Carbon Shimano tubular wheels on Adam Craig's race bike

Plus Fox 32 Float 29er fork with updated lower legs

The tide of new gear spotted at this year's opening UCI Mountain Bike World Cup round in Pietermaritzburg continues with Adam Craig's Giant XtC Composite 29er and its prototype Shimano carbon fiber tubular wheels and Terralogic-equipped Fox 29er fork.

Rabobank-Giant's race tubulars use all-new carbon rims that, according to Shimano, are purpose-built for the project and not merely borrowed from the road range or rebadged from another company. While we didn't have calipers on hand to measure, they're visibly wider than Shimano's road wheels for better support of mountain bike sized tires and also sport a braided external reinforcement layer at the spoke bed to better handle the rigors of off-road use.

Despite the racing intentions, Shimano don't seem to have overlooked ease of maintenance. The hubs – which look to be borrowed from the company's XTR wheels – feature rebuildable angular contact cup-and-cone bearings and the external nipples won't require tire removal if a wheel goes out of true.

Rabobank-Giant's prototype Shimano carbon fiber tubular wheels are ultralight

Claimed weight for the 26in version is around 1,180g for the set, while the 29ers creep up to about 1,300g per pair. Actual weight of the complete 29er wheelset with tires, rotors, skewers and cassette was 2.98kg (6.57lb) and the complete bike in full-blown race trim was just 9.22kg (20.33lb).

Shimano representatives on site in Pietermaritzburg told BikeRadar that these wheels are currently only available in prototype form for testing by key sponsored riders but we're hopeful that at least the 29er variant will make it to production. While it may not sell in big quantities for mountain bike use, we're hopeful it'll be compatible with more 'cross-appropriate rubber.

Adam Craig's race machine also offered a preview of a new 2013 Fox 32 Float 29 fork with updated lower legs. As compared to the current version, Craig's fork features a more heavily sculpted arch and trimmed-down 15mm through-axle dropouts, both of which we expect to shed a few extra grams. We don't have details on the internals but Craig's fork was equipped with Fox's auto-locking Terralogic damper so we at least expect that option to continue moving forward.

Adam Craig's Fox 32 Float 29 fork has an updated chassis, with a more sculpted arch than the current model and trimmer 15mm through-axle dropouts

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