Light Bicycle 38mm 29er Rims
Words by Nic “U-Turn” Hall // Photos by Drew Rohde
Few things indicate your legitimacy in the bike world as much as carbon wheels. When you roll up to a break spot and assess the crowds around you, eyes tend to drop to scope out wheel/tire combos almost subconsciously. Beyond the vanity, carbon wheels do offer some legitimate performance gains. Rotational weight has a substantial effect on a bike’s acceleration, ease of direction change and the overall agility. Wanting to look like all the other cool endurbros, I purchased a pair of Light Bicycle’s latest wheels for a recent 29er build I was working on, and was excited to see what the new hoops were about. I came into the test a bit skeptical however, years ago I was one of the “internet horror” stories, suffering two major failures aboard Light Bicycle wheels. I was taken care of very fairly by the company however, and the promise of a new design, along with solid customer service had me wanting another go. Would this be redemption or a repeat?
For those unfamiliar, Light Bicycle started producing carbon wheels in their own factory back in 2010. They still sell factory direct, competing on a global market, but recently opened a North American distributer in Abbotsford B.C. Their own facility and direct sales model allow them to offer carbon wheels at price points much lower than competitors.
The 29-inch hoops are asymmetrically drilled, sport a downhill unidirectional layup and look like many other carbon rims on the market. The rims are 38mm wide with an ID of 32mm and a height of 32mm. The rims weigh 465 grams. Out of the box, the finish was impressive. Hole drilling was clean with no burrs and the finished product did not indicate the “budget” price tag. What impressed me most however, was how laser-strait the wheels are.
Hope Pro4 hubs seem to be a popular choice for custom wheel builds thanks to the wide selection of colors and solid performance. ERD measurements were spot on from the factory and all the spokes we ordered fit perfectly. Building the wheels was a breeze, once the rims were laced, dished and tensioned, they were almost perfect; a quick true and we were rolling. The only hiccup I encountered was some binding of the nipples when tensioned despite lubing them before install. I set them up with rim tape and long length tubeless valve stems. I mounted a pair of Schwalbe tires without needing to lube the bead and they can also be removed without a tool. If you’ve had to fight tires on carbon wheels before, you’ll know this is a huge plus.
After the build was complete it was time to head up to Mt. Bachelor for a quick afternoon shake down. I was headed to Whistler the following week and needed to ensure my gear selection would be up to the task. I did my best to bed the spokes in on a nice flow trail, but after 3 months without a real rain, it was straight to rocks and large brake bumps. I weigh 165lbs and typically run around 27psi in the rear tire. Throughout the test I’ve had several, “oh shit” moments and heard multiple rock to rim impacts that had me thinking I’d driven the nail in my new wheel’s coffin. After cleaning the bike well and going through all the spoke holes, no cracks are evident and the wheels are as true as when I built them. Glad to say redemption appears to be the verdict.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Big wheels and burly rubber allow riders to send trail bikes into some pretty gnarly rock gardens at speeds close to full-blown DH bikes. Having a product that’s light enough to be pedaled but still able to take the abuse of repeated downhill runs is a challenge. Despite a thorough thrashing, these rims have stood the test. They aren’t abusively stiff, but still inspire confidence when cornering aggressively. I spent way more time riding chairlifts in Whistler than I did pedaling these wheels up any hill, and they’re still ready for more. Light Bicycles did a great job converting this skeptic with their redesigned rims. The fresh decals look pretty good and stealthier options are available for the subdued crowd. We’ve addressed looks and performance, but what should make a person buy these wheels over any of the other offerings on the market? Factory direct pricing. They offer supreme performance for the price and I would not hesitate to spend my hard earned dollars with Light Bicycle again.
Price: Starting at $928.00 pair (Complete), $295.00 ea (Rims)
Weight: 485g (Rims only)