Industry Nine Wheels: Backcountry 450 Review

So what does a high-end handbuilt wheelset really do for you? And why should ‘internal rim width’ not be taken lightly? We tested a set of Shaq-spun, ultra-wide Industry Nine Backcountry 450 wheels for over nine months to find out. Learn more in this long-term review…

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Whether building a rig for long bikepacking trips, weekend adventures, or afternoon singletrack exploits, a quality handbuilt wheelset is considered one of, if not the most, worthy of upgrades. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the costliest. But shouldn’t wheels take priority given the perpetual and rather profound nature of their duties? While mulling that over, there are a few things to consider.

Industry Nine Wheels Review

Owning a super fancy wheelset is a new thing for me. I’ve had good, medium-grade wheels that were handspun by reputable builders; in turn, I’ve never lost a spoke or had to retension a wheel. The benefit of having a skilled individual — instead of a factory or machine — lace your wheels may be unclear to some, but it is very real. For starters there is a high level of quality assurance that happens when a wheel is being built by a single person. Every part and step is under scrutiny. There are also mechanical advantages to handbuilt wheels. If a spoke should come lose or break it can be replaced and trued easily. Have you ever tried to remove a spoke from a machine built wheel? Not as easy of a task as one might think. Also, stock wheels might look OK to the untrained eye, but they are often very poor quality wheelsets comprised of low-budget components. Alternatively, going the custom route allows you to handpick good components to suit how and where you ride. A well thought out, high-end wheelset has the potential to save rotational weight, add stiffness and responsiveness, increase tire performance and traction, quicken the speed of pedal engagement, allow for quick and easy service, and ensure that you keep rolling. Industry Nine wheels have made it to the shortlist of many a rider’s dream wheelsets, because they promise to tick a lot of those boxes. I9 offers a slew of custom wheels in various hub standards, configurations, diameters, and rim widths, all made onsite in their Asheville, NC facility.

Since September I’ve had the opportunity to test a pair of their 27.5” alloy Backcountry 450 rims laced to Torch Hubs with I9’s signature aluminum spokes in anodized lime green and red. There’s no denying their good looks, but do they live up to their reputation?

Industry Nine Wheels, Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset

  • Industry Nine Backcountry 450 Review, Torch Hub
  • Industry Nine Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset

It’s all in the width

Industry Nine released the wide Backcountry (BC) rims a little over a year ago. Given that plus — and now “wide trail” — tires are popular amongst bikepackers for their added floatation, forgiving volume, and sure-footed traction, it makes sense that I9 named this series with a nod to adventure. Backcountry rims are available in two widths, the BC 360 and BC 450 — each named after its internal rim width. The narrower rim, the Backcountry 360 has a 36mm inner width that’s suitable for 2.4-3.0” tires. The wider Backcountry 450 has a 45mm inner width and is designed for 2.8-3.8” tires. Both of the Backcountry rims are available for 27.5 and 29 inch configurations — the 450 weighs 600g and 640g respectively. The design of the Backcountry rims utilizes a narrow center channel and a wider bead shelf. As expected, tubeless set up with a floor pump was no problem.

In the grand scheme of things I9 nailed it with these two width options. Each yields advantages for tire sizes that are gaining momentum in the marketplace. The 360 is ideal for tires that tend toward the ‘wide trail’ category and are absolutely perfect for the newer 2.6” tire width. The 450 is at the wider end of the spectrum — a sweetspot for 3” tires. I tested the Backcountry 450s with both 3” WTB Bridger and Ranger tires and found the 45mm inner width is ideal for keeping the tire profile stable and locked in place. Granted, it might be interesting to see a 410 nestled between the 360 and 450, which would be perfect for 2.8” tires. With the growing number of tire size options, variety is a good thing; but pinpointing a perfect match is key.

Industry Nine Wheels, Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset

Photo by TJ Kearns

Why is width so important?

