Wide Rims : Better Ride

Wheelworks Handcrafted Flite Wheels

It’s been at least 5 minutes since I harped on about wide rims so strap yourself in and take a break ... it’s time for some more. There are times when I wish I could just keep my mouth shut. I mean why would I want you guys in on my little secret? Anyone likes to have an edge on everyone else. The bike industry has done a pretty good job of convincing you that 23mm rims (from here on in all measurements are internal bead width ok?) are where it's at. Oh hang on, that was two years back. Looks like now it’s 26mm. No, that was last year. That’s right, now it’s 30mm. As is usual in the bike industry, they don’t want to sell you something they haven’t convinced their share holders to make yet, and when they do it'll take two years to get it on the shelf. Well thanks to Jeff Carter being my go-to guy for the latest fads and Ray from Derby rims not confining himself to a marketing  box, I have been spinning 35mm rims for nearly 3 years now and have recently moved up to 40mm which at present is in Plus Tyre territory. I’m not talking big tyres either, I’m still running 2.3 Maxxis EXO rubber. I HATE heavy tyres. I have drawn a line in the sand and somewhere around 850 grams is my ceiling.

I’m not going to dribble on much longer. The wider the rim, the lower the pressure. Why? The wider you pull your tyre beads apart, the more stability you add to it's carcass, so you can drop more air. Think of your feet as the tyre beads. Stand feet together and get someone to push you sideways.... You'll fall easily. Now stand with feet wide apart.... Stable as a horses bedroom (I hope you got that pun). This means less squirm, less punctures, less fatigue, less arm pump and more grip, more fun, more confidence more comfort and better and later braking. Whats the downside? Weight, that’s what, and that’s it! That’s why it’s key to spend big dollars and go carbon if you can. And if you’re going to spend big dollars then you need to go with reliability and a good warranty.

 The Industry will try and tell you that tyres haven’t caught up yet , that it squares up the tyre profile therefore there’s less edge bite and sidewalls are exposed to damage and there MAY be some truth to that (I haven’t really noticed any problems on the trail) but the added grip and comfort way more than makes up for it.

Flitewheels signature white spokes. Lots of rim and not much tyre = 14psi front and 16 psi rear with this 29x2.3 EXO on a 40mm rim

Flite Wheels. I’m not mincing it. They are the best. A life time guarantee against rim, spoke and nipple breakage. That’s right, you bust it and they fix it. Why would they offer this? The labour that goes into building their wheels is astounding. They really can’t afford to keep fixing wheels for free. Lucky for them (luck has nothing to do with it) they are probably the strongest wheelbuild on the planet when you consider my 35mm Flite 275’s with hope hubs are under 1700 grams. And they even use aluminium nipples which most other wheel builders shy away from because they keep breaking (what does that tell you already about their builds). Sure, you can buy a similar looking wheelset from China for about $1500 to your door. But what happens when you bust one? A repair that will bring the price up to meet what you would have paid for a Flite Wheelset in the first place. That’s one busted wheel. You’ll more than likely suffer repeated broken nipples and spokes and crack your rim at least once, and what about the  hassle of waiting to get that job done and all the expense and faffing with sealant and stress at trying to come up with another wad of cash 

So what’s so special about a Flite ? You’ll have to look here as I’m not going to try and explain it properly. What I’m good for though is to tell you that I have 3 Flite wheelsets and have thrashed them all around Wellington, Nelson’s Maitai Valley and Wairoa Gorge,  Rotorua and the big mountains around Marlborough running anywhere from 12 to 22 psi depending on tyre type and terrain ridden and I haven’t yet had to turn a nipple and they are all perfectly true.

That profile is why you'll struggle to pop a bead and burp a tyre, see the bead channel lip. Ray Derby put in hours of research and measurements and even changed factories to get the perfect rim build

The Derby rims that they are built with are designed by Ray Derby and he spent a very long time getting the profiles just right so that airing up could be done with a standard floor pump and that tyre burping was almost an impossibility. Have a read here to see what Ray has to say

If you really can’t handle the cost of going carbon then Wheelworks will build you an alloy version with one of their recommended rim suppliers now that there are some pretty good wide alloy rims on the market.

So much attention to detail. Buy a set and you'll want them hanging on the living room wall for a week or so.

I’m riding faster and cleaning more technical sections than ever before. Maybe I’m just getting better at riding? I wish. I’m nearly 51 years old…what are the chances of that. FAT CHANCE!

Like I said, I should just keep my mouth shut and maintain that advantage. Too late. You can not believe or you can take life by the balls. I have a lot of regrets in life so far. Going wide isn’t one of them.

This is a 14 psi 2.3 Minion DHF on a 29er 40mm rim. You can see that the sidewall sticks out about 2mm. I've been running it all winter and not one puncture or even a scratch. Low pressure helps the tyre deform around sharp objects. Think a half blown-up balloon...so much harder to pop.

You can go alloy if you must, just no guarantee on rim damage. Stans, Raceface and DT have some good offerings now. This is an Easton ARC30 (now under the Race face brand) for when I want to remind myself what skinny rims ride like.