Picture from: http://www.ibiscycles.com/wheels/
I was lucky enough to pick up a ‘gently used’ Ibis 928 carbon wheelset a few weeks ago from a friend upgrading to the 941 with the wider rim. So I thought it was time for a review.
I’ve been a 29er rider for over 7 years now and, like others, realized that wheel quality has a much bigger impact on 29″ bikes than the 26″ bike I came from. With more rotating weight there is a trade-off between stiffness and weight that is critical to 29er riding bliss. I’ve literally gone from ‘hate it’ to ‘love it’ on a 29er because of rim choice.
Early 29ers had wheels that were just too heavy. Fortunately, Stan’s came out with good tubeless-capable aluminum rims that got the right balance between weight and stiffness. The 355 rim and, with even better lateral stiffness, the Arch rim were key to my early 29er enjoyment.
Like a lot of riders I didn’t really appreciate what ‘stiffness’ meant until I was able to compare different products. My first significant experience with this was trading off between a high-end Aluminum full suspension bike and a Carbon frame bike. The carbon frame bike simply went where I pointed it. The lack or lateral flex meant that front and rear wheels tracked more in a line and I only steered with the front wheel and not the frame.
Sold on Carbon for frames, I jumped when I had the chance to buy the Ibis wheelset for $650 where it would be $1300 new. When you’re paying more for wheels than most people pay for a bike you really don’t want them to disappoint and they didn’t. In fact they were actually better than I imagined.
If your looking for just weight savings the wheels are not all that impressive. I went from the stock Stan’s Arch wheelset to the stock Ibis wheelset and knocked just 170 grams off the bike weight which amounted to an equal front/rear split. Basically the weight reduction for each wheel amounted to an 85 gram savings at the rim exactly as the Stan’s and Ibis specs indicated. Of course rotating weight savings are the holy grail of weight reduction so saving weight at the rim is a big deal.
Where I was even more excited was the ride performance. My first ride was a race-paced 30 mile loop at Fort Ord where most of the trails are fast and flowy with the occasional deeply rutted section – perfect terrain for my Flash29 hardtail. Just a few yards into the ride the bike felt lively and responsive and I felt great pushing it hard and leaving my buddy behind on the first moderate climb. I knew my speed at this point was more about my excitement with the new wheels and I backed off a bit so I could do the full ride. We hit the first twisty descents and I could feel the bike holding it’s line through the turns and when I hit my first deep ruts in the turns I noticed that I didn’t have to fight the front wheel as much to keep things pointed the right way. All-in-all the wheels made me more confident at speed and I was stoked I could actually feel the improvement.
I hope to try the wider 41mm rims sometime soon to see if the promised extra traction is as advertised. I expect that will be the case since Ibis delivered on the promises of the 928’s