Project Wheel Build: The All Arounder- Final Review- by Guitar Ted

It’s been a full season of riding on the wheels built earlier this year in our Project Wheel Build series. The last update can be seen here. The intent of this series was to show that a wheel can be built at a reasonable price in a way that is competitive in terms of performance, weight, and looks, (of course- they have to look good, right? :) ), with the offerings in the pre-built category that are available for 29″er riders.

WTB Frequency rims

Project Wheel Build Wheels on the Milwaukee 29"er

The wheels built represent what can be done to get a wheel that has reasonably good weight, great strength, works as a part of a tubeless system, and can be ridden in XC races or pounded in all day riding with your buddies. In this case, and to recap, we used DT Swiss spokes and nipples laced to WTB Frequency i23 rims and American Classic hubs. (For a detailed look at the hubs, go here. For a detailed look at the spokes, go here. For a detailed look at the rims, go here.) I will give my brief conclusions on each aspect of the wheel and then an overall conclusion on this test.

On The Rims: The WTB Frequency i23 Team model rims are really a workhorse rim. I have nothing but good experiences with it, and from the wheel build through to using them I have found no nits to pick, other than that perhaps the graphics may not agree with everyone. Otherwise WTB has really made a nice, competitive alternative to Stan’s Flow rims here and the fit with UST based tires is spot on. Tires get a nice, supportive base to work from with that 23mm inner width too, which increases grip and makes tires corner a little bit better. (Note: For a lighter, more XC friendly rim, see the similar Frequency i19 @ 435 gm each.)

On The Spokes/Nipples: The DT Swiss products are highly regarded in wheel building circles, and while I usually would use Wheelsmith components, I must say that the DT Swiss spokes and nipples were easy to work with and have performed really well. Easily as good as what I normally would use. So for your own wheel building, I can say with confidence that DT Swiss does measure up to the reputation they have for great spokes and nipples.

On The Hubs: This isn’t my first go ’round with American Classic hubs. I used them on the Edge, (now Enve), carbon rim test we did several years ago now. (Those wheels are still going strong, by the way.) The American Classic hubs have proven their worth in all aspects: Light weight, great bearings that roll freely, and longevity in adverse conditions. When speaking of high performance hubs, American Classic hubs should definitely be a part of that conversation.

I will say that there has been some folks that have complained about the American Classic rear hub’s “engagement”, (or lack thereof, depending upon your viewpoint.) The question was brought up to Bill Shook of American Classic when we spoke with him at Interbike recently. His take was that very quick engagement is really only necessary for a small percentage of riders. There are hubs out there for those folks. However; those hubs will not coast as freely as an American Classic free hub design due to internal drag that those other hubs have. American Classic hubs do not work in the same manner, having the pawls completely disengaged from the drive ring while in coasting mode. Only the internal cam mechanism will engage the pawls when the pedals are pushed, and when that happens,all the pawls engage simultaneously giving a better transfer of power. Bill Shook believes this is a better design, so that is why American Classic doesn’t pursue a “fast engagement” hub design. Horses for courses. :)

Conclusions: So, did the Project Wheel Build wheels meet the criteria? In as far as having a “do-it-all” wheel set, the definite answer is “Yes”. While my component choices were not based on getting the lightest weight wheels, these were good enough to be raced. They also were brilliant on the Titus Rockstar full suspension rig, (seen here), and would make a great wheel set for a trail bike. Of course, as seen here, you can single speed these wheels, and despite the “lack of engagement”, (which, by the way, I never noticed at all ;) ), these can be single speed capable wheels and will do the job nicely.

Performance is there, the weight is competitive for what I intended the wheels to be for, and looks? Well….I like them, and that’s what really matters, right? ;) Obviously, the individual’s tastes can be accounted for quite easily when doing a build from scratch, and that’s the main point here. So for the home wheel builder, building your own set of hoops still makes sense. You can get what you want, and if the builder is a competent one, it will be a wheel that will perform at a high level.

Note: WTB and American Classic sent over components for this wheel build at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. The DT Swiss products were purchased separately by Guitar Ted. We are not being paid, nor bribed for this review, and I will strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.