WTB Stryker TCS 29″er wheels –Mid-Term:by c_g

At TNI Europe we have been blessed with a nice array of really interesting 29″er wheels for testing – the “uber race wheel set” by AX-LIGHTNESS and TUNE (here), the AMERICAN CLASSIC All Mountain 29″er wheels (introduced here, ride impressions to follow soon) and here and now the all new WTB Stryker TCS 29″er wheels – which I had introduced earlier here.

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Some may remember that I last year I had the AMERICAN CLASSIC tubeless 29″er wheels on test (see here) , which to me were a very good combination of stiffness, durability, weight and tubeless attributes. Due to the apparent similarities and intended use, you will see several references and comparisons here.

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By WEIGHT (1631 g for the STRYKER set and 1600 g for the AMERICAN CLASSICs) both are close enough to call it a tie – though the 3 mm wider AC rims play a bit more in favor of AMERICAN CLASSIC. 23 or 26 mm is not such a big deal for XC and racing applications but when looking at supporting wider tires it well may be an argument. The 19 mm inner width of the WTB Stryker definitely fall on the narrow side.

TUBELESS CHARACTERISTICS: As usual when testing rims/wheels for tubeless qualities, I have a decent array of test tires (some UST, different tubeless ready and some standard folding tires). Unfortunately we didn’t have any of WTB´s own TCS 29″er tires available for the testing, as these were really designed to work best with the WTB TCS wheels, but chances are we still may receive some while the test goes on.

Knowing WTB´s TCS (“Tubeless Compatible System”) is closely following UST and ISO tubeless standards I anticipated them to do well with such tires – they all mounted by hand and inflated easily with a standard floor pump – several even by hand pump. WTB are the only rim I know of that does rims UST complying which is worth noting as all other UST compatible wheels I know of (Mavic, Crank Brothers, Fulcrum & Shimano) are real tubeless rims (meaning a fully closed rim with all constructive consequences such as special spokes and nipples). Here we have a set that carries a standard built (32 h hubs in a 3 cross lacing pattern with more or less standard components), yet matches these tires. I like that. Needless to say that once inflated, bead locking and low pressure riding were incident free.

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But how would standard folding tires convert and run tubeless? Usually a rim works with either type of tires but not so the WTB Strykers. Of course these usually more loosely fitting tires mounted with ease and getting them sealed was a bit more tricky but most would inflate with a floor pump as well and even those few that didn’t, only took one small burst of compressed air to get into shape once and for all – so if you´d carry a small CO2 cartridge with you, it would be adequate for remounting them anywhere. Bead locking was not as tight but secure nonetheless – not one tire popped off the rim´s shoulders when deflated completely.

According to my testing the STRYKER´s have pretty much gotten it right when it comes to tubeless characteristics: In my multiple years of tubeless conversions I had not had any wheelset that would show such favorable mounting and inflation characteristics as the WTB STRYKER wheels on such a wider range of tires. I am truly impressed. GOOD job WTB!!

(I think a part of this also is the otherwise unwanted narrowish rim profile, which leaves less room for the bead to move, creating an airtight seal quicker – which really is the crucial phase when converting tubeless – no disadvantage without an advantage, see :) .)

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Riding impressions – STIFFNESS & POWER TRANSFER: The wheels feel very nice and adequately stiff under my weight (which is not XC racer category :) ) and riding style. The weight of the wheel set is not spectacularly low but given what you pay and what you get the WTB Stryker wheels are just about right there with other lightweight 29″er wheels. The STRYKERs don´t really feel like race wheels so much, (swapping between the Strykers and the ~ 500 g lighter Tune/AX-Lightness tubulars), but that is purely my specific situation … for most other riders coming from heavier wheels (and I think most riders will be coming from that direction) the decent weight will be positively noticeable.

The only small complaint some may find in the wheels is the same I had with the AMERICAN CLASSIC 29″er XC wheels: The WTB STRYKER rear wheel does have some lateral flex. Not more than any other wheels in the same category but more than I´d like to see. This only shows when riding with very tight tire clearance or for riders accustomed with throwing their bikes around a lot. I am not the lightest rider and it never felt like it was degrading my ride or wasting energy that should be going into propulsion – in contrast, it actually made for some compliance in the wheel´s ride which I welcomed on the hard tail – but still it was there.

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The front wheel is tracking nicely with no issues at all, though it would have been a good thing for future proofing if the Stryker wheels would have been convertible to a 15 mm configuration (which they are not).

HUBS: So far, despite all the nasty weather and no maintenance, both hubs are spinning smoothly. While the front is running on industrial bearings with no adjustment screws, the rear requires pre-loading. To my great surprise one day after a ride mid-testing period, I detected some serious play in the rear hub. This was fixed easily with two flat 19 mm open wrenches … but be sure that we will check on it over the course of the test more frequently as this is not something you want to deal with during an extended back country ride..

So for all but the one time of loosening bearings (which I never had before in a test wheel set) I have nothing to report about in this section other than that the hubs work like intended – but time will tell whether this will remain on the long run.

MID-TERM COMMENTS: So far the WTB Styker 29″er tubeless ready wheels have served well on numerous good long and hard rides under varying riders and conditions without much trouble. I can confirm they are exceptional in tubeless performance which to me is a big plus, not wanting to limit tire choices. The WTB Stryker wheels have been solid performers in terms of ride quality with no negative surprises so far – - only the slight lateral flexing rear wheel was not satisfying my expectations fully.

(… the loose bearings on the rear hub may have been a one time thing and so – until we find it reoccurring – I will not hold it against the system)

There will be more riding impressions to come in the course of this season … plus some relative comparisons to the simultaneously ridden & reviewed AMERICAN CLASSIC All Mountain 29″er wheels here.

RIDE ON,

c_g