The mountain bike world has seen an exponential growth in the sector of high end boutique wheelsets. What was once the domain of Shimano and Mavic has now been invaded by several companies offering factory built wheelsets catering to the various disciplines of mountain biking. And one of the niche markets has always been the pursuit of weight, or rather the lack of it. Weight loss in wheelsets is particularly significant, as each gram loss on a rotating weight equated roughly to six times that in static weight. In this arena, the industry 9 ultralite wheelset is one of the lightest factory wheelsets out there.
Industry 9 wheelsets are 100% made in Asheville, NC with the exception of rims and bearings. They are able to use any 32 hole rim to the customer’s specifications, but they normally use Stans and DT-swiss. The bearings are high quality ABEC 5 grade from Japan.
At first glance the wheelset does not look to be of much difference to a hand build wheelset, since industry 9 uses Stans ZTR 355 rims. However, a closer inspection reveals several unique aspects in terms of the engagement pawls system and straight pull aluminum spokes.
Firstly, everyone is talking about the engagement drive mechanism. Ever since Chris King launched a 72 engagement drive mechanism in their hub, other companies have been introducing hubs with more engagement points. While more points offers faster engagement from a standstill, the trade off has always been more drag. So it is up to the consumers to decide for themselves whether it is an advantage or not. Industry 9 uses a unique system to achieve the highest ever 120 engagement points system. The drive ring itself has only 60 engagement points, but 6 staggered pawls are arranged so that 3 pawls will engage the drive ring with the other 3 pawls 50 percent out of phase.
Secondly, the hub uses aluminum straight pull spokes with the spoke threaded directly into the hub, eliminating the need for spoke nipples. The spokes are also laced in a 2 cross pattern, reducing the length needed for each spoke to reach the rim. Lastly, the use of aluminum in the spoke material shaves off further weight.
Lastly, the wheelset uses one of the lightest rims on the market, the Stans ZTR 355 rim. This rim can also be converted to run the Stans No-tubes system, exchanging the heavy inner tubes for a couple scoops of sealant and special rim tapes. Strangely it doesn’t use the Stans ZTR Olympic which can probably save another 40-50grams, but even then this wheelset is only 1410grams without skewers. Compare this with the 1500grams plus wheelsets of the Shimano XTR and Mavic SLRs, and you begin to realize how amazingly light this wheelset really is.
The Stans rims came with the tubeless conversion tape and valves, but I did not run tubeless for this review. Simply holding the wheelset in my hands is a scary feeling as my personal wheelset is almost a full pound heavier. Will something this light actually hold up to XC abuse, or is it meant only for the riders with weight and riding style limits?
On the roads, the lack of weight on the wheels helped improve acceleration and maintain velocity, especially on the uphills. I found that I can wind the bike up to speed with noticeably less effort and maintain it. In locals and overseas off roads, the wheels are far stiffer than their 2 cross aluminum spokes and sub-400 grams rim would suggest. Accelerating out of slow corners and hard acceleration from snail speeds uphills takes less effort to achieve, though the difference is not as big as I thought. Cornering hard does not induce any significant amount of flex, instilling much confidence. However, these are still ultralight XC wheelsets, so if your rides includes lots of drops and jumps, maybe the all-mountain or enduro versions would be better suited.
Coming from a 24 engagement point hub, I did not find the much hyped 120 engagement to be be of much advantage except for starting situations in technical uphill sections. The engagement system created a buzzing sound which is far more metallic and high pitched than Chris Kings, much akin to the sound of tearing linoleum.
So the question on everyone minds would be, is this wheelset worth the money? To the weight weenies whose quest is to eradicate every unnecessary gram possible from their bikes, this wheelset is an easy choice. Cross country racer types who seek performance enhancing products at any cost can also consider this wheelset as it is as stiff as the competitors products but with less weight. Riders who seek performance bling will also be attracted to this wheelset as Industry 9 offers the hubs/ spokes in a gamut of colours, in any combination the customer desires.