EVIL LOOPHOLES WHEELSET REVIEW
Review & Photos by Dario DiGuilio
House-brand components often come with a bit of deserved skepticism from the mountain bike world, as there have been many feeble attempts to compete with the broader market from some big-name brands over the years. That being said, as the industry grows, we’re seeing more and more very solid components developed internally at frame manufacturers, fully justifying their place on the bike. No longer does “own brand” mean bad quality. The newest brand to join in on this trend is Evil, with their in-house Loopholes wheelset. These promise to be much more than just another pair of carbon wheels, and they have some strong tech claims to increase the hype. I’ve been putting them through their paces to see if they are truly a worthy upgrade, or simply a rebranded off-the-shelf product.
These are far from your average carbon wheels, as Evil regularly reminds you in their tech documents. Instead of the commonly used epoxy-based composites, the Fusion Fiber technology implemented here uses thermoplastics to bond the fibers of carbon, resulting in slightly different material properties in the end product. I wouldn’t look at it as a total reinvention of carbon technology, and they’re not the first to have used such materials in the mountain bike world, but it is certainly a novel technology that should offer different characteristics and ride feel.
Dipping further into the details, the Evil Loophole rims have molded reinforcements around the spoke holes to add strength to the 489g rims. The inner width between the hookless sidewalls is 29mm, which should play nicely with the modern crop of 2.4-2.6” tires and come set up with tubeless rim tape and aluminum valves. There are 32 spokes front and rear, but Evil opted to use a 2X pattern for the front wheel and 3X for the rear to give more compliance and strength where they are best suited. The wheels are laced with brass nipples, and washers are fitted under the head to aid in getting the spokes up to tension easily. The rims have a matte powdercoat finish applied, with removable gloss vinyl decals to let you tailor the look of the wheelset to your preferences.
Available as a complete wheelset tipping the scales at 1940g or as a rim-only, Evil’s Loopholes will set you back $2,200 for the wheelset, or $699 per rim. Small-wheel riders will have to look elsewhere, as these only come as a 29” hoop. Wheelset options are all laced to Industry Nine Hydra hubs, with either Boost or Superboost spacing, XD or Microspline drivers, 6-bolt or Centerlock brake mounts, and Torque Caps or regular axle interfaces. It’s nice to see all those small details available, as you are paying an absolute premium price for the whole package, but it’s certainly a shame not to see Evil cater to the mullet wheel-loving crowd. They come with a lifetime warranty for the original owner, giving peace of mind that your investment will last.
Upon opening the box, I was immediately impressed by the finish quality of these wheels. The presentation is fantastic, and the build quality of the wheelset is excellent. It’s obvious that a lot of care was put into the assembly, whether machine built or done by hand. My one small gripe with the initial assembly was the shoddy tubeless tape job, which I needed to redo immediately as there were quite a few air pockets and folds in the tape right out of the box. There are few things more frustrating than going through an arduous tubeless setup to find a mystery air leak caused by a gap in the tape.
Initial impressions aside, it’s in the dirt where things actually start to matter. I’ve been riding these wheels for the past 5 months, in a very wide variety of terrain and applications. Testing started on my bikepacking hardtail, throwing the wheels into the deep end on a 550-mile tour of the Colorado Trail. This is no small task for any bike component, given the abuse bikes endure on that kind of trip. The rest of my riding took place on perhaps a more appropriate Stumpjumper EVO Alloy, riding and racing around the Pacific Northwest and in the Canadian Sea to Sky. They’ve seen a lot of hammering and have come out the other side laughing.
The weight of the wheels is inkeeping with many of the carbon wheels I’ve run recently, with many of the burlier trail/enduro wheels falling into that 1800 to 2000 gram range these days to offer the durability that the lighter weight carbon hoops of the past lacked. While climbing, it’s hard to say if there are any standout features here, aside from the near-instant engagement you get from the Hydra hubs, which is awesome in the tech. Otherwise, they’re pleasantly neutral, just spinning along and rolling over the terrain. When things turn downhill, the wheels have a far more distinctive character, one that I’ve come to really enjoy.
When pushing through corners and rough sections of trail, these wheels effectively blend the best traits of both carbon and alloy rims, which is perhaps the best compliment I can pay them. They have the energetic feel of stiffer carbon hoops when pushed into corners, but the slightly damped feedback that you get from alloy wheels in chattery rough sections. The combination of these two factors produces a fairly drastic change to how capable a bike feels, and I’m sold on that sensation. Perhaps other wheels are faster on a given terrain, but these are comfortable and composed nearly everywhere, which counts for a lot when you’re pushing the bike hard.
Over the thousand-plus miles I’ve put on the Loopholes, I’ve only had to tension them a couple times, and mostly just for the ceremony of it, not out of necessity. Like any wheelset, they do lose some tension after the initial build and first couple rides, but since that period, I’ve had no issue with them going wobbly on me. This includes the time spent on the Colorado Trail, where they held up to my 70-pound bikepacking rig and me plowing through the rocky and loose terrain of the Colorado high country. Despite some nasty looking scratches and scrapes, the rims remain unfazed.
Speaking of durability, it’s worth pointing out that I’ve seen and heard quite a few first-hand anecdotes about the Loopholes breaking under really hard riding. That said, there’s not a wheel out there that won’t break in the right (or wrong) scenario, so it’s by no means unique to the Evil wheels. I tend to run inserts front and rear, which prevents quite a bit of damage, but I’ve done quite a bit of riding on this wheelset with nothing but a heavy casing tire on the rim without any hints of a struggle. After a couple weeks at the Whistler Bike Park, two enduro races, and daily abuse on the trails in and around Bellingham, my Loopholes are still spinning straight and looking handsome, which is testament to their durability. And if anything was to go wrong, their lifetime warranty has your back.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Thanks to the use of the less common thermoplastic resin in their carbon fiber, and a well-appointed overall build, these Evil Loopholes effectively blend the best traits of both carbon and alloy wheels, leading to a unique and excellent feeling on trail. The price is quite high, but the product is damn good.
Price: $2,200 / set
Weight: 1940g / set (as built)
Damped feel through rough sections
Very high-quality build
Not the most bombproof product (according to other riders)
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