Whether you see them out on the road or at a trade show, it is tough to miss Industry Nine's colorful hubs and wheels.
While best known for its mountain bike wheels, the North Carolina company also offers wheels that are geared toward providing a colorful ride for cyclocross and gravel.
We favorably reviewed a pair of Ultralite CX wheels built on the Torch i25 disc hubs in print issue #25 in 2014. The set with the aluminum Ultralite CX rim—now called the Ultralite 235—and stainless steel butted spokes weighed in at 1,380g. We liked the light weight, low-pressure tubeless reliability and durability despite smacking the rim into an unseen buried rock!
One cousin of the Ultralite CX is the new Ultralite 240c TRA carbon, tubeless-ready wheelset. We take a first look at the Ultralite 240c TRA in this In Review Spotlight before putting it to the long-term test.
Industry Nine Ultralite 240c TRA
The carbon Ultralite 240c TRA rims are the result of a collaboration with Reynolds Cycling, and the wheels are built in i9's Asheville shop. The tubeless-ready rims have a 24mm deep profile and a 24mm-wide hookless design.
Our review wheels came built with Industry Nine’s TRA (Torch Road Alloy) hubs. The TRA hubs have a 60-tooth drive ring with 3 pawls offering 6 degrees of engagement. This differs from the Industry Nine mountain systems that have 6 pawls either in 2 phases for 3 degrees engagement or the new Hydra hubs that yield a 0.52-degree engagement.
The TRA hubs save a hint of weight and have a bit less drag versus the mountain hubs, and 6-degree engagement for ‘cross and gravel is likely more than enough.
The TRA system uses direct-thread aluminum spokes, machined at the Industry Nine factory in North Carolina and color anodized for style. The spokes weigh about 6 grams each, about the same as an Ultralite DT Evolution (2.0/1.5/1.8) stainless spoke with an alloy nipple. Industry Nine claims better spoke reliability with the direct thread design. Spokes are laced using a two-to-one pattern we saw at Sea Otter a number of years ago.
Interestingly, the spoke wrench flats are at the rim side where the integrated spoke head is. The threads are on the hub, so you’d think spoke windup would be a problem. A 1.5mm hex fitting is at the threaded end. Industry Nine uses boiled linseed oil as a spoke lubricant and says spoke windup is not a problem.
Our set came with 12x100mm front and 12x142mm rear thru-axles. End caps are also available for quick release front and rear, 15x100mm thru-axle front and 12x135mm thru-axle rear.
One appeal of purchasing Industry Nine wheels is the opportunity to do color customization, although all black is the default. There are three levels of color customization with an upcharge for each. One color with black costs $50, all one color is $160 and two or more colors like our review set is $265.
From a weight perspective, the Ultralite name is anything but false advertisement. Our set (with tape and valve stems) weighs 1,380g, with a 640g front and 740g rear. Remove the valve stems and you'll save 30 grams per wheel. The rims have a claimed weight of 355g.
The base price for the Ultralite 240c TRA wheelset is $2,375, and as-built, our set is $2,640.
Initial Set Up and Impressions
The Ultralite 240c carbon rim has a hookless side wall. The hook offered no advantage for low-pressure applications while complicating manufacturing and adding weight.
Low-pressure tubeless tires rely on the bead shelf for sealing. Notably, the bead shelf of the Ultralite 240c rim has no bead retaining ridge as the Ultralite 235 had. Tires mount easily, but some will slide off the shelf when deflated, as we experienced with a new Ritchey Megabite 38. That would pose a problem on the trail.
After setup and a two-day wait for the sealant to set up under the bead, I deflated the same tire and it remained sealed and seated on the shelf. I would still like to see a bead retaining ridge in the profile for more confidence in the field.
I will, on the other hand, say that bead retaining features have made removing a tire challenging at times which can be a problem of a different sort both in the shop and in the field, so six in one hand, a half dozen in the other.
The initial ride had a small amount of spoke ping from each wheel that did not alter wheel trueness or roundness. The subsequent rides exhibited none of that.
The lightness of the Ultralite 240c TRA wheels compared to their immediate predecessors was instantly noticeable from the first pedal stroke and acceleration from a stop. With hard cornering, the lateral stiffness is also remarkable for a relatively light wheelset, something that we noticed with the super light Stan's CB7 wheelset.
The wide rim offers relative handling security with lower pressures and wide tires, so I’ve been running 20-25 psi for a 38mm Ritchey Megabite, a supple and reliable tubeless choice but not the tightest bead fit. Despite the question of bead security, the tires passed the pinch test and have not unseated in any trial or situation yet.
I will be putting in some time on the i9 Ultralite 240c TRA wheels during some upcoming gravel races, and #crossiscoming, obviously. I will put the wheelset through our performance gamut and offer a long term review of these attractive light wheels. We certainly enjoy having the bike dressed up with the colorful spokes!
For more on the Industry Nine Ultralite 240c TRA wheels, see the specs and gallery below.
Industry Nine Ultralite 240c TRA Carbon Tubeless Clincher Specs
Price: $2,640 as-built, $2,375 base price
Weight: 1,380g (actual); front: 640g, rear: 740g (actual)
Rim Weight: 355g (claimed)
Rim: Carbon, tubeless-ready, hookless design
Rim Width: 24mm internal
Rim Depth: 24mm
Hubs: i9 Torch Road Alloy (TRA), alloy, Centerlock disc, 160-tooth drive ring, 3-pawls
Freehub: Shimano/SRAM 11-speed, XD-R compatible
Spokes: i9 direct-thread anodized aluminum, 24 front and rear, 2-to-1 pattern
More Info: industrynine.com