I’m a massive fans of Spank’s smooth-riding Vibrocore bars, so I’ve been eager to try its new Vibrocore rims.
After a few months’ hammer, I’m now foaming at the mouth about these too. Both products are characterised by a filling of hard-cell foam that damps vibration and — according to Spank — extends fatigue life dramatically too. They don’t just pump it into standard bars and rims, though, they produce specific shapes to maximise the damping and lifespan improvement properties of the ‘mint Aero bar’ lookalike filling.
In the case of these Spike wheels, that means a shallow 17mm rim height, with an internal width of just over 30mm (standard Spike rims are 28mm). Because the filling allows Spank to use thinner rim walls, my 2,090g 29er wheels are actually 50g lighter than the standard Spike 33 29ers, despite 50g of foam in each rim.
If that sounds heavy, don’t forget that Spike is Spank’s downhill range, so these are even tougher than the Oozy Trail wheels that have been winning our tests for years. That means chunkier hubs with 20mm front axle capability, and the option of 12x135mm or 12x157mm at the rear as well as the 12x148mm Boost set-up I tested.
They’re hand-built, using thick triple-butted spokes in easily replaceable J-bend format, in a three-cross pattern. The freehub is the same impressively durable set-up found on the brand’s other wheels. Spank’s ‘Oobah’ corrugated rim bed and ‘Bead Bite’ tyre grab features are also carried over onto the Spike.
To see if the foam and/or vertical rim compliance (it’s impossible to separate the two without having an empty set of the same wheels to compare to) was doing anything noticeably different, I ran them back to back with similar-width carbon and alloy wheels, using the same tyres, for several months. The answer is that, if you’re really tuned into how wheels and tyres feel, they are quieter and smoother than normal.
There’s less drum and clatter on frozen, rutted trails or rocky descents, and when I did rim them hard, the impact was muffled rather than a sharp ‘clank’. They ride ‘quiet’ too, with less chatter and skip than stiffer wheels fitted with the same tyres at the same pressures.
Traction was also better in high-load cornering or successive-hit situations than with most wheels, it was as though I was running a particularly well-damped tyre carcass or had hit a sweet spot with my suspension tune.
The flipside is that they don’t feel as sharp and alive as stiffer-feeling wheels on climbs or out of corners. They never feel like super-heavy DH wheels, though, and carry speed better overall thanks to their smooth roll and extra traction.