WTB Carbon Ci24 rim review
A last minute addition to our demo repertoire became available recently, just as I was about to set off for a few day’s mountain biking in the stunning Cairngorm region of Scotland. This was in the form of WTB Ci24 carbon rims laced to stalwart Hope Pro 4 Evo hubs. They just happened to be 29” and Boost hub spacing (and would plug straight into my Santa Cruz Tallboy 3). They even came ready-shod with WTB’s excellent Vigilante/Trail Boss tyre combo, which meant that I really had no excuses not to take them with me for ‘testing’.
Sigh. The hardships I have to endure working here at Stif Cycles!
What followed was three of the best day’s on a bike that I’ve ever had, helped in part by these amazing wheels. The weather was absolutely perfect, the trails bone-dry and sublime, in a region of jaw-dropping beauty. But without getting too misty-eyed about it all, here’s a review of the demo wheel’s performance....
The first test for the wheels came at some delightful, twisty, loamy trails near Aviemore. There’s nothing too extreme here in terms of ‘gnar’, but the trails in question are really tight on the turns in places. I was really pleased to find that it took very little time to get used to the bigger wheels on these trails (I’ve ridden down them previously on 27.5”), due to the incredible stiffness of the rims. Once you’ve pitched the bike into a sharp turn, it resolutely holds it’s line, with no wheel wandering. This was certainly enhanced by WTB’s awesome Vigilante tyre up front, but fundamentally it’s the wheel stiffness that you can feel here. To the extent where you need to be quite accurate with body weight placement, which can take a little getting used to initially, until you get used to the different (read superior) handling characteristics, in order to exploit the performance advantages. So, coupled with a well-designed 29er frame, these wheels help to dispel the view held by some, that 29er’s don’t handle the tight stuff very well!
The next day saw us tackling the phenomenally good trails at Laggan. The black trail here in particular, has a reputation for being one of the toughest purpose-built trails in the UK, and with it’s many sections of technical, rough bedrock and granite boulders, would prove a good test of durability for the wheels. The wheels felt light, lively and super-responsive on the singletrack climb up to the Wolf’s lair (highpoint and beginning of the black descent), which in itself features a number of moderately technically challenging sections. They helped with line precision through the awkward, exposed bedrock and boulder causeways, and rewarded the power bursts required for steep inclines with instant acceleration where needed.
After drinking in the gorgeous views and ambience of the Wolf’s Lair, it’s into the black descent. What follows is an intense experience to say the least – several long minutes of seemingly impossible lines over grotesque lumps of granite, steep rock rolls into webs of polished tree roots that stand proud of the dirt, wheel-grabbing chokes liberally scattered amongst the haphazard boulder gardens and staircases, all of which weaves it’s way through the ancient-feeling Strath Mashie forest in a series of tight turns interspersed with occasional flowing straights where it’s just possible to gain some brief respite before the next technical onslaught.
The wheels handled it all without so much as a ruffled feather! Direction change was instantaneous (a massive bonus on a trail such as this) and the light weight made the job of pulling the bike up beneath the rider in order to skim over obstacles much easier. To say that the wheels and rims proved themselves to be super-durable is stating the obvious to a degree – they survived the sustained pummelling of Laggan’s black descent completely unscathed and unfazed.
An obligatory session on the ‘orange’ descent was then had, in order to asses the wheel’s ability to deal with jumps – these were shrugged off without incident and the wheels seemed only too keen to head skywards at the first opportunity. They were also resistant to several ‘slightly more sideways than acceptable’ landings, following my poor-quality efforts at whips!
To complete the day’s testing, and for some further variation on what is already a wonderfully diverse trail centre, we ventured over to some nearby natural trails. These take things up a notch in terms of gradient, featuring many steep sections and loamy (on this particular occasion anyway) off-camber turns to pit the wheels against. Plenty of bedrock sections and chunky tree roots abound here also. Once again, these conditions presented no problems for the wheels, which put up with several runs and many more poor line choices by the rider.
A final day’s riding was to be had on the following day, with a circuit of the the classic Lairig Ghru, back near Aviemore. It was something of a resolution of unfinished business with this particular trail, which we had first sampled the previous year whilst following on old magazine route. Unfortunately, an error (surely) on the part of said publication meant that we had ridden the whole thing the wrong way around! We were not impressed with the route guidance, but philosophically, we’d been able to recce the amazing descent by riding up it, and could appreciate just how good it would be when we came back and did things correctly.
It didn’t disappoint. The long, steady climb passed easily enough, aside perhaps from the the awkward, boulder-strewn ‘mess’ that passes itself off as the final leg of elevation gain. This is essentially a bog (although the dream-like weather conditions meant that it had mercifully all but dried out), liberally peppered with granite lumps of all shapes and sizes. Noble (but ultimately failed) attempts were made to ride as much of this as we could, and the wheels were again subjected to plenty of twisting forces as they were repeatedly wedged and scraped through all manner of rock jams, with the weight of a flailing rider providing leverage in all of the wrong directions. They didn’t bend. Nuff said.
The descent more than lived up to expectations and hopes, and we found ourselves whooping and giggling like lunatics while we traversed the squirming ribbon of root-infested singletrack rapidly downwards as it followed the course of the Allt Druidh. Near misses were had, along with glorious moments of accidental trail heroism when boosting almost blindly over sections of wheel grabbing trail nasties. The wheel’s ability to make instantaneous changes in direction on demand, again came into play here. It’s over all too quickly, and surely warrants another lap around if you have the time and energy. Unfortunately, we had neither, and it was time to head homewards after some truly perfect days on the bike.
Verdict? These wheels proved themselves to be light enough for huge days in the saddle, stiff enough for piloting 29” wheels down some of the most twisty trails in the uk and strong enough to ‘Laggan’. So they definitely tick my boxes. They are also comparatively very reasonably priced when compared to certain other well-known brands of carbon mountain bike rims, and offer a tangible major performance upgrade over standard alloy rims. What’s not to like? Rob N
If you would like to try these wheels, please give us a call on 01423 780738 to book a demo ride. We also have a set of 27.5" built to try.
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