I’m pretty adamant in believing that out of any bike you own, your MTB deserves carbon wheels more than the rest. Now, my point that I’m trying to make – without getting too far off-topic – is out of all your bikes, your MTB gets abused the most and is required to do the most. With road and even cross wheels, you’re rarely taking big hits off-axis and you’re certainly not charging rock gardens. Regardless of tire size, a MTB benefits from a carbon wheel, both in durability and performance. Just ride a set and you’ll see what I mean.
That said, I’ve never been convinced that a set of proprietary wheels is a worth while investment, when compared to a set of hand laced wheels. The problem is, those hand-built wheels get expensive when you’re talking carbon fiber rims, laced to a DT, King, White Industries or the like hubset.
If you do decide to pull the trigger on a set of carbon hoops, there are so many options out there. Do you want XC race-light or “trail” wheels? Well, SRAM made it easy with the Roam 60. They’re nearing the weight of an XC wheelset (1650 grams for a 29r) with the durability of a legit trail wheel. I tend to over compensate my inability to connect what I see myself doing in my head, to what actually happens on the bike, with products that are engineered for even gnarlier undertakings. In short: I like riding beefy products on my XC rig, because it’s not just a XC rig.
My first introduction to the SRAM Roam 60 wheels was at the Trail House last year, where I rode the 27.5 version. Prior to that, I’d ridden other carbon wheels, ranging from mid-range to high-range pricepoints and was pretty set on the wheels I was demo’ing back home on the Tallboy LTC 29r. After a few runs however, I was very impressed with the Roam 60’s. Almost to the point where I was questioning the feasibility of purchasing a set of higher end MTB wheels for myself. Six months in, with numerous wheel swap outs – with everything from high end carbon hoops to aluminum rims – on my 29rs and I’m sold.
For around $2,200 you get what SRAM describes as:
“It’s the only wheel you need. By layering extra material onto stress points, ROAM 60’s UST compatible CARBON TUNED rim is light enough for long climbs and strong enough for the toughest Enduro races. Its DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design takes straight pull spoke slots and stacks them two-by-two—distributing force perfectly around the wheel’s SOLO SPOKE design. The resulting wheel dish is wider, maximizing lateral stiffness while retaining frontal compliance. If you love to ride, this is your wheel. ”
With the following features:
-CARBON TUNED unidirectional and woven carbon fiber, asymmetrical rim profile
-WIDE ANGLE profile: 21mm inside, 28mm outside rim width
-Available with 11-speed XD™ Driver Body, 10- or 9-speed driver body
-Aluminum nipples with nylon lock ring
-SOLO SPOKE design with double butted, stiff stainless steel spokes
-Durable hub internals with Star Ratchet 36-tooth system
-SIDE SWAP easy conversion to all axle types
-DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design
-Weight: 1515g (26in), 1570g (27.5in), 1650g (29in). Wheel pair in lightest configuration. Wheel weights can vary 5%.
So what does all that mean? Well, let’s begin with the rims.
Carbon rims will take a lot of abuse, they’re great in tension, not so great in compression by default. I.e. they’re not immune from stress fractures and failures but engineering can tackle that issue. Surprise! SRAM’s Roam rims are made from unidirectional carbon fiber. I like to think that keeps them round and true, or consistent. Then, where there needs to be reinforcement, it’s there. The sidewalls are reinforced and tapered to do just that. All of which you really cant tell once a tire is installed.
I’m not going to dive into tech right now, but I will say I’ve taken some less than ideal lines up and down the limestone here in Austin, which has resulted in some off-center landings and a lot of bottoming out. The latter being the result of such limited tire clearance in my rear stays… It doesn’t take much for the gong of carbon and metal to ring on the trails.
I even recall landing some tech lines here after literally being thrashed about and thinking to myself “I’m going to break a spoke, or crack these rims.” Nope. Nada. I haven’t had to touch these wheels in 6 months. Rocks have flown off the rim and spokes numerous times and even if I did pop a spoke, they’re all the same length, so it’s easy to replace them.
Speaking of spokes… Sure, the rims are great, but part of the Roam 60’s durability comes from SRAM’s proprietary hubs. Their hub shell takes straight pull spoke slots, stacking them in pairs, equally around the shell, resulting in a wider wheel dish, which is crucial in overall strength.
The hub’s engagement is just as reliable as other hubs in my possession. I’ve never once felt a sluggish take-off. All this makes sense, because DT Swiss is making the hubs. They even have a nice freewheel sound. Not too loud but not so quiet that you scare hikers.
These days, with various axle types, the easier an axle swap, the better. Not to mention drivers. The Roam 60 wheels make that a cinch… No tools needed, just do it by hand following their easy on the web instructions.
Wider is better, but the Roam 60’s aren’t quite there… Well, they’re fine with me. I can’t notice a difference between a 21mm inner diameter and a 23mm inner diameter of other manufacturer’s offerings (seriously, look at 2mm on a ruler). At 28mm wide, I feel like the ability to notice rim width falls off drastically. For those techies who want the widest possible interior measurement, you won’t be happy with the 21mm in the Roam 60s – even though you can’t tell the difference!
The main points to take away from this review are, I tend to ride like a bit of a gravity bully. Even on my hard tail. If I see a line I want to take, I do, without hesitation. That sometimes results in less than ideal forays into limestone catastrophes. The number of times I’ve taken hits, or bottomed these wheels out, to find they’re still as true as the day I got them, six months ago is astonishing.
Lighter rims make all the difference and if your “trail” wheels are approaching XC weight, why not go for the upgrade? You’ll notice a huge difference when climbing and descending through technical, rooty or rocky sections. The stiffness is incredible and it will drastically alter your bike’s handling and ride qualities for the better. If you’re looking for a bomb-proof, affordable set if carbon wheels, the Roam 60’s are a top contender.
The Roam 60 wheels are available at your local SRAM dealer.
If you have anything to add, or ask, do so in the comments!