Around the time that they were released, Industry Nine sent us a pair of their Trail 270 wheels. Aimed clearly at general purpose trail riding, as the name indicates, the wheels feature 27mm inner diameter alloy rims paired with I9’s precision made Torch Classic hubs and alloy, straight pull spokes. Just like other proprietary Industry Nine wheels, the spokes thread right into the hub flanges, and thus, the wheels don’t use nipples. It’s certainly an unconventional approach, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat, right? A really cool feature that you’ll get from I9 and nowhere else, is the option to have nearly unlimited, custom color combos in the “AnoLab”. You can pick the colors of your hubs, spokes, “accent” spokes and valves.
- Weight: 27.5″ start at 1480g (24hole) /1560g (32hole) Our 32 hole, 29″ set weighed 1760g w/ valves & rim strips
- 32H Front Axles: QR, 9thru, 12x100mm, 15x100mm, 20x110mm, 15×110 Boost, and 20x110mm Boost
- 32H Rear Axles: QR 135, 10x135mm, 12x135mm, 12x142mm, QRx141 Boost, 12x148mm Boost and 12×157 Super Boost
- Driver: Shimano HG mtn 9-11spd or SRAM XD
- Engagement: 3-degree, 6 pawls / 120-point drivering
- Tire Width: 2.2-2.5″
- Rim: 27mm inner width / 31mm outer width
- Rear Axles: QR 135, 10x135mm, 12x135mm, 12x142mm and 12x148mm
- Rider Weight: Recommended 230lbs/105kg Max
- Retail: starting at $1,225.00
You can see that the threaded spoke ends in the photo above. What you can’t see is the fact that there is an allen key fitting inside the end of each spoke. That way, if you break a spoke, it would still be easy to swap out. Another thing you can’t see is the “Torque Cap” end caps for RockShox. We had them fitted initially – which is a nice option, and after putting these wheels onto a bike with a different fork, we performed a quick, tool free swap to the standard caps.
We opted for Boost spacing and an XD driver body in a 32 hole configuration. I9 also offers a 24 hole option for lighter duty riding and/or lighter weight riders.
Industry Nine went with a 27mm internal/31mm external rim width. While this is a pretty safe, middle of the road width, our tester has generally found better support in the 30mm internal range, for 2.3-2.6″ tires. That said, 27mm is certainly nothing to scoff at. It’s worth noting that I9 does offer a wheelset called the Enduro S, which features 30.5mm internal diameter rims, albeit at a higher weight.
The spokes – being aluminum, as you can imagine, are much beefier than a standard steel spoke. A bonus from their oversized nature, is that I9 can laser etch their logo into a spoke or two. The wheels ship with a couple of spare spokes as well, which is nice, as they aren’t exactly common stock in your average bike shop.
We chose gold accent spokes and valves to match nicely with a bike fitted with a black and gold SRAM XX1 Eagle group. As you can see, the spokes are machined to have 4 sides where they drop into the rim. This is where you tension them with your spoke wrench…
On the trail
From the get-go, and throughout the remainder of the test, our thoughts were that this wheelset lands somewhere between a traditionally laced alloy rim/steel spoke wheelset and a carbon fiber rim/steel spoke wheelset. This is “armchair engineer” level conjecture, but we’re pretty confident in claiming that a great deal of the Trail 270’s stiffness is gained through the girthy aluminum spokes. After all, aluminum is stiffer and less flexible than steel. That did mean that the aluminum spoke/rim combo didn’t quite take the edge off and smooth out a trail like a carbon fiber rim would, but these wheels didn’t exactly beat us up, and they felt much more lively than an alloy rim/steel spoke counterpart would.
The engagement is freakishly fast (every 3º) and the hubs have a distinct, fairly loud buzz, but Torch hubs don’t suffer from the drag that can be found in some faster engagement hubs. Having your power instantly transmitted to the back wheel is a big advantage that’s often overlooked. It’s certainly one of those things where, once you are jaded, you can never go back. On technical climbs and while trying to pick up speed out of offbeat, awkward turns…that’s where you’ll really see the value. Speaking of the freehub, we had no issues whatsoever throughout the duration of the test. Rebuilds are fairly straightforward as well. We feel confident in claiming that the hubs are in it for the long haul.
In terms of the integrity at the rim, we had good luck overall. We didn’t test the wheels outside of the Santa Cruz area, which is not exactly the rockiest place on the West Coast, but we did make a point to ride at some of the rockier places in the area at low tire pressures. We had a few instances where the rims pinged off of rocks and roots, even with unusually soft pressure, and we hadn’t managed to dent or flat spot the rims throughout the last 5-6 months of steady ride time.
We’d rate the Industry Nine Trail 270 as being somewhat unconventional for a middle of the road offering in terms of duty, all while being a boutique option, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s worth considering that you have the option of going with 24 spokes if you are a lightweight rider who isn’t exactly pushing the boundaries of “trail” riding. The point being, if you fit into that category, that choice should give you a bit more compliance. Why is this relevant? For the price of these wheels, it isn’t hard to find a set of wheels with carbon fiber rims that feel a little more resilient and lively. But, keep in mind, when a carbon fiber rim fails, it fails catastrophically. Aluminum rims typically just dent, and/or flat spot here and there, then keep on rolling.
In the grand scheme of things, the I9 Trail 270 wheelset offered a snappy ride, with a touch more feedback than your average wheel, all while proving to be quite tough and lively. The hubs are of the absolute highest quality anyone could ask for, and the engagement was lightning fast, as expected. When it all boils down to gauging value, that’s up to you…Do you want customization and extraordinary attention to detail with aluminum rims, or a carbon fiber wheelset on a budget?