The cheapest fix to improve your bike's cornering ability and climbing efficiency

After running 9 tires through our recent comparison tests, I have been quite surprised to see how much tires can improve cornering ability and climbing efficiency.

Climbing Efficiency: The best rolling tires made a bike feel several pounds lighter.  Some tires literally would stop rolling without pedaling, while the best rolling tires seemed to continue rolling on their own as if they had an electric motor attached.

Cornering Ability: Finding tires with cornering grip was not a difficult task.  Combining that cornering grip with good steering feel to be able to make the most of that grip was less common.  The best front and rear tires that we found for cornering combined both good levels of cornering traction as well as constant communication of trail conditions and available grip.  Different tires could make the same bike change from handling like a monster truck to feeling like a sports car.

Good tires aren't cheap, but if you've spent good money on your bike, cutting corners on poor tires is penny-wise, pound foolish.  Tires can make more of a difference on how your bike handles than almost any other upgrade you can do to your bike.

What carbon wheels don't do...

There's a lot of hype out there about carbon fiber wheels.  As we do with the other products , we're here to tell you what carbon fiber wheels can do for you and what they won't do.


1. Improve your climbing/Reduce weight on your bike:  Well, carbon fiber wheels will help you reduce some weight but not nearly as much as you might imagine.  This is a weight comparison between a set of Stans Arch EX wheels and a set of Enve M60 wheels. (Weight of the Stans Arch wheel have been adjusted to factor in the lighter weight of the DT240 hubs & heavier weight of the SLX cassette used on the Enve wheelset)

Stans Arch EX 27.5"/DT350 hubs/Hans Dampf tire (f), Nobby Nic (2015) tire (r), XT cassette:

F: 1860 g  (adjusted weight is 1850g accounting for a 10g lower weight for a DT240 vs a DT 350 hub)

R: 2220g  (adjusted weight is 2190g accounting for a 60g lower weight for a DT240 vs a DT 350 hub, and a 30g higher weight of a SLX cassette vs an XT cassette)

Enve M60 27.5"/DT240 hubs/Hans Dampf tire (f), Nobby Nic (2015) tire (r), SLX cassette

F: 1750g

R: 2130g

Weight Reduction for the Enve wheelset vs the Stans Arch EX wheelset:

Front: 100 grams

Rear: 90 grams

Total: 190 grams (or 0.4 lbs)

0.4 lbs is not insubstantial, but not is a huge difference from a relatively light all-mountain wheelset using the Stans Arch EX

2. Be more comfortable than aluminum rims:  The Enves are stiff!  You'll realize how much compliance a standard aluminum rim provides you after you ride a carbon fiber rim.


Carbon fiber wheels have some specific benefits that may fully justify their price:

1. Carbon fiber wheels improve steering and control:   With the move to thicker head tubes, beefier headsets & stouter fork legs, the wheel has become the weak link in terms of flexibility.  Moving from an aluminum rim such as the Stans Arch EX to the Enves results in a greatly improved sense of control and connection to the tires.  The amount of communication that you are receiving about what your tires are doing is greatly enhanced by the lateral rigidity of a carbon fiber wheel.  For aggressive and/or big riders, carbon fiber wheels can add an additional margin of security and control.

2. Carbon fiber wheels are tougher:  With their stiffness and strength, quality carbon fiber rims can add an degree of indestructability over a aluminum rim.

So, are carbon fiber wheels worth their price?  For aggressive riders, the amount of increased steering control that carbon fiber can provide may be an excellent reason to do a wheel upgrade.  For lighter and less aggressive descenders, the value of carbon fiber wheels is less clear.

Dirt Merchant Bikes can help you make the decision as to whether carbon fiber wheels are right for you.  We currently have a pair of Enve M60 wheels available for demo and are in the process of getting additional brands of carbon fiber wheels to add to our demo fleet to allow comparison of different brands and rim widths.  The cost of wheel demos can be applied to a carbon fiber wheel purchase.  Check out our demo options at:

Seeking Product Testers for Dirt Merchant Bikes

What're the best tires for PNW trails? Help us  find out!

Dirt Merchant Bikes is seeking Product Testers for our upcoming PNW Winter Tire Test!

Dirt Merchant Bikes is looking to develop standard recommendations for tire combinations for winter riding in the Seattle area. Tire testers will ride our fleet of Turner demo bikes. The tires that we are planning to include in our first comparison test are:

Schwalbe Hans Dampf
Schwalbe Nobby Nic
Panaracer Neo-Moto
Vredestein Bobcat
Maxxis High Roller II

If you are interested in participating in this tire comparison test or future product tests, please sign up for Dirt Merchant's e-mail list at: