Crankbrothers Synthesis wheels, tuned for optimum performance

Softer front and snappy rear claimed to boost performance

Crankbrothers has released a new range of carbon wheels, named the Synthesis, which Crankbrothers claims are the first properly tuned wheels for mountain biking. Enduro riders are catered for from launch, while XC and DH riders will benefit from the wheels’ features a little later down the line.


The Selle Royal group, which owns the Crankbrothers brand, has an R&D group called SR56, based out of Utah in the US. This group is headed by Jason Schiers who, having worked at Reynolds on its carbon wheels, went on to found Enve (or Edge Composites as it was then). 

The sidewall of the rim is fairly wide, the wheels come pre-taped
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

Along with legendary Australian wheel builder Mello Bouwmeester, who was introduced to Shears by Cedric Gracia, Schiers and his SR56 group developed the Crankbrothers Synthesis wheels.

What’s Synthesis all about?

Crankbrothers’ new carbon Synthesis wheels

Carbon mountain bike wheels seem to follow one of two paths: either brutally stiff, but very accurate and efficient, or softer, giving compliance and comfort, but not that snap that many wish for from carbon hoops. 

While Schiers’ earlier wheels at Enve had been built with a stiff box section design, the wheels from Bouwmeester used a single skin, giving a much softer ride feel.

XD and Shimano freehubs will be available, and when the XTR Microspline license becomes available, Crankbrothers will be sure to get involved
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

Both have their advantages, but it was apparently difficult to get the best of both worlds out of a pair of wheels built the same way.

In testing, with a wide range of riders, Crankbrothers says that there was a complete split between riders who liked compliance (and generally talked about comfort and grip in their feedback — born from the front wheel) and those who liked stiffer wheels (they mentioned the direct feeling of acceleration out of corners — attributed to the rear wheel).

SR56 therefore designed these Synthesis wheels, with a softer, more compliant front wheel and a stiff rear, aiming to get the best of both worlds.

The front wheel has a width of 31.5 mm and is built with 28 spokes. The rear is 29.5mm wide and has 32 spokes. While both share the same cross section, there are slight differences in rim material to aid stiffness, or compliance, and different spoke tensions will be used. 

The 321 hubs are being made especially for Crankbrothers
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

The idea, then, is to get the comfort and control of a softer front wheel with the snap of a stiff rear.

Should failure occur, the rims are designed to hold together even after cracks appear to avoid catastrophic failure on the trail. Crankbrothers will offer a lifetime guarantee.

Further Crankbrothers Synthesis wheels details

There will be three Synthesis wheel families available from Crankbrothers, with two price points for each type of wheel, though they’ll share the same rims: the ‘E’ enduro wheelsets, the ‘D’ DH wheelsets and the XCT wheels.

The enduro wheels are the first to be launched, with the top-line E11 wheelset coming in at £2,150. These come with the carbon rims, bladed spokes and hubs built by a small machine-shop brand called 321, which use a magnetic freehub for a very quick pick-up. 

There’s then the Synthesis E wheelset, at £1,500, which comes with the same rim, but regular spokes and a standard set of Crank Brothers hubs.

We expect the DH and XTC wheelsets to follow similar pricing and details.