Sea Otter 2011: Ritchey 29″ and WTB tubeless-ready tires

New 29" options, mountain bike tubulars and speedy carbon wheels

Ritchey introduced its first-ever 29″ mountain bike tire at this year’s Sea Otter Classic: a big-wheeled variant of its current WCS Shield in a versatile 2.1″ width. 


The tightly spaced array of low knobs should yield a very fast roll while the rounded profile should make for predictable cornering and drift manners on reasonably grippy ground. 

Ritchey has also given the new 29″ WCS Shield a tubeless-ready casing for easier and safer conversions.  Claimed weight is 594g and retail price is set at US$69.99.

Carbon fiber 29″ wheels plus a new fast-rolling cross-country tread from Syncros

Ritchey sister company Syncros quietly showed off a preproduction set of FL-series 29″ mountain bike wheels with carbon fiber rims.  According to Ritchey and Syncros global marketing director Sean Coffey, the new rims use a unique bladderless monocoque molding technique whereby some sort of internal mandrel is extracted in pellet form after the rims have cured, thus yielding a more precise internal shape but leaving no bladder material behind as is usually the case. 

Those rims will be a touch wider than usual, too, measuring 26.5mm outside-to-outside and 21mm between the bead hooks for better support of high-volume tires (Syncros’ 26″ carbon wheels measure 19mm internally).  Coffey says they’ll also be tubeless-ready with included rim strips and valve stems.

The new tubeless-ready Syncros FLavor tire utilizes a fast-rolling, low-profile tread
The new tubeless-ready syncros flavor tire utilizes a fast-rolling, low-profile tread:
James Huang/Future Publishing

Syncros’s new FL Carbon 29 wheelset will come with slightly wider-than-usual 26.5/21mm-wide (external/internal) rims for better tire casing support.  The new rims will be tubeless-compatible with appropriate rim strips, too

The cartridge bearing-equipped hubs will be convertible between 9mm quick-release and 15mm thru-axle fitments up front, and 135mm quick-release and 142x12mm thru-axle out back. Target weight for the set is 1,550g and pricing will be announced when the wheels are formally launched later this fall.

Wrapped around those rims at Syncros’ Sea Otter Classic booth were the company’s new FLavor tires, a low-knob cross-country tread designed for a fast roll and good grip in hardpack conditions.  Syncros will use a dual-compound tread to balance rolling resistance, traction, and wear, while tubeless-ready beads will make for easy conversions.  Claimed weight for the 26×2.1″ size is 570g; the larger 29×2.25″ will weigh 620g.  Both carry price tags of US$69.95.

WTB adds tubeless-ready 29″ tires to 2012 collection

WTB is bolstering its 29″ tire range with new tubeless-compatible models featuring its TCS technology.  Like many other tubeless-ready tires, WTB’s Tubeless Compatible System treads use a true UST tubeless bead matched to a standard casing.  Run them with tubes if you like or use some sealant on a compatible rim to go tube-free.

The most versatile of the new offerings is the Bronson 2.2 with its relatively widely spaced blocks and ramped center knobs for a decently fast roll in mixed or loose conditions.  Interestingly, WTB intentionally makes the U-shaped shoulder knobs a little softer than one might expect.  According to WTB’s Jason Moeschler, they adjust themselves to the ground conditions as needed for more consistent grip.

The side knobs on WTB's Bronson 2.2 TCS design are said to act like "fingers", deforming and flexing as needed to adapt to different terrain
The side knobs on wtb’s bronson 2.2 tcs design are said to act like
James Huang/Future Publishing

The side knobs on WTB’s Bronson 2.2 TCS design are said to act like “fingers,” deforming and flexing as needed to adapt to different terrain

“Bronson side knobs are way more active than your standard square edged knob,” he said.  “The “V” shape of the knob opens and closes as it adjusts to the terrain.  The fingers of the V are really good at reaching for traction.”

