Crank Brothers Opium downhill wheelset review
Opium wheels are designed specifically for downhill or racing. In these disciplines, riders rely on solid equipment to shave milliseconds off their times and ensure durability.
These are similar to the rest of the Crank Brothers range in that they use the same 24-spoke pattern, along with the extruded ribs that run around the inner circumferences of the wheels and upside-down spoke systems. This means there are no holes drilled in the rims themselves, making them perfect for a tubeless set-up.
More importantly, the Opiums are stronger thanks to their uninterrupted design. In order to handle the higher stresses and wider tyres of downhill riding, they use 24mm rims and bolt-through hubs on both the front and rear, maximising stiffness.
With the rear wheel weighing 1,585g with disc rotor and cassette and the front 1,178g with disc rotor, they may not be quite as light as a set of Mavic Deemax wheels, but they’re not far off.
When it comes to performance, the improvement from the standard design is instantly noticeable. These wheels are seriously stiff and massively strong. There’s barely any flex at all, even when we hit turns hard. It actually takes some time to get used to.
Slamming into choppy, flat turns and hitting rough, cambered sections fast, it’s soon apparent that the Opiums aren’t going to give at all. That means there’s a touch more feedback, a feeling comparable to running a fork with a stiffer chassis.
The biggest thing we notice is how the Opiums feel when we’re riding flat-out over rough ground and hitting turns fast. The additional stiffness is staggering, enabling us to pinball through sections and pop out of turns with masses of confidence and speed.
We have had some concerns about the freehub, a common problem with Crank wheels that’s set to be amended with a new design. There’s the occasional nasty noise under power, and we’d like a more solid seal; the cassette and freehub can pull out from the hub if dropped when out of the frame.
We’ve used the Opiums up and down the country, smashing out as many runs as possible in as many different conditions, but they’ve stayed straight and true the entire time.