Aeffect R Wheels NSMB AndrewM.JPG

Race Face Aeffect R Wheelset & Trace Rear Hub

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Nov 3, 2020
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R Is For Ravenous

More than a pair of wheels, Aeffect R is a new wheel program from Race Face this year. The program brings to bear a whole array of options but to break it down simply, there are 28 hole wheels available with aluminum freehub bodies for HG, MicroSpline (MS), and XD. There are 32 hole wheels, which the marketing department calls 'e-bike wheels' that come with steel freehub bodies (same options as above). They all come with J-Bend spokes - because direct pull spokes can get bent - and the new Trace hubs deliver 10° of engagement. They use Sapim butted spokes - including 5 spares in the box, brass nipples, and the rim has an offset spoke bed for even tension.

I know that all sounds wildly boring, even to bike nerds, but there's a very interesting undercurrent to the amount of energy that Race Face is putting into this product and launch, especially if you read between the lines in their launch copy. Before I jump right in, my first impression of the Aeffect R wheels, as I pulled them out of the box, is that these mid-priced wheels look high end. Impressively so for a 600 USD | 775 CAD SRP wheelset.

A few words from Race Face:

"On many mid-range bikes, a common point of failure remains the wheels. Riders are frustrated by lost trail miles while their bike is stuck in the shop for repairs on sub-par wheels. With this gap in the wheel market in mind, we set out to create a hub and rim combo that offers category-leading durability and strength, to confidently take on the rigors of trail, all-mountain, and enduro riding. We are proud to introduce the tough on trails, light on price Aeffect R wheels, and Trace J-Bend hub."

Aeffect R Wheels NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

Twenty-eight butted J-bend spokes join the new Race Face Trace hub to their offset 6069 rim. Big bearings and easy free service or freehub swaps here.

Aeffect R Wheels NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

MicroSpline is everywhere, but the Trace hub actually comes in six freehub configurations. The 28-hole hubs use an aluminum driver and the 32h e-bike hubs use a steel driver.

Race Face is out in front but I would be shocked if the next few months didn't deliver a stack of new wheels with every brand pumping them under a similar tagline. They all taste blood in the water and they're ravenous. This is an indirect message to you, the rider, to consider buying a set of Aeffect R wheels for the min-maxed replacement of your sh*tty mid-level hoops but I think it's fair to say the intended audience is much smaller. And to product managers, "on many mid-range bikes, a common point of failure remains the wheels. Riders are frustrated by lost trail miles while their bike is stuck in the shop for repairs on sub-par wheels." You can also read that as 'why don't you ditch the DT 370 hub spec that more and more of your dealers and customers despise and run our great Aeffect R wheels instead?"

Like many brands before them, DT Swiss seems determined to tarnish the sterling reputation of their excellent, more premium, products. In this case by trading off the well-established, well-earned credentials of their Star Ratchet hubs by pumping out mediocre Formula 3-pawl hubs with the DT Swiss name on them. To make matters worse, at least the Formula versions use slightly larger drive rings so you don't need an 8-foot breaker bar for doing a simple bearing job. It's not that the 370 hubs haven't been around forever, they have, and it's not that they haven't had issues forever, they have. But, these days they are legion on bikes between about 4000-7000 USD that are being ridden hard and climbed in high-torque gears thanks to 50, 51, and 52-tooth cassettes.

The new Race Face Trace hubs offer easy tool-free freehub body swaps, but without the freehub falling off any time you have your wheel out of the bike. The steel axle, like Chromag's hubs is more durable, and uses larger ID hub bearings, and the drive ring doesn't need to be removed to swap bearings.

*Hayes, Avid, Schwalbe, etc

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It's situations like manky turns into slightly janky wood work that have me missing my faster engagement 0° - 5° hubs. All in all though, I can get used to 10° engagement, if I have to, I guess.

