So, you want to get a set of carbon wheels. You ride hard, you shred gnar, I bet one of these images is what stops you from buying one:
Big brands like WA1, Nobl, SC Reserve, etc, offers fantastic life time warranty program. But it comes at a cost. No matter how bad you trash these big brands, you will get a new set. Have you ever wondered, how do they make money if someone goes through 5 sets in a season? I personally thought about it, my conclusion is they make money just like insurance companies. Nowadays, social media inflates us with videos that contains: rim explosion, big case, big crash, big air, big gap, ganrrr.... It makes us think, 90% of mountain bikers shred really really hard and can easily go through 5 sets of wheels per season. But the truth is, that's not the case. Normal distribution of mother nature tells us: the majority of us mountain bikers are just mediocre riders that ride as exercises, we don't want to crash, we don't want consequences. And if you understand this, you will understand how life time warranty still makes a profit. Not everyone trashes their wheels every time they ride. This inspires me to start my business of my own carbon wheelset. What about, paying less, no lifetime warranty, and try not trash your rims?
To preserve your carbon rims, we first need to understand the characteristics of carbon fiber. They are light, and STRONG. It is a lot stronger than you think. Sure they do crack, but only under certain circumstances. Carbon fiber as a whole object (a rim or a frame, for example), is able to withstand a lot more force than its aluminum counterpart. The following video from Pinkbike and Santa Cruz demonstrates this very well:
However, what is the weakness of this material? When carbon breaks it does so with a tear, crush or puncture. It is weak when a big force applies to a small area (aka. literally the physics definition of pressure P=Force/Area). What does this translate into real life scenarios? A rock hit the down tube of your carbon frame pretty hard, a carbon rim dings on some rock, the frame landed on a sharp rock when you crash, etc. So in order to minimize the chance of cracking your carbon wheels, you try to minimize the chances rim dings. It is as simple as that. A carbon wheelset that is built properly should run a long time without hard hit rim dings. Usually, they should be able to handle rim dings to a certain degree, but once it's over the threshold, they crack and there is no going back.
Here are the things you can do:
- Run tire insert like cushcore
- Run slightly higher tire pressure
- Check check check your tire pressure before you ride
If you are the type of rider that loves riding low tire pressure and your aluminum rim already has thousands of dents on them, carbon wheels might not be the right thing for you. If you can afford big brand stuff and planning to ride them extra hard, go for it. It really can be a lifelong investment, assuming the mtb industry is not going to 32er anytime soon.