When plus tire bikes originated (circa 2013/the advent of the Surly Krampus) there was essentially one rim to consider aside from Rabbit Holes — the Velocity P35. The idea being that 35mm was kind of a one size fits all that could accommodate standard 29er tires as well as 3” meats. But the internal width of the P35 was more like 30mm. It took a lot of internet arguments before folks were convinced that this is simply too narrow to get the most out of true 3” plus tires. In cutaway profile they would look like a basketball wearing a tiny beanie when mounted to Knards. To compensate and perfect the performance of bigger tires, rims became wider, and that trend trickled down beyond plus tire applications — 30mm is now widely accepted for 2.2-2.4” tires. So why is wider better? There are a lot of reasons, but in a nutshell, a wider rim provides a fuller tire profile which opens up the tire’s capabilities. This isn’t simply because a wider rim spreads out the tread to create a larger contact surface, although that’s part of it. An alternative explanation is that a wide rim creates a more vertical sidewall profile which increases lateral support, creating firmer tire contact. For bigger tires, this enables lower air pressures without the risk of burping air or having them squish and squirm when cornering. The lower tire pressure capability offers its own set of benefits, including maximizing the tread contact area, resulting in better traction and increased braking control. Some claim that running lower pressures on varied terrain actually reduces rolling resistance. All in all, matching a tire size to the perfect rim width ensures solid footing and better traction. Because of all of these benefits, rims are trending wider in every discipline, from enduro to gravel cycling.

However, some folks might argue that going too wide might make rims more susceptible to damage. Technically there is a longer perpendicular measurement from the spoke holes to the bead, making it easier to rim strike and weaker against impacts. While I haven’t had this issue, fellow site contributor Skyler Des Roches mentioned that he opts for a 40mm internal rim width with 3″ tires and feels the trade off is worth it to avoid rim strike damage. In addition, moving to a 40mm rim (vs 45) shaves off about ~60 grams, for what it’s worth. Personally, I am quite happy with the 45mm inner width and would only go to a 40mm IW rim if I were dead set on 2.8″ tires.

To summarize, sticking between 35-45mm internal rim widths allows riders to reap the most benefits out of any tire size between 2.5” and 3.25”. Even when considering 2.2-2.5” tires on a regular 29er or 27.5″ bike, simply going to a 30-35mm internal rim width will enhance ride quality and provide a lot of the benefits inherent in plus sized tires. You just need to be mindful of frame clearances and the increased tire width that results from a larger inner rim width.

  • Industry Nine Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset
  • Industry Nine Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset

Rainbow Bright and an Extra Gear

Industry Nine wheels are nothing short of iconic, especially around western North Carolina. You can spot a pair of I9s from a couple hundred yards away. Their signature is the thick, aluminum spokes anodized in one of a dozen different colors, or a mesmerizing combination thereof. It’s not all about the look though. Industry Nine spokes are 20-25% thicker than traditional steel spokes and each weighs less than a 14-gauge steel spoke, but, according to I9, has roughly the same tensile strength. Each one is a solid piece of 7075-T6 aluminum, machined, threaded, and laser engraved in the Asheville facility. I9 also claims their straight gauge spokes are stronger than traditional j-bend steel spokes, because they’ve eliminated the two main points of failure, the middle of the bend and where the metal diameter is reduced at the first thread on the nipple end. By eliminating the bend altogether, the spoke is instantly less prone to fatigue stress failure. Plus, and this I quote directly from Industry Nine, ”…the root diameter of the Industry Nine one-piece spoke thread is actually larger than the diameter of the shaft of the spoke. Other spokes fail at the first thread because the root diameter [the bottom of the thread’s “V”] is actually the smallest diameter of the spoke, just where slight relative motion of the nipple apply additional bending forces.” It’s an earful, but they are the engineers. Either way, after countless trail rides and a handful of overnight and weekend bikepacking excursions, I haven’t lost a single spoke, and these wheels are as true as the day I got them.

  • Industry Nine Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset
  • Industry Nine Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset

Before riding these wheels a local mechanic and I were chatting about them. He said “They’re unreal; it’ll feel like you added another gear to your bike.” I was particularly attuned to that claim once pointed them down the trail. Considering they were mounted on a full-squish Salsa Pony Rustler shod with 3.0” tires I thought it might be tricky to discern the stiffness and responsiveness that many people attribute to I9s. However, I can easily say that these are, by far, the most solid feeling wheels I’ve ever ridden. There was a noticeable difference in the bike’s handling and stiffness. It felt snappier in and out of corners and was easier to pick through lines with more precision, even on plus tires. The added rigidity led to me to be more particular with the tire pressure and suspension tuning to get the desired feel.