Race Face TRACE 36-point Hub

So the wheels look awesome, they use J-bend spokes, pricing is solidly mid-market at 600 USD | 775 CAD for a set with your choice of driver, and they sound good without being at all obnoxious. The full hub service, with fresh bearings, requires no proprietary tools and is a one beer job with a decent bearing press. It does only deliver 36 points of engagement, for 10° of float, but for the price, I think it's a solid option even for riders like myself who prefer a bit faster hook-up. It's a nice enough package that I could certainly see some riders buying the hubs, for the right price, to lace into an existing wheel or to combine with a rim of their choosing - say something wider than the 30mm ID rim that comes spec with the Aeffect R.

Obviously, Race Face sees that too as they are selling the hubs separately in the same configurations as are available in the complete wheels: a 110mm x 15mm front hub and either a 148mm x 12mm Boost or 157mm x 12mm Super Boost rear hub. The 28-hole front hub is claimed to come in at 188 grams and sells for 85 USD | 110 CAD SRP. For the rear hubs, they are 215 USD | 280 CAD regardless of the driver option. The 28-hole rear hub with an MS driver is claimed to weigh in at 336 grams and it's a 100 gram weight penalty for the 32-hole 'e-bike' version with the steel MS driver.

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Four spring-backed pawls on the easily removed, cleaned and re-installed freehub body are what converts my power into forward motion.

In the shop, I can flip the wheel so it's cassette side down and shake it and the freehub body won't fall off but at the same time, it's easily swapped, tool-free, with a sharp tug. Running an HG driver I would personally be tempted to pay the weight premium and run what Race Face calls the e-bike version of the hub, but my experience with MicroSpline thus far, between a couple of different wheels, is that the interface stays fresh much longer than HG.

On the trail I admit I pine for 5° or less, but I will say that engagement is rock solid when you hit it on the Trace hub. It would take a lot more torquing up hills, and maybe some time on the back of my single speed, before I could speak unequivocally about the durability of the system, but at this point if these were replacing the DT 370 at the same price points I'd think that most excellent.

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There's some foreshadowing in this photo. Also, the Trace provides for a nice, non-obnoxious, sound, and engages firmly once the pawls find their home.

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The steel axle should provide for excellent durability. Both for the axle itself and the cartridge bearings which now have a smaller ID. The bearings are easy to replace with no proprietary tools.

Offset Rims

I have generally had good experiences with Race Face's rim lineup and other than my personal penchant towards wider rims, even with 2.5" rubber, these 6069 aluminum Race Face hoops are excellent. The spoke bed is offset by 4.5mm to create more even tension with the spokes and it also looks cool and even a bit unique. No, completely unique, as Santa Cruz does the same with their Reserve Wheels; however, since they're telling the same story and Santa Cruz does spec Race Face rims on non-Carbon builds, maybe we'll see them as an early adopter of the Aeffect R?

Yeti is another brand that specs a decent amount of Race Face parts on their builds and a lot of DT 370 hubs, which could make their bikes a natural fit for Aeffect R/Trace wheels on the lower level build and maybe the Next or Turbine/Vault setups for their higher-end bikes.

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The offset rims require a special valve spacer to tighten everything down. The spacer is transferable if you switch valves - say to the Cush Core version.

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Brass nipples and a 4.5mm offset spoke bed to keep spoke tension tuneable and equivalent. Fingers crossed to see these rims coming on plenty of bikes.

I've had generally great experiences with the past ARC rims I've run - non offset - in the i30, i35, and i40 sizes, and the previous generation of Aeffect R wheels I was on survived a decent test period with only a few small dents. The 6069 aluminum offset take on the new Aeffect R wheels proved durable enough but to be fair I've been running DH tires (no insert) and decently high pressures with them. Airing the rims up tubeless was a non-issue and my G5 wire bead tires just pop-pop-popped into place right away.

