“ I think these are the best wheels you can buy for your trail bike.”
—Kris “Krispy” Baughman
Kris has been hand building wheels for more than 20 years, and we as a shop have always believed the best wheel for our clients was one we built here in the shop. Although hand built wheels aren’t always as light as some of the pre-built wheels out there, we’ve always been more concerned with durability and ease of maintenance, since a lot of our wheels are built with DH racing needs in mind.
So late last year when Kris first put his hands on SRAM’s Roam 60 wheels, he was surprised to find himself lusting after a pre-built wheel set. Recently we received our first order of the Roam 60 wheels, one set of which was for Kris’ personal race bike. He’ll be thrashing them through this year’s enduro race calendar and will have more to say about this wheel set’s performance over the long haul at the end of the year. Until they’re proven otherwise, Kris says right now that he feels like SRAM’s Roam 60 wheel set is the best wheel set available on the market right now for high end trail bikes.
When you break the wheel down into its components there are certainly highlights, which we’ll describe further below. However, the elegance in this wheel is in its synthesis, with all pieces purpose build to work together. It is common for manufacturer’s to say that a certain product was built, “from the ground up,” or that they, “started with a blank sheet of paper.” Well, SRAM obviously didn’t re-invent the wheel with their Roam 60 wheels, but the other hackneyed wheel terminology does apply here: this wheel works as a system. This rim was built for this hub to be used with these spokes to achieve the desired end results.
The sexiest highlight of the Roam 60 wheel has to be the asymmetrical carbon rim. Not only is it carbon, but the uni-directional woven carbon fibers are laid up for the spokes to sit closer to the non-drive side. The wider hub flange and the asymmetrical rim allow for less dish and more even spoke tension for an overall stronger wheel, but it also allows SRAM to use the same size spoke on both sides of the wheel. Moreover, SRAM uses the same size spoke for both front and rear wheels, which they like to call Solo Spoke Technology. So while the spoke is still not as common as a typical J-Bend spoke, it is still relatively easy to find since SRAM uses Sapim CX-Sprint straight-pull spokes. With one spoke used for each wheel size, it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to find a spoke at a local shop, and much easier to stock spare spokes in your own personal parts bin.
In addition to the rim’s shape, SRAM’s layup of the carbon is said to be, “Flex Tuned,” meaning that SRAM’s engineers didn’t simply set the stiffness setting to kill and start building. While road bike wheels reached the too-stiff level long ago, it wasn’t until carbon fiber was used to make rims that mountain bikes had ever encountered the problem of wheels being too stiff. Rims that are too stiff can make for a wheel with more potential for deflection instead of traction, so SRAM built their ROAM 60 wheels to be light and strong, but also with some ability to bend and flex to keep the rubber in contact with the dirt. Tuning in compliance for the wheel system, SRAM engineers mated the rim’s layup schedule with what they term, “Double-Decker technology,” which is a neat way of saying that their hub shell is specifically machined for the straight-pull Sapim CX-Sprint spokes to line up two-cross with their rim.
Next, the hub uses DT Swiss’ Ratchet System, and is of course convertible for use with an XD driver. In total, the 27.5-inch wheel set weighs less than 1600 grams, and SRAM is also making them in 26-inch and 29-inch sizes as well.
If there is a shortfall in these wheels, it’s that the rim is not quite as wide as we’d like to see. While the 21mm tubeless-ready internal width is plenty wide to flatten out most 2.3- to 2.5-inch wide tires, we’d like to see something like a 23- to 25mm internal width. Of course, that would mean more weight, so it’s not like SRAM simply overlooked this point. The other spot we feel like SRAM could have done better is with their pricing. While $2200 for the set is still among the lower price range for carbon-rim wheels, a sub-$2000 price tag would have made these a no-brainer for anyone in the market looking to up their wheel game.
Carbon rim wheels are still very much a luxury item, but they are also one of those components that provide significant performance gains for the extra money spent. Basically, the answer to the question, “is it worth it?” is, “Yes, if you can afford it.” There are more and more carbon-rim wheel sets available every year, but SRAM’s Roam 60 wheels are definitely worth considering if you’re going to be considering an upgrade in this arena. If you ask Kris, this is the best wheel set you can buy.