Carbon Courage

If you’re looking for an affordable upgrade to your rig, the Ridgeline 29er wheels from US-based Boyd Cycling are a smart bet.

I’ll start with a confession. I have dubious mountain bike descending skills. There, I’ve said it. That feels better already. I’m a purebred XC guy with the aspirations of an enduro rider. Give me a long climb or a marathon time trial stretch and it’s all smiles. As the downward trail narrows and the sketchiness climbs, whatever flow state I may have had abruptly pulls up stakes and moves postal codes. Suffice it to say, I’ve gone to great effort to make my Trek Top Fuel 9.9 roll over, off, through and around things it was never intended to. My first rides on a set of carbon Ridgeline 29er wheels from Boyd Cycling—a US company in Greenville, South Carolina—prove that old XC dogs may, in fact, learn fancy new descending tricks.

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Boyd Cycling has been producing road wheels since 2009, adding mountain bike wheels to its product lineup in 2016. Built from the company’s proprietary molds, the Ridgeline is Boyd’s carbon model. The wheelset comes in both 27.5” and 29” sizes, and baseline models are built on Boyd’s own centerlock, thru-axle Quest Boost hubs. For an additional charge, the hubs can be upgraded to White Industries. Out of the box, the hookless rims come tubeless-ready and are good to go. Just mount, seal and shred!

When the company set out to build mountain bike wheels, they wanted a wheel that could do many things well. At a stated rim weight of 470 g, these wheels are designed to be light, rugged and versatile. The 24 mm depth and inner rim width of 26 mm means the ability to run the tyres at lower air pressure. That—even in my cowardly lion case—translates to grippier, more confident handling. Boyd suggests the Ridgelines can be mounted with 2.1” to 2.4” tyres. Although I’m currently running beefier all-mountain tyres, I look forward to putting the Ridgelines through a 90-minute XC race on something a little narrower and slicker.

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The three additional millimetres over the internal rim width of my current wheelset was a key draw for my ordering the Ridgelines, figuring together we could conquer that nemesis known as my “lunch ride.” My usual testing ground has a series of 20- to 25-minute climbs followed by a false-confidence-building flow trail that drops into a fast, dusty, rutted descent. That, in turn, drops into fang-baring singletrack of rock gardens, off-cambre switchbacks, drop offs and otherwise chamois-wetting gnar. That’s at least how I see it in my waking nightmares when I’m artfully passed by the full-helmeted, totally padded storm-trooper-looking dudes who mock me as they blow past with a condescending, “you okay, bro?”

Perhaps the placebo effect played a small part in the Strava PR-smashing runs, but let’s give credit where it’s due. Boyd’s Ridgelines are a joy to ride. The light build and quick engagement transferred power quickly on climbs. And on descents, well, they are a dream. These wheels held steady through every switchback, rolled the rock gardens with a comfortable ease, maintained speed with a grippy and sturdy confidence, and inspired me to push the pace with a previously untapped level of “send-it-ness.”

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Mounting the Ridgelines was a snap. The tyres went on quick and easy, and inflated without drama. My Top Fuel uses RockShock’s RS1 fork. In the best of conditions, I find lining a hub up to the fork can sometimes offer a challenge. Boyd’s RS1 hub is fairly new to market and my trusty mechanic, Fred, had a head-scratcher of a time getting the disc, hub and fork to align just so. (That’s okay, sometimes it’s fun to keep Fred’s gray matter churning to stave off future dementia.) With some tweaking, we made it work, though I’ve needed to alter fork pressure to reduce a rubbing disc. I’ve used Boyd’s wheels and hubs before and they are always reliable and easy, which makes me chalk this up to the fickleness of the fork.

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As the company has evolved, Boyd’s carbon wheels and hubs have grown more competitive in quality, reliability, and price. I’m often sceptical of running carbon mountain bike wheels, but the Ridgelines have proven their capacity to trustily withstand a beating across a variety of terrains. They are not only light, they are exceptionally sturdy. With that wider 26 mm width, they offer a jolt of courage to even the most weak-kneed among us.

Full Ridgeline Wheelset with Quest Hubs for $1650 USD. Order online at www.boydcycling.com

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