After riding a few sets of the Velocity A23 rimmed wheels we have built for customers and being impressed by the feel of the wider footprint, higher air volume/lower pressures and more upright sidewalls of the 23mm rim and 23mm tyre combinations I was excited to trial the Velocity P35 29″ MTB rim on my own bike and see if the feeling could be transferred to the dirt riding.
The factory wheels that my MTB came with were an eyeletted, box style ‘Deep V’ with about a 21mm wide bead clamping area, they were built up with double butted spokes and while not being particularly light had a similar feel as far as the tyre contact as most other alloy clincher MTB wheel sets I have ever ridden and had been pretty reliable.
I built the Velocity P35’s using the existing hubs but decided to go to straight gauge spokes for a bit of extra rigidity and reliability. The total wheelset weight would be somewhere in the vicinity of 250gm heavier than the stock setup with nearly double the rim width. It looks impressive!
When Jonesy asked me what colour I would like and reeled off a few of the options available, the maniacal laughter emanating from the workshop as I settled on Anti-freeze Green was nothing short of concerning. I love it now I have seen them in the flesh, while black might have looked kinda badass the fact that they are bright green adds to the impact of the rim width and adds an element of (miniscule)street cred that my 29’er was severely lacking.
Although we are already on to the next revolution in wheel sizes (27.5″/650B, it’s actually really good, get on it!), most people are probably aware of the benefits of a 29″ wheel being that they were the flavour for the last couple years. They ‘roll over stuff good’ and have been known to ‘smooth out the trail, and stuff’ while ‘giving you a higher speed on wide open sections of trail, more climbing tyre grip, and all that business’.
Some of the main detractors of the wagon wheels are, they make you look like you should be riding the cycle path to the CBD with a baby seat on the back and a basket on the front(chortle). They do actually compromise the geo of the frame compared to the traditional MTB standard by trying to fit the big wheels into a compact frame design and while trying to add some suspension travel, and, they have a high rotational mass compared to true MTB wheels which makes them harder to wind up, turn and slow down.
The Velocity P35 brings out the worst and best features of the 29’er platform. I found in my initial testing around the Garvey Park dirt crit circuit near the Perth domestic airport they do exceptionally well in the mud with the more square tread contact patch and the increased air volume/lower pressure. I was carving the deep mud and gathered water up with no worries, the bike gliding through most of it much easier than I have ever experienced before. I did notice the increased rotational mass at higher speeds and under sustained pedaling, it wasn’t so bad with acceleration but on false flats and in the harder gears of the cassette it was definitely there.
The trail test around the Kalamunda circuit was going to be the real benchmark as it’s where the bike will see 99% of the action. We parked at Farrell Grove and rode up the Dell, Muffin Tops to the Black Stump, back to the Camel Farm and Kamikaze, Lancaster and back to the car again.
The wheels as before definitely feel like they are dragging more at high speeds and on the false flats but the ability to roll over everything feels at least twice as good as before, rocks and roots are easily disposed of and I was through the rougher sections on the Kamikaze trail before I had realised they were even there. Jumping and landing felt great and I probably had more confidence in these hand built wheels than I ever did in the factory wheelset. I found the acceleration out of corners to be on par with the previous wheel set, if not a little better with the straight gauge spokes.
I did come-a-cropper in one of the Kamikaze berms, with the big rains we had the day before the trails were amazingly grippy and I pushed it in low enough that I ended up on the side wall as opposed to the corner of the tread where I would have been normally, which I found the hard way is now a possibility with the more square profile of the tyre’s tread and sidewalls and the reduced deflection without the hour glass shape.
On the whole this is a definite improvement for a fun oriented 29″ trails bike, where the bike was good before(Monster truckin’ over stuff, acceleration, comfort and tread grip) it is now better. Where it was bad before (tight turns, switchbacks and agility), it is about the same as the previous wheelset and something new to come of the P35’s is the drag you feel at higher speeds. Definitely worth it though as far as my own riding is concerned but unless ENVE were to offer this size in a carbon fibre rim I would never put it on a race bike.
Jackie Wheels – Cycles Bespoke Wheel Builder and Mechanic