rf-turbine-r-35-wheels.jpg
Review

Race Face Turbine R35 Wheels Long Term Review

Words Trevor Hansen
Photos Deniz Merdano
Date Mar 17, 2021
Reading time

Intro

The first time I noticed a difference between my usual wheels and another set of wheels in the modern era (I define the era as bikes using tubeless tires, 1x drivetrains, adjustable seat posts, and wheels bigger than 26”) was my first day on a set of Ritchey something somethings. What I noticed wasn’t the ride or the rims but the hub blew up on the first steep technical ascent. The second time I noticed a difference between my usual wheels and another set was on a pair of newly released Santa Cruz Reserve 30 carbon wheels. I immediately felt better tracking whilst (I always liked how Seb Kemp used that word whilst writing for NSMB and Dirt) holding a line with more control than my Roval carbon wheels. Other than the tracking, I confess to not being able to notice large differences to any other wheels’ performance other than carbon feels stiffer and less damped. In the past five years I have ridden the aforementioned 3 R’s: Ritchey, Roval and Reserves as well as 2C’s: Chromag alloys and Cane Creek carbons and now these test RF wheels.

When I agreed to test a new set of wheels I didn’t ask for details so when I opened the boxes and saw a set of alloys I was like that spoiled kid (ok me) at Christmas opening up a gift of no name low end hockey gear back in Kanata and trying my best to be grateful and put on a happy face. But now that I have evolved and realize that the high-end gear does not make the man, boy, person, I am at peace with alloy instead of carbon (even though that actually hurt to type). I think I need some time with my guru (former NSMB team rider Colin Miller) to get to a place where the material is immaterial to achieve a lack of materialism in my ism. A bike gear website is not really a place where materialism is debated, except when the OG’s pipe up about their 2006 Banshees running great and that he or she (probably more a he thing) do not see the need to change anything about anything (except no more flow trails).

I have heard from reviewers that the best test is to do back to back runs on the same trails with the same bikes and the same tires but riding different wheels each time. This did not happen. However, I can describe the guts: rims, spokes, hubs, as well as any issues I had (not many and even then, there were no red flags). This may end up being a testament to paying a bit (or a lot) less for aluminum.

rfwheel hutch.jpg

The TurbineRs proved an easy rim for installing this Hutchinson with a Tannus insert as well as a DHRII with no insert. I had zero issues with burping on both tires.

The Bits

The Rims

Did I mention they were not carbon? Instead they are made of 6069 welded alloy, they have a 35 mm ID, and Race Face aims to have them mounted with 2.4-2.8 width tires. Another justification for carbon rims is that they break and dent less than most alloys. My testers did no break nor dent throughout the review.

rf valve.jpg

Even though they are not carbon, and that R sure looks like a 2, they do look nice.

The Spokes

RF uses an offset spoke bed for more even tension (their claim) with double-butted straight pull (boo) spokes. They even give you 5 spares so you don’t have to pester your local wrench with questionable facial hair stylings for spares. The nips are silver brass, also the name of my dad’s favourite band.

rf spokes.jpg

The spokes stayed tight and true on the front and only needed one tensioning on the rear after 80-ish rides.

The Hubs

Race Face designed these hubs with an oversized shell in order to add stiffness and stability (their descriptors). The result is a big funky looking hub that has performed very well with approximately 80 rides in all conditions including dust, loam, jank, mud, and snow. The six- pawl inverted driver has two teeth on each pawl which hits the 60-tooth driver giving 120 points of engagement with 3 degrees of rotation between bite points. Which means it’s quick to engage. Andrew Major provided an excellent breakdown of the Vaults.

