We covered Forge + Bond’s house-brand, U.S.-made, recyclable “Fusion-Fiber” carbon wheels when the brand launched back in April. Today marks the first update to their lineup; the new cross-country 25 XC, and the lightweight all-mountain 30 AM, which Travis Engel will be putting through its long-term paces on his personal and test bikes over the coming year. But there are also new builds, and new price points. The exact details of today’s news serve as a bit of a status report on this disruptive new tech, and how today’s volatile market is reacting to it.
What got us most excited about Forge + Bond wasn’t the products they unveiled at launch, it was the many others they might unveil in the future. They’re not a scrappy little upstart (even though we love scrappy little upstarts). They’re a cycling-focused development arm of an innovative aerospace engineering firm. If anyone in the bike industry is going to make progress in recyclable thermoplastic carbon components, it’s Forge + Bond. The first new additions are modest, but they significantly expand the audience to include the cross-country and weight-conscious all-mountain market. They also expanded their audience by introducing lower-priced Industry Nine 1/1 hub options and even dropping the price on their flagship Industry Nine Hydra builds. All that price news deserves some analysis, but let’s start with the new models themselves.
The 25 XC wheels are built with rims that use a “very similar laminate” to the construction in the gravel rim, but they run 28 spokes instead of 24. And of course, they’re laced to hubs using mountain bike axle standards instead of gravel. As the name suggests, the 25 XC rims have a 25mm inner width, and generous-for-for-a-cross-country-rim 3.2mm bead walls for impact and pinch-flat protection.
The rims are also covered under Forge + Bond’s lifetime warranty. The bare rim weighs 380 grams, while the Industry Nine Hydra wheelset weighs 1,515g, the DT 240 wheelset weighs 1,455g, and the Industry Nine 1/1 wheelset weighs 1,564g (all claimed weights). All wheels come with tape and foam-insert-compatible valve stems installed, as well as a pair of Forge + Bond’s recycled carbon tire levers. And as another cool bonus, for every purchase of an XC wheelset, Forge + Bond will donate $100 to your nearest NICA high-school MTB racing program.
The new AM 30 wheelset is more like half a new wheelset Or maybe 3/5 new. Or 5/7 … Let me explain. The rear rim in the 30 AM wheelset is actually still the enduro-focused EM 30. But that original 30 EM wheelset has evolved a bit. Instead of being 28h front and rear, it is now 32h rear with a 28h or 32h option up front. Forge + Bond now aims it squarely at the hardcore enduro race market. The AM 30 wheelset, on the other hand, uses a 28h lacing front and rear. But the front is laced two-cross instead of three-cross, and uses a new, slightly lighter rim. It’s got the same 30mm inner width and 4mm bead wall thickness as the rear 30 EM, achieved with a different layup using less material. The rim itself saves only 50 grams, with the two-cross lacing saving a handful more, but it’s not that simple.
Some of these decisions were made with ride feel in mind. A few other wheel brands, including Crank Brothers, Race Face, and Hunt, are tuning front and rear rims with different ride characteristics. The 30 AM wheelset is no different. Forge + Bond built a little more vertical compliance into the new front rim thanks partially to the lacing and partially to a new, lighter-weight layup. They claim there wasn’t a significant cost to durability, but chose to stick with the 30 EM rim in the rear for other reasons. According to Kell Kirby, Forge + Bond’s chief engineer: “The 28h AM front actually performs very similar to the 28h 30 EM rear in impact testing, but we find it a bit too soft for use as a rear.” That’s the thing with materials like Fusion Fiber. Traditional carbon fiber components are generally going to be lighter, but that’s not Forge + Bond’s main goal. That said, the new 30 AM wheels are still competitive, at 1,702 grams with the DT 240s, 1,860 for the Industry Nine 1/1, and 1,760g with the Industry Nine Hydra hubs.
New lower prices
All Industry Nine 1/1 wheelsets are going for $1,899, and all DT 240 and Industry Nine Hydra wheels are $2,199. But I think the best news of the day are those $1,899 1/1 models. Yes, I know that’s expensive, but we’re talking U.S.-made hubs and U.S.-made carbon rims, with a lifetime warranty. But the fact that the wheelsets previously priced at $2,599 have all dropped $400 is worth talking about for a moment. I mean, that’s great for consumers, but we felt a little conflicted about it. Apparently, the market wouldn’t bear the price Forge + Bond had set. I got a quote acknowledging this from Forge + Bond’s VP of Brand and Marketing, Brett Stahl, “We listened to dealers and consumers, and we realized that it’s a challenging market at the previous price. So, we worked with the dealers to bring it into a price range that they felt would excite consumers.” This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Look around, and you’ll see discounts are more common than ever. According to Stahl, today’s price drop is a sign of the times. “When we priced these one year ago prior to launching, it was a completely different market than today.”
So, now the Hydra- and 240-specced Forge + Bond wheelsets are priced the same as similar Fusion-Fiber wheels they help manufacture for Evil and Revel. And they are significantly less than flagship wheels from ENVE or Chris King Wheels. But beyond the new, more competitive price, those 30 AM wheels have a pretty compelling story to tell. I’ve got a set coming, and once I’m done with another wheel test currently in progress, they’ll be the only hoops I’ll huck for the coming year. Stay tuned for how they hold up.
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