Carbon bicycle rims, for better or worse, quickly went from being unique rarities to seemingly ubiquitous as loads of start-up companies rushed in and saturated the market. Open-mold carbon rims made it relatively easy to offer a carbon wheelset, but carbon is a tricky material to get right.
The use of different moduli of carbon, lay-up schedules, and resin ratios can make a wheel too stiff, resulting in a harsh ride, or too delicate and likely to break when things get sketchy, or too flexible with not enough material to track straight and true. It's a tricky recipe to get just right.
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Knight Composites Trail wheels specs
- 29 inch
- EPS molded carbon fiber rims
- Project 321 hubs
- 25mm depth
- 25mm internal width
- 400 gram claimed rim weight
- 1,620g (750g / 870g) actual wheelset weight
Knight claims its Trail wheels have "twice the vertical compliance to its nearest competitor" and having ridden them I'm inclined to believe the statement.
The lack of harshness was the wheelset's strongest characteristic. This was especially noticeable on my hardtail with the feeling similar to dropping a few PSI from the tires.
Somewhat contradicting the lack of harshness, the Trail wheels still had impressive response. Changing directions and twisting the bike around corners was met with a quickness usually reserved for more rigid-feeling wheels.
Acceleration was on point, too. Thanks to the (claimed) 400g rim weight, spinning the Trail wheels back up to speed was met with the eagerness that only lightweight hoops can provide.
And throughout my ugliest riding efforts, I literally haven't touched them for repair or maintenance. The rims have knicks and other scars, but thankfully the carbon has zero cracks or major imperfections.
The Project 321 hubs feature magnets (instead of the typical springs) to engage the pawls inside the rear hub for less drag. It works.
It's actually astonishing how much less effort maintaining speed took. I felt as though I could pump and coast and save pedal strokes due to how easily and smoothly the Project 321 hubs rolled. Even just spinning the wheels in hand there was an undeniable ease in how they felt.
Complementing the lack of drag was the rear hub's crazy-fast 1.66-degree of engagement. Very little crank rotation was needed to get the rear wheel moving for accelerating out of corners or punching up a tricky, high-torque climbing section.
More rim width would be welcome
The 25mm inner rim measurement isn't all that wide, especially now that even the go-fast XC set is seeing the benefits of wider rims and tires. To Knight's credit, the company does offer a 30mm wide (internal) Enduro rim in both 27.5in and 29in flavors.
Bottom line: Knight Composite Trail wheels make a bike better
Knight Composite's Trail wheels made each bike I used them on ride and feel better. It wasn't just sheer speed either, but rather the touch of extra damping the wheels provided.
They're not the widest internally so I'd agree their Trail designation to be on point, but also recommend them for anyone racing XC who weighs more than 150lbs and needs a durable, everyday wheelset to rely on.
They'd pair quite perfectly with the new genre of more aggressive XC bikes that are more than ready for all-day trail ripping.