You get two configurations: 148 x 12 Boost or 157 x 12 Super Boost. The front is the ‘ole 110 x 15 and all the Turbine R wheels use 28 spokes even though Vault hubs come in both 28 and 32-hole drillings. You also get yet another loud hub. Ya it might be quieter than some but I am in the no sound hub camp so this is a small fail for me. I just don’t get the hub sound thing. As for quality it has been good. During the first 15 -20 rides I would hear an occasional click when starting up again after idling. I was told that this is a normal sound during break in…but it’s the first time I have heard it on a hub. It did not affect my engagement (unlike the many things I did wrong in another engagement) so I figure I’ll give it a pass using the no harm no foul rationalization: from my elbow pad review about rationalizations.

Rim Bed and Tape

The 35 mm width made for easy mounting and removals with and without inserts. The sleek and clean rim tape did not leak throughout the test.

rf-turbine-r-35-wheels-4 copy.jpg

Nice 'n wide with a clean tape job.

The Weight

Claimed weight is 1766g (27.5"), 1853g (29")

I’d like to say I remembered to weigh them before mounting them but if you read the above part about carbon letdown you may understand that I wasn’t thinking clearly. Let’s assume RF is accurate about weight; that’s in the range of a similar style carbon wheel set weight but I don’t buy carbon for the weight savings. Regardless the Turbine 35’s come in at a respectable weight.

The Test

I have had these since June of Covid ’20. I did two months of 5/6 rides per week on a variety of North Shore trails before adding inserts. Initial set up with Maxxis DHR IIs on the rear and an Assegai up front was quick and easy. After the first two months I saw the light of the insert grip cheat. I took off the battered DHRII and replace it with a Hutchinson Griffus 2.5’s on the rear.

The other half of the test saw Tannus inserts mounted on the wheels. Before mounting the inserts, I did a thorough inspection and saw a total of zero flaws with the rims, the spokes and the hubs. After another two months of a similar number and style of rides the only issue I had was a loosened spoke (probably from a stick in the spokes: karma for riding a less than legal new loamer). The repair to the spoke was no big deal even though it is a straight pull; the repair to my karma was even easier: see above reference to rationalizations.

Other than that, the front wheel stayed true and the back needed a bit of tightening. I did not feel any stiffness nor sloppiness while riding, after a dozen rides the clicking in the hub went away and it performed well. Finally, the rims did not dent nor crack. That is all I want out of a wheel set. Well that and sexy carbons with Chris King hubs for free.

The Last Words

Raceface Turbine R-35 wheels start from $1214.98 CAD. Many of my biking buddies figure for an extra $400 why not grab a set of We Are One carbons wheels. Makes sense but that’s still $400 more than these wheels, which could pay for part of a weekend in the Whistler Bike Park, once the COVID settles. Either way this is a high-quality wheel-set with many positive features and good performance results from the long term testing period.

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Comments

neologisticzand
0
Chad K  - March 17, 2021, 6:15 a.m.

Solid write-up! I've been very pleased with my Next R wheelset over the past 3 or so years.

Reply

Onawalk
0
Onawalk  - March 17, 2021, 7:28 a.m.

Hey Trevor,

Do you know if the Kanata Lakes trail system is still active?

That was a great place to ride/explore, got my first taste of dirt out there over 20 years ago.....

Reply

Tbone
0
Trevor Hansen  - March 17, 2021, 8:15 a.m.

No clue on the Lakes area - I haven't been back in ten years.

Reply

Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - March 17, 2021, 8:23 a.m.

Raced a few Camp Fortune XC races back in the day and wonder what they've built since then.

Reply

Tbone
0
Trevor Hansen  - March 17, 2021, 8:31 a.m.

I missed the whole mountain biking in the Ottawa area scene having moved away in the  eighties. Looks like there was and still is a lot of great riding there.

Reply

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - March 17, 2021, 8:52 a.m.

Camp Fortune is properly fun these days!

Reply

slyfink
+1 Cooper Quinn
slyfink  - March 17, 2021, 11:50 a.m.

@onawalk : Kanata Lakes is still active. Very active even. It's been officialized by the City and adopted by a great volunteer trail crew. It's very rough, and very flat.

