MTB wheels, are they all the same? The answer is certainly no; over time, manufacturers have developed products that adapt to specific types of bicycles and different disciplines. How can you identify the ideal MTB wheels for XC biking? We asked Mauro Bertin, General Manager of the Cross-Country Team Torpado Ursus.
Mauro, when it comes to MTB wheels, we enter an overwhelmingly vast domain. What are the differences between the various types of wheels?
“The different disciplines have certainly influenced the development of the commercially-available MTB segments. There are front suspension (hardtail) bikes or full suspension bikes, in carbon or aluminium.
Every model has its peculiarities and is destined to a specific use. It goes without saying that wheels have also evolved, responding to the demands of cyclists with different riding styles. In general, the main feature that all the best MTB wheels must possess is reliability.
In fact, what all the disciplines have in common is that the bikes are used on dirt roads, where an irregular terrain can be a significant challenge to the wheel’s structural integrity. The first piece of advice I would give when you’re in the market for a pair of wheels is to always choose a product with proven resistance to the common usage for this wheel category.”
How should we choose the best wheels for XC biking, the discipline in which your team races?
“For XC, we race 80% of the time on full-suspension bikes and 20% on hardtail bikes with carbon frames which should be rigid enough to facilitate acceleration and light enough to give the rider the chance to maintain performance for an average racing time of 1 and a half hours.
The wheels, too, follow the same principles: an XC biker will surely seek out the lightweight quality of 29” full-carbon rims combined with a hub that is compatible with a braking system of disc and thru axle. Optimal hub smoothness is fundamental to gain advantage during races, as is good surface adherence.
This is why the best wheels have an internal width of 24 to 27 mm that can accommodate 2.25 tubeless tires. As I said, though, the main characteristic of a cross-country wheel is reliability: no rider wants to break a rim during a race, ruining the performance and undoing all the hard work of training and preparation.
We have found Ursus Kodiak to be a trustworthy companion: it isn’t the lightest wheel on the market, but it guarantees the right balance of resistance, rigidity and lightness.”
The best MTB wheels for XC biking according to a champion to the calibre of Mauro Bettin must have highly specific features, but it is not good to put one characteristic above all others.
The result would be the purchase of an ill-performing pair of wheels. So, of course go for the ultra-light carbon rims, but make sure that they can endure stress and that they are rigid enough to not slow you down when picking up speed, which is the true secret of the top performance at the Torpado Ursus team.
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