Light Bicycle AM928 Wheelset – $1,269
By Scott Williams
Back in 2010, the carbon wheelset market was just starting to gain momentum, and low-cost, unbranded carbon fiber rims started emerging online. One of those companies was Xiamen Light Bicycle, a global manufacturing company that started with carbon rims shipped directly from the facility in China to consumers.
Fast forward to the present and Light Bicycle North America has its own website and two brick and mortar sites, one in British Columbia and one in Minnesota. The Chinese factory still produces the rims and offers wheelset builds with DT Swiss and Hope hub options; the North America facilities drive product development offer additional custom wheel options.
The Light Bicycle North America custom wheel program offers customers the ability to fine-tune the wheelset to their needs. For example, you can build a front wheel optimized for weight savings and a rear wheel using a stronger rim and thicker butted spokes for strength where it’s needed most.
The Test Subject
I tested the new-for-2017 AM928 29er rim laced up to the always dependable Industry Nine Torch hubs using 32 Sapim D-Light spokes and brass nipples. The AM928 is a 430-gram asymmetrical rim with a 2.6 mm offset, 28 mm internal width and is suggested for tire sizes 2.2 to 2.5 inches. The AM928 is available as either an “all-mountain” or as a heavier-duty “enduro” version with thicker carbon walls. I would say the all-mountain version I’m riding is ideally suited for an everyday trail rider and can handle the abuse of some larger hits on longer-travel bikes.
For carbon wheels with high-end hubs, $1,259 is considered affordable, but it’s still a good chunk of change, no denying that. However, Light Bicycle North America backs its products with a 12-month warranty. Additionally, if you follow the footsteps of Larry Enticer (or Evel Knievel for you old farts), Light Bicycle North America provides a 25 percent discount towards crash replacement rims within the first two years of original ownership.
The wheelsets are built here in North America; the rims are supplied directly from the Light Bicycle factory in China. In Canada, the wheels are built by hand; however, in the U.S. the wheels are primarily built using a state-of-the-art Holland Mechanics truing robot. Trevor Howard, LBNA operations manager, says, “It’s the most advanced robot in the industry without exception and builds the wheels to tolerances not possible by hand builds.”
Other than a leak caused by peeling up some rim tape during tire installation, the wheels were problem-free for the next five months, not once needing to be put in the truing stand. I often swapped tires and was able to set up each tire on the hookless rim without a lever and using an ordinary floor pump.
For most trail riders looking to experiment with a wide range of tire setups, I think the 28-30 mm internal width is a sweet spot. I rode everything from 2.25 cross-country tires to 2.6 knobby meats. I know, you’re not supposed to run a 2.6 inch tire on rims this narrow, but no kittens exploded in the process. If you already know that you want nothing to do with tires narrower than 2.35 inches, then, by all means, go wider. The Light Bicycle AM933 is a comparable rim offering 33 mm internal and would be better suited for a 2.6 tire.
Light Bicycle found a fine balance between lateral stiffness and vertical compliance with these wheels. For a trail-rated rim that’s intended to be durable, the AM928 is able to buff out a lot of trail chatter even when paired with a rigid carbon fork. Overall, these wheels should make a broad spectrum of riders happy, especially considering the wheelset with tape and valves weighs a scant 1,661 grams.