In a time where the cycling world has gone carbon mad, Brisbane-based wheel builders Craftworx have watched the popularity of carbon mountain bike wheels rise from the sidelines. Until now.
Words and photos: Mike Blewitt
With their own mountain bike wheel range boasting four different rims - with weights, widths, stiffness and profiles to suit the whole gamut of mountain bike riding - their entry into the carbon wheel game has been measured and calculated in an effort to stick to their core values as a company: quality, ride feel and reliability.
Mark Kirby at Craftworx explained: “Alloy rims are very good. It is actually hard to produce something better. It was quite a challenge to get the qualities we want via carbon, to then make a superior rim or wheel.”
The Dirty Harry has been designed as a ‘wheel for everything’ said Kirby. It is something that ignores trends like overly wide rims, but remains adaptable for a range of tyre widths, and has great impact resistance. To that end, Craftworx spent a long time finding the right partner to make the rims with, and ended up with a factory that specialise only in carbon rim production. The staff are highly skilled, and have come from outside the bike industry, which means they have been able to think more broadly in terms of production and use of materials.
The wheels – up close
The Dirty Harry wheel set comes in two versions, with a 27.5” and 29” version available. We had the 27.5” version, built with 32 DT Competition spokes and Prolock nipples front and rear to White Industries Ti hubs. This set came with 100x15 and 142x12 hubs, but DT hubs in Boost spacing, and Craftworx own hubs are also available. Standing 32mm tall, and with an external 30mm width, the overall appearance is similar to that of early edition ENVE rims – save of course for things like external nipples which make doing anything to the wheels, from building through to truing, far easier.
In my hands, and mounted into a bike without tyres, they ran smooth and true. Craftworx build all their wheels to the highest tolerances, and have a custom jig for properly and evenly pre-stressing all the spokes. This means the head of the spokes settle into the hub, and the spokes against themselves in 2-cross or 3-cross builds, before then being re-checked for roundness and trueness. There is no machine-building with the Dirty Harry wheels.
Craftworx claim a weight of 1,731g for the 27.5” wheels and 1,797g for the 29” versions. With tape and valves, our set weighed 965g for the rear and 853g for the front, for a total of 1,818g. By no means are they a weight weenie wheel – but that’s not what they have set out to be either.
Tubeless setup was a cinch, with a thick rim tape coming stock. I fitted longer tubeless valves (due to the rim depth) and set them up with Maxxis Tomahawk Tubeless Ready tyres. They inflated easily with a fairly average track pump and sealant, with the bead popping into place at about 36psi. They seeped a little overnight, but after the first ride they didn’t lose pressure.
On the trail with Dirty Harry
This wheel set was tested in some diverse riding conditions. From helibike drops in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, to raw and rocky hand-made trails, to basic cycle trails and riding blind through tight pine forest – all on a 125mm travel trail bike. Craftworx state that the Dirty Harry wheel set is ‘torsionally rigid’ so it handles well in all conditions and that the wheels are ‘light and responsive for aggressive acceleration and climbing’. That sounds like just about the ideal trail riding wheel set.
With a rim weight of 481g for the 27.5” rim, they’re a good weight for a 30mm wide, 32mm tall rim that is designed to be rigid. And on the bike, that sums up how they feel. They are a very stiff rim when out of the seat, and pushing into corners. In fact, even on the rocky terrain I tested the wheels on, they weren’t deflecting off much – if anything it meant I noticed the bike’s fork flex more.
At a rough count, I must have ridden about nine different carbon wheel sets previously. And the Dirty Harry wheels have stood out for one reason – I never thought about them. This isn’t just because they were a test wheel and not my own, but because they acted and behaved in such a way that they rarely made themselves noticed. With 32 spokes front and rear and high spoke tension, they feel stiff. Really stiff. At about 75kg once in riding gear, I’m not likely to make wheels flex too much, but it was most noticeable when the wheels didn’t squirm on landings or in rocky corners. I ended up running the tyres down to about 23psi and while I didn’t hit the rim, they didn’t burp either. The beads were well and truly locked on when it came time to remove the tyres. You’d be hard pressed to burp a tyre on these rims.
The White Industries hubs run super smooth, and the Ti freehub body isn’t about to get big notches in it any time soon. There’s a lot said about fast engagement for hubs, and the White Industries aren’t that quick – but it means they also spin very freely.
All in all, I was really impressed by the Dirty Harry wheels. They don’t claim to be super light or a bombproof gravity wheel. But they do claim to be an exceptional mountain bike wheel. And for the trail rider who wants a carbon wheel set that they don’t need to faff around with or be worried about, I think Craftworx have made it. From bulletproof hubs, a faultless build and a strong rim design, this is a wheel set you can rip on all year long – plus a few years after that too.
- Excellent tubeless setup
- Built from great components
- Might miss some future trends
- Longer valves required