@merwinn, re Camp Fortune: I suppose it depends on when BITD was... there's been some new stuff built in the last 7-8 years, but not a whole lot. It's still the core of "gnarly" riding in the National Capital Region though.

The biggest change in the area might be that the NCC finally has seen the light that mountain bikers are not going away, and are a legitimate group that needs to be incorporated into the land use plans. They were dragged in this direction kicking and screaming, but many old renegade trails are now being incorporated into the official Gatineau Park trail network, and there is even a brand new trail. They have an interactive map of the trail expansion plan (Phase 1 and 2 are complete)

In my group of buddies, we still say the area has the best collection of shitty trails in Canada, but it's certainly getting better.

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 kekoa
Cooper Quinn  - March 17, 2021, 12:05 p.m.

Keep up the good work!

Reply

alan.kaye.3551
0
Alan Kaye  - March 18, 2021, 12:43 p.m.

As a Kanata resident I can tell you it certainly is.  Excellent fat biking in the winter and summer rooty/rocky jank.

Reply

khai
0
khai  - March 17, 2021, 7:54 a.m.

I like aluminum wheels.  While I'm sure that good carbon wheels are lovely, I just can't justify the price.  I have a new set of Atlas wheels ready for park duty as soon as I get the bike built up (hoping for a CGP visit before WBP opens).  I've had good performance from my Chromag wheels as well, and have seen them under some pretty hardcore shredders in the S2S so I assume they'll hold up well under my use for many years to come.

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Andy Eunson Pete Roggeman Neil Carnegie
Cooper Quinn  - March 17, 2021, 12:07 p.m.

As Trevor mentions, depending on your use case, carbon may end up cheaper. Yes, higher initial capex, but opex is potentially lower. 

I would typically go through a couple rear rims a year; between the cost of new rims, my time, etc... (and shop cost if you have shops rebuilding your wheels...) there's a point at which it makes financial sense. 

That said, not everyone is eating wheels so.... YMMV.

Reply

NeilCarnegie
+1 AJ Barlas
Neil Carnegie  - March 18, 2021, 12:59 a.m.

It a funny one. I hear this rationale quite often, yet for myself and a handful of other folk I know the experience has been the opposite. I have never outright killed an alloy wheel (I typically get 2 years out of a rim) but have cracked three carbon rims and won't ride them now as for me the durability to cost ratio just isn't there compared to alloy. 

My even less popular opinion is that alloy (esp for lighter riders) actually rides better than carbon generally, being a bit less harsh. On all the carbon wheels I've ridden it feels like the tires are pumped up a couple of PSI. Precise, but tiring in the rough.

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Andy Eunson
Cooper Quinn  - March 18, 2021, 9:12 a.m.

As I said... YMMV.

If your wheels are lasting 2 years, the math is a lot different than a couple rims a year. 

And that hasn't been my experience with carbon rims, either. 

Rider weight is important to think about for all components, and wheels/tires are somewhere incredibly impactful to dump weight. I know too many (very) light riders running heaver wheel/tire packages than myself and... while they're shredders, its unlikely they're benefiting.

Reply

Tbone
+1 Cooper Quinn
Trevor Hansen  - March 17, 2021, 8:36 a.m.

Agreed. My big issue is the hassle of building new wheels when the alloys dent or crack. Never had to with my carbons but I have built up a lot of replacement alloys. I wonder what the price difference of carbons vs alloys is over a five year period when you factor in replacing rims spokes and labour.

Reply

craw
+2 Tremeer023 DadStillRides
Cr4w  - March 17, 2021, 11:57 a.m.

I have a pair of old Derby DH carbon rims. They are super stiff and break spokes quite often and it is a huge headache to dismantle a perfectly good tubeless setup to replace spokes. Last summer I switched to WR1s and haven't broken a spoke since. I'd guess that new carbon is more compliant and easier to live with and I bet a lot of the new alloy rims are much tougher than the ones that caused many of us to shift to carbon in the first place.

