The I9 ULCX wheelset presents a (relatively) cost effective, high-performance, daily and race-use alloy wheelset for riders that explore road, dirt, gravel, cyclocross terrain and the occasional singletrack section.
While the wheels potentially require a bit of patience during an early break-in period, they ultimately deliver a fantastic ride and roll quality with a freehub that quiets just before ‘annoying’.
Industry Nine UL235 CX Disc Wheelset specifications
- Rim width: 23.5mm (I) / 27mm (O)
- Rim weight: 385g (claimed)
- Spokes: Sapim CX-Ray
- Spoke count: 24 (F) / 24 (R)
- Lacing: 2:1, radial non-drive (F) / 2:1,, radial drive (R)
- Hub: Industry Nine Torch Classic
- Hub dimensions: QR 100mm, 9x100mm, 12x100mm, 15x100mm (F) / QR 135mm, 10x135mm, 12x135mm, 12x142mm (R)
- Driver: Shimano/SRAM HG / Campy 11-speed / SRAM XD-R
- Engagement: 6-degree engagement, three pawl freehub, 60-point drive ring
- Tyre width: 30–55mm
- Rotor compatibility: CenterLock or 6-bolt
- Rider weight max: <210lbs / 95kg
- Weight: 1,350g claimed / 1,346g measured
Industry Nine UL235 CX Disc hubs
The UL235 CX Disc wheelset relies on a straight-pull system, which has pros and cons. It virtually demands the use of bladed or semi-bladed spokes to prevent wind-up when building and truing. We’ll avoid the aero spoke debate for this conversation, but it can make sourcing emergency spokes potentially problematic, because they’re just not as common as j-bend.
Straight out of the box the ULCX wheelset had very smooth rolling bearings, but I was caught a little off guard by the amount of drag in both the front and rear. The drag was discussed at the 800-mile (1,280km) mark with the Industry Nine folks, but there was no confidence-inspiring commentary beyond “that shouldn’t be the case.”
At 1,100 miles / 1,770km, more of the same, but this time I disassembled and went through an inspection. It appeared that the bearings had crept a bit, and after re-pressing there was noticeable improvement. I can’t speak to whether it was an alignment issue or just not fully seated.
Truthfully, if I was still a tech at retail I would have done this straight out of the box. But for whatever reason I didn’t when these wheels arrived. It took less than 10 minutes and unleashed a different wheel.
With a bit of extra love, suddenly the ULCX rolled differently — more like a road wheel with 24-point engagement and less like a mountain bike wheel with 100-point engagement — at least in terms of drag.
After hitting the refresh button, the remaining 800 miles / 1,280km delivered a ride quality and performance that should be expected from a £900 / $1,195 wheelset.
Wheelset as a package
Obviously wheelsets are more than just hubs and I9 has kept its objectives aimed at a complete offering.
The Sapim CX-Ray spokes are industry leading, if you ask professional wheel builders. Having built with them and ridden them for thousands of miles there’s not a single experience that would lead one to believe anything other than this was a choice of perfection.
Where things get a tad controversial is the lacing pattern and the spoke count.
The UL235 CX Disc wheels use 2:1 lacing on both front and rear, meaning there are twice as many spokes on one side of the wheel. This has been a method used for years to help balance out overall left-to-right tension of wheels.
The rear uses a tangential crossed pattern on the driveside, with radial on the disc side. Traditionally speaking, using radial spokes where torque is applied to the hub is a ‘no-no’. Said differently, traditional thinking would say Industry Nine’s choice was not a good design. But Industry Nine found through finite element analysis (FEA — computer software for analyzing loads and forces) that the torque windup associated with radial lace was actually not problematic at all.
With computers we learn something new everyday and FEA is literally a method for reinventing the wheel.
Interestingly, the front is laced opposite, with the cross pattern on the disc side. While this might seem contradictory to the rationale of the rear, 2:1 has a radial side and a crossed side, so might as well assign the crossed side to the only torqued side.
Although it’s a bit too much to dissect in this article, hub shell torque is not as simple as saying the disc side ‘feels’ disc forces and the driveside ‘feels’ drive forces. This is true whether you’re looking at it from a supercomputer, or a book from Jobst Brandt.
With the proper materials and engineering method, it’s obvious manufacturers can do just about anything these days, and my ride experience cannot argue with their supercomputers. It was never evident that the 2:1 lacing had a negative influence on ride quality.
Traditions and supercomputers aside, the wheels have excellent ride character, which is also thanks to a fantastic rim.
Industry Nine claims the Ultralight 235 Disc rim weighs in at 385g. Although I couldn’t weigh it, it certainly had the inertia of a light rim and it wound up super easy.
For perspective, carbon clincher rims of this dimension are usually in the 360–400g range and anything lighter than that is for what I would consider ‘specialty’ use. The 385g claim has to be pretty accurate given the total weight of the set and the fact that its claimed weight was spot-on.
But what stands out about the rim is that it wasn’t too soft, which is typically the trade-off. I never once had to straighten the wheels despite doing my best to put them through their paces (while still riding them realistically).
The internal rim design had a very similar cross-section to rims I’ve seen from Stan’s and they mounted tubeless with the same ease. If a standard floor pump can get the job done, I rate them as a good design. All three different tires that were installed on these rims ‘popped’ easily (Clement X’Plor USH 35mm, Schwalbe X-One Allround 33mm, and Compass Barlow Pass 38mm).
Regarding tires, for multi-strada riding the wheels were without fault. But for the CX testing, I did run the typical CX pressures and had a tubeless burp on a really aggressive corner at 22psi. That said, I wouldn’t replace tubulars with these wheels if you’re a dedicated ‘cross racer or typically require really low pressures, but they will absolutely serve the cause if you’re a casual racer and are okay at 25psi or more.
Be forewarned, while the ULCX internal 23.5mm width adds good volume and a supple ride, it also means tires will not measure as they’re marked – 35s measured 36.8mm, 33s measured 34.6mm and 38s measured 40mm. This isn’t a ‘fault’ of the rim, but rather the reality that tire manufacturers are still using 17 and 19mm rims to establish their standards (or lack thereof).
Ride on in style
Over a 3-month period the wheels held their own on some road, tons of gravel and quite a bit of singletrack (rocks and roots aplenty). They served as the ‘baseline’ wheelset for the Best Cyclocross Bikes testing session, got worked through three different 100-mile gravel events and the beginning of a long-term test with a new Trek Boone. After tending to the bearings, they were flawless.
The final bright spot for Industry Nine is its custom anodizing program. Because it’s not aiming for incredible volumes and OEM spec, Industry Nine can do one wheelset at a time. You get to choose the best color match, or non-match for that matter, so go ano wild.
For comparison, I also rode the Easton EA70 AX gravel/adventure wheelset this past spring and summer. That particular wheel proved reliable mechanically speaking, and offered a more subdued rim aesthetic. They maintain a crossed lacing pattern all around and also leverage a single spoke length throughout, which is awesome for true adventure riding (always knowing you have a spare).
While the EA70 AX wheels do come in at 1,760g (+385g over I9 ULCX), the price tag is $600, or literally half the price of the ULCX. So if you’re a budget-focused thinker, the ULCX may not be the right wheelset.