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Ask Jaroslav Kulhavý, and he'll tell you—every gram counts in cross country racing. But with XC tracks becoming more aggressive than ever, just being a flyweight wheel is no longer sufficient. Now, wheels need to be as tough and stiff as they are light, with all of the handling characteristics that seasoned XC riders have come to expect. These days, wheels need to be more like the new Control SL 29 with a Torque Tube and a 148mm rear.
When our riders asked us for the ultimate cross country wheels, we knew that they were really asking for some pretty specific features. They had to be light in order to be low in the inertia and weight departments, strong enough to take on rocks and roots on a short-travel race bike, and wide enough so that the tire profile was optimized for both traction and rolling resistance—not an easy feat.
To check all of these design boxes, we started by looking at our Traverse SL rim to see if we could extract the wide-rim benefits while keeping the weight at, or below, the previous Control SL, the existing race-ready benchmark. Based on the width we knew was ideal for the desired ride characteristics, we tuned the rim shape to optimize the stiffness, weight, and ride quality of the system as a whole—too tall and the wheel rides too stiff, too shallow and the wheel can be too flexy. Our engineers meticulously went through rim shape developments to find the perfect balance and optimal geometry, and after fine-tuning multiple layup iterations and schedules, we ended with a 25-millimeter internal width rim that is approximately the same weight as the previous Control SL.
Being able to add material and width (3mm to be exact), without a weight penalty makes for a stronger XC wheel, but we weren’t content settling with just an increase in strength. With our goal being the fastest XC wheelset available, we took the new and old rims, paired them with a set of size 2.0 Fast Trak tires, and performed rolling resistance tests at both 20 and 30 PSI. The result? The new, wider rim tested faster at both pressures, confirming our line-wide hypothesis that wider is not only stronger, but faster.
Keeping the Zero Bead Hook design, the new Control SL rim keeps all the sought-after features that come with this design—added impact resistance, easy tubeless tire installation, and a better tire seal on the rim. And with a lighter rim, you're also rewarded with extremely low inertia, that translates to faster accelerations for the punchy efforts required of XC racing.
Focusing on the wheels as a system, we kept with our core design tenants of lightweight and durability, so we made sure not to skimp on the build. Each wheel is built by hand, and while this is somewhat of a lost art, we know that a real person can achieve qualities that a machine simply can’t. When hand-building, little discrepancies can be found that would otherwise be missed by a machine, so we took the refined 2Bliss-Ready rim and matched it with our CNC-machined hubs with DT Swiss Competition Race spokes. The hub internals feature sealed bearings and DT Swiss 240 internals with a 54-tooth star ratchet in the rear, making for lightning fast engagement.
Finally, with the TT/148 variant, you receive all of the benefits that Boost spacing offers while continuing to run a RockShox RS-1 fork—By increasing the width of the rear hub flange, and in turn, increasing frame clearance and stiffness, you obtain a stiffer, stronger, and more durable system at a minor weight penalty.
If you’re in need of sub-1400-gram, race-ready wheelset that has handling and strength of a modern trail wheel, the Control SL 29 is the perfect choice.