I might add that the 450s look pretty sweet too. I picked 30 “LimeGreen” spokes and two red ones for each wheel. That’s pretty tame as far as the options go, but for me that was even a little crazy. I usually lean toward the minimalistic and choose black — like my soul — or gray — like my hair. Since getting these wheels, all others with traditional skinny black spokes just seem bland… maybe I’m a changed man.

Industry Nine Wheels, Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset

The sound of engagement

And if you can’t see Industry Nine wheels coming, you can definitely hear them. Usually that means somebody’s coasting on your rear wheel waiting to pass. That precise, tactical buzz is unique to the Torch hub freewheel and is part of what makes Industry Nine hubs some of the best and most sought after in the industry. In a nutshell, that infamous bzzzz is owed to Industry Nine’s unique 6-pawl design with 120 points of engagement. As the hub turns the pawls are phased so only three are touching the hardened steel drive ring at any given time. This results in nearly instant engagement; three degrees at the crank (most hubs are six). This may not be important to those who are puttering along dirt roads, but if any technical rocky terrain is in the mix, having a responsive, ratcheting hub allows immediate reaction to transitions requiring maneuvers. Many riders are drawn to plus bikes for their superior traction, and a rapid engagement freehub can make the most of that traction on technical climbs. This has made a huge difference to me on the Pony Rustler, given it’s low bottom bracket. Churning through ruts, roots, and rocks takes patience and finesse when timing pedal strokes. The lack of delay and quick feedback at the pedal has allowed me to better adjust and react in such situations.

  • Industry Nine Components, Pawl
  • Industry Nine Components, Pawl
  • Industry Nine Pawls

The sound of the Industry Nine freehub may turn some people off. Personally, I like it and don’t really notice it that much when out on the trail. It’s crisp, mechanical, and really not that loud. It is, however, loud enough to serve a purpose… warning fellow riders and hikers alike when zipping down hill on a crowded trail. Back in the fall, my wife was sent to the hospital after a head-on collision with another rider; perhaps the extra sound of the I9 wheels she’s now riding would have prevented that accident from happening.

Some folks claim to have quieted their I9 freehub by packing it with grease — although this isn’t recommended by I9 — instead of the standard Dumonde freehub oil. You can also remove three of the pawls to make a traditional 6° engagement hub, but I have no idea why anyone would choose to go that route.

Industry Nine Wheels, Backcountry 450 Review, Torch Hub

What’s Industry Nine Torch?

Industry Nine hubs have been around since 2005, but were revamped and released as the “Torch” platform in January of 2013. The main change between the “legacy” rear hub and the Torch version is the driveside bearing layout. The former design used a large driveside hub shell bearing that ran on the freehub whereas the Torch rear hub has a smaller bearing that runs on the axle. This reduced drag, and weight by about 80 grams. The other big change was to a universal axle system with swappable endcaps to accommodate the four common specs at the time (QR, 10×135, 12×135, 12×142). The Torch hubs also saw new pawl and seal design for reduced freehub drag as well as improved hub sealing for longevity. Torch hubs are now available in an dizzying array of sizes. Rear axles come in QR 135mm, 10x135mm, 12x135mm, 12x142mm, Boost 12x148mm, 12x150mm, or Super Boost 12x157mm. With the Torch release, front hubs got a universal axle system allowing for QR 100mm, 9x100mm, 15x100mm, Boost 15x110mm, Boost 20x110mm, or 15x110mm RockShox… all on one light weight hub with just the swap of the endcaps. Both front and rear hubs are available in 28 or 32-hole and in a choice of 12 anodized colors. They also come in either a 6-bolt disc or center-lock format.

Industry Nine Wheels, Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset

Lifespan and Jay Petervary

I’m not exactly sure how many miles this wheelset has on it at this point, nor am I too concerned. They aren’t showing any signs of wear. I will likely oil the freehub soon though. According to I9 there’s no official projected lifespan on hubs as there are way too many variables. Bearings should be checked every 6-12 months. Driverings and pawls will generally last the lifespan of the wheel assuming reasonable service intervals. Industry Nine recommends the freehub should be removed, cleaned, and re-lubed every six months.

