Launched at Interbike last year, Sun-Ringle’s Black Flag Pro 29er wheels have apparently been quite the hot seller for them.Â They’re light (as you’ll see on the scale photos after the break), and judging by my own tests at the Ashland Super-D at the end of May, they’re pretty darn durable.
It’s a bit early for a full review, but check out the weights, detail photos and initial thoughts after the break…
The photo at top was shot during the Ashland Super D in the special SRAM class for journos and staff attending their 2×10 press camp. Number plate was wrapped in full aero position, and if you’re keeping score, here’s how we finished up:
For convenience / bragging rights, I put the people’s affiliations next to their times. Actually, you need to add two minutes to everyone’s times because of an error recording. Mark Jordan from Decline raced pro and had at least four minutes and change on the rest of us. Zach White muscled up the only climbing section, giving him a big time advantage on the non-gravity assisted part of the race course. Ryan Labar is also known as ‘Squirrel’ and is, as of this post, racing in the BC Bike Race. There are at least three names mispelled, including my own. The two girls from Western Spirit cycling tours were there hooking up breakfast for us each morning. Their times aren’t recorded because they stopped early on and provided beer handoffs:
Jordan Carr (Mountain Flyer) took advantage of their hospitality, which is why his time is over an hour. Roy Wallack’s time isn’t there because he overshot the final turn to the finish and had to retrace some steps…which is funnier a) if you know Roy, who’s a great guy, and b) because he and I took a wrong turn the day prior and ended up beating everyone else back to base camp at UBI. Being solely focused on my race efforts, I hadn’t even noticed the girls’ outfits until they returned to UBI afterward.
OK, about those wheels…
The basic specs you need to know are: 24mm width rims, straight pull spokes and they’ve licensed Stan’s NoTubes rim profiles, so they’re ready to run tubeless out of the box. Speaking of the box, here’s what they look like in the box:
And they come with this:
The gold bits are axle adapters for the front hub. They’re easily interchangeable to run standard 9mm QR or 15mm or 20mm thru axles.
Pop ’em in and out to swap…super easy.
The rear hub (not shown with accessories) can be swapped between 135×12 and 142×12 axle options.
The 29er wheels get 28 spokes front and rear, and they come with chromoly skewers. Hubs are standard 6-bolt disc brake compatible.
WHAT DO THEY WEIGH?
Claimed weight for the pair is 1,665g. Our pair came in slightly heavier than that at 1,770g (about 105g heavier than claimed), but still pretty good for an XC / Trail pair of 29er hoops. Numbers above are in kilograms, so 840g front, 920g rear. (UPDATE: Scott Boyd, Sun-Ringle’s brand manager, said the claimed weight was based on preproduction versions and that most sets are right around 1770g and they’re going to update their website)
Apparently the magic of rounding isn’t kind to the combined weight. These weights are without skewers, and I haven’t weighed the skewers separately yet. It’s not totally relevant if you’re using a thru-axle on the front anyway.
Here’s perhaps the best part: These wheels are only $650 USD MSRP!
Here’s the deal. So far, I’ve only ridden these things on bomber downhills, including groomed singletrack, fire roads and fresh cut and likely unauthorized backcountry downhills where the rear wheel is essentially acting like a rudder as your junk hovers dangerously close to it. This, obviously, is not what Sun-Ringle’s engineers had in mind when building a lightweight set of 29er wheels.
That said, they’ve held up exceptionally well. They’ve been shipped in a soft case from NC to OR, ridden downhill for several days in a row, then shipped back. Ground both ways.
Upon inspection after their return, the front wheel is nearly perfectly true. The rear wheel, not so much. I didn’t check it after the rides, so whether it was knocked out of true in transit or during riding is hard to say, but based on the way it wobbles I’d say possible a bit of both but probably mostly from riding. After all, I was jumping a little, and that tends to put a lot of landing force on the rear wheel, particularly when landing slightly sideways as one tends to do.
Climbing and cruising, these wheels are fa-aa-ast. I had them with Maxxis Aspen XCeptional 120tpi tires on them with tubes (560g tires, about 200g/tube), and never flatted even when running fairly low pressure (30-32psi).
They were ridden on a Niner Rip 9 (120mm travel) that, when built up with a Rockshox Reba fork and Reverb (515g) drop seatpost w/ remote, Truvativ stem and bar, full XO group including brakes and a Bontrager RXL MTB saddle. Total bike weight, if you’re curious, was about 27.5 lbs without pedals. Size large…which means, again, if you’re curious, you could very easily get a 120mm travel, full suspension 29er bike very close to 26lbs without killing yourself, and it’d still be immensely trail worthy…one might say Super-D worthy, even.
Anyway, back to the wheels. The Ashland Super-D course had a solid mix of hard, bermed corners, wet roots and rocks, drops, jumps and debris. In short, everything that tests a tire’s ability to track straight, and so far, I have nothing but good things to say about the Black Flag Pro’s. They exhibited no noticeable flex, which is saying a lot considering some of the corning loads I was putting on them. They tracked well through the rock gardens without pinging off edges and offered solid steering despite having low profile, XC racing tires on a wet downhill course.
Despite being about a centimeter out of true in the rear now, there isn’t a loose spoke to be found, and the wheels are still plenty rideable (I am having them trued before further use, though).
While durability comments will come after more use, I’d say if you’re itchin’ to get a solid set of wheels, definitely put the Sun-Ringle Black Flag Pro’s on your short list.