Ryan Walsch puts We Are One's Union wheels to the test.
Words: Ryan Walsch
Photos: Nick Waygood
Recently I have been testing quite a few quality enduro and downhill tyres with or without inserts, my go to test wheels over the last few months has been We Are One Composites Union wheel set.
For those who haven’t heard of the small Canadian Composites specialists hailing from Kamloops BC, WAO have gained serious momentum over the last few years with a small and focused offering of high quality components.
The Union rim and wheel set is aimed directly at the Enduro racer. It is hard hitting and strong with a lower radial stiffness than any rim We Are One had made before giving it a precise and confidence inspiring feel without the jarring and fatigue that some ultra stiff carbon wheels can often be plagued by.
There are lots of brands making carbon wheels, a handful making them in-house, many offshore, some stiff, some compliant and most recently many with good warranty periods. We Are One are a passionate company making carbon components a bit differently and putting their customer's ride experience first.
A closer look:
I have the Union 29er wheel set on test, laced up to Industry Nine’s Hydra hubs with their 690 points of engagement and no that’s not a typo. The Union rim has an internal width of 30mm and an external width of 39mm making the Union’s hookless bead a whopping 4.5mm thick. The depth of the rim is a shallow 21mm and the reduced depth increases the vertical compliance of the rim over the rough stuff. The rims weight comes in at 495g for the 29er option and 485g for the 27.5 option, the entire 29er wheel set tipped our scales at an accurate 1860g when built with 32 Sapim CS Race spokes.
The Union rim is one of 6 rims offered by We Are One and 110g lighter than their DH rim the Strife and 70g heavier than their trail rim the Faction (both in 29 inches).
Out of the box the wheels are not tubeless taped and for good reason, the finish on the rims inner wall is as neat, almost neater than the exterior. There is no flashy paint job and minimal branding, just beautiful raw carbon on all We Are One’s products and there is a very important reason why. The vast majority of carbon products made, are removed from a clam shell style mould and then sanded down until uniform and smooth, blemishes filled or touched up and then painted often hiding imperfections. These could be ply-drop, shuffled ply, poorly aligned carbon ply, the list goes on. We Are One prides themselves on such a high finish out of the mould that their products are built and stickered ready to go. Their stunning “Da Package” bar/stem combo in completely free from branding, letting the quality speak for itself. The result is a very fine visible line along the seam and gorgeous raw carbon in plain sight. Each rim is proudly hand checked, barcoded and signed with We Are One so confident in their product that they back their rims with a no questions asked life time warranty for the original owner and a 50% discount should the damage occur when not riding and for non-original owners.
The wheels came with tubeless valves, but do require taping (not supplied) to setup tubeless. The high gloss finish and smooth edge of the hookless rim make getting tyres on and off pretty easy provided you keep the tyres bead in the centre of the rim well. A track pump was all that was required to seat a range of tubeless tyres I have had on these rims from thin single ply trail tyres through to 4 ply downhill monsters. The rims and tyres give a nice but not too loud pop as the tyre's bead snaps into place, and they had minimal pressure loss from the get go.
On the Trail:
The first set of tyres installed on the Union’s were the Michelin DH22 and DH34, these are highly capable and super thick 4 ply casing downhill tyres that didn’t let the Union’s true attributes and colors shine though. While the tyres and wheels took some big hits, cased some questionable gaps and went through the motions I wanted to use a few other tyre choices. This included a trail option that was lighter than I would normally run and my go to Michelin Enduro casing (similar to a Maxxis double down casing) without inserts.
We Are One have reduced the rim's profile significantly over their earlier generation rims which is something we are seeing a lot more of over the last few seasons to reduce rider fatigue and vertical compliance on rough terrain. This design change can go too far and leave the rim springy and lacking lateral stiffness – but this is where the Union really excels. The 21mm profile sits right in between my two go to test wheel sets which have their own very unique trail feel, one being quite tall in profile, stiff and very fatiguing to ride and the other a flat profile, very forgiving to ride but at times a bit springy and less direct when squaring off a corner getting crossed up in ruts and landing a bit off line.
The Union’s are a nice balance of both attributes which benefit enduro and aggressive trail riders. The modern rider needs a precise and agile wheel that can change direction quickly and confidently at a moments notice while being supple over the rough stuff - all while staying together and taking huge impacts from sniper rocks on unsighted terrain.
The engagement of the Industry Nine Hydra hubs is ridiculous with 690 points of engagement, well above what is required but something special when snapping out of turns, jank or getting up a technical feature. They roll extremely well with very little drag when coasting and sound like a hive of angry wasps off in the distance.
Eyeing up a new wheelset to smash into some rocks? See below for some burly wheels we've been riding recently.
Throughout my few months of testing the Union wheel set stayed almost perfectly true bar one spoke that lost about 1 turns worth of tension, and a hub bearing was a tad rough and dry after quite a lot of pressure washing. I popped off the caps and filled it with fresh grease and it has been good since then.
At $2899.95 We Are One Composites' Union wheel set is exceptional value given their industry leading process, high quality finish, outstanding ride feel and after sales support to match. The option to use Industry Nine's 101 hubs would even save you $500. The question is, why would you pay more for a carbon wheel set that has been sanded down and the glorious carbon covered up!
- Lifetime rim warranty for any breakages from riding
- Perfectly laid carbon
- Fast rolling hubs with 690 points of engagement
- Laterally stiff yet vertically compliant
- Minimal branding or color matched stickers
- Rims require tubeless tape