fact they’re made in the UK they’re also super easy to work with. Need an adaptor to run a new axle setup or a spare part for a five year old model? No problem!
Spokes were double butted Sapim’s matched to plain black brass nipples – aluminium might save a little weight but can end up binding to the spoke making future truing tricky.
Straight out of the box first impressions were good. The wheels were very straight with tight and evenly tensioned spokes. The rims came taped and valved, ready to run tubeless.
One thing that surprised me about the rims is the edges were straight, without a bead hook. This is quite common with carbon rims where ‘cutting’ a hook into the side of the rim can weaken it badly. I was slightly nervous not having had a hookless rim before but knew that Olivier would have known what he was doing…
Naturally I popped them on the scales – 1872 grams for the bare wheels without disks or cassette, a fine result!
Tubeless setup was easy, although given how tight the tyres were on the original rims (thumb breakingly!) I was surprised that they flew onto the RDO wheels. The front in particular went on easily by hand without a tyre lever, could this mean they wouldn’t sit securely and be too easy to burp? Only a good hard rocky thrashing would give us the answer!
I took them to Dartmoor for a weekend of some of the finest natural trails that the UK has to offer including the infamous ‘Nutcrackers’ and ‘Widow Maker’ descents…
The good news is they coped very well! I ran my usual 12psi front, 14psi rear pressures and found everything worked perfectly (after the usual riding in period that a tubeless setup needs to completely seal the insides). The wheels went round and the tyres stayed on the rim. I also didn’t notice any issues with rock strikes as I had a few weeks before on the stock aluminium rims. Either I was luckier or the carbon rims just shrug the dings off!
The wheels have stayed perfectly true and the whole bike feels lighter when you pick it up! This isn’t at the expense of accuracy though, steering is as direct as ever and they feel just as comfortable as before. I’m just waiting for the ‘e-bike’ effect of the lighter wheels to kick in going uphill but no joy yet 😉
Overall, I’m very impressed, I think you can feel the attention to detail that’s gone into both the parts choice and the build. If I was having them made again I might have gone for 35mm rims front and back, just to offer a little more protection against rock strikes at the front and to allow the use of thinner tyres all round if I felt like it.
If you’re in the market for a pair of bespoke wheels get in touch with Oliver and see what he can do for you. The wheels he built me would have been around 1400 Swiss Francs (€1290), which is competitive especially when you consider the care that’s gone into them. Don’t forget that as Olivier’s in Switzerland you need to think about appropriate postage and customs duties if you’re having them delivered to another country.
For more info check out:
Where next for Project ‘SYD’? Perhaps we’re ready for a new frame now, stay tuned for more news…