Before I even kick off with this review I’ll say it’s great to have such an offering from a New Zealand company rather than buying something with its business headquartered offshore.
Wheel building by hand to exacting standards is an area where the Wheelworks brand shines; At the start of each wheel’s life the Wheelworks crew utilise custom software to calculate spoke length for each wheel to ensure the spoke length for any required rim/hub combo is accurate to within 0.1mm. Spokes are then custom cut to length to ensure the critical interface between the spoke thread and the spoke nipple is optimised for maximum performance.
During the build process each wheel undergoes repeated trips from the trueing stand to the ‘Grimlock’ machine. The Grimlock is a custom built pneumatic tensioning machine, which side-loads the built wheel. This replicates the ‘settling’ period common to new wheels during their first few rides under load. At the end of the day, once a wheel goes onto the Grimlock running true, and comes off running true, then it’s ready to ride.
Wheelworks specifically designed rims feature 32mm inner width and offset spoke holes to ensure direct pull from the spokes (to avoid side tension from spokes pulling at a slight angle from the rim).
Our demo wheels featured the ‘Trail’ designated rim. Wheelworks also offer a burlier ‘Enduro’ spec carbon rim. While both rims use the same mould and dimensions as specified by Wheelworks, the Enduro rim uses a different resin, which is more flexible to absorb impact better. This makes the rim less stiff for a given quantity of carbon and resin, so the wheels have more material added to bring the stiffness up to an equivalent level as the Trail model. This extra material results in slightly more weight, which is why the Enduro is 40 grams heavier per rim.
High-end hubs from DT Swiss, Hope and Chris King are available alongside Wheelworks own Dial hubs. Although extensive, not every possible combination of rim/spokes/hubs is listed on the Wheelworks website – the range of variables would simply be impractical to list every possibility. As an example - our demo wheelset came with custom coloured Dial hubs with a ceramic coating (half paint and half anodising) colour-matched to the sticker colours on the rims.
If an option you want isn’t listed on the Wheelworks site, get in touch with them – a significant percentage of their wheelbuilding accommodates rider requirements which aren’t showcased on the website.
My tyres mounted first pop (sorry, bad pun!). That is not always the case with some rims, so is an indication that the Wheelworks Trail (and Enduro) rim design makes good use of suitable channel profile and bead to allow effective mounting of tubeless tyres.
On the 32mm internal width rims I successfully ran 2.3” tyres around 20psi rear and 18psi front with no burping issues under my 95kg rider weight. That’s on the predominantly rooty native bush trails I ride on my home turf.
One of the most important aspects of carbon rims from my perspective is balance of toughness and stiffness, with pliability. I’ve ridden some carbon wheelsets that were so stiff they were unsettling at low speeds, and punishing at high speeds. Sure they reacted to rider input with precision, but the enjoyment of riding them is diminished.
Conversely, carbon rims (or more commonly, lower-priced alloy rims) which are ‘soft’ and have a relatively large degree of flex incorporated in their makeup can be smooth at low speeds, but lose any feeling of precision at high speed and can feel vague. Similar characteristics beset wheels that aren’t built well and have unintentional flex.
The feel of these Wheelworks Flite Carbon Trail wheels is bang-on that balance – stiff enough to be precise and sharp. Pliable enough to not rattle my teeth on choppy high-speed sections or repeated big-hit terrain.
For the rut and root-filled trails I ride, the Trail rims ran true throughout the review time. I’d consider the Enduro rims if I had more of a history of being hard on wheels, or rode in rockier parts of NZ.
The Wheelworks website offers a custom-build visualisation to mix and match colours as well as wheel hub/rim combos. It is detailed, with clear options and pricing differences if changing spec from baseline models.
Once you’re at the stage of upgrading to something better than your bike’s OEM wheelset, or to carbon rims instead of alloy, there are a lot of options to consider. Wheelworks offerings have the benefit of being a New Zealand company, experienced and dedicated wheel building craftsmen, designed-for-purpose carbon rims, many customisable combinations of rims/spokes and hubs, and innumerable options to choose your own colour combinations for stickers on the rims and on some models for the hubs.
Wheelworks are rightfully proud of their low warranty rate (less than 1%). Although doing everything possible to ensure a wheelset is as bulletproof as possible, in the event than an unlucky rider tackles something above their ability and damages a wheel the original owner has the peace of mind of a lifetime warranty.
Check out www.wheelworks.co.nz but a word of warning – it’s easy to lose track of time while experimenting with different colour combos on their visualisation configurator!
RRP: from $2,750
Words: Nick Lambert
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