I'd still love to see 32-hole drilling throughout the line rather than 28h since many spokes make lighter work, but 28h is well supported with rims and I had no issues at all to speak of. If they were my own wheels I'd be running an insert in the back year-round and probably in the front as well for the slippery season but they wear the G5s well and despite a few decent bottom outs, everything is round and true to date. I did add a bit of tension to a couple of spokes on the rear wheel last week, but it was what I'd consider standard practice for the number and nature of rides.

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This was not a long-term test but I feel like I've put the Aeffect R wheels through enough that my confidence is warranted.

Aeffect R

If I had to choose one word to describe the Aeffect R wheelset it would be 'easy.' They're easy to service, easy on the eyes, relatively easy on the wallet, and actually they're easy to ride. I've stated before that I'm not chasing extra stiffness in my setups and while the Aeffect R wheels are by no means flexy, they also aren't noticeably stiff the way some other wheels, especially some carbon wheels, tend to be. They're just there - in the saddle or out of it - and I think it's great that I rarely think about them on the trails.

The exception is when I mistime my pedals on a janky move and the 10° of engagement feels like forever compared to the instant-to-5° of float I'm used to. Generally, when I'm looking at min-maxing a build the rear hub is a place I invest extra cash to get exactly what I want, but I will say if the Aeffect R wheels came stock with a new bike I was buying I would be more than happy to run them. I'd also be happy to keep a few 6902 bearings in the shop so I could service them in house as needed. Ease of service - that adds value, too.

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With the same Bontrager G5 tires, I initially noticed my bike was a bit less exact and a bit more sluggish compared to the carbon Line Elite wheels I was running. For one ride. Then it was business as usual.

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Trace hub, meet Deore 12-spd cassette. Yes, bikes are increasingly expensive at the top-end but between the Deore M6120 drivetrain and Aeffect R wheels I think mid-priced componentry is amazing these days.

Between the hubs, rims, spokes, valves, tape, and build, I think there's a strong value argument that the Aeffect R wheelset is worth more than the sum of its parts. The fact they ride nice and are easy to service and are proving durable also weighs the mid-priced playing field in their favour compared to other options that hit a similar price point.

As someone who spends a fair amount of time working on bikes that would potentially come with these wheels, I really hope Race Face's message to product managers is received and that their OE pricing is in line with what DT is doing. I would love to see these wheels coming on bikes over other options that are dominating a wide swath of the market now. I assume if those managers have been listening to their shops and customers that they're chumming the water for the best in class wheelset in the mid-priced category.

In the meantime, the rider looking for a solid set of replacement wheels on a mid-priced budget would do well to check out the Aeffect R for 600 USD | 775 CAD for the pair (650 USD | 825 CAD for the e-bike version). From their offset rims, to their brass nipples, to their j-bend spokes, to the new Trace rear hub, it is a really nice package.

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+1 Andrew Major
sverdrup  - Nov. 3, 2020, 10:20 a.m.

Can you compare to the Roval Traverses that AJ reviewed a while back? Looking for a second winter wheelset without breaking the bank, and they seem similar-ish.


Andrew Major  - Nov. 3, 2020, 4:56 p.m.

I haven’t ridden the Roval Traverse so cannot comment on trail behaviour. They also have 10* engagement. 

They use DT 3-Pawl guts (I believe Specialized calls them DT 360 guts but it isn’t clear how 360 and 370 internals are different).


sverdrup  - Nov. 4, 2020, 9:25 a.m.

Well that validates my own confusion about wtf 360 internals are...thanks for the reply


0 mrbrett A_Marriott
PoCo_Rider  - Nov. 3, 2020, 12:27 p.m.

"On many mid-range bikes, a common point of failure remains the wheels. Riders are frustrated by lost trail miles while their bike is stuck in the shop for repairs on sub-par wheels. 

Hmm. Very true, my 2018 Rocky Altitude A70 came with Race Face wheels (AR30s I think). After 2 years, I had to replace both wheels because hairline cracks. I'm no more than 175lb with gear and I'm not particularly aggressive rider. So RF is correct about their wheels.

Just my $0.02.


