FSA E-MTB CARBON I29 WHEELSET REVIEW
Review by Drew Rohde | Photos by Cole Gregg
The new FSA E-MTB Carbon wheels are the brands all-mountain offering designed to withstand the rigors of aggressive e-bike riders. Anyone who’s out at a trailhead on the weekend knows that popularity of eMTBs is through the roof and the need for e-specific parts to handle the extra weight has never been greater. Full Speed Ahead, or FSA threw their hat in the ring and have been hard at work creating a line of e-specific products from cranksets to wheelsets in both alloy and carbon offerings and we’ve spent six months beating on these wheels with a reckless abandon.
Full Speed Ahead set out to create a rugged carbon wheel option that could handle the added demands of trail and enduro eMTBs on the market today. The FSA E-MTB Carbon I29 wheelset has been developed to support a total of 330-pounds (150kg), that’s bike and rider combined.
The Carbon I29’s have an asymmetric rim profile allowing for balance spoke tension, which means longer last stiffness and easy spoke truing. FSA gives the rim a modern profile with a depth of 30-millimeters, an inner width of 29-millimeters and outer width of 35-millimeters. This rim profile is designed to offer a stiff ride, and stable tire profile without being too stiff or wide. FSA offers the E-MTB Carbon rim/wheelset in both 27.5 and 29-inch sizes.
FSA spec’d the E-MTB Carbon I29 wheels with alloy P.R.A hubs and are laced to the rim using direct pull spokes. The front hub is compatible with 15×110 thru-axles, while the rear hub is compatible with 12×148 thru axles. The 6-pawl aluminum freehub can be configured to run the driver of your choice, whether that be traditional Shimano 9-11speed, SRAM 9-10 speed, Shimano MicroSpline 12 speed or SRAM XD. The hubs are fitted with tried and true cartridge bearings and use the common ISO 6-bolt rotor mounts. Full Speed Ahead has taken the extra mile with the E-MTB Carbon I29s as each wheel is entirely hand built.
Over the last six months we’ve been aggressively riding these wheels on a 160/150mm eMTB and have yet to find a weakness beyond the loud graphics. In terms of performance, the E-MTB Carbon I29 wheels have held up without any need for service or repair. Even after months of bashing on them, we only have a couple spokes slightly settle in after break-in and have since retained tension and true.
Regarding on-trail performance, our testers noted the wheels do a pretty good job blending stiffness and confidence with compliance, but they are definitely on the stiffer side, especially vertically. When compared to some of the more compliant offerings on the market, they’re will transmit a little more chatter through but won’t send you off-line or bouncing off obstacles on the trail. They have a nice lateral feel when cornering or fighting for traction on off-camber sections and feel they do a nice job blending stiffness and compliance laterally.
While looking back over our summer of thrashing the FSA E-MTB i29 wheelset, we have a lot of good things to say about them. The fact they’re still spinning perfectly round after how hard we’ve pushed them with zero maintenance is pretty impressive. We feel they are a bit on the stiff side in terms of vertical compliance, but it’s probably not a deal breaker for most, unless you regularly ride tons of high-speed brake bumps and washboard or like running high tire pressure. The durability and finish are also impressive and have held up to the lava rock abuse we’ve put them through, however we’re not fans of the graphics and decals on the wheels.
Where reviewing these wheels presents a bit of a challenge, however, is when we examine the value and features compared to other offerings on the market. In a time when more and more brands are offering affordable carbon wheelsets and/or lifetime warranties, FSA’s eMTB carbon wheels aren’t super competitive. At $1,601 they’re certainly not the price of “Premium” carbon wheels, but aren’t exactly budget carbon wheels, some of which also offer a lifetime warranty. We imagine that number crunchers and savvy shoppers will hold this against FSA when it comes time to click Add to Cart. If you are willing to make the buy however and want to try something different, we feel confident saying that you’ll be getting a stiff, durable and capable wheel that is ready to handle whatever you and your eMTB can throw at them.
Price: $1,601 -Wheelset / $779 – front / $822 – rear