Not all that long ago Berd Spokes came across our radar and I got a chance to review a set of their complete wheels – the TR30. These wheels are aimed at for Trail/Enduro riding and feature Berd’s truly unique fabric spokes, which save anywhere from 100-200 grams per wheelset, depending mainly on wheel size and spoke count. Made from ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), a material so light that it floats, the woven spokes connect the widely lauded Industry Nine Hydra hubs and 30mm inner diameter carbon fiber rims made for Berd by an overseas partner. So, I’ve been ripping around on these wheels for the last couple of months – check out the video above and/or the long form review below to see how they’ve worked out so far…
Details Berd Spokes TR30 Wheelset
- 27.5″, Mullet or 29″ (tested)
- 1,494 grams with tape and valves – our scale, 29″
- Boost or Super boost hub spacing
- Industry Nine Hydra hubs
- Centerlock brake mount
- 28H front and rear
- 30mm inner diameter rim
- $1,895 USD
There are a few things worth looking at in the photo above. First, you’ll notice a bit of raw aluminum peeking through underneath the black anodizing in the spoke holes on the hub flanges. Berd spokes require that the spoke holes’ sharp edges are smoothed out so that they don’t cut into the spokes.
The TR30 wheelset rolls on carbon fiber rims manufactured by a partner. I didn’t get a ton of info on the rims themselves, but Berd noted that they have a hard surface finish and are not sanded out of the mold.
Berd’s anatomy of their spoke can be seen above – this little breakdown helps get a better understanding of what exactly is going on.
The TR30 wheelset rolls on Industry Nine’s truly fantastic Hydra hubs. For a deeper dive you can read up on them here, but just know that they have blazing fast engagement and are fully rebuildable by hand. For the time being, Berd only offers them with a Centerlock brake interface and with Boost or SuperBoost spacing. XD, HG and Microspline drivers are all available.
To me, one of the more fascinating aspects of the spokes’ design is the joining of the fabric section with a short metal section which threads into the nipple. The metal end slides into the hollow section of the braided spoke and is bonded. Interestingly, the more tension is applied, the more hold the braided section commands over the metal section. When Berd explained this as working like a Chinese finger trap, it all clicked for me.
Given the name TR30, it’s unsurprising that the rims have a 30mm inner diameter. In most aspects they feature a pretty standard profile with hookless bead walls and a drop center with a fairly normal amount of drop, which makes tire installations a snap with a floor pump. Interestingly, the 25mm and 27mm inner diameter wheelsets from Berd feature front and rear specific rims – these however do not.
Given that Berd claims their spokes save 100-200 grams per wheelset depending on the size, I expected these wheels to tip the scales at a really light weight given their level of duty. I did not however expect AM/Enduro rated wheels to come in at a near XC race level weight.
Berd Spokes TR30 Wheelset on the trail
To be quite frank I went into this review with an open mind and had absolutely no idea what to expect. Prior to receiving the TR30s I hadn’t heard of Berd and I certainly hadn’t heard of fabric spokes for that matter as well. Out of the gate, the weight loss is something you feel immediately, no doubt. Saving a few hundred grams on a frame or a static component is helpful, but weight saved in your tires or rims – aka rotational weight – goes a lot further in terms of energy spent and on trail feel.
Climbing is a bit easier on the legs, acceleration out of corners is improved and its even easier to late brake to a certain extent. So, coming off of an already light weight set of crankbrothers Synthesis carbon fiber wheels which tip the scales at ~1,900 grams, my bike dropped nearly a pound of rotational weight that has to be brought up to speed all throughout a ride. That pound goes a long ways!
As far as the ride characteristics go – and that is the part that made me most skeptical – there is a lot to discuss. First off, my gut instinct was that there was no way that spokes made from a woven material, as opposed to steel, would provide the necessary rigidity to keep my bike feeling razor sharp. Well, after my first few turns down the hill my bike didn’t ride drastically different than it did with any other pair of high end wheels. Despite expecting these oddities to feel a bit wobbly I must admit I was baffled by how well they rode. Now there are some things to dissect…
I do think that Berd’s claim that these are about 15% more “compliant” holds true. However, I’ll temper that with the fact that the results will vary depending on what you’re coming off of. If you’re having Berd re-lace your wheels with their spokes you get a true apples to apples comparison. However, in my case I first tried these spokes as part of a complete wheelset with a third party carbon fiber rim that I’ve never ridden before. This means that I can’t speak to the rim’s on trail feel as it stands on its own.
At some point I’d like to have Berd re-lace a personal wheelset…you know for the sake of science. But what I can say is that as a complete wheelset the TR30s exhibited an excellent ride quality in every regard. This is purely anecdotal as I didn’t exactly perform lab tests, but I do feel like the spokes lend themselves to providing a bit more side-to-side give without getting to the point that there are any setbacks. Apologies to Berd, but I made a point not to bring all of my “whips” back and I also made a point to push pretty hard and get sloppy on trail while testing them.
What I can say is that they do offer up a ride that’s, in a word, forgiving. On that note, a word of caution: if you are looking at this wheelset as a complete, great! However, if you have a wheelset that already leans a bit on the flexy side, then that particular wheelset is likely not the best choice for sending in to Berd for their re-lacing program as it will likely push things too far in the direction of flexy.
Covering some other points, I linked to an older review of the Industry Nine Hydra hubs earlier in the article, but they speak for themselves. I’m sure some consumers would like to see a 6-bolt offering, but for now Berd just offers Centerlock. Regardless, if you can get past their loud buzzing you’ll enjoy near instant engagement and excellent durability, with the bonus of being able to take them apart by hand when the freehub is in need of some love. As far as the rim tape and valves are concerned, those are both provided by Stan’s from what I can tell and they both did their job without a fuss.
At the end of the day I enjoyed my time on the TR30s. I’d love to spend more like 6 months to a year on a wheelset with these spokes before totally signing off on the concept, but so far all indications point to a green light and I think that’s quite cool considering how unconventional they are. The ride quality is very good all around, leaning on the more forgiving side. The hubs are about as nice as they come and the rims themselves have worked very well during my test period.
That said, much like the spokes at the heart of the system, I’d prefer to get to know them a little better before completely signing off on them – especially knowing very little about them or their manufacturer. As far as value is concerned, the TR30s come in about where you’d expect for a carbon fiber wheelset rolling on very high end hubs – they aren’t cheap, but that should be expected for a premium/boutique offering. As a final point, I try to envision who these make sense for and a couple of things come to mind.
If you’re a wheelbuilder type, you’d likely be in for a bit of a disruption with new tools and a somewhat different workflow, but that will likely only be an issue if you’re very hard on your bike and you tend to break a lot of spokes. However, with spokes that are a bit more forgiving, perhaps that would no longer be an issue? Either way, I’m stoked I got to spend some time on a truly different product and even happier that they impressed me. More innovation in the bike world is always a good thing and I’m excited to see what Berd has on offer in the coming years.