When I think of Crank Brothers I instantly remember those little egg beater pedals, or those dropper posts that never really worked as good as they should. But a lot of riders immediately think of those pretty strange looking wheel sets out there, rolling around on minimal coloured spokes and unique rim profiles. While these wheel sets have been around a number of years now, this latest version of the Iodine is touted as their best yet. Having owned a pair of Cobalts (XC version of the line-up) I already had an idea of how these wheels rolled and the highs and lows of owning a pair, but more on that later. The 2017 Iodine 3 wheels are Crank Brothers’ Elite-Level All-Mountain wheel set. What we have is a pair of lightweight 6061 aluminium Boost hubs rolling around on two front and four rear hub bearings. These are laced to a pair of 6061 aluminium shot peened and anodised 23mm wide rims. The 3s come in anodised black and silver. All sounds pretty normal right? That is until you look at the spoke configuration and lacing. The Crank Brothers wheel sets all utilise their TwinPair Spoke Technology; essentially designed using the strongest shape in construction, the triangle, to maximise strength and stiffness. So we have 24 spokes fixed to the rim in pairs via hollow 7075 aluminium spoke pins, running through a raised flange in the rim. The spokes are where the secret lies in this process. Sapim stainless steel spokes are threaded to hollow aluminium nipples in the middle between the hub and rim. Although sounding complicated, it is a very simple process that takes the heavier parts of standard rim design and moves it away from the outside of the rim for lower rotational mass. Hopefully this should be something you can feel when riding and accelerating the bike.
HOW DO THE IODINE 3s SET UP?
Getting the wheels ready to ride, I installed the Shimano cassette on the HG freehub (SRAM XD Driver is available as well) and mounted the tyres. A pair of Maxxis Ardent 27.5 in 2.4” front and 2.25” rear were the flavour for this test. Inflating was super easy as there are no spoke holes or rim tape and the tyres mount nice and snug. Inflation can be done with a track pump quite easily or the lazy man’s way… a compressor! It should be noted that while this wheel set is thrown in the category of All-Mountain, the rim width doesn’t really compare to the latest offerings that are available in the market. The Iodines come in at 23mm internal, a far cry from wider widths now standard on most bikes and wheel sets from other manufacturers. For my style, 35mm is a little on the wide side. 25-28mm is where I would like to see the Iodines as they would give the Ardents a larger bag size and tread profile.
ON THE TRAIL WITH IODINE
Out on the trail the Iodines felt reasonably lightweight for their intended use. Although designed to remove the weight from the outside of the rim to give a lower rotational weight, it didn’t really feel as if acceleration was any better or worse than other wheels of similar weights. What was noticeable was the lack of engagement in the take up of the driver when pedalling and ratcheting up some of the steeper climbs. Having got used to the 36 Tooth DT Swiss Star Ratchet and the Industry Nine Torch Hub’s 120 Point engagement, the Iodines just felt a little too slow for my liking. What I did particularly enjoy was the stiffness of the wheels whilst out on the more technical sections of my local loop. Although they weren’t carbon stiff, and nor should they be, they were definitely stiffer than some other rims of the same internal width. I didn’t get any tyre buzzing on the seat stays as I have previously encountered on another pair of lower spoke count wheelsets. Long term durability on the Iodine 3s is something I can’t comment on as I have only had these wheels for a few weeks, but after owning a pair previously, I can say that a few hits to the rim and sideways landings will have you truing and tensioning the rim on a number of occasions. Nothing out of the ordinary, but broken spokes can be troublesome. Walk into your local shop and ask for a replacement spoke, and you will be likely waiting a few days longer whilst they order one from the distributor. That’s the problem with proprietary spokes and nipples - most shops just don’t keep them in stock. I would suggest keeping a few spares in your kit if venturing out on week-long trips to the likes of Tassie or Rotorua. At an RRP of $1099, there are wheel sets out there for the same money with wider rims, more spokes, similar weights and faster engagements, but do they look as good? That judgement is yours.