Carbon wheelsets seem to get all the attention these days. Composite hoops are increasingly common at trailhead carparks across the country. But there are still some interesting high-end aluminium options out there – like the Enduro 305 wheelset from Industry Nine.
Based in Asheville, North Carolina, Industry Nine is founder Clint Speigel’s ninth business venture, hence the name. The Speigel family have a background in engineering and with I9, Clint combined his interest in bikes with the family metal turning business Turnamics and has been producing extremely high-quality componentry by hand (and machine tool) since 2004.
All I9 products are designed and manufactured in their state-of-the-art Asheville plant by a team of people who love to ride and are proven by being ridden hard and then ridden hard some more. The network of trails in nearby Pisgah National Forest provides I9 with a very accessible R&D facility perfect for refining a light yet durable set of wheels intended for winching your way up and riding down as fast as possible.
The Enduro 305 wheelset is designed for hard use and is available in 27.5 or 29er formats, all axle widths and both SRAM and Shimano freehub standards, including new XTR.
THE TECH STUFF
Pulling the wheels out of their delivery packaging, it’s obvious that this is a product made with a great deal of love and to a very high level of quality. They’re stunning to look at. Designed as a system, rather than a curation of rim, spokes and hubs, Industry Nine have incorporated a number of unique features that combine to make this a pretty impressive set of mountain bike wheels.
The 32 hole 29er aluminum rims have a 30.5mm internal width intended to be paired with tires 2.3” – 2.6”. We mounted up a 2.6” Goodyear Newton/Newton ST combo to match the wheelset’s attitude and they came up with a not-too-square, not-too-round shape that worked well on the trail. The tires seated first time and the tubeless tape supplied has held pressure just fine.
Industry Nine’s spokes and the rim/hub interface are where things start to get interesting. The 3mm spokes are individually machined from 7075 aluminium rather than steel. They’re substantially thicker than a steel spoke and don’t use a nipple. The outer end is profiled to sit perfectly in the bed of the rim and wrench flats are machined in to allow trueing using a 15 gauge spoke wrench. The spokes are straight-pull and the inner ends thread directly into the Torch hubs. Not using a nipple removes a common spoke failure point that’s caused by stress risers at the junction of the spoke and nipple. Aluminium spokes are unusual, but Industry Nine say that they chose it for its high stiffness to weight ratio, minimal elongation, and is ease of fabrication. Using this material allows them to make a lightweight spoke that mates more accurately with the threads in the hub, and contributes to a wheel that is both stiffer and lighter weight.
The hub bodies themselves are stunning. Cut from 7075 aluminium bar stock, the hand polished finish is superb. Interchangable endcaps allow for bike swaps and the hubs feature teflon shields and O-rings that snap onto the endcaps. There are two seals on each bearing to help to keep dirt out and this should significantly increase life of the bearings. The spoke’s straight pull design aligns the spokes at approximately 90 degrees from the hub flange. This is intended to increase wheel and spoke durability. The arrangement ensures hub torque is applied in-line through the spoke, removing their threads from the shear plane and consequently improving fatigue life. Disc side flanges are larger in diameter to improve stiffness and braking torque transfer and the front hub features two cartridge bearings whilst the rear holds four.
But it’s inside the hubs where things get really interesting. The mechanism’s pawls and driver rings are fashioned from super-hard, heat treated A2 tool steel. The only way to cut the teeth and pawls from this incredibly tough steel is to use wire electrical discharge machining, something unique to I9. This method allows very hard materials to be cut in complex shapes to very close tolerances. There are six pawls within the mechanism and 120 ratchet points on the driver ring which delivers an almost instantaneous 3 degree engagement. That’s even quicker to engage than Chris King’s 6 degree and DT’s 6.6 degree offerings. It also delivers an incredible buzz when freewheeling, comparable with King’s classic “angry bee” yet perhaps slightly higher pitched and more mechanical – more like a nano-swarm of mechanical wasps. Some folks just aren’t into that kind of sound and like to be a little stealthier out on the trail, but Industry Nine’s hubs are very satisfying to hear.
Quick video of the 6 pawls and 120 ratchet points in action
Weight-wise, at 1700 grams for the set (Front 790g, Rear 910g), the Enduro 305s compare favourably with other similar high end wheelsets designed for this kind of use – whether carbon or aluminium.
In the upper echelons of the componentry market, personalization is important and Industry Nine’s secret weapon is the Ano Lab – this service allows you to choose from range of 11 colours for both your spokes and hubs. For a small additional fee, customers are able to select any combination of spokes and hub, to create something unique that coordinates or contrasts with your bike’s colour scheme. Our test pair featured silver hubs, 28 black spokes with two red and two silver spokes per wheel to highlight the valve location. Lots of combos are possible and custom rim stickers are also available.
HOW DO THEY RIDE?
This is a very purposeful wheelset. They’re stiff vertically and laterally. Steering is very direct and there’s little flex noticeable – certainly in comparison to the more sparsely spoked trail-oriented wheels we’d swapped out and they’re very stiff for a 29er wheel. They track with precision over obstacles and feel very positive in situations such as rock gardens and off-camber landings.
The almost instant pickup is very apparent, especially during technical climbing when your pedal stroke might be regularly interrupted and when you’re getting back on the gas after exiting a corner. It feels precise and you’re straight onto the power in a way that our test bike’s previous wheels can’t quite match.
Industry Nine recommend re-tensioning the wheels after 6-10 hours of riding from new and we did find one spoke had loosened during the initial use period, but that was quickly rectified and the rest of the spokes have remained tight and both wheels true. We’ve put them through a wide variety of uses – from shuttle runs and bike park laps to less arduous terrain and they’ve come through shining and buzzing loudly all the while. (The noise really is cool).
One concern is that spokes like these aren’t likely to be available everywhere, and you certainly won’t be able to nip down the nearest bike shop and pick one up in the event that one does break, but importers 3Sixty Sports are committed to have spares available in all sizes should the worst happen. Seeing as I9 have removed the two most common break points on a spoke – the nipple and the j-bend – it should also be a less likely occurrence.
Riders looking for a set of enduro race-worthy wheels of the highest quality or keen to accessorise that little bit more than the next rider should definitely have this wheelset on their consideration list. No, they’re not made of the black stuff, but they’re certainly no heavier than a number of carbon options of similar intent and funnily enough, I’ve stopped coveting plastic rims since these came along.
And the noise. Oh the noise.
Full tech info in this little video