It is safe to say that Utah-based Mercury Cycling have one of the most rad-looking enduro wheelsets currently available on the market. The wild-looking silver-striped X1 Enduro Wheelset features a patent-pending Fiber-X composite material, which Mercury claim to be twice the tensile strength of hi-modulus carbon fiber, while also being capable of damping major impacts. With a price tag of $1,899, this enduro wheelset should provide an excellent ride feel and be bomb proof, right? For the 2019 race season, I got my Trek Slash enduro race bike rolling on a set of these 29er hoops, with the all-new Mercury Axis freehub with XD Driver. Before diving into the highs and lows of the review, let’s take a look at the Tech. There is a lot of it!

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Testing the Mercury X1 Enduro Wheelset on the local Innerleithen enduro trails. Photo Credit: Robyn Wilkinson

Mercury X1 Enduro with Fiber-X Tech

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Not to beat about the proverbial bush, let’s get straight to that flashy silver-stripe. That’s the Fiber-X carbon composite which we still don’t really know anything about. Mercury say this composite adds an impact absorption characteristic to the wheel, with 2x the strength and 4x the damping properties of High Modulus Carbon. Just like a bullet proof vest absorbs the impact of a bullet, the Fiber-X composite adds strength to the rim and absorbs the energy from any impact or trail noise. On testing, Mercury say their wheels fared as well as the new Santa Cruz Reserve wheels, and were durable enough to withstand a double impact of 120 joules at the same location. Pretty impressive when you consider that the industry standard is just 80 joules in one hit.

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Mercury emboss their logo into the carbon

In addition to the Fiber-X vibration damping material, the X1 Enduro rims are themselves formed with a rubberized resin. This engineering, borrowed from the airline industry, has been employed for durability purposes, protecting the rims during harsh impacts.

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The clincher region has a butted profile, 4mm at the top portion with a slight taper towards the bed of the rim

An asymmetrical rim profile is a tried and tested design to improve wheel stiffness as it allows for equal spoke lengths, and therefore tensions, on the drive and non-drive sides. Not being fans of the aesthetics of asymmetrical rims, Mercury have taken a slightly different route to attain the desired wheel stiffness. Notice how the rim has a straight top and straight sides. These 30mm internal width (38mm external) hookless carbon rims are symmetrically trapezoidal in profile, which is said to efficiently transfer energy from impacts taken at the rim edge, down to the Fiber-X composite spoke area. While the rims themselves are symmetrical, it is the spoke hole drilling that is offset allowing for spoke tensions to be almost equal on the DS and NDS. It also allows for the spokes to sit at a wider bracing angle for added lateral stiffness without the addition of weight.

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Twenty-eight double-butted Sapim Race spokes leave the Mercury Axis hub and insert into brass Sapim Alloy nipples at a triple-butted reinforced nipple bed – the carbon fiber has stepped reinforcement here for added strength where the spokes pull on the rim.

Mercury Axis Hubs

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The Mercury X1 hubs take centre-lock discs

The 29″ X1 Enduro rims are laced up to Mercury’s Axis BOOST 15x110mm front wheel hub, and 12x148mm freehub.

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The 3.5° engagement Mercury Axis freehub, fresh, straight out of the box.

The Axis is Mercury’s proprietary freehub, for which they have made available both XD Driver and HG freehub bodies. It is a sealed bearing assembly with 6 triple-stepped pawls providing a short and fast 3.5 degree engagement with three pawls engaged at any one time. Each pawl sits on its own leaf spring with the triple-step helping to dissipate torque over a wider area, reducing the load at any one point and increasing durability. The pawls themselves are quite wide, measured at 5mm, dissipating force over a wide area, which should help the whole system to function under high torque.

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The Axis ratchet ring is made of hardened tool steel to reduce the likelihood of teeth shearing under load.

The hub creation process starts with cold forged aluminum block of 6000 series aluminium alloy, chosen for its strength and ductility characteristics. It is CNC milled using a CNC machine that operates over five axes, hence the name Axis. This allowed Mercury to machine in “hard to get” spots. The axle is 17mm in diameter, 2mm thick and is made of 7xxx series aluminium alloy.

Mercury X1 Enduro: Testing

On their arrival, the true of the X1 Enduro Wheelset was checked, and we were not left wanting. Check out the short video below to see the wheels rolling in a Park Tool Truing stand, and to hear the Axis freehub doing its thing. The front wheel weighed in at 810g, while the rear with XD Driver weighed in at 950g, bringing the total wheelset weight to 1,760g. This is just within the claimed weight of 1,725g (+/- 2%) and a good 125g lighter than similarly priced carbon wheels from Crank Brothers, the Synthesis E11.

As you can see, the wheels arrived tubeless-ready, with the rims very well taped. I fitted MSC Gripper 2.3″ tires to the hookless rims, tubeless. These rims are fairly deep at 24mm; not a problem when you’ve a workshop-grade air compressor on-hand, a bit more of a mission when you’ve only got an Airshot available on race morning. You’ll need valve extenders.

So, how do they ride?

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Racing on the slate of North Wales. Photo Credit: Dave Price

Supremely well, actually. There’s an elephant in the room, but we got a 4-month incident free period out of these wheels, so bear with. The 3.5 degree hub engagement is plenty fast enough. So quick that I now don’t even consciously think about that as a factor when riding. The quick engagement is particularly helpful for technical climbing, giving you propulsion exactly as and when you need it to get up and over rocky features.