0 Andrew Major MuscogeeMasher
Timer  - Nov. 3, 2020, 12:55 p.m.

Likely due to the fact that even mid range bikes are usually specced with low range wheels. You need to spend massive amounts of money  before the good wheels start showing up on bikes.

And I don’t think I have ever seen a true high end wheelset on a stock bike. (E.g. Chris King/Dt 190/P321 + high end carbon + Sapim Superspoke/Pirope)


Andrew Major  - Nov. 3, 2020, 2:38 p.m.

I’d expect to see Aeffect R wheels on 4K-8K bicycles.


0 Andrew Major A_Marriott
mrbrett  - Nov. 3, 2020, 1:58 p.m.

Other than Turbine cranks, literally EVERYTHING* that has said "Raceface" on it has failed me - going back at least 10 years. That's a bummer because, like a fool I keep buying RF product - because I started riding in the early 90s.

*Rims, droppers, hubs, carbon cranks, BBs


+1 A_Marriott
Andrew Major  - Nov. 3, 2020, 2:32 p.m.

I’ve bc ad good experiences with the Aeffect/Aeffect R wheels, Aeffect/Aeffect R and Turbine R (not Turbine) dropper posts, various aluminum cranksets, ARC rims, cockpit parts, grips...

Other than carbon cranks, and original Turbine post, which both have well documented issues I have ridden a lot of RaceFace parts without coming across dogs. Even the new BBs seem pretty reliable. Even on the SS.


+2 A_Marriott 4Runner1
Andrew Major  - Nov. 3, 2020, 2:35 p.m.

This is like shitting on the new Shimano XT because you had a bad experience with an older version of Deore.

The budget AR rims are just that - budget rims - and are known for being soft. Their 6069 rims (ARC, these Aeffect R branded ones) have a good reputation for cost v ride v durability.


+2 Andrew Major Timer
Velocipedestrian  - Nov. 3, 2020, 2:10 p.m.

Foreshadowing - banshee?


Andrew Major  - Nov. 3, 2020, 2:38 p.m.

Ha. Good eye?! Yes.


+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - Nov. 3, 2020, 11:32 p.m.

I look forward to the review of whatever model it is.

(hoping something shortish travel / progressive geo).


+1 Mammal
Andrew Major  - Nov. 4, 2020, 7:17 a.m.

It’s actually their longest travel 29” other than the Legend: The Titan

They sent just a frame for a long term test so it’s a natural parts swapper / comparison with my Alpine Trail.

Also, as much as I’m into ripper short travel rigs, it’s probably their most relevant bike to the NSMB readership?!


+1 Andrew Major
4Runner1  - Nov. 5, 2020, 7:03 p.m.

Rocky Mountain, take note. Lose the 370's on an $8500 bike!


Andrew Major  - Nov. 8, 2020, 11:10 a.m.

There are more offenders in this category than not and honestly I think some of it comes (came) down to viable alternatives. I'll be surprised if DT Swiss doesn't update the 370 (it's their biggest selling hub SKU) and if there aren't more really nice looking, quality, mid-level wheel options coming out this year to compete, but for now I think Race Face really has the best option in this price category but for a few companies that stretch to DT 350 hubs or the Industry Nine 101.


+1 Andrew Major
mtnvaman  - Feb. 21, 2021, 6:50 a.m.

I bought a set of these last year and for the life of me I can't get the HG drive off to install my XD. The cap on the non drive side doesn't have wrench flats. Any insight would be helpful....Thanks


Andrew Major  - Feb. 21, 2021, 8:27 a.m.

It just pulls off. I use Knipex to do it but a rubber strap wrench or any other non-marking force multiplier will get you there.


+1 Andrew Major
mtnvaman  - Feb. 21, 2021, 4:19 p.m.

You're right! I used needle nose pliers and the strap of one of my strap wrenches and it was easy. I appreciate that!


Andrew Major  - Feb. 21, 2021, 5:19 p.m.

Stoked that I could help!


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