In the run up to Sea Otter I had the chance to meet up with Scot Nicol and the Ibis crew (notably Hans Heim and Tom Morgan) to check out their new wheels and give them a go on the trail.
If you missed the news release last week Ibis is getting into the wheelset game but not with cookie cutter hoops. Why are these rims significantly wider than most others on the market? Ibis tells us this we’ll get better grip and lower rolling resistance. The wide rim concept is really nicely illustrated in the video Ibis included in the news release but as we all know the proof is in the riding.
Wheelsets might seem like a new direction for Ibis but it is interesting to note they have been playing with this concept for a while. Hans invested in the tooling that was needed to get the carbon Derby rims into production with their revolutionary 22mm or 35mm inner width (or 28 and 41mm external width). Scot told us that the project flew under the radar allowing the staff to ride various incarnations of the Derby for some time.
Hubs and Build
A lot of thought and time has been put into these wheels. There is attention to detail that you might not notice on first look. The wheels are laced with standard j-bend double butted spokes in a 2 cross pattern. Pretty standard stuff so far but then you notice that the spokes never directly touch each other due to the thick flanges on the hubs. Hans said that the reason for this was to reduce stress on the spokes and also keeps the wheels quiet, preventing the “ping” that is often heard when the spokes rub across each other.
The hubs are made in Taiwan and are very similar to Ibis branded hubs that have been used on their original equipment wheels for the past year and a half. The hubs seem like quality items and Scot emphasized they have put in the time required to ensure the hubs have the reliability needed to be sold worldwide.
As we know the hubs have cartridge bearings from Enduro and the hubs can be dissembled with two 17mm wrenches. The freehub is a quality 6 pawl system (3 pairs) with 15 degree engagement. The hubs are said to be within a few grams of the DT Swiss 240 hubs which are some of the lighter mountain bike hubs out there.
The rims look to be high quality items with smooth finishing to the carbon fiber outside and inside the rim. The carbon layup is double the thickness around the drilled spoke holes to add strength and allow the spokes to be tensioned up nice and tight. The UD finish is pretty stealth but as you can see from the photos Ibis is playing with different graphics that can be applied to make the wheels stand out, if the stealth look isn’t your thing.
After dipping into the details on the wheels our discussion moved to tire design and how current tires match up with these wide rims. Scot was quick to admit that not all tires on the market today will work well with the wider profile. He suggested that tires with a rounder profile (think Hans Dampf) will work better, though cheekily added that he expects to see some tires offered on the market soon to suit the wider rim profiles.
All Tired Up
Scot is currently riding 2.3” Maxxis Minion DHF front and rear on his Mojo HDR and that is the bike that I ended up riding for a rip around the local Santa Cruz trails.
So to the riding. For context here is my current set up. My current carbon rims run an external rim width of 30mm. These rims are wider than average, but a whooping 11mm narrower than the Ibis 741 rims. I run 2.3” tires front and rear, both tubeless with 27psi in the front and 30psi in the rear. So with the setup being quite similar with the exception of the rim width I was in a good position for the test ride.
I started with the tires at a suggested 22psi front and rear on the test ride. Scot was sure that this was probably too hard and that I would be able to drop the pressure over the course of the ride. On the climbs up to the trails I was trying to find roots and ruts to run the tires over to get a feel for how the bike felt. Climbing over a mess of roots it was initially noticeable that the rear tire wasn’t squirming or ‘inch-worming’. It felt solid and the bike held it’s line. As with other carbon rims, stiffness was noticeable and the bike accelerated quickly out of turns without any noticeable flex.
As we regrouped Scot came along side to check in. Scot has become a closet tire squeezer, checking my tire pressure and goading me to drop it from the 22psi that I started on. Going with his recommendation I dropped the front and rear tires pressures for the next section of trail and did this another two times before the end of the ride, ending up under 20psi at the end of the ride.
The most distinct difference with this wheel and tire combination came on the descents. It is a bit like the first time I rode a bike with a through axle fork. The bike tracks amazingly well through off-camber rooty sections. I was purposely picking awkward lines, trying to catch the bike out, but fitted with this rim and tire combo the bike has an amazing amount of grip, maintains momentum and doesn’t seem to deflect from what were my questionable lines. Even in hard packed bermed turns the tires refused to roll or squirm under load.
These trails weren’t quite as rough as some as we ride on the North Shore and around BC, so this is definitely a first ride impression. However it was easy to see how the combination of these super wide rims and large volume tires could be a
game technique changer.
We are looking forward to getting a set of the wheels to put under the NSMB crew on our local trails to see if the differences noted here in Santa Cruz translate further north up the west coast.
Go HERE for all the technical details on the 741 and its brethren the 928 and 941…