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Racing the Top Chief track at Fort William on the X1 Enduro Wheelset. Photo Credit: Digital Downhill

During the 5 month test period, July to November, the X1s were my sole wheelset. During that time I raced five UK enduros, including the Naughty Northumbrian, with a wild scree-slope stage, and a Scottish Enduro Series round at Fort William, with its 10-minute long granite rock Top Chief track. I also hit the Fort William World Cup track on these wheels – not the massive senders, but the infamous wood section rock garden, and the 4-5 ft drops on the top section. The wheelset held up flawlessly on all of the above, and also on a trip to Scotland’s rockiest trail centre, Laggan.

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Photo Credit: Robyn Wilkinson

The Mercury X1s track remarkably well through turns, and the lightweight rims make changing direction effortless. There was nothing about the ride feel of the wheels that would lead me to call them too stiff, but they certainly weren’t too compliant either. Checking the true of the wheels towards the end of the test period found that they ran as true as the day they were fitted at BSpoke Cycles, and as round. Having never touched a spoke throughout the whole test period, the tensions were still as new.

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Six triple-stepped 5mm wide pawls each sit on their individual leaf spring

At around the 4-month point, the freehub and hub shell bearings were rough, and the freehub was sticking on the back pedal. On inspection, the freehub grease actually looked remarkably clean given the sloppy conditions it had been subjected to, credit to the 2 seals at either end of the hub.

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On closer inspection, it became clear that the freehub sticking was caused by a wandering hub flange (pictured) which had migrated inboard towards the hub shell and was pressing too hard against the main hub seal. Freehub bearing replacement was made harder than necessary by the presence of a machined circlip recess on the inner surface of the freehub body – the old bearing kept slipping into the recess when being pulled out. As for pushing the new bearings back in; the plastic cover that stops the hub flanges from moving about too much was easily cracked as the new bearing was pushed back in. This didn’t affect the functioning of the freehub at all, however.

The Broken Rim

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The rim failed where I least expected it to; on my local DH trails at Innerleithen, where the tracks are 99% loam. The rear wheel landed awkwardly on a rock from a short bunny hop, at speed I grant you. A classic shotgun noise and the dreaded hiss ensued. I was running an MSC Gripper 2.3″ Super Shield tyre tubeless, with no rim protection at around 20 psi. You may think that low but I weigh only 60 kgs soaking wet. We got in touch with Mercury to chat about the rim crack; they said they offer customers a $150 crash replacement policy, shipped.

Pricing & Availability

The Mercury X1 Fiber-X Enduro Wheelset will set you back $1,899, but Mercury offer a 15% discount to those who subscribe to the mailing list. 27.5″ or 29″ rims are laced up to the Mercury Axis freehub, with either an XD or HG Driver. Mercury also support all current axle sizes. A 2-year warranty policy against manufacturer’s defects is extended to the original owner only.

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Photo Credit: Robyn Wilkinson

MercuryCycling.com

5 COMMENTS

  1. I broke the pawl carrier in the freehub body on a set of Mercury X3 Enduro wheels after less than 200 miles. I could send for a replacement, but I just had the rear wheel rebuilt with a new XTR hub, as the rest of the wheelset seems fine. Gave me an excuse to try out the new Shimano 12 speed stuff I found on black friday sale for 20% off.

  2. I prefer the low cost no fault rim replacements over 100% free lifetime replacement rims. Much less chance of abuse, which we would all be paying for.

  3. I’ve been running this wheelset since March 2019 with zero issues whatsoever. 90% of my riding is in Utah (chunky rock) the other 10% of my time has been spent in Santa Cruz. These wheels are absolutely amazing as they are not as harsh as other carbon wheelsets on the market. I’ve never had to true them or had any issues with the hubs or engagement. I just picked up the fiber x + version to run on a new Scott genius as well and plan to run them on a 2020 scott gambler. I’m very impressed with the quality of these wheels and the level of customer service at Mercury Cycling is second to none.

  4. After my last extremely harsh riding carbon wheel set. “From another local competitor here in Utah” I sweared off carbon wheels forever. After being talked into a set of X Fiber + And 20 minutes of riding, my mind was changed once again! X Fiber wheels are on and will be on every bike I own or will own!
    I set them up tubeless for the first ride.. I set my pressure about 8-10 psi higher than I usually run, just to account for any leakage from the new tubeless set. I literally stopped 5 or more times in the first couple miles to check the psi. I kept thinking my psi was low. But they were still exactly the same as when I started. From that point on I was sold on the fiber x damping properties.
    I purchased these in early spring and have 2000+ Miles on them on my Scott Ransom and not one issue. Freehub has worked flawlessly and the wheels look brand new! I’ve ran as low as 14psi front and 18psi rear “I weigh 190 lbs” with absolutely no worries. Considering the high speed and super chunky rocks we have here in Utah, they by far exceeded my quality expectations for a wheel.
    Mercury wheels will be on every bike I ever ride. There quality and there service is second to none! Hands down the best upgrade I’ve done to a bike in many years. Keep up the great work Mercury and THANK YOU for making me a firm believer in product!

  5. I had high hopes for the hub while reading the details in the article, but the failure described is typical of low quality rear hubs though the price is not low….

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