The Torch MTB hubs use 61804, 61803, and 61903 bearings, all of which are very common bike industry bearings (see exploded diagram). Average lifespan for bearings is in the 1-2 year range depending on frequency of use and conditions. The most common one to wear out is the 61803 at the freehub. It’s about the size of a stack of three quarters, so, should one be inclined to do so, carrying a spare is easy. As I mentioned, I’ve had no problems after a lot of hard use. For added validation, Jay Petervary just finished up his 2,732 mile 2017 Tour Divide on a pair of Industry Nine wheels (Industry Nine Ultra carbon rims with Torch/I9 aluminum spoke combo on the rear and a SON Dynamo on the front). To quote Jay directly from an Instagram message two days ago from somewhere near Pie Town, “Love the I9s… beating the shit out of them. No problems.” I am fairly sure that’s more miles than I have on mine, so I’m feeling pretty confident.

Speaking of service, another major plus of the Torch hubs is their tool-free serviceability. Accessing the internals is fairly simple and makes it easy to do your own oil lube, endcap swaps, or access spokes, should ht need arise. Here’s a detailed video from I9 showing how it’s done.

  • Industry Nine Components, Shaq, wheel builder
  • Industry Nine Components, Shaq, wheel builder
  • Industry Nine Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset

Industry Nine Wheels, Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset

Like all of Industry Nine’s wheels, this particular wheelset was built with hubs and spokes machined and assembled in house, and rims made in China. It was laced by Ricky “Shaq” Muehl, a I9 wheel building veteran of about eight years. Ricky is one of six dedicated wheel builders at I9. The Backcountry 450 wheelset was provided for review by I9 and retails as shown for $1370 with the “Plus” color option (your selection of red, black, and silver, plus one color from the premium pallette). However, the same wheelset starts at $1275 if you stick with all black. Or, if you want to choose any combination of colors, the “Premium” option is $1540. The weight of the Backcountry 450s with valves and rim tape is about 925g for the front wheel and 1,095g for the rear, for a total of 2,020 grams (4.45 pounds).

  • Industry Nine Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset
  • Industry Nine Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset

Pros

  • Unique and customizable wheel builds with infinite color options.
  • The Backcountry rims come in two perfect widths ideal for two popular tire sizes: 450 for 3.0” tires and 360 for 2.6”.
  • Stiff wheel and extremely fast engagement hub offers excellent ratcheting capabilities for technical riding.
  • Handbuilt by individuals, which offers a high level of quality assurance, and other benefits.
  • Hubs and spokes are made in the USA.
  • The latest Torch hubs are considered extremely reliable. Plus the press fit design offers easy, tool-free serviceability.
  • Narrow channel design makes tubeless setup easy.

Cons

  • They are louder than most other hubs. I am playing devil’s advocate though… to me this isn’t a con.
  • Spokes are proprietary, which may not be considered ideal for long international trips. I9 does include spare spokes to carry should you set out on a big trip.
  • Expensive for an alloy wheelset. But, considering that the hubs are some of the best in class (and made in the USA), you get what you pay for.
  • The rims are made in China due to the machinery and expertise required. Should you want USA made rims to lace with I9 spokes and hubs, that’s possible too. Enve and Velocity both make rims in the US.
  • Model tested Industry Nine Wheels, Backcountry 450, 27.5 BOOST
  • Price, as tested $1370
  • Weight (front) 925g (2.00 pounds)
  • Weight (rear) 1095g (2.41 pounds)
  • Weight (total) 2,020 grams (4.45 pounds)
  • Contact IndustryNine.com

Industry Nine Wheels Review

Wrap Up

There isn’t much not to like about Industry Nine wheels. Some folks might take issue with their unique sound, and they aren’t cheap. But there is a lot to be said for the fact that the hubs and spokes are made in-house in Asheville, NC, and each wheelset is handbuilt by one of six people who are damn good at building wheels. In addition, switching to Industry Nine Torch hubs has been an enlightening experience as to how a hub should be; fast, light, easy to service, and nice to look at too. I’m also happy with the BC450 rims. They proved easy to set up and feature a tall, angled rim profile likely adds leverage to help stiffen and strengthen the wheel.

