Race Face Era Carbon Wheels

Words by Robert Johnston  |  Photos by Cole Gregg

Race Face is releasing their new Era carbon fiber mountain bike wheels today. Their Era wheels place a large focus on optimizing ride feel, with front and rear-specific designs aiming to offer the best performance on each end of the bike. We tested the Era carbon wheels in the trails close to Fox’s Scotts Valley office, and so far they’ve given us very little to complain about.

About The Race Face Era Carbon Wheels

Race Face wanted to create the best overall wheelset with their new Era offering, so set about benchmarking the competition and seeing what they could bring to the table to hit the mark. Comparing Weight, Impact Resistance, and Lateral Compliance, the Era wheel is not a leader in any category. However, by hitting 2nd place across the board, Race Face knows their Era wheelset is a strong contender across categories and one that’s likely to please a wide range of riders.

Race Face Era Carbon Wheelset First Ride Review

RIM DESIGN | Following testing of various designs, Race Face came to the conclusion that the compliance that adds real benefits to the ride quality out on the trail is not vertical compliance, but controlled deflection laterally. Their reasoning is that even the most vertically compliant wheels are only offering around 5mm of deflection, which is insignificant as a proportion of the system including a 130mm or longer fork; 50mm of tire deflection and even up to 15mm of handlebar deflection under a harsh compression. They found that the beneficial compliance of the wheelset is in the lateral direction, where no other component on the bike is typically designed to deflect.

To obtain tuned lateral compliance of their Era wheelset, Race Face designed a tuned front and rear rim system, with a more compliant front rim and stiffer rear rim. The front sees a shallower 18.6mm height whereas the rear grows to 22.6mm. Both feature their Anvil Edge, with a significantly thicker bead wall than most rims to reduce tire pinch flats and increase the strength against impact damage. Internal rim width sits at the common 30mm, which should give a balanced tire profile on most 2.4-2.6” tires. An asymmetric rim profile with 4mm spoke hole offset yields better spoke tension balance to produce a stronger wheel.

Race Face Era Carbon Wheelset First Ride Review

HUBS | Race Face has used their Vault hubs in their wheels for quite a while at this point, and their durability is well proven. The drive mechanism is reversed compared with typical designs, with the pawls sitting within the hub shell and the drive ring sitting on the freehub body. This opens up space to increase bearing spacing inside the hub, and the resulting oversized hub shell yields improved wheel stiffness.

The drive mechanism delivers 3-degree engagement via a 60 tooth drive ring. Six pawls work in two groups, with two teeth on each pawl to distribute the load. Race Face uses low-drag springs to increase rolling speed, as well as a low-drag Labyrinth seal to keep water and dirt out.

Race Face Era Carbon Wheelset First Ride Review

SPOKES | Race Face offers the Era wheelset with 28 straight pull spokes front and rear. These are double butted, with a 2mm diameter at the ends that tapers to 1.65mm in the middle, and share the same length throughout each wheel (different front and rear). 5 spare spokes are included in the box when purchased aftermarket.

BUILD SPECS | The Race Face Era wheels are sold separately, with 29” and 27.5” diameter options for both ends. All major hub standards are available, with only 6-bolt hubs offered initially, but Centerlock available shortly after.

Notable is the lifetime warranty included with the Era wheels, which includes damage sustained in crashes. If you case a jump or smash a rock and manage to break your Era wheel, Race Face will replace it free of charge without questions, sending a fully built new wheel to you.

The retail price on a pair of the new Race Face Era carbon wheels is $1,599, placing them in a competitive spot in the premium carbon wheel market.

Race Face Era Carbon Wheelset First Ride Review


Analyzing the decisions made by Race Face in the development of the ERA wheels, there’s a few features I’d like to call attention to that I appreciate. First and foremost, Race Face’s Anvil Edge rim bead technology is a very welcome sight on a wheel in this space. Typically the kind of design decision you would see on a gravity rim due to the weight penalty, the increased thickness here is sure to reduce pinch flat likelihood and increase strength in the most damage-prone area. Both very good things.

Front and rear-specific rims are nothing new, but it’s still great to see the job of each wheel analyzed separately with the aim of producing the most favorable riding characteristics overall. Both the stiffness and ultimate strength of a front wheel don’t need to be as high as the rear wheel – at least with current bike designs – so optimizing a lighter and more compliant front wheel with stiffer and more durable rear wheel is still great to see.

Race Face’s Vault hubs are solid performers, with design decisions that yield some structural improvements as well as reassuringly burly looks. Shorter spoke lengths with wider spaced and larger diameter bearings should produce a stiffer and more durable overall wheel. The weight is added to an efficient spot, where the moment of inertia is lower when compared to an equivalent wheel stiffness achieved through burlier spokes or rims. They’ve got a solid pick up, and have proved to be long-lasting.

Out on the trail, the first few rides haven’t produced any mind-blowing, standout feelings. This may sound like a negative, but in my eyes the best wheelset is the one that flies under the radar. The Race Face ERA wheelset felt sufficiently sturdy to let me push on without concern; spun up suitably fast for the 135mm travel (Fezz) Ari Delano Peak they were mounted to, and didn’t add notable harshness like some Carbon wheels of the past. The coming months will tell how they stand up to the test of time and really stack up in terms of performance. But for now, all I can say with certainty is that I’m excited to keep on riding them. And I’d say that’s quite high praise in my spoiled bike reviewer world.

Price: $1,599 (pair)


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