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Race Face Era Carbon MTB Wheels give Bumps the Side Eye

race face eras carbon MTB wheels ridden in loose dirt
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With the new Era carbon MTB wheels, Race Face was hell-bent on making the best mountain bike wheels by being second-best in key parameters. If that sounds like an odd way to go about it, keep reading, it’ll all make sense.

While competitors’ wheels focus on being the lightest, or the most compliant, or the stiffest, Race Face says none of them combine all of those qualities in the right proportions. So they benchmarked the new Era wheels against six top brands’ carbon trail and enduro wheels, targeting the best qualities of each and balancing one against the others.

Race Face says that by being not quite the stiffest, or lightest, or most compliant wheels on the market, they’re actually the best as a total package. They’re still very light, very compliant, and snappy, but it’s how those features come together that give them their edge. Here’s how it all comes together…

race face eras carbon MTB wheels

The Race Face Era cranks debuted in late 2022 as their carbon fiber option for trail/all-mountain riders. It took advantage of Race Face’s decades of in-house carbon fiber expertise. They’re remarkably light, not just for the category, but even compared to many XC cranks. But it’s also tough enough to come with a lifetime warranty, crash damage included.

rim closeup on new race face eras carbon MTB wheels

Now they’re taking all of that experience and applying it to the Era carbon wheels. Developed over three years and 5,300 hours of riding, they’re aimed at the “shore to the core” trail/all-mountain rider to balance lightweight and stiffness, but also compliance and durability. Basically, they had to be…

Strong, Compliant, Light & Snappy

rim closeup on new race face eras carbon MTB wheels

Compliance is the hot topic in mountain bike wheels, so we’ll start there. Race Face says compliance is the property of a material undergoing elastic deformation when subjected to an applied force. For wheels, we usually think of it as vertical compliance, which is the ability of a wheel to compress (ovalize) slightly under a hard impact.

It is important, but Race Face’s test data showed that for the average-weight rider on a standard enduro bike, at bottom out, you’ll have about 5mm of vertical wheel compression. But you also have 50mm of tire compression, 160mm of suspension compression, and up to 16mm of handlebar flex. So, does 5mm of wheel compliance really matter against 226mm of suspension + tire + handlebar compliance?

Yeah, it does, but you have to think about it differently.

race face eras carbon MTB wheels compliance graphic

There’s also lateral compliance, which is the ability for a wheel to flex side to side during off-camber impacts. This helps the wheel track straight when you’re pinballing through a rock garden, so it’s less likely to throw you off your line.

Combine the two in just the right amounts and you have the secret sauce. Both lateral and vertical compliance help the wheel better handle the forces that would cause you to lose traction.

race face eras carbon MTB wheels rim profile cutaway

To do this, the Era carbon rims have different rim depths and profiles from front to rear. The front is 18.6mm deep, rear is 22.6mm deep.

This makes the front wheel a bit more compliant to keep your steering on track. The rear is a bit deeper for more lateral stiffness since it has less impact on your steering and control, but maximizes the ability to rail corners and handle off-axis landings.

rim closeup on new race face eras carbon MTB wheels

Both are 30mm wide internally, which is 1mm narrower than the Next R all-mountain wheels. These keep the thick “Anvil Edge” 4.5mm-thick bead profile to protect against impacts and pinch flats. They’re basically hookless, with just the tiniest little lip inside to add more width for better pinch flat protection.

They’re built with 28 double-butted spokes per wheel, with different spoke lengths front and rear, but the same length on both sides of each wheel. Spare spokes are included, and they’re standard spokes you can find at most shops in a pinch.

Vault hubs at the center of it all

hub closeup on new race face eras carbon MTB wheels

Race Face’s Vault Hubs have been at the center of their mountain bike wheels for years and they’re great. The custom internals put the pawls on the outer circumference of the oversized shell, with a giant ratchet ring on the freehub body itself. That’s the reverse of the standard design, but it lets them move the main bearing outboard further since the oversized internals make room for it directly under the ratchet ring.

hub closeup on new race face eras carbon MTB wheels

The non-drive side bearing is pushed as far out as possible, too. This makes the hub much stiffer, so lateral forces have less impact on engagement.

It’s also very quick to engage, with six pawls and 60 teeth yielding 3º engagement.

hub closeup on new race face eras carbon MTB wheels

Low-drag labyrinth seals keep the crud out, proven in the wet and mud of the PNW where they’re based. The hubs come in 6-bolt brake mounts for now; a Center Lock version is coming later in 2024.

Claimed weights are 1750g (29er) and 1692g (27.5”). MSRP is $1,599 ($2,150 CAD) and includes a Lifetime Warranty, crashes included (they’ll just replace the wheel).

So, does chasing second make them the best new trail MTB wheels? We’ll see, we have a couple of sets on test. First impressions are very good. I smashed them through plenty of roots and rocks during a recent launch event, nailing one big root at full speed and full compression coming out of a G-out. It shrugged it off, and I kept rolling, with seemingly no momentum lost.

I’ve been a fan of their Next SL wheels for years, and the Vault hubs are awesome. I’ve also ridden and trusted Race Face’s carbon cranks for many, many years with zero issues. These seem to live up to their claims, definitely worth a look. Long-term review coming in a few months.

RaceFace.com

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Billyshoo
Billyshoo
19 days ago

I love the XXL Superbubba aesthetic of those hubs.

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