CHRIS KING MTN30 WHEELSET REVIEW
Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Sourpatch
Few American brands have the reputation or history of making premium bicycle components the way Chris King does. Since the late 1970’s, Chris King has been shipping beautifully polished components that stand out to the discerning bike-o-phile. Chances are if it’s a component that requires bearings, Chris King will have an interest. Just like their bottom bracket, headsets and hubs, the new Chris King MTN30 wheels are round and designed to spin smoothly while still offering that trademark Angry-bee “BZZZZ” sound. Thanks to a partnership with CSS Composites, Chris King’s American-made offerings now expand into the complete wheelset market and we’re here to share our impressions after some time testing them.
New for 2023, the Chris King MTN30 Carbon Wheels are a high-end wheel option in the all-mountain and trail category. Available exclusively with Chris King’s own hubs and their lifetime warranty, these stealthy stunners could easily go unnoticed, but the devil is in the detail of these sub-500-gram rims.
If you missed the buzz from CSS Composites, their new in-house brand Forge+Bond (and a couple others) earlier this year, Fusion Fiber is the latest wave flowing through the carbon fiber bike wheel world. Fusion Fiber is a thermoplastic alternative to traditional carbon fiber, and one that is fully recyclable. The Fusion Fiber is meant to provide dynamic compliance allowing the wheels to track better in corners and offer more stability in high-speed sections of trail.
If you’d like to learn more about Fusion Fiber you can check out this Press Release here, but we’ll give you a quick refresher just to be safe. Used by brands like Forge+Bond, Revel and Evil; Fusion Fiber’s thermoplastic carbon fiber wheels utilize long-chain polymers rather than epoxy to bond the fibers together. This allows the fibers to flex, and for shock to be dissipated and damped through the rim to improve smoothness. The lack of epoxy also makes recycling possible and due to the Fusion Fiber manufacturing process, sanding, deburring or clear-coating are not necessary as the finished product is smooth, beautiful and ready to go. It’s worth noting that while CSS Composites is manufacturing wheels for their in-house brand along with Chris King and others, there are some differences in material and manufacturing that result in slightly different-feeling wheels on the trail.
At the heart of the MTN30 wheels are Chris King’s signature hubs. Customers have the option of selecting a 6-bolt or Center Lock Boost 110x15mm front hubs; and either a Boost (6bolt or Center Lock) 148x12mm or Superboost Center Lock 157x12mm rear hub. All rear hubs feature Chris King’s patented RingDrive, providing 72-points of engagement and that signature sound: the Chris King Buzz. SRAM XD, Shimano HG and Shimano Micro Spline drive shells are available. Customers also have the option to upgrade to Ceramic bearings in both hubs for an additional $110.
Like all of Chris King’s products, the wheels are hand built in their Portland, Oregon facility. The 28-spoke wheelsets are available in 27.5”, 29” and Mullet configurations. As to be expected, Chris King offers their hubs in a choice of nine different hub colors when building out their wheels. Tubeless tape and tubeless valve stems are included with the wheelset. The King Lifetime Warranty comes standard with the MTN30 wheelset, helping to take a tiny bit of the sting out of the $2,700 price tag.
Setting up the wheels was a straight-forward task and the tires, tape and stems held air instantly and for the remainder of the test period. The only break-in work needed was the bearing preload adjuster, which is nothing new for Chris King hub fans. It’s a simple enough process, but a process nonetheless. During the initial few rides we’d suggest checking the hub for play often, however after those initial rides and settling in, they should eventually find their home and you will hopefully find your happy place between free speed and lateral play.
When it comes to ride quality and performance on the trail, the Chris King MTN30 wheels rank high for us. We can be sticklers about comfort on the trail and regularly talk about hand and foot fatigue as calibrators by which we measure compliance on our routine test tracks. They aren’t alloy wheels, but they certainly don’t ride like the old abusive carbon wheels of years ago. In fact we’d say they ride quite nicely on a variety of terrain, and they consistently surprised us when pushed hard into corners. Granted, we are talking about 28-spoke trail to all mountain wheels, so don’t be confused thinking they’re going to feel stiff on your 170mm park bike railing blue-groove berms into a 40-foot jump. For their intended application, we feel these wheels pack a solid punch and offer a responsive feel that gives confidence and feedback without derailing your line or stamina.
Our wheelset weighed in around 1,758 grams and we experimented with them on a few bikes, some of which sit outside the ballpark of normal use for the MTN30 wheels. Even so, they held up and let us push to find the limits, even if only for a brief period. Riders in the aggressive 120-140mm range will likely enjoy the wheels most and riders who aren’t bashing their 160mm bikes into endless rock gardens will also likely find a friend in the MTN30s. They’re not quite as compliant as the Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels we reviewed, but they’re also a bit lighter and also quite a bit stiffer and more predictable in the corners, which is one area the Zipp wheels polarize riders. Another wheelset our crew enjoys is the Crankbrothers Synthesis wheels. These seem to be the closest sparring partner in recent memory as each wheel takes punches in certain categories, making them better for different types of riders and terrain, and even bike suspension platforms.
What we noticed about the wheels was the ability to damp some vibration and impact that didn’t feel totally like flex or compliance, but more related to either the material itself perhaps. Maybe it was a placebo effect, but our test riders thought the bikes we put the wheels on felt a bit quieter and more muted, especially compared to the fairly stiff Bontrager Line Elite carbon wheels we replaced on our Trek Slash.
The Wolf’s Last Word
While the price is an undeniable hurdle for many riders, there are folks out there who can and are willing to spend this kind of money on a high-performance carbon fiber wheelset if it’s an upgrade to their bike. As objective testers who are here to focus on performance first and foremost, these wheels perform well and will likely be an upgrade to just about anything else you’ve already got on your bike. Whether that’s worth the price of another entry-level mountain bike is up to you!
A number of things stand out to us when looking at the Chris King MTN30 wheelset. We love that the hoops are Made in Utah then shipped over to Portland, Oregon and laced up by passionate cyclists at Chris King’s HQ. Bonus points that they come with a lifetime warranty, and that the Fusion Fiber manufacturing allows the material to be recycled and used again and again, at least in theory. Moving over to the performance on the trail, the wheels absolutely shred, they spin up quick, engagement is solid and we really like how they feel in the corners and when riding over rougher terrain. They don’t offer mind-blowing compliance or difference on the trail, but they are a solid contender and if you’re a Chris King fan, then you’ll likely appreciate the pride of craftsmanship and overall experience you get from the MTN30 wheels.
Weight: 1,746 grams