WTB will also introduce a 29″ TCS version of its popular WeirWolf LT, with a generous 2.5″-wide casing and a slightly modified tread design relative to the 26″ model. It will have lower center knobs for a faster roll but more tightly spaced shoulder knobs to give aggressive riders a firmer edge to lean on in corners. For wet conditions there’s now the Moto 1.9 with tall, widely spaced blocks and a narrow casing to punch through mud. Rounding out the 29″ TCS range are WTB’s familiar Nano 2.1 and Wolverine 2.2.

Claimed weights for all of WTB’s new 29″ TCS tires are as follows (+/- 5 percent):

Nano 2.1 TCS: 590g

Wolverine 2.2 TCS: 794g

WeirWolf LT 2.5 TCS: 765g

Moto 1.9 TCS: 665g

Bronson 2.2 TCS: 750g Nano 2.1

Project 321 adds front and rear hubs, tapered Lefty adapter to its range for 2012

Project 321 – the small Fresno, California company that made a name for itself with its clever Cannondale Lefty steerer tube conversion kits – has grown its hub collection with new front and singlespeed and geared rear hubs.

The US$390 rear hubs feature driver mechanisms and freehub bodies from Industry Nine but otherwise use Project 321’s own hub shell and axle designs, plus the company’s usual array of anodized colors.  The 345g rear hub is convertible between 135mm quick-release and 142x12mm thru-axle systems.  The singlespeed hub is just a touch heavier at 347g but a bit cheaper at US$380.

Project 321 first made a name for itself thanks to Cannondale Lefty-compatible components like these front hubs
Project 321 first made a name for itself thanks to cannondale lefty-compatible components like these front hubs:
James Huang/Future Publishing

Project 321 first made a name for itself thanks to Cannondale Lefty-compatible components like these front hubs

The new front hub is similarly versatile, being convertible between 9mm quick-release and 15mm and 20mm thru-axle fitments.  Claimed weight is 169g and suggested retail price is US$185.

Project 321 has also added a proper tapered conversion kit for Cannondale Lefty forks, as opposed to Cannondale’s own kit that uses a straight 1 1/8″ steerer.  Project 321 also says its tapered kit doesn’t require consumers to split the lower bearing race for kit installation, either.  Retail price is US$95.

Prototype Bontrager hubs spotted on Subaru-Trek team bikes

Bontrager has some new hubs in development, apparently to replace the occasional problematic mountain bike models currently in use that replaced the company’s long-running supplier, DT Swiss.  These new units – spotted in prototype form without any markings on Subaru-Trek team bikes – boast oversized aluminum bodies and spoke flanges pushed out to the edges.

Bontrager product manager Chris Clinton wouldn’t disclose too many details as far as when (or even if) the new hubs would make their way into consumer models but he did allude to a few design clues.  Both hubs will feature convertible axle fitments (9/15mm front, 135/142mm rear) and the spoke flanges use a “stacked” configuration on the driveside rear and disc-side front hub that pushes the straight-pull spokes as far outward on the shell as possible. 

The freehub driver is also new, being sourced not from Formula or DT Swiss as in years past but rather from an unnamed “European” supplier.  We couldn’t figure out the exact producer by ear so your guess is as good as ours at the moment. 

Industry Nine adds blacked-out color option to complete wheelsets, moves to Reynolds for carbon road rims

Industry Nine has added a new “Black I” colorway to its collection of complete mountain bike wheels, featuring black rims, black anodized aluminum spokes, and black hub shells with black anodized (they’re usually silver) freehub bodies.  Industry Nine’s Jacob McGahey says the all-black treatment will be available for any Industry Nine mountain bike wheel that uses an in-house rim or NoTubes’ 29″ hoop.  

Industry Nine's optional all-black finish includes a black-anodized freehub body instead of the usual silver one
Industry nine’s optional all-black finish includes a black-anodized freehub body instead of the usual silver one:
James Huang/Future Publishing

Industry Nine’s optional all-black finish includes a black-anodized freehub body instead of the usual silver one

Industry Nine also showed off its latest range of carbon fiber and aluminum road wheels.  Carbon wheels now use Reynolds rims instead of Enve Composites ones, though McGahey stresses the move was dictated purely by supply, not quality. 

The aluminum i25 model is especially interesting in our eyes given its use of HED’s wide-format Ardennes clincher rim.  We’ve already found the broader rim profile to yield tangible improvements in comfort and grip and while Industry Nine’s version is slightly heavier and more expensive than the equivalent HED set, users do get their choice of anodized hub colors plus the technical advantages of Industry Nine’s freehub driver design and wider spoke flange spacing.

Reynolds add 81mm-deep profile to carbon road range

Reynolds Cycling international sales manager Dana Carson showed us an early production sample of the company’s new 81mm-deep carbon fiber tubular road wheels.  The aptly named Eighty-One will be offered in both tubular and all-carbon clincher versions, both with Reynolds’ novel Swirl Lip Generator on the rim nose that supposedly reduces aerodynamic drag, especially at higher yaw angles. 

Reynolds will sell the new Eighty-One either as a matched set or with a shallower Sixty-Six up front for easier handling in crosswinds.  Suggested retail price will be “approximately US$3,000”, according to Carson, and the new wheels will begin arriving in stores in August. Carson didn’t have a quoted weight for the new wheels, however, and we weren’t allowed to weigh them ourselves either.

New rubber from Challenge, Continental, Geax, and Vittoria

Challenge is one of the latest companies to offer a mountain bike tubular tires aimed at cross-country racing.  Despite the hassles of glue and uncertainties associated with puncturing on the trail, Challenge US national marketing and sponsorship director Bill Marshall says diehard racers are still moving in that direction on account of the lighter weights, suppler and more compliant tire casings, and the ability to run extra-low pressures if the conditions allow. 

Challenge is the latest entrant into the growing market for mountain bike tubular tires
Challenge is the latest entrant into the growing market for mountain bike tubular tires:
James Huang/Future Publishing

Challenge are the latest entrant into the growing market for mountain bike tubeless tires

Challenge’s offering features a fast rolling, shallow, non-directional tread glued on to a 2.0″-wide polycotton casing.  A breaker belt beneath the tread should lend some puncture resistance while the 23mm-wide base tape is purpose-built for the newer crop of dedicated mountain bike tubular rims.  Challenge will have both 26″ and 29″ versions available. Claimed weight for the 26″ tire is just 490g while the 29er is still remarkably light at only 550g.

Continental didn’t show off any new tread designs but brand manager Brett Hahn said the company was revising its nomenclature a bit to clear up available features to consumers. 

‘Supersonic’-level tires will remain the lightest in Continental’s range, with tube-type beads and the least amount of puncture protection.  ‘Race Sport’ will also be tube-type with slightly heavier and more durable construction.  ‘Revolution Tubeless Ready’ tires will feature tubeless-compatible beads and Continental’s Protection casing reinforcement to yield the company’s most versatile collection. True UST tires will be on tap as well for riders that want the most security. 

We also asked Hahn about the possibility of Continental Road Tubeless-compatible tires coming in the near future and got a disappointingly vague reply.  According to Hahn, the company is continuing to investigate the technology but has nothing specific in development.

Changes in Geax’s mountain bike range are largely evolutionary.  Big wheelers get a new 29×2.3″ Sturdy that features more ramped knobs than the 26″ version. This will help decrease rolling resistance relative to the current model while still retaining good grip in the intended loose conditions, while the fast-rolling Mezcal will now be offered in a 2.3″ width. 


Cyclo-cross riders looking to run lower pressures but unwilling to deal with tubulars will have a new alternative this season in Vittoria’s new Cross XG Pro. It uses a 32mm-wide Road Tubeless-compatible casing and the company’s versatile all-conditions tread.