Berd has only been selling their ultra light spokes for a few years now, but they’re quickly gaining attention. Recently spotted them on this crazy FRM build featuring all things Dyneema, Berd spokes are made from ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE. You can find the material in bulletproof vests, but it also works well for a spoke material – if you know how to use it. 

Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes" Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes"

Berd is the werd

Compared to the usual steel spoke, Berd’s PolyLight spoke offers a number of advantages. For starters, the PolyLight is substantially lighter at just 2.5g per spoke. And since most of that weight is at the stainless steel attachment point on the end, the weight doesn’t change much per spoke length. Even though the PolyLight is much lower in weight, it’s actually higher in strength with 12 times the strength to weight ratio of steel. Atomik claims that in every test they performed, the Berd spokes had a higher breaking limit than anything else with co-founder Wayne Lee stating “The strength to weight ratio is truly impressive.”

As an added bonus, the PolyLight spokes also seem to excel at vibration damping meaning that the wheels offer a better ride quality.

“We were blown away with the ride quality, especially on a hardtails and fully rigid gravel bikes,” says Lee. “We didn’t think there was a way to drastically improve the already impressive damping of our carbon rims, especially models featuring our HDP Foamcore. And steel spokes have always been such a given, that we didn’t consider the potential for other spoke materials and how they could improve weight, performance and ride quality—until now.”

Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes"Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes"

Spoke construction

So if the material is so amazing, why hasn’t it been used before? Part of that equation is the construction of the spoke itself. Much of the strength and durability comes from the braiding of the UHMWPE material, but Berd wanted to maintain compatibility with most hubs and almost every standard rim. That meant adding a stainless attachment at the end that would would with standard spoke nipples, but that also meant finding away to bond the UHMWPE to the stainless end which is not easy. Berd figured it out though, and the result is a spoke that uses a standard 14g nipple that can be used to build most wheels. Like bladed spokes, the PolyLights have a wrench flat on the steel anchor point to keep the spoke from twisting when building the wheels. 

Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes"

Wheel builds

Berd spokes work with all j-bend hubs, tangential straight pull hubs, and some radial straight pull hubs though the attachment point at the hub varies slightly. Tangential straightpull hubs require no modification to use thanks to an insert that protects the spoke from damage, but j-bend and radial straight pull hubs need a little work. Specifically, you need to chamfer and polish the spoke hole edges to protect the spokes using the tools supplied by Berd. J-bend spoke use a loop that is inserted through the spoke hole, a rod is then inserted into the loop, and the spoke is pulled tight. It looks a little Flinstone-ish, but it works.

The wheels also require a specific build procedure which includes a 24 hour rest procedure between the last two of three tensioning sessions. This is due to the material “relaxing” by up to 50 percent the first time, then up to 25 percent the second time, before reaching their final length for the final tensioning.

Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes"

Atomik Carbon Ultimate Wheelset

If you want to avoid all the work involved in building an ultra light wheelset with Berd spokes, you can purchase a pre-built set – like the new Atomik Carbon Ultimate wheelset. Atomik has been working closely with Berd to offer pre-built wheels and the ‘Ultimate’ moniker seemed fitting given the wheels’ impressive weights and ride qualities.

Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes" Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes" Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes" Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes"

Weight

How light? Well, Atomik claims that wheelsets start as low as 1200g which obviously depends on your hub and rim selection. We’ve been playing around with two sets of gravel wheels which came in at 1361g for a 27.5″ set and 1393g for a 700c/29″ set. Note that these are both built with their XC33 rim which is 33mm wide external, and 26mm wide internal, so it’s a properly wide gravel or XC rim, and the wheels are all weighed above with tubeless tape and valves installed.

Berd claims that the addition of their spokes will drop 100-200g per wheelset, so not an insignificant savings.

Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes"

Since their launch, Berd has been selling their spokes separately, only in white. But for Atomik, the stock color will be stealth black. Atomik also states that they will offer exclusive colors including red, blue, orange, and olive green – more on that soon.

 

Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes"

Atomik will be offering their Carbon Ultimate wheels in both Gravel and Mountain builds, and in 650b or 700c/29″. Stock configurations will include Industry Nine hubs with Boost Hydra for MTB or Road Torch for gravel. Impressively, the wheels will sell for $1,699 – which is eyeopening considering the spokes alone typically sell for $600 per wheelset. Custom rim and hub configurations will also be offered through Atomik or your local bike shop.

Atomik x Berd Carbon Ultimate Wheelset brings new color to "world's lightest spokes"

First Impressions

I’ve had a few rides on the Carbon Ultimates now, and each time I couldn’t help but think the ride was a bit smoother than with other carbon wheels. That bodes well for their performance claims, but for better testing I’m planning to mount them onto a rigid gravel bike with back to back testing with another carbon wheelset. Ultimately though, they already deliver on weight, and as long as the prove to be durable, then they seem like they could be a winner. More soon.

atomikcarbon.com

24 COMMENTS

    • The bonded spoke section in this system is in tension. A typical J-bend spoke will break at the bend and fails in shear. Shear strength for typical metal materials is approximately half that of its tensile strength.

      Not sure what the strength of Dyneema material is, but I’m assuming it’s higher than the stainless used.

      • So it will fail at the stainless piece at the rim side…still failing nonetheless which seems to make the whole tensile strength skewed. Take note of the major stress risers in the rim side piece, those will fail in basic fatigue quite quickly. Plus, why does it matter if your spoke can hold a billion kgs of force, your rim will have spoke blow through at those numbers.