Reply

DanL
+2 Cr4w Pete Roggeman
DanL  - March 17, 2021, 8:48 a.m.

"get to a place where the material is immaterial to achieve a lack of materialism in my ism" 

bikes and poetry. All flow.

Reply

JVP
0
JVP  - March 17, 2021, 9:01 a.m.

How did you feel about the 35mm inner width? I personally don't like rims over 30mm for the average 2.35-2.5 Schwaxxis tires we all run. I've got a couple wheelsets, 29mm alum and 32mm carbon. The bigger one squares tires off more than I like and my DHR side knobs die early deaths and some otherwise excellent rear tires (e.thirteen) seem roll noticeably slow on the wides. 

I'm really hard on side knobs, and I attribute it to the wider rims. In reality, I probably just lack smoothness and smashbrake into corners too much.

Reply

Tbone
0
Trevor Hansen  - March 17, 2021, 9:03 p.m.

I did not notice any of the things you did. Tires wore and performed in a similar manner to those on 30mm rims.

Reply

Timer
0
Timer  - March 17, 2021, 1:51 p.m.

Are you willing to share your views about the Griffus? Looks very interesting, but hard to find anyone with first-hand experience on them.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1 Timer
Pete Roggeman  - March 17, 2021, 2:47 p.m.

I've spent some time on them. Briefly: great all-around tire that only gets undone in truly mucky or slippery conditions, but that's only compared to the absolute greats. What it gives up in traction in deep loam or mud, it pulls back in rolling efficiency. Thus: an excellent all-rounder, particularly in intermediate or dry.

Good braking, predictable cornering, good life so far. Hope that helps. We should be running a more comprehensive review at some point.

Reply

Tbone
+1 Timer
Trevor Hansen  - March 17, 2021, 9:06 p.m.

Same thoughts as Pete except I will add that the rear had so much sealant weeping on the sidewall that Deniz had to do a proper wipe down for the shoot.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - March 18, 2021, 9:09 a.m.

That's interesting - I didn't experience any weeping on either end.

Reply

Tbone
0
Trevor Hansen  - March 18, 2021, 4:17 p.m.

I did notice that you had some weeping when we left you in the dust on the last ride.

Reply

Taz123
+1 Chad K
Taz123  - March 18, 2021, 8:35 a.m.

I've got 2 years on a set of 30mm Turbines...and I'm not a twig, nor do I pick the best lines. 

The rims are solid and very durable. I run ARDs and have had no issues with the rim aside from the odd dent that can be worked back into shape. 

The wheels track really well (when the spokes are tight). As for the hub, the engagement is great and I have to admit they are very easy to maintain. I rode them for over a year without the weather seal, because I damaged it (not recommended). I just replaced the pawls and freehub body after they were skipping due to wearing away from grime (remember no weather seal) and it was an easy process.

Reply

DadStillRides
0
DadStillRides  - March 18, 2021, 7:23 p.m.

Great review. One thing that might be worth noting for reference point on your durability findings is the casing on the dhr2 you were using prior to switching and adding inserts.

Reply

Wile_E.
0
Wile_E.  - March 23, 2021, 9:02 a.m.

I recently bought a set of Hunt Trail Wide wheels.  They're a small, direct to consumer brand out of the UK.  The weight is about the same as the Turbines (1823g 29") and the hub likely isn't as nice, but it is a 60 pawl hub 5 degree rapid engage hub.   Landed cost with taxes, shipping, duty, etc. was about $670 CAD.  So far they've been fantastic.  Would love to see you guys review these wheels.

Reply

Davis578
0
Davis578  - March 25, 2021, 2:06 a.m.

I have the Turbine R set and they are great. The engagement is very good on the vault hubs. Replaced a spoke today and had to remove tire and rim tape but I’ve gotten pretty quick at removing and re-seating the tubeless tires. What size tires are you planning to run?

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