In my opinion, a wheelset upgrade is one of the best investments you can make when it comes to ride performance. Industry Nine’s combination of a 3° engagement hub, aluminum spokes, superior in-house builds, and quality rims makes Industry Nine wheels some of the stiffest, quickest, and most reliable on the market. And, if you are in to wide tires, the Backcountry 450 is the the perfect width for 3” tires. I’m sold.

To find out how these wheels were made, and more about the company, make sure to check out our Industry Nine site visit article (from September 2016; published January 2017).

  • jordan_vondy

    Great Review. I would also love to see a review of the best affordable wheelset upgrade. Maybe under $600-$800?

  • Yeah, that’s a tough one. We did just build a set of 29er wheels for an upcoming trip that’s worth about that with turquoise Industry Nine Torch hubs (I9 also makes their hubs with normal flanges for j-bend spokes) and WTB ASYM i35 rims. While the total package may not be as nice as these, they are handbuilt and should be solid. Asyms are pretty nice too. I’ll report back.

  • fauxpho

    I can’t fathom why someone shopping for bikepacking wheels would spend $1400 on a set of i9 wheels.
    Hell, I don’t understand why “normal” MTB/trail riders do it, other than for bling and status. The pros of aluminum spokes are so obviously outweighed by the cons, especially in a travelling/bikepacking use case, that imho it shouldn’t even be a debate.
    I disagree re: “that’s a tough one” to find an excellent $600-800 wheelset. The first step is to not spend $575 of the budget on turquoise i9 Torch hubs. DT 350 hubs are arguably more reliable than i9, are available in as many configurations (6-bolt/centerlock, Jbend/straightpull, boost/etc), and cost less than half as much. But no turquoise, just black, so one’s vanity isn’t served, just mechanical functionality.
    As an example that directly corresponds to the set on review here, a DT 350 + DT XM551 (or Easton/RF Arc 40 or 45) + 2/1.8/2 steel spokes can be built for as little as $400-600 depending on where you shop and if you lace your own. My 350/XM551 boost set is 20g heavier than the i9 on review. Or DT350 + Chinese carbon for $600-800 at 200g lighter than the i9 set and worlds stronger. Add $75 for a 36T or 54T ratchet if you have a POE fetish.
    Perhaps “you get what you pay for” but realistically much of what you are paying for is pretty annodizing, unconventional (but arguably functionally inferior) components and status.

  • In terms of ‘bikepacking wheels’, I’ve seen a lot of folks running similar builds in races such as the TD (see JP reference up there). If I had my choice for a wheelset in a race/ride such as the ATR or TD, it would likely be similar to his. Of course, choice is the keyword; that is beyond my budget. In terms of the statement, “that’s a tough one”, it is tough considering what I’d trust for a big trip in that price range. But yes, the I9 hubs would be part of it and that does govern the price range. I wore out a front DT 350 in less than 1000 miles, FYI, so it wouldn’t be a candidate for me. Therefore the I9/ASYM pick stands as my answer to Jordans comment…

  • I have taken my i9 Endoro wheels to backcountry all over the world. If I rode plus, this would be my first choice.

  • Smithhammer

    Currently running I9 Torch hubs on my Hayduke. They are definitely worth every penny. And I love hearing them sing!!

  • Around here that call it “The Voice of Pisgah”. What rims?

  • Smithhammer

    I’m running them on Scraper i40s, with a DHF and HRII in the rear. They crush it.
    http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800x600q90/923/NR7lRJ.jpg

  • Nice. I’ve wanted to try a DHF. That and the HRII seem like a winning combo.

  • Smithhammer

    It’s a phenomenal combo. For trail riding, I don’t want to run anything else anymore.

  • JScriv

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/325d584e6b3f452950cc38662be0e24b08efcb5bec0358cb90881a0f70a9710d.jpg

    My first and really only choice. Much good. So plus. Because Gold. Bikepacking, commuting, gravel racing, and trail shreddery.

