SOUTH INDUSTRIES CARBON RIM REVIEW
WITH SUPPORT FROM ORB WHEELS
Review by Alex Sardella | Photos by Vinnie Zacha-Herthel
A quality wheelset is worth its weight in gold. Having trustworthy touchpoints on the dirt instills confidence in corners, boosting doubles, or jibbing down the trail. South Industries, a custom, made to order company out of South Africa specializes in building the perfect wheel for every rider. With a focus in wheel-building the line covers a range of wheels from road to enduro. All the products are made from the highest of quality with high standards from the niche company. With the help of Orb Wheels out of Southern California, a small but high-quality wheel builder with a similar ethos, we were able to get a fresh pair of South Industries Carbon Enduro rims laced up to test out this fall.
A small team of engineers and bike enthusiasts often proves to be a solid combination for a building a bike company. South Industries is no different. With an obsessive focus on manufacturing, the build quality was obvious from the unboxing. A tag with the word Handgemaak is situated next to the valve core. Handgemaak, or handmade, is a motto from South Industries, highlighting the dedicated craft of building a beautiful wheel. The Carbon Enduro 29 rims are beefier than most, with a 31mm internal width, and 37mm external width and a hookless bead profile. The rims weigh about 515g and are recommended for 2.25-2.6 tubeless ready tires. For reference, the popular Carbon Reserve 30 Enduro Rims from Santa Cruz come in at 530 grams each end.
For the wheel builders out there, the rims should have an ERD of 592mm and an average tension recommendation of 115kgF, with an upper limit of 130kgF. The rims are offered in 28 or 32 spoke options to suit most mountain bike hubs. A small note worth mentioning; I know some riders will use ‘Gorilla Tape’ but South Industries specifically calls out to use smooth rim tape only. The South Industries rims boast a lifetime warranty for all manufacturing defects and a lifetime crash replacement warranty for the original owner.
Orb Wheels was kind enough to ship us the wheels already built. They were laced up with Sapim Race spokes, and Sapim PolyAx nipples complete with stainless rim washers. The 32 Sapim spokes connect to a Bitex hub that Orb has branded their own. The Bitex hubs are affordable and the brand boasts a solid history of patents for alloy and steel hubs. This hub specifically has 54 points of engagement. Currently, Orb Wheels is the sole US distributor of these wheels. The cost per rim is $750, and the wheelset as shown is $1800.
Right out of the box you can notice the quality and love that went into building the wheelset. The rims have a refined finished and premium feel. Getting tires on the South Industries Carbon Rims proved to be an easy task, no struggles or issues with the hookless bead like we’ve had with other rims. I am running Maxxis’s DHF 2.5, and DHR II (Double Down) 2.4 for my tires, with around 26/28 PSI respectively. I fitted these to my Transition Sentinel for the testing – a bike that often writes checks its suspension struggles to cash, leading to a load of abuse at the wheels. For the first ride, I took them out to a local trail that is fast, chunky, and shared with motos – a proper way to break ‘em in. Precise, responsive, and stiff in corners, the width of the rim is instantly noticeable. Plowing through rock gardens, the wheels don’t feel overly stiff and do handle smaller vibrations and shock absorption fairly well despite the overall stiffness and rim width. I was a bit surprised here, but even at slower speeds or through quick techy sections, they don’t feel over jarring or disruptive to trail flow. There is a nice all-around compliance at a range of speeds making these ideal for Enduro riding, and everything that it encompasses. The wheels roll quickly, smoothly and transfer power evenly in the rear. The rims are quick to react and boost out of tight corners, giving a really fun and stable ride. The firm, responsive South Industry Rim rim pairs nicely with the steel Sapim Race double butted spoke. No issues have been seen with burping, a leaky seal, or loose spokes.
After getting a month or so in the South Industries Enduro wheelset I have been impressed by the durability and consistency thus far. About 75 miles in, and 20k of vertical, the wheels have stood up to an aggressive riding sample. From the local jump trails to rowdy alpine tech, the wheel set provides a sturdy platform and consistent support throughout. I do feel a slight lag on the Bitex Hub, with only 54 engagement points, and I wish a more premium Hub was paired with this high-quality rim, but for many they’ll be just fine.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The Enduro 29” South Industries Wheelset have been a fun one to put through the paces. My riding style is aggressive and fast, and so far, these have withstood a fair amount of abuse without flinching. The consistency and precise responsiveness is what you would expect from a high quality carbon wheel. The South Industry 29” rim is the right amount of stiff, with a smooth rolling and graphically appealing finish. With many larger wheel manufacturers experiencing record demand, lead times may be months out. The good news is Orb Wheels is ready to go and will help you build a wheelset specific to you and your riding needs. South Industries is a less sought out player in the wheel market, but don’t overlook the smaller, niche brands dedicated to the craft, as these have proven they can have the performance to contend.
Price: $1500 – rims (pair) | $1800 – wheelset