USE XC 29er carbon fibre wheels review

British engineering firm USE’s debut 29er wheels feature a full unidirectional carbon fibre rim with bladed spokes and their own design CNC-machined hubs, making for an impressive debut. 

USE's new carbon fibre 29er wheels.
USE’s new carbon fibre 29er wheels.

The stats

The rims are 30mm in depth, with a 25mm internal rim width, providing a good base for wider tyres. I ran them with several tyres, from 2.1 Maxxis Beaver’s to 2.3 Hans Dampf with no problems. Their own design hubs are CNC-machined and use fully sealed cartridge bearings. The freehub is a six pawl design with 30 point engagement, which provides very quick pickup when getting on the power.

Bladed Sapim CX Ray spokes, 26 front, 28 rear, lace the hubs to the rims with a two-cross lacing pattern. Six bolt hub mount and the front hub can be converted to 9mm quick release or 15mm bolt through. I tested the latter setup. They’re tubeless and will be sold with the necessary rim strip and tubeless equipment, but these were pre-production samples and didn’t come with the rim strips, I tested them with inner tubes. They include their own quick release skewer for the rear wheel..

USE designed their own hubs with sealed cartridge bearings.
USE designed their own hubs with sealed cartridge bearings.

The high-tech bit

Their unique feature of the rim is the Nano Surface Technology, essentially a super slippery coating applied to the surface of the carbon. British Cycling used a similar technology for the equipment used in the 2012 Olympic mountain bike race. The idea is similar to Teflon non-stick frying pans, mud can’t stick to the rims so you pick up less weight when you’re riding.

And it works, but it’s not earth shattering stuff. Racers, especially those focusing on endurance events, will appreciate the benefits more than trail riders. There’s also aero benefits, they tested them in a wind tunnel, but their aero efficiency applies more to road cycling. The lower speeds in mountain bike mostly negate such aero concerns.

Full carbon construction with a very special coating...
Full carbon construction with a very special coating…

Strength to cost ratio… 

They’re strong wheels, and stood up to the demands of my local trails just fine. They’re fast riding riding wheels, though certainly not the fastest. You can chuck them through rock gardens and they hold their line with little discernible flex, though push them deep into a corner with plenty of speed and you can get them bending.

At 1743g, they’re far from the lightest option. For comparison, the Reynolds wheels I tested last year, another carbon fibre wheelset, hit the scales at just 1500g. The Reynolds also felt much stiffer as well. They are another £250 however.

Are the USE’s worth the money? I don’t think so. They look lovely, they ride well and they’re reasonably stiff. But compared to the Mavic Crossmax ST’s I tested last year, which are stiffer, lighter and half the price, they don’t stack up so well. The nano coating does noticeably keep them cleaner in winter riding though.

Bladed spokes and easily accessible nipples.
Bladed spokes and easily accessible nipples.

Verdict

They’re a very nice looking pair of wheels and offer good ride performance, and the nano coating is an impressive feature, but there are lighter, and cheaper, wheelsets out there.

Price: £1,249

More information: USE XC Carbon Fibre wheels

USE says:

USE’s roots are in performance Mountain Bike products so it’s only right that we produce a MTB specific wheelset. The USE 29er wheelset utilises the latest carbon technology paired with USE’s Nano Surface Technology to provide a light, stiff and strong wheelset. The Nano Surface technology comes into its own on this carbon wheelset. The nanoscopically smooth surface sheds mud to allow the wheels to plough on unhindered so you can race at full speed. These wheels are tubeless ready for straight out of the box ease and the wide rim profile will have you flying round the corners with confidence. At 1743g these wheels give a lightweight, strong, reliable and eye catching wheel set sure to be the ultimate 29er upgrade.

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