Spank has a great reputation for hard-hitting and reliable products. I tried and failed to destroy a set of Oozy 345s in the Alps a couple of years ago, which cemented them for me, as one of the more robust wheel makers out there.Buy Wheels on
Always keen to innovate, Spank has been working with their Vibrocore system, which they use in their handlebars, and have applied it to their wheels. Vibrocore is, according to Spank; 'a proprietary, biodegradable, complex foam core of precisely controlled density'. This foam is then injected into the bar, or rim to reduce vibrations in the system the foam also acts to increase the inner wall strength and therefore thinner walls can be used.
These new wheels are, however, more than just rims filled with foam, the new profile aims to increase lateral stiffness and torsional strength while improving radial compliance. Put simply, it should roll over the ground in a more forgiving way whilst maintaining and holding a line by reducing any flex.
Rims are low profile with a 17mm height and sport a 30.5 internal width, which should deal with most tyres up to 2.6 inches. These numbers keep things low and wide, which Spank claims help with that radial compliance.
The real excitement comes in the form of the Vibrocore filling, which adds just 40g to the rim while increasing the strength and reducing vibrations transferred to the rider.
The wheel is built with 32 standard j hook spokes and features a Spike hub, which has a proven track record. Overall weight comes in at 2081g for this 29er wheelset and retails at $699.99 or £599.99.
Forgetting the foam filled inner, what we have from Spank is another high-quality set of wheels. The low profile looks good along with classic 3 cross spokes and big hub flanges. Tubeless tyres were mounted easily and the wide rim holds large volume tyres well, the 30.5mm width is pretty much on the money at the moment for a tough, do-it-all wheelset.
The wheels are stiff and tight with a precision feel on the trail, and certainly noticeable against cheaper wheels. The freehub is good, but not mind-blowing and picks up well enough to get your power down quickly with no dead spots.
There is no doubt that the rim is robust to impacts, and smashing rock gardens felt appropriate and so far not a ding has occurred despite my best (or worst) efforts. What has happened are plenty of scratches on the rim surface, which proves the abuse they have taken, but highlights the finish on the rims which is easily damaged, albeit cosmetically.
The 30.5 internal width gives a great profile for large tyres, and suits 2.4 to 2.6 well, depending on the brand. For me, the 30mm width is a great sweet spot for getting a range of tyres to work well.
Spokes have stayed stiff and true, and there is little to complain about, it's a great wheelset with all the modern trappings we have come to expect. What about the foam you ask? Well, without a second non-foamed set it's hard to draw a direct comparison, but the overall feel can be likened to a riding a slightly looser, or softer built wheel, with the precision of a stiff wheel.
So it holds it's line and feels plenty stiff under power, yet there is something, a little calmer, perhaps a little less noise through my hands. It is this combination of additional comfort along with the precision that feels unusually. Normally one would expect a stiffer wheel to give a harsher ride, but not with the Vibrocore. I switched out the stock wheels on the new Marin Alpine trail to these, and there was a noticeable difference in tracking and damping from the wheels.
With little weight penalty, combined with a wheel that would be competitive even without the Vibrotech technology, it's easy to stop being cynical and just ride them. This isn't some super expensive carbon composite with supposed healing powers or magnetic resonance. The science is sound and the feeling is good, so I'm happy, especially as they aren't asking me to sell a kidney to get involved. It's refreshing to get some new technology that doesn't cost the earth and have benefits that can be felt by a normal rider.
Applications for these wheels are certainly in rough, rocky terrain, or those hitting braking bumps in the park. If your trails aren't smooth, then these could well offer additional comfort for your ride whilst providing a modern rim profile and reliable strength.
A fine set of heavy-hitting wheels ready to take some serious abuse. They may not be the lightest, but they are ready for action and hit all the right points for a modern wheelset. The advantages of Vibrocore are definitely noticeable and add an extra level of comfort and compliance to a stiff, strong and precise wheelset.
This review was in Issue 55 of IMB.For more information visit Spank Bikes
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By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.
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Dan, Joe and Edgar