AX Lightness had teased for a while that they were doing something different to build a wheel that could handle Enduro abuse, and now we’ve got a chance to take a closer look. The new rim leaves pretty much all of their previous shaping concepts behind to build a new T-profiles rim that is specifically engineered to survive racing Enduro where wheels sometimes get banged out of shape or broken regularly at races. The new rims are designed to allow some flexibility to handle impacts and get a bead shaped to drastically reduce pinch flatting.
Spin on across the fold to check out the rim profile and see how it works…
The T-shape has two elements that shape how it rides. The central box section gives traditional vertical stiffness and torsional rigidity, and allows the wheels to be laced in a conventional manner with AX’s molded-in spoke holes. But the very thin, curved top of the box allows the arms of the T to deflect independently to absorb impacts. The wide cantilevered arms of the T get a very wide smooth-radiused, hookless bead. The rim features continuous fibers molded around the round bead, with no post machining to ensure that this part of the rim that gets smacked on rocks has the highest integrity and can withstand repeated impacts. The 5mm wide round beads are also designed to have a round edge to contact the tire, so even on a massive hit where the sidewall deforms to pinch down onto the rim, the smooth profile dramatically reduces the stress that cuts tires or results in flats.
Playing a bit with the rim in our hands, it was interesting to feel this flexibility works. You can’t really move the two beads apart by pulling on them, as the rim is very stiff (even in the short rim cut off we were playing with), but we could get a sense of the flexibility by squeezing the sample section’s beads together to see the center section move.
The 430g rims will be available only in complete wheels, and 27.5″ only. The rims are tubeless-ready and ship with tape installed, but without valves. AX recommends the Tune valves. The wheels will be built up with DT 240 hubs and can be spec’ed with a XD or Shimano bodies and whatever thru-axles you want. AX Lightness is psyched about the durability of the wheels. Their thought is that even though they will cost maybe 3x a comparable aluminum wheelset, they will be a more economical option in the long run since they will survive much more abuse and bounce back.