For me, wheels can be measured by two factors: price and resilience. I try to act like weight doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t matter until it does. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion though. Anyway, for the past month, I’ve been riding the new Industry Nine AR25 wheels. Marketed for “all road” applications, these wheels use the Torch disc hub system with a three-pawl, 6º freehub mechanism, a 21mm inner width rim, and are laced with 24 Sapim CXray spokes. Industry Nine reduced the pawls by half to cut down on weight, drag and that insanely loud noise they’re well known for. There’s always that moment of anxiety when you spin an i9 hub for the first time. Just how loud is this one going to be?
The G word is everywhere these days. Gravel, gravel, gravel. It’s an all-in-one marketing machine. Truth is, wheels like this are a great companion for your drop bar disc bike. Be it a road, ‘cross or yes, all-road. I’ve been riding them on my Firefly with Maxxis Refuse 40mm tires on pavement, steep dirt roads, and singletrack. While I haven’t ridden on gravel, I ride plenty of loose, sandy and rocky roads with them.
As much as I try to front, saying weight doesn’t matter, the one place it does is your wheels. For me, there’s a line in the sand, or gravel, or whatever substrate you ride. On one side is “yeah, those are light” and the other “holy fuck, is that hub made from lead?” Luckily, the i9 wheels felt so light, I thought the box only had one wheel in it upon arrival. Surprise! Part of this has to do with the pawl reduction, another part, the lacing pattern and spoke manufacturer, but when you add up all these marginal gains, you’re looking at or at least feeling a 1450g wheelset. Not bad.
Thru, or quick-release, the front hub comes in QR 100mm, 9x100mm, 12x100mm, 15x100mm axle sizes and the rear, QR 135mm, 10x135mm, 12x142mm. Like all i9 hubs, swapping out the end caps is a cinch. Either use their tool or a solid steel punch. Same with the driver. In terms of disc brake type, use either centerlock or ISO. Bottom line: if your drop bar bike has disc brakes, these wheels will work.
Ping Ping Ping
That’s the sound of rocks hitting the spokes, rims and probably hubs on these wheels. I’ll be honest here. Coming from ENVE M50 wheels to these, I didn’t notice a difference. I’ve hit rocks, and other hard things on the trail and have yet to dent these wheels, even while running lower pressure on that fat rubber. One thing I will note about carbon rims versus aluminum is you’re less likely to dent a carbon rim on a rock… So far, so good however. While some people comment on the radial, direct spoke mounting, I’ve yet to have any issues with ANY i9 product, so my faith is with their engineering.
Industry Nine makes some of the finest wheelsets on the market. All from North Carolina, my home state, in the mountains where I fell in love with mountain biking in college. They’re trail tested, resilient, good-looking and yes, light. Starting at $1,195.00 for a wheelset, they’re less likely to cripple you financially and would make a great tax return purchase. Head to Industry Nine for more information.