After a long wait since the first World XC round, the classic Albstadt did not disappoint last weekend. But the promise of a more technical Nove Mesto got us thinking…
Is XC dead? Take a close look and it might look that way. Yes, the era of 3x8 groupsets, rigid forks and 580mm handlebars (with bar ends) has gone the way of the dodo. But much like anodized purple components, fashions change and evolve. While the short answer for the traditionalists out there might be a resounding yes, we think it’s alive and kicking.
The modern XC bike looks nothing like its ancestors. Even at the dizzying heights of world cup level XC, riders are opting to use droppers, fit wider tyres and more readily use full-suspension rigs to take on the most pedal-oriented side of mountain biking. The descents in XC are no longer like the cobbles of the Arenberg Forest, where a race is not won but lost. Instead, they are as much a part of the final result than the flats and climbs. And that’s the racing side of things…
You don't need to look far to see that some XC machines are hardly holding back. The Intense Sniper, Yeti SB100 and Scott Spark, for example, are more capable than some ‘trail’ bikes out there. With 50-70mm stems and confidence-inspiring geo – these bikes cannot afford to have wheels which flex more than a late ‘90s RockShox Judy, or crumble at the sight of anything more than a curbside drop. XC has now become a broad spectrum where riders are demanding more from their XC wheels than ever before.
We have chosen to embrace this, and have created an XC wheel which meets the demands of modern XC riding. That is, hammering on up the climbs and taking the A-line on the descents. This is why we have designed this wheel to bring the fun to XC.
The 6066-T6 alloy rim measures in at a wide 25mm internal width. It was not long ago that 19mm was the norm here! Just think of it this way: our narrowest road wheel is 19mm internal. This is to give tyres up to 2.4” more than enough support, and not have you losing pressure during hard cornering or aggressive riding – because let’s face it, the modern XC machine is very capable!
Higher spoke counts was definitely something we believed that aggressive XC riders would appreciate. At the end of the day, losing out on a component which keeps your rim round and true was not an option for us… especially if we are going for maximum ‘style’ points. However, by using triple butted Pillar PSR 2.0-1.6-2.2 spokes, it means there are more spokes for the same weight as a plain gauge. Plus, they have increased elasticity, making the wheel more durable.
This brings us to the heart of the wheel – the hubs. The XCWide comes equipped with a super-fast 4.3-degree engaging hub, with a 42t ratchet and multi-tooth pawls. As XC is becoming more and more technical (both up and downhill), having the ability to put in vital pedal strokes to keep that forward momentum comes without those loud clanging noises from the freehub, and offers an instant response with no delay.
So, is XC dead? Nope, not one bit. The courses, frames, components, and wheels are all changing to create a ride which has come so far since the days where 130mm was a measurement of stem length and not suspension travel. No longer is it necessary to go full survival mode when gravity starts working its magic, but instead knowing that a well-thought-out XC bike or XC wheelset can equally handle our 'self-evaluated-radness'… and our mistakes. Dare we say it – we love it for the better!