It was late 2014 and we first saw a rim like no other. It was low profile, wider than the norm and resembled a motorbike rim. Bouwmeester Composites brought us a unique wheelset and the Tammar was an industry first using a solid profile carbon rim. The design offered the right amounts of lateral and radial compliance not achievable with conventional rim design. With a focus on ride quality and durability, this light weight and sought after wheel surpassed impact tests where other carbon wheels failed.

The industry took notice and the announcement that head Engineer and founder Mello Bouwmeester was making the move to the Selle Royal Group as the head composites engineer in their SR56 Utah based R&D facility was met with interest. He would be working on projects across brands such as Crank Brothers, Fi’zi:k, Brooks and Selle Royal.

Crank Brothers are no stranger to exploring new ways of doing things and their lineup of the Cobalt, Iodine and Opium wheelsets were like nothing the industry had seen, with spokes that were half nipple, a spoke head that sat into a raised section of the rim, and of course paired spokes.

With proven concepts on the table and footage the of a crazy looking low profile carbon rim onboard Barcelona based Unno Factory DH race team bikes who are running Crank Brothers gear we could only assume and wait.

First Look

With a striking resemblance to the Tammar and a very stylish finish that has become synonymous with Crank Brother quality the Synthesis has a long list of finer details.

This details show that Crank Brothers are committed to producing a truly execpetional riders wheelset and not your typical easy to produce wheel.

Crank Brothers have chosen 28 hole front rim vs 32 hole rear or party up front and business at the rear. To address the different requirements a front and rear wheel, Crank Brothers has made the rear rim 15-20grams burlier, slightly narrower and use beefier spokes.

What's more, is there is a matched pair for downhill, enduro and XC/trail. The Synthesis DH 11 wheels do run a 31.5mm internal width rim front and rear, with Project 321 hub internals for a rapid 2.5 degree engagement angle. That's really fast.

The enduro focused Synthesis E have a 31.5mm inner width up front and 29.5mm rear. There are two models, one with the Project 321 hub internals and one with standard internals offering 17 degrees of movement before engagement. The top Synthesis E 11 also gets lighter spokes so you end up with a better performing wheel set - from overall weight to engagement out of corners and when gettong on the gas. Anecdotally, better hub engagement means less cassette movement and can assist with chain retention.

The Synthesis XCT range are for trail and XC riders, with rim inner widths at 26.5mm front and 24.5mm on the back. The Synthesis XCT E has the better hubs and spokes, and a 29" set comes in at 1490g, which is pretty competitive for a wheel with the benefits and fetaures that Crank Brothers extoll. 

Manufacturing two completely different rims across 3 models and 2 wheel sizes is no cheap feat and it’s a tip of the hat from the riders to this approach, it is seriously impressive stuff.

The tims are shallow, at no more than 19mm deep across the range. This is in stark contract to many carbon hoops on the market, but something that is becoming a little more common. A deep rim provides very little vertical compliance, whereas a wide and shallow rim can maintain the lateral rigidty we want and remove the bone jarring stiffness at the same time. If your wheel isn't so rigid, it probably has far better traction as well.

The rims have a liftetime warranty, and pricing starts at $2698.95 for the Synthesis E. Like any carbon mountain bike wheel, pricing is at the upper end of the spectrum. but when you add a lifetime warranty on the rims, and think that it's a rim that has had years of expertise involved in creating it - the value might be there for you.

We have two pairs on the trails right now - a Synthesis E 11 in 29" and one in 27.5". They are being tested by some of our regular bike and product testers. Expect a full rundown on the wheels when both riders have had enough times aboard the wonder hoops.