In my experience building wheels, some rims just build up nicer than others. And while it’s not a universal truth, I’ve found that wheels built with more expensive rims tend to come together a bit nicer than cheaper ones.
At $80 (and available quite a bit cheaper if you look around a bit), the WTB rims are priced at the low end of “nice” rims. They’re a bit cheaper than the equivalent Stan’s options; in the same ballpark as the equivalent DT Swiss options; and while Mavic doesn’t make anything that is directly comparable, most of their rims are more expensive.
The i25 rims built up in accordance with my expectations; they built up nice and straight, but they weren’t perfect right off the bat. Compared to some of the nicer, more expensive rims, I had to spend a bit more time tension balancing and fussing with them to get a finished product that I was happy with.
I built the wheels to the upper end of WTB’s recommended tension range (110-125 kgf), and they’ve stayed at that tension in my time on them. I didn’t have any issues with cracking or anything catastrophic like that.
Comparing these to the Stan’s Flow EX rims that they replaced, I can’t say that I can tell any difference. The i25 rims built up with the Industry Nine hubs and spokes feel plenty stiff to me. I’ve complained about wheel stiffness on 29er’s in the past, and these wheels at least keep my bitching to a minimum.
I’ve landed them sideways, drifted them into berms, and smacked them off of rocks at funny angles, and none of these events produced any untoward or concerningly noticeable flex. I would (tentatively) say that this wheelset is stiffer than the 26” wheelset on my Specialized Enduro.
As I mentioned above, the Frequency Team rims all have a vertical rib in them which seems like it should make the wheels stiffer in the vertical plane. I can’t say I particularly noticed this effect; it probably makes the wheel stiffer, but with some moderately high-volume 2.3” tires mounted up, I can’t say that I noticed a difference.
With an inner rim width of almost 25mm, the i25 rims are pleasantly meaty. I’ve been using them with the WTB Vigilante tires, and they produce a nice, relatively square profile. I’ve also got a few rides with some WTB Trail Boss tires (review forthcoming), and those slightly narrower tires (2.2” measured) also sat nicely on the i25s. While wider 29er tires are still a relative rarity, you could certainly run 2.5” tires without having to worry too much about the tires rolling off the side of the rim.
Weight-wise, the i25 is marginally heavier (17 grams) than the Stan’s Flow EX. Of course, this is rotating weight that should be extra noticeable, but in reality, 17 grams isn’t very much and I can’t really say that it’s a deal breaker. Without trying to be an apologist, plus or minus 17 grams is within the normal margin of production error for most tires, so while it shouldn’t be discounted, it also shouldn’t be something to lose sleep over.
If you’re the sensitive type or you’ve seriously contemplated drilling holes in parts to save weight, this might be a deal breaker. But if that’s you, you’re probably not looking at a rim this wide anyway.
In the 30 days or so that I’ve had on these rims, I haven’t touched them with a spoke wrench, and they’re still nice and true.
Since the rims are mounted up on my Canfield—a hardtail—they don’t end up getting thrashed through rock gardens quite as hard as they might on a longer-travel, full suspension bike. That said, I’ve pinged them off a few rocks without any noticeable damage.
This can certainly be contrasted with some other rims I’ve ridden that seemed to get a flat spot every time they came within 50 feet of a rock (those would be the “race rims” that I mentioned previously). If super lightweight, relatively fragile rims are what you’re looking for, check out WTB’s KOM rims—they use the same alloy, but they’re in the same ballpark weight-wise as some carbon rims. I haven’t ridden the KOM’s, but I’d speculate that they’re not going to hold up particularly well to abuse (like I said, they’re race rims).
30 days isn’t really enough to give much insight into the long term durability of the i25s, so I’ll update this review once I’ve had some more time on them. But so far, so good.
The WTB Frequency Team i25 rims offer a lot of bang for the buck. While they’re not as feature laden as some of the top of the line rims out there, they still build up reasonably well, and they work great as a tubeless setup (with tape and sealant, of course). They’re wide enough to make for a stiff wheel that’ll run wider tires without flinching, and thus far they’ve held up well to the abuse I’ve been able to dish out.
Given that they’re less expensive than some of the other comparable options while offering the same, if not better performance, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the WTB’s if I needed some rims to finish out a wheelset. They’re not the blingiest or fanciest rims out there, but if you’re questioning the logic of taking out a second mortgage for some carbon rims, the WTBs are a great bang-for-the-buck workhorse that’ll keep you happily rolling for the foreseeable future.