When I picked up my 2017 Trek Top Fuel 9.8 SL I opted for some discount by giving up the Bontrager Kovee Pro Carbon stock wheels. My bike shop threw in a pair of OEM DT Swiss M1700 wheels which saved me close to $1000 on the sticker price. The plan was to save up for a nice set of lightweight carbon hoops in the future. The DT M1700 accumulated over 3000+ km and stayed problem free. At 1900g for the set they were not exactly light for the intended cross country use and 22.5 internal width felt a bit dated. As soon as winter hit, it was time to go wheel shopping. After a month of reading countless articles and user experiences my shortlist looked like this:
- 2017 Roval Control SL 29 Carbon – 25mm internal – 1320g – $1900
- Bontrager Line Pro 29er – 30 mm internal – 1800g – $1400
- Bontrager Kovee Elite 23 – 23 mm internal – 1800g – $900
- “Chinese Carbon” – Sky is the limit
Momentarily I thought of dropping big bucks on a set of Enve M525 but at $3500 it felt downright irresponsible. The 2017 Roval Control SL 29 sounded great on paper; sub 1400 g, competitive price, DT240 hub internals, and 25 mm inner rim width. This is when I got a little adventurous and curious at other options.
One day I was watching some YouTube videos and came across one comparing a Enve rim to a “Chinese” one Link. It illustrates how there is a good chance that Chinese carbon wheels can be high quality. This caught my interest and I started reading forum posts and articles on some well known players in the market. Now I’ve been using “Chinese Carbon” in quotes because that’s what people on the internet seem to be generalizing wheels/rims coming from the city of Xiamen. This city borders Taiwan which is where most of the cycling equipment comes from. Labour is cheap which is why a lot of major bike brands have their frames manufactured there. They can’t possibly be producing lemons over there.
Enter Light Bicycle
This is where Light Bicycle comes in. After much research, this company always came to the top. They had great community presence, prices were fair, customer support appeared to be steller and overall it appeared to be a well known brand. The community presence is something I weigh a lot. I strongly believe that communication is one of the most important assets a company can have. No one wants to drop $1500 on a product and be left in the dark if issues arise. There is also something satisfying and special about having a custom Wheelset built for you. I followed their official thread on MTBR to get some pointers. Turns out they are sharing production with brands like NOBL and recently opened US and Canadian locations. The North America locations offer builds with Industy 9 and Onyx (Sprag Clutch) hubs. I9 hub sound is an acquired taste and certainly isn’t mine and Onyx hubs are pretty heavy. I decided to get my wheels built from their original Chinese website because as they offer builds with DT Swiss hubs. I like the ratcheting mechanism used in DTs and find them easy to service and maintain.
Configuring the Perfect Wheel Set
Now to the fun part! Light Bicycles website has a great configuration screen which lets your see the price and weight of your wheel on the fly. I decided on their 29C19 rims because they are the lightest and widest at 24 mm internal. At 395/rim they come somewhere in between Enve M525 (349g) and M630 (419g).
Here is what the configuration screen looks like and my selections:
- 110/148 Boost
- Shimano Freehub
- 6 Bolt rotor mount is easier to deal with on trail side. No one carries a BB wrench with them for a centerlock mount.
- 28H since the rim is 25 mm deep and I am a lightweight, this spoke count should be more than sufficient.
- DT Swiss 240S Hubs with 54T Rachet Higher engagement will be useful on the technical courses.
- Straight pull spokes because they look cleaner and bladed help mitigate the spokes spinning in hub flange issue.
- Sapim CX-Ray as their bladed spoke option.
- Matte / UD (Unidirectional Carbon) / Red decals
- Stem and Tubeless Tape
- Total Weight: 1453 g +- 25
The ordering process was pretty straight forward. Add your options to the cart and check out. Note that all prices shown are in USD. Shipping to Canada was $71 and PayPal fee based on this order amount came to $41.27. Total amount comes to $1220 USD or $1500 CAD even. Keeping in mind that a much cheaper build can be had if you opt for DT350 hubs and DT Competition Spokes. I just decided to go all out on the components.
Payment is securely handled by PayPal. All was well until my payment got declined by my bank. What gives? Turns out this transaction got flagged by the Bank as fraudulent. I received a call from a representative stating that a bicycle company in China is trying to charge my card $1500. I thanked the rep for being proactive with security and requested them to white list Light Bicycle for this purchase. They complied and the second try was successful.
Order was placed and now the wait begins. It was New Year Eve so businesses resumed next year. As soon as their office reopened, I promptly received an email from their representative by the name of Kartrin Li. She confirmed the order and ensured I was satisfied with my choices. I requested some extra spokes and she complied. I also has a few other questions which were answered in thoroughly and professionally. It was like having a dedicated account manager assigned to my order. Another nice feature is that they provide a live timeline of the manufacturing process via a web page. Screen capture below shows that my rims are being CNC machined. Really cool!
Fast forward 8 days and I received an email from Kartrin saying that their production facility is a bit overwhelmed with orders and the wheels should be done in another week. That is totally fine and an honest update like that is most welcome. 10 days later (Jan 19th) I received an update to apologize for the delays and expected shipping time will be the next business day. In Canada it is dead of winter so I am not in a big rush but I really appreciated LB’s transparency and honest updates.
Like clockwork, the wheels were shipped out first thing Monday morning. Kartrin sent an email to confirm the fact. She even provided photos of how the wheels were packaged. Small things like this go a long way and Light Bicycle is ticking all the boxes.
Shipment is handled by EMS (Express Mail Service) which has a partnership with Canada Post. Once the package arrives in Canada and clears customs, it is handed off to Canada Post for the final journey.
The package came through the west (Richmond, BC). It flew through customs and got handed over to Canada Post. In this case the shipping time to Greater Toronto Area was 8 days. Not bad at all for a 12,000+ KM journey.
Delivery and Unboxing
Exactly 1 month after placing the order, the wheels showed up at my doorstep. I felt like the Nintendo 64 kid and ripped open the box. It almost felt like the box was empty which is definitely a good thing.
Inside was a seriously impressive looking wheel set. Everything looked top notch from finish to assembly. Quite the sight to behold.
Alongside the wheels, there were spare spokes, nipples, tubeless tape, valve stems and decals. I requested the red decals be sent separately in case I got bored of the stealth look.
Now the moment of truth; the weight. I was pleased to see the weight to be feathery light 1450 g for the wheel set (including Shimano freehub body). After tubeless tape and valves it came to a grand total of 1460 g. Impressive for a 29er set.
Loving the clean look of DT Swiss 240s Straight Pull hubs.
DT Swiss 54T rachet allowing 6.6 degrees of engagement. Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes give a overall sharp look to the wheel.
Installation was pretty straight forward (for the most part). First I cleaned the rim bed with Isopropyl Alcohol to remove any contaminants. Tubeless tape was installed after that followed by the valves. Now to mount the tires. I run Maxxis Ikon 29×2.35 up front and Bontrager XR1 Team Issue in the rear. The Ikon mounted without any tire levers and seated on the rim on the first try without any sealant or soapy water (that’s a first) The XR1 however was a wrestling match. After 10 minutes of swearing and aching fingertips it finally mounted. Luckily it blew up and seated just fine. So as far as mounting the tire goes, these rims are perfect for a tubeless setup.
Here is the Top Fuel in all it’s glory. I am really happy how this turned out.
Now to wait for a good snowy day to gives these a go! Stay tuned for first ride impressions and a long term review.