  • Andrew Wade

    3.0″ on both front and rear?

  • jordan_vondy

    Awesome. Can’t wait to hear about them.

  • Smithhammer

    Jeez – no one is saying you “have” to buy these wheels in order to go bikepacking. From what I’ve seen over the years, this site highlights a spectrum of gear, from basic to high-end and even a number of DIY hacks. Basic bikes and custom ti bikes. Inexpensive tarps and spendy expedition tents. Does that bother you, for some reason? And while a DT350 is a decent hub, I would not put it on par with an I9, fancy anodizing or not. Just sayin.’

  • Smithhammer

    2.8s front and rear. For most of my summer riding, I feel like that’s plenty big, particularly given how much chunkier these tires are than most 2.8″ offerings. I’ve ridden a number of different plus tires and these have blown me away, and transformed the capabilities of the bike, like no other.

  • In my experience, the rear hub is one of the components most worthy of your cash on a bike intended for backcountry riding. I’d honestly sooner worry about a rear hub spec than frame material. POE really matters on raw backcountry trails, on a loaded bike. This is a key ingredient to avoiding pedal strikes on trails where they’re hard to avoid.

    If I had $800 to spend on wheels, putting $400 of that into the rear hub seems pretty smart to me. There are good alu rims for cheap, as you said, and quality straight gauge spokes are like $1 each. And…front hubs are simple and boring.

    So, even if you don’t like the wheelset, it would be unfair to call i9 Torch hubs a rip off. They’re excellent and if you want even close to comparable hub engagement, they look like pretty good value.

  • Jered Bogli

    $600-$800 will build you a great custom wheelset for bikepacking. Lots of wide rim options, all the hub options – mix and match to suit your needs, bling out back, SP dynamo up front maybe? Spokes selected to match how you ride and your needs. Dollar for dollar there is not reason not to build a custom set of wheels. With custom you can build to suit your needs and riding style, dial in the durability to weight ratio perfectly for your riding style, weight and budget!

  • fauxpho

    “In my experience, the rear hub is one of the components most worthy of your cash on a bike intended for backcountry riding. I’d honestly sooner worry about a rear hub spec than frame material.”
    I totally agree; rear hub reliability is one of my primary concerns on a touring or backcountry bike. Having directly witnessed among me and two riding partners the failure of 7 Shimano freehubs, 2 Eastons, several Formula/generic hubs, and one i9 (cracks in driveside flange) I literally fear rear hub failure. I was averaging 2 per year. But since moving to DT 350 6 years ago, I haven’t had even a hint of a problem over >20,000 miles Anecdotal evidence, not statistics, but worth consideration.
    I’m not categorically dismissing i9’s, and I certainly never called them a ripoff. The cracked flange and cracked rotor tabs issues they had with earlier Torch’s seem to have been resolved. And of course we can find chipped 36T ratchets on earlier and/or un-maintained DT’s, too. But all else being equal, a forged hub body (DT 350 among them) will always be stronger than a machined hub (i9 among them).
    My main beef with the specific i9 wheelset on review is the risk presented by heading into committing environments with ALUMINUM SPOKES. I’m not a fan of proprietary $7 spokes in general, but aluminum in particular is a questionable choice for remote travel. The few benefits (a bit more lateral stiffness) outweighed, in my mind, by dramatically less elasticity (= less radial load support before tension zeros), inability to interlace (= more potential for loosening), substantially more difficulty in truing/repair if necessary (the spoke is literally a 12″ long screw), etc.
    In brief: why spend $1400+ if it introduces an additional risk factor (aluminum spokes) to one’s trip? i9’s admirable attention to detail helps bound this risk, but the inherent advantages of steel spokes remain. And of course folks like Pertevary will ride such wheels when they are (a) setting course records, and (b) presumably not paying for them. But its hard to make the argument for the other 99% of us.
    My second beef is the suggestion that reliable backpacking wheels are difficult to find below $600-800. I think that’s unfair to some quality, modestly-priced components.
    As for Torch Classic’s w/ standard spokes, no argument, good product, enjoy your POE, some people love that, and though I’ve killed enough pawls to habitually avoid them, i9 seems to have the most robust pawl design I’ve seen.
    /endrant

  • Solid rant! ✊ I’m not entirely sure if I trust the 54t star ratchet more than good pawl hubs, but DT star ratchets are so easy to swap out (with no tools) that the point is probably moot. I’d strongly consider Torch hubs and j-bend spokes, but I totally hear you when it comes to “system wheels”.

