We’ve waited with bated drop-outs for these Crank Brothers wheels to make it from the bright lights of the show halls to the damp conﬁnes of British trails. The Cobalts more than deliver in terms of glamour, cleverness and general everyday reliability, although we were hoping for something lighter that would push the buttons of racers and performance ﬁends alike.
The Crank Brothers Cobalt wheels are, without doubt, the most visually stimulating new kit of the year. It’s hard to ride a mile on them without someone asking, slackjawed, “How?” and “Why?”
Essentially, 12 symmetrical pairs of straight-pull spokes create a clean, almost snowﬂake-style pattern. The attention-grabbers, though, are the extra-long 7075T6 cobalt-blue alloy nipples which make up half the total distance from hub ﬂange to rim.
The short stainless steel spokes join the 6061 T6 alloy rim (in pairs) at 12 small alloy tabs. This design means there are no holes drilled into the rim (other than for the valve stem), making the wheel stronger and stiffer.
We found the wheels to be as stiff as most comparable cross-country wheels from other brands. The hubs use 17mm and 25mm axles front and rear respectively for a stout union between hub and drop-outs.
The rear hub uses a six-pawl design for positive power delivery, and is supported by no less than four sets of sealed cartridge bearings to keep you rolling along.
These wheels are labelled ‘XC Race’, and at 1540g the Cobalts aren't heavy – but they aren't pushing lightweight boundaries either. By comparison, the Specialized Roval Controle E5s weigh 1428g.That’s a big deal to hardcore cross-country racers (as is the extra £200 of the Cobalts over the E5s).
Riding both sets of wheels back to back, you notice the effect of the extra grams, as the Cobalts take a bit more effort to spin up than the E5s. Once at cruising speed, though, the Cobalts hum along nicely.
The Cobalts don’t do anything wrong. In fact, they perform perfectly and without fuss; but for all their fancy design and clever technology, they don’t bring any extra performance to the table. When you strip away the colour and glitz, it’s just another wheel.