Carbon mountain bike wheels usually fall into one of two camps: super stiff and harsh, and not so stiff and compliant.
According to Crankbrothers, the Synthesis carbon wheel system combines one of each, with a rigid rear wheel for enhanced tracking and stability at speed and a more manageable front wheel for improved handling and control.
Our own Tom Marvin took a look at these wheels when they were initially launched, and didn’t immediately discount Crankbros claims as pure marketing buzz, but said he needed to spend more time with them.
Initially, the Synthesis hoops were spec’d with either Project 321, which featured a nifty magnetic freehub, or a set of Crankbrothers hubs. Now the brand will be one of only a few to offer builds with the new Hydra hub launched back in February.
The wheels get the new Hydra hubCrankbrothers
Hand built in Asheville North Carolina; the Hydra boasts six leaf-spring driven pawls and 690 points of engagement, or just 0.52 degrees between each engagement.
For reference, a Chris King hub sees 72 points of engagement with 5 degrees between each engagement, while the Project 321 hubs with Crankbrothers also to spec on these wheels offer 216 points of engagement with 1.7 degrees between them.
The Synthesis wheels are available in XC, trail and DH versions
With six individually phased pawls interfacing with a 115 tooth drive ring, the pawls catch the teeth independently rather than simultaneously, like most standard two to four pawl systems — so for every tooth the drive ring moves, there are six individual clicks from the pawls.
I9 says it implemented this system to combat the potential for single pawl engagement which is caused by the riding forces and flexing through the hub, and can lead to premature bearing and freehub wear.
According to i9, with the pawl set up in the Hydra hub, after the first pawl has clicked into place, the flex forces the second and third pawls to engage better distributing the load.
Gaspare Licata, Crankbrothers CEO, said of the partnership: “As a brand, we are always looking for partners that are in line with our mission of improving the riding experience. Last year, i9 presented us with an innovative hub that they were developing and testing for a long time. The product looked ahead of the market so we decided to ride and test it and we loved it. We decided then to add it to our Synthesis range, as we want to catch any opportunity for mountain bikers to ride great products.”
Crankbrothers Synthesis 11 wheels with Industry Nine Hydra hubs pricing and availability
Wheels with the new hub configuration are available now and will costs $2,399, with the Synthesis XCT 11 wheels now currently only available with i9 Hydra hubs.
The Synthesis E 11 and DH 11 wheels are available with i9 Hydra hubs or Project 321 hubs.
Synthesis XCT and E with standard hubs are also available.
All Synthesis rims are covered by a lifetime warranty. International pricing is to be announced.
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Colin now resides on the Gold Coast in Australia. Holding a media degree, Colin is focused on the adventure sport media world. Coming from a ski background, his father a former European pro convinced him to try collegiate crit racing. Although his bright socks say full roadie, he can often found exploring singletrack or grinding down a gravel road.