        Plus it is common knowledge that the tensile strength of a rope (for all intent/purpose) will be drastically reduced (upwards over 30%) when knots are added to the system.

        Plus the fact that you will most likely VOID your warranty by drilling out the hub flanges.

        Plus they look hideous.

        Plus those acceleration values look to be of a singular oscillating spoke and not that of a dynamic system.

        Making a problem to fit a solution.

        • Correct, knots are a problem. That’s why Berd doesn’t use any. With proper splicing technique Dyneema doesn’t lose any strength. And drilling out hub flanges would be a bad idea. Good thing they only mildly chamfer sharp edges. I’ve been following these for a while, including following the experiences of users and wheel builders. They seem legit, with cost being the only real drawback.

          • Do you know if this material experiences creep due to being under a constant tensile load? Do the wheels require retensioning regularly?

            • If built correctly, they do not. The version of Dyneema they use has significantly less creep than previous versions. There is a 24 hour period built into the wheel build process to allow for initial creep and settling, this eliminates the need for retensioning later.

        • The tensile strength, although touted, is not a benefit as the rim’s spoke bed typically limits tension regardless of spoke material. It seems the benefits of these are ride quality and weight (potential sacrificing weight for greater stiffness)

  1. It’ll be interesting to see long-term resilience/durability after the fiber based spokes are abraded by trail debris and dirt works its way in. Will they start looking fuzzy after a while? Are they coated with anything to prevent dirt ingress or is the theory that under tension dirt won’t be able to work its way in?

    • I have a set of Berds in an Enduro wheelset build and really enjoy them.
      They are getting jumped, smashed, drops, and worked hard.
      The Berd wheels definitely feel different.

    • Yes, the tension pulls the weave so tight nothing gets in. I expect they can still get fuzzy if abraded, but the abrasion won’t lead to a failure over time like a crack or gouge that can propagate in a homogeneous material, and they are already more than adequate in strength.

  2. I wonder how this’ll compare to those carbon spokes that Hunt uses?

    And I’m curious, why no road application yet? Wouldn’t this help make clincher wheels closer in weight to tubulars?

    • There totally are road applications. I’ve built a couple pairs of wheels with these for clients. Including a pair of aluminum clinchers that were something like 1,040g for the pair.

      However, i suspect you’ll see a ton if mtb wheelsets using these because the weight savings will likely be more – if there’s more spokes to start with, the savings will be more dramatic.

  3. I think the rim is always the limiting factor, so the ultimate tensile strength is mute. Ironically, dyneema spoke wheels of the same spoke count could be more flexible (although I have no info on their cross section) as dyneema is more stretchy than steel.
    Probably stiff enough. But they are like 2.5x the cost and I’d worry about durability. And are the traits discernible on a fat tire machine?

    Looking forward to the review but it needs to be blind as much as possible.

    • Wheel flex comes not from the spokes themselves – they are tensioned too high for that. It’s more about the rim stiffness as well as spoke spacing (distance between the hub flanges and offset of the holes in the rim).

      However flexible spokes do help with reducing vibration.

      • Tension doesn’t impact stiffness as long as it is high enough that the compressed spokes don’t unload completely.

        Wheel stiffness is a function of the rim, spoke count, cross section, length and material properties.

      • This is not correct.
        Lateral stiffness is a factor of spoke young’s modulus and cross sectional area. I’ve eliminate the rim and hub factors (spoke count, rim stiffness, bracing angle) as its the same between steel and dyneema spokes (same rim and hub)

        Notice I didn’t say tension. Spokes are tensioned to stay in their elastic range, so the wheel stiffness between two identical wheels except for the spokes, is governed by cross-section and young’s modulus (how stretchy) of the spoke material. Since all steel has the same modulus, historically the only way to increase stiffness of a given wheel would be to increase spoke diameter (or change its design, spoke count, bracing angle, rim stiffness, etc)

        back to dyneema:
        If spoke cross section is maintained, dyneema wheels will be less stiff. The young’s modulus of dyneema is almost 50-65% that of steel. So it stretches almost 2x as much for a given load increase (such as when turning or sprinting).
        Now, the cross section of a dyneema spoke is probably way larger than a normal SS spoke, so it’ll likely as stiff or stiffer.

        Damping is a different quality which dyneema, for bike spokes, is nice.

        • To blahblah, I should say you are only partially correct.

          I’m just showing how spokes themselves can affect stiffness when you change the material properties of the spokes. FritzP may have more elegantly stated it them me.

  4. Added to the long list of people who have tried to reinvent the wheel. Time will tell, but as history as my witness these will come and go just as the rest. Just taking cost into consideration, aside from the deal with Atomik (a wheel brand that I never ever see out in the wild anyway) …$600 per set of Berd spokes is catering to less than 1% of the cycling consumer. Most people have a hard enough time parting with $145 worth of CX-Rays, so go figure.

  5. No figures showing stiffness. Tensions top out at 130kgf so why are you showing me uts figures? I’m already highly suspicious, and these figures are neat and tidy showing the Berd spoke to be better than all the rest in every metric. Very suspicious.

    There is also the issue of marketing a superlight wheelset with rims that are 100g heavier than other carbon rims on the market.

    This article gave me a “whatever” feeling.

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