  • fauxpho

    Agree on the 54Ts. I keep my original 18Ts in the repair kit, though have never needed them. Lets make a peace deal: I’ll give some i9’s a try (steel spokes only!) if Logan will forgive his 350 front bearing fail and try 350’s again. :)
    Mostly I don’t want readers to think that an $800 wheel budget is necessary to feel like they are taking a bulletproof steed into an epic journey. That is all.

  • All solid points of discussion. We have I9 Torch hubs on all our bikes now. On my 29er I have J-bend spokes with I9s and on Gin’s old Deadwood she has the Turquoise I9s and J-Bends. That said, it’s pretty unlikely we’ll be trying any more hubs for a long while :)

  • 7stud

    >This results in nearly instant engagement; three degrees at the crank (most hubs are six).<

    Most hubs have 6 degrees of engagement?? 6 degrees is 60 points of engagement (POE):

    360 / 6 = 60 POE

    Hadleys and Kings(?) have 72 POE, which is every 5 degrees. Hope Pro 2's have 24 POE, which is every 15 degrees, and the new Hope Pro 4's have 44 POE, which is every 8.2 degrees. I think Shimano XT just *increased* to 36 POE, which is every 10 degrees.

    Rather, you have to pay up to get 5 degrees or higher. I sure wouldn't buy Hadleys if I was only getting one more degree than "most hubs". I like high engagement hubs for climbing technical single track. Like another poster, I don't know why you would need expensive, high engagement hubs for loaded touring. I would think Shimano SLX/XT hubs would be the go to hub for loaded touring.

  • akindo

    Firstly I want to say thanks to Logan and all contributing writers and commenters for a great site with so much useful information and lovely photos.

    Nice review. Have one comment however. I’ve been researching rim width for my first bikepacking build (2.6 tyres on a Surly Ogre 2017 frame), and the general consensus seems to be that a rim width of i(internal)30 mm, rather than i35 mm, is ideal for 2.4 – 2.6 tires. Both Enve and Stans recommend this, and the same consensus is reached in this monster thread (they unfortunately end up discussing both rim width and rolling resistance in the same thread): http://forums.mtbr.com/26-27-5-29-plus-bikes/30mm-35mm-rims-2-6-quot%3B-tires-1045608.html

    Maxxis are recommending i35 mm for their 2.6 tyres, BUT, they are making special “wide trail” versions (different knob spacing). They are the only company doing this so far, and I haven’t found any 2.6 Maxxis tyres in Europe anyway.

    Although I plan to use the 2.6 tyre width, I’d like to have the ability to spec something like 2.4 for tours on more gravel/asphalt, hence another reason 30 mm seems ideal.

  • We ran 2.6″ Nobby Nics on 35mm rims during our recent trip in the Republic of Georgia and I have found this to be the perfect match. I am not saying that 30mm would’t be OK, I just think the proper tire width range for 35mm IW rims are 2.4 – 2.8 and the sweet spot is 2.6. It keeps the sidewalls at a good profile while not inhibiting rolling resistance. Ultimately, I have put extended time on 35mm rims with 2.8″ tires and 2.6″ Schwalbes and Teravails. The Teravails are comparable in width to the Maxxis WT tires, which are slightly bigger than Schwalbes. I don’t have experience with 2.4s though. IMO, 30-32mm would be perfect for 2.4″ tires…

  • akindo

    Thanks for the reply and info gathered from real world use Logan. :) Realised the max tyre width for the rear-end of the Ogre is 2.5″/63.5 mm (http://surlybikes.com/info_hole/spew/tire_clearance_and_your_surly_frame), which is only a few mm more than what owners of the 2.6 Nobby Nics have measured them out to on i30mm rims. So, I’ll be getting i30mm rims for now. 👍

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