The best XC hoops out there for big-wheel loyalists.
In chasing the growing market around 27.5-inch wheels, bike companies have been singing us all sorts of songs lately, but the simple truth is that, where speed and traction are concerned, bigger is better. The lower approach and departure angles and increased contact patch of 29-inch wheels are more than enough to offset their slightly greater weight. Now, if you're looking around for the best all-around cross-country-oriented set of 29-inch hoops, it simply doesn't get better than the ENVE M50/Fifty 29-inch Chris King Wheelset, taking an already superb wheelset and making it the best by throwing in some world-beating Chris King hubs.
First, the rims. When ENVE set about redesigning the replacement for its featherweight "XC" rim, the design parameters were clear — make them lighter, wider, and smoother riding. And unsurprisingly, the team in Ogden, Utah, delivered in spades. The 29in M50/Fifty rim now weighs a paltry 330g, shaving a full 50g per rim as compared to the 29 XC. Part of this weight savings has been accomplished by trading in traditional bead hooks for a redesigned beadless hook bead, which is both lighter and more impact resistant. The width has grown to 21mm internally, which is an increase of 3mm. That translates into a rounder tire profile, for greater cornering stability, and more rubber on the ground at any given time. By relieving material from the rim, ENVE has taken the M50/Fifty’s tuned ride feel to previously unseen levels. Anyone who’s familiar with ENVE knows the fanatical lengths that its engineers go to in order to achieve a perfect ride feel. Accordingly, the M50/Fifty has been tuned for greater vertical compliance, thereby reducing rider fatigue, without sacrificing the fantastic lateral rigidity that endows ENVE with the “on rails” feeling for which they’re prized.
Which brings us to those wonderful hubs. The name Chris King in cycling componentry is synonymous with absolute quality, longevity, and aesthetic appeal to boot. All parts, including seals and bearings, are made in-house in Portland, Ore., to industry-beating standards, and are known for lasting years upon years without service. In fact, the company's quality control standards are so stringent that it's been known to melt down entire batches of hub shells if the color anodizing is off by even the slightest shade of hue. In the rear hub, the 72 (yes, seventy two) points of engagement give the freehub body the fastest response of any hub on the market, and a distinctive sound to go along with it. That same rear hub is designed to withstand a consistent 800 ft/lbs of torque, quadruple what most hubs are even tested to, and downright ridiculous when you consider that an Olympic-level track sprinter is capable, at peak power, for only a few seconds, of putting out around 150 ft/lbs. Like we said, when it comes to hubs, Chris King makes them second to none.
The ENVE M50/Fifty 29in Chris King Wheelset is available with either an XD or standard freehub, with centerlock or 6-bolt hubs, and in the color Black. Both front and rear wheels use 28 spokes.