Here is what elite rider Adrian Jackson thinks after 4 months of hammering our wheels. Please note; Although we have looked after AJ, he still paid for products as a regular customer and we now look forward to forming a stronger bond with AJ.
I was very interested when I heard about Steve and Jesse's Curve Cycling project on a number of levels. Having spent over 3 years of my life reducing expensive aerospace grade carbon test specimens to dust for my PhD, I was interested to examine the rims they were using and hear about what they learnt through their testing. Making good quality carbon rims is hard; harder than frames in some respects, and I would normally be wary of riding an unbranded rim from an Asian factory without some sort of testing. The great thing about Curve is that they've put their teeth on the line during testing instead of yours, and you can be assured that they won't be selling anything that they don't stand by 100%. Their business won't last long if rims start breaking!
The other interest I had was the cyclist within me wondering what their wheels would be like to ride. I've ridden carbon wheels on the road before, but never on the MTB. The first set of wheels I got was their standard 29er MTB set with Curve branded hubs and double butted Sapim spokes. Despite the workman like build I was impressed with the weight, and they only added a little weight over my previous bling alloy race wheels. Tubeless setup was very straightforward, almost on par with the ridiculously ease of something like a NoTubes rim. I found that inflating the tire first with a tube inside to seat one side of the bead made for a painless tubeless inflation. The rims are very wide (30mm) which combined with the depth of the center channel means the tire does has to move a long way to get up and lock into the bead. I am told that the center channel will be slightly less deep on later rims meaning inflation will become even easier.
On the trails I initially had strange sensations with the super stiff wheels. Having ridden for a couple of years on a 29er, I now realise I have adapted to riding with flexy light weight wheels, and at first the Curve wheels felt so different it was unnerving! But I quickly got used to the stiffness, and found a totally new experience when pinning rough sections of trail. Previously I would bomb into a section and just let the bike go through taking it's own path to some extent, the wheels doing their own thing underneath. But I now can feel the front tire beginning to be pushed off line, and counter the motion with pressure on the bars, and the wheel is then stiff enough to be able to transmit my input back to the trail. It akin to good cars where the front end will transmit all of the information from the road, like changes in camber and grip starting to diminish, to the steering wheel and drivers hands. The revelation has been amazing, and I am still learning how to best ride these wheels. It doesn't necessarily translate to vast increase in speed, but rather increased control and precision. Nevertheless I can now understand why people rave so much about expensive carbon wheels.
I was also lucky enough to have a set of 38mm deep carbon clinchers to use for a month. Bridging the gap between light weight and aero I could actually see myself using this depth as everyday wheels. In the time I’ve had them they haven’t disappointed, riding just as smoothly as my older set of big brand name tubulars (of similar depth) but with the added benefit of clincher practicality. I will admit here that the new Schwalbe One tires may have something to do with this, but nevertheless the wheels have had a big part to play. They haven't disappointed in terms of results either. I have ridden them to a couple of wins at the punchy and technical Kew Boulevard crit, and also managed to finish at the National Road champs (only 40 finishers and over 100 DNFs, including many pros!).
Here is AJ finishing 3rd in the 2014 National XCM Champs a few weeks back.
The latest set of Curve wheels I have had is the new superlight 29er rim laced up with Sapim CX-Ray spokes and DT 240s hubs. These new rims are a little narrower than the standard rim (but still wider than 90% of other rims!), but apparently stronger with a simplified bead hook and thus more material in the areas that matter around the “box” section of the rim. These wheels are ridiculously light for a 29er wheelset (around 1400g) putting them into the territory previously restricted for noodle like wheels. I have just got back from my first race on these wheels (MTB Marathon National Championships) and can report that they are equally as stiff and responsive, and ride just as well as the slightly heavier stock rims. Their weight (or lack of) means you can jump and flick the bike around even more (what 29ers are usually no good at!). The newer profile and bead hook has improved tubeless inflation too, so it is pretty much win-win!
Overall I have been very impressed with the Curve wheels. Hammering at race speed through rock gardens on a hardtail isn’t exactly kind on any wheel, I was perhaps expecting to have cracked a rim by now. But there has been no breakages, and what’s more I now feel like I have more control through said rock gardens, and the latest wheels have actually dropped weight from my previous aluminium race wheels. The clincher (excuse the pun) is that you can get this experience and technology for a bargain compared to most other offerings out there. I’m now a Curve convert and am eager to see what they can get their hands on next!