WTB Proterra Tough i30 Wheels

WTB Proterra Tough i30 Wheels

Test Location: Western Washington

Test Duration: 5 months

Build Specs:

  • 6069 alloy, 30 mm inner width rims, 32 hole
  • WTB Proterra Hubs, 60 point engagement rear
  • 2.0/1.8mm double butted spokes
  • Sapim brass nipples

Internal Width: 30 mm

Blister’s Measured Weight (29” size; includes pre-installed rim tape and valve stems):

  • Front: 978 g / 2.16 lb
  • Rear: 1124 g / 2.48 lb
  • Total: 2102 g / 4.63 lb

MSRP:

  • Front Wheel: $295
  • Rear Wheel: $355
  • Wheelset: $650

Mounted to: Privateer 161 and Forbidden Dreadnought

Reviewer: 6’, 165 lb / 183 cm, 74.8 kg

David Golay reviews the WTB Proterra Tough Wheels for Blister
WTB Proterra Tough i30 Wheel
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Review Navigation:  Specs //  Intro //  Design & Build Options //  Weight and Comparisons //  Performance //  Bottom Line

Intro

WTB has been in the rim business for a long time now, but complete wheelsets had been missing from their lineup in recent years. They’re back in the game with a new line of Proterra gravel and mountain wheels, and we’ve been testing the burliest option in the range, the Proterra Tough i30.

David Golay reviews the WTB Proterra Tough wheels for Blister
David Golay riding the WTB Proterra Tough Wheels

WTB bills the Proterra Tough as “wheels that won’t let you down”, but with a relatively modest $650 price tag, they’re also on the more affordable end of the spectrum. So what do you give up compared to more expensive options, and who will the Proterra Tough work best for? Read on to find out.

Design

As you’d expect for wheels at this price point, the Proterra Tough i30 wheels feature aluminum rims, and as the name suggests, they’ve got a 30 mm internal width. They use the same rim that WTB sells on its own as the “KOM Tough,” which features a sleeved construction (as opposed to a welded seam on many high-end aluminum rims) and a relatively shallow 18.1 mm cross-section height. As has become the norm in recent years, the spoke holes are not eyeletted but are drilled at an angle to better match the spoke bracing angle, which WTB says reduces stress in the nipples and helps prevent them from binding. The center portion of the rim wall is thickened to reinforce the spoke holes, and a pair of ribs through the center of the rim cavity provide additional support.

A deep channel in the center of the rim (WTB calls it “On Ramp”) slopes up gently to the bead seat area and makes tire mounting straightforward. Unlike most rims, there’s also a slight depression at the bead seat of this WTB rim to help retain the tire. This did seem to make for a bit more of an aggressive “pop” when seating a tire for the first time when the bead snaps into that channel, but I didn’t have any issues getting tires to seat on the Proterra Tough rims. And while it’s hard to know how much credit to give that channel, I didn’t have any issues burping tires either, despite riding lighter-duty tires than I typically prefer for a substantial portion of the test.

David Golay reviews the WTB Proterra Tough wheels for Blister
WTB Proterra Tough Rim — Dimensions
David Golay reviews the WTB Proterra Tough wheels for Blister
WTB Proterra Tough Rear Hub

WTB offers the Proterra Tough wheels in both 27.5’’ and 29’’ diameters, and with a SRAM XDR or Shimano Microspline driver. The XDR driver is just an XD driver with slightly deeper splines, to make room for a wider road-oriented cassette. While most people running that option would probably opt for the Proterra Light wheels, a small spacer (included with the wheels) is all that’s needed to run an XD mountain cassette. A Hyperglide freehub body is also available separately, but not as part of complete wheels. All Proterra Tough wheels come with 6-bolt rotor mounts and 15 x 110 mm front / 12 x 148 mm rear Boost axle spacing. All versions come laced with 32 double-butted spokes in a three-cross pattern, and the Proterra wheels use standard J-bend spokes so replacements should be easy to come by.

The Proterra rear hub uses a fairly conventional pawl-driven freehub body, with six pawls engaging in two alternating sets of three for 60 points of engagement. That’s not as many as some high-end hubs but should be plenty for most people, and I’m generally of the opinion that going much higher than that rapidly turns into a case of diminishing returns.

The Proterra Tough wheels come taped for tubeless tires, with valves pre-installed. WTB also adds a layer of what they call “Solid Strip” underneath the rim tape, which is meant to prevent the rim tape from sagging into the spoke holes and protect it from below in the event of a broken spoke. It’s a great idea, and while I didn’t break a spoke to test that latter point, I did change tires a number of times over the course of the test and had no issues with the rim tape holding up.

Weight (and Comparisons)

At 2102 g / 4.63 lb for the 29” pair, the Proterra Tough wheels aren’t exactly light, but they’re not especially heavy, either. (Both wheels also came in exactly 5 g lighter than WTB’s stated weights, which is nice. Good job, WTB.)

Nobody’s going to call that super light, but it’s well within the normal range for a burly 29er wheel. Below are the weights for a number of competitor rims and wheelsets, with the rim material listed in parentheses. (Rim weights are those stated by each manufacturer; wheelset weights are our own measured weights where applicable. All are 29’’ diameter unless otherwise noted.)

Rims:

  • 480 g Revel RW30 (carbon)
  • 490 g Santa Cruz Reserve 30 (carbon)
  • 495 g We Are One Union (carbon)
  • 525 g Race Face ARC30 (aluminum)
  • 570 g DT Swiss EX 511 (aluminum)
  • 580 g Enve M730 (carbon)
  • 597 g Sun Ringle Duroc SD37 (aluminum)
  • 605 g WTB Proterra Tough (KOM Tough rim, aluminum)
  • 618 g Stan’s Flow EX3 (aluminum)
  • 624 g Chromag BA30 (aluminum)

Wheelsets:

  • 1831 g Santa Cruz Reserve 30 / DT 350 (carbon)
  • 1840 g Revel RW30 / Industry Nine Hydra (carbon)
  • 1877 g We Are One Union / Industry Nine Hydra (carbon, 27.5’’ diameter)
  • 1925 g Hunt All-Mountain Carbon H_Impact (carbon)
  • 1985 g DT Swiss EX 1700 (aluminum)
  • 2069 g Enve M730 / Chris King (carbon)
  • 2102 g WTB Proterra Tough i30 (aluminum)
  • 2109 g DT Swiss E 1900 (aluminum)
  • 2115 g Stan’s Flow EX3 (aluminum)
  • 2126 g Sun Ringlé Duroc SD37 Pro (aluminum)
It’s also worth noting that the Proterra Tough i30 are among the least expensive wheels of those listed above, and are a small fraction of the price of most of the carbon options. Especially with that taken into account, their weight is very respectable.
David Golay reviews the WTB Proterra Tough wheels for Blister
David Golay riding the WTB Proterra Tough Wheels

On the Trail

WTB recommends the Proterra for Trail and Enduro bike use, and I bolted them up to a Privateer 161 and a Forbidden Dreadnought for testing. And despite being one of the more affordable wheelsets that I’ve spent time on recently, the Proterra Tough wheels have given me very little to complain about.

The Proterra Tough wheels aren’t as stiff as most carbon rims or some of the burlier aluminum options out there (notably the Sun Ringlé Duroc SD37 Pro wheels and DT EX511 rims), but the Proterra Tough are stout enough to hold a line reasonably well and do so without feeling harsh or ping-y. Credit to WTB for resisting the temptation to run a low spoke count and cut weight from the Proterra wheels by doing so; the 32-spoke build is what I’d choose when putting together a custom wheelset for Trail / Enduro use. The added stiffness and durability are easily worth a few grams.

Very heavy and / or very aggressive riders looking for an ultra-stiff wheelset might be better off looking for something a bit burlier (which will almost certainly be heavier and / or more expensive than the Proterra Tough). But I don’t think that most people are going to find the Proterra Tough wheels to be notably flexy, and if you’re the sort of person who will, you probably already know who you are. I’ll admit that I’m a fan of (good) carbon wheels for the added stiffness and precision that they offer over most aluminum rims. And while the Proterra Tough wheels definitely aren’t as stiff as top-tier carbon offerings (many of which cost as much or more for a single rim as the entire Proterra wheelset), I’m still perfectly happy riding the WTBs.

The freehub on the Proterra rear hub was a bit sticky on my first couple of rides. I first noticed that the cranks tended to turn (rather than the freewheel disengaging) when I walked the bike, and then also dropped the chain a couple of times. It’s hard to know for sure, but I suspect that the freehub was sticking and causing the upper portion of the chain to loose tension, resulting in the chain drops. I removed the freehub body and added a bit of freehub grease, which took care of the issue. Doing so just required removing the drive-side end cap from the hub with a pair of 17 mm cone wrenches and pulling off the freehub body. I got lucky and had the drive-side end cap break free before the non-drive-side, but if the non-drive-side comes free first, you’ll need to use an 11 mm allen wrench to hold the axle still to loosen the second end cap. It’s a bit inconvenient that the hubs use such a non-standard tool, but they’re readily available online if needed.

David Golay reviews the WTB Proterra Tough Wheels for Blister
David Golay riding the WTB Proterra Tough Wheels

The freehub on the Proterra hubs is perhaps slightly on the louder side of average (especially before I added grease) but is by no means an outlier in that regard, and is definitely quieter than an Industry Nine Torch or Hope Pro 4, for example. The Proterra’s 60 points of engagement should be plenty for most people (personally, I’m fine with even 36 or so) and engaged reliably without any skipping or other such funny business.

Durability

Apart from the aforementioned (and easily corrected) stickiness with the freehub, I haven’t had any issues of note with the Proterra Tough wheels. The initial build quality was good and the rims have remained true, with relatively even spoke tension over the course of the test. Despite not running any inserts in the tires, I haven’t put any dings or dents of note into the rims. Brass nipples and 32 J-bend spokes are a good recipe for durability as well, and WTB makes spare hub parts available so riders can get their wheels back up and running if something does go wrong (lack of parts availability is often an issue with the hubs included in less expensive wheelsets).

Five months isn’t the longest-term test (and as much as we’d love to test everything for years before weighing in, doing so is unfortunately unrealistic). But the Proterra Tough wheels have held up great so far and haven’t given me any reason to suspect that’s likely to change soon. WTB has put together a solid wheelset at a respectable weight with a price tag that’s relatively affordable, and that’s worth taking note of. I’ll keep the Proterra Toughs in the rotation going forward, and update if anything crops up.

David Golay reviews the WTB Proterra Tough wheels for Blister
David Golay riding the WTB Proterra Tough Wheels

Bottom Line

WTB has hit a very nice middle ground with the Proterra Tough wheels. They’re not the cheapest or the lightest options out there, but strike a very successful balance of being relatively affordable, solidly durable, and do so while coming in at a respectable weight. They might not break the old “cheap, light, strong; pick two” adage, but they do show that you can get light-ish, cheap-ish, and pretty strong all in one package, and that’s still worth commending. They’re a very solid option for riders looking for a no-frills Trail or Enduro wheelset that still offers very solid performance at a reasonable price.

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