My customer Fabian has a stable of bikes, including current model gravel bikes and full suspension mountain bikes, but there are a couple machines from the mid 2000’s that he cannot let go. One of them is a 2007 Look 986 that in his own words “is like another appendage for me. It fits perfectly, and is still a badass machine. Its just getting hard to upgrade them into the modern era. While I have 650b MTB’s too, I still fall back to these because they fit me like a glove, and I actually kinda like the old school geometry for x country riding……. So I’d love for them to be around for a bit longer.” It’s for this reason that he got in touch; how could we modernize a 26 inch wheeled mountain bike in a meaningful way?
The bike originally came with Mavic Crossmax hoops that possessed a 19mm internal width. Fabian has ridden and raced mountain bikes his whole adult life and so he knew where to look for increased performance; that place is wider rims. Okay, lets see; where to source a modern, wide 26inch mountain bike rim……?
The 986 is equipped with disc brakes, so that made things a little easier, but not by much. The tide has come in and gone back out for 26 inch wheels, but there was ONE company that came to mind. Light Bicycle is a terrific Asian (read China) manufacturer of high quality carbon rims; they do it well and their catalog is extensive. They have two models that were candidates for the job; the RM26C05, a 38mm wide rim with an internal width of 31.5mm and the RM26C03, which boasts an internal width of 27mm.. We agreed on the narrower rim as the best choice; it would give Fabian a 40 percent wider rim than his current wheel set and provide the augmented control he was seeking.
His bike has conventional dropouts, so we decided on DT240 centerlock hubs that we modified with the company’s thru-bolt end caps; these allow you to use DT Swiss RWS thru axles for a vise-like grip on the dropouts.
The parts were ordered and I sat back waiting for a pair of 26 inch carbon rims to complete their 11,000 km journey to Goleta, CA. They arrived, I assembled the wheel set — no surprises during the build — and sent them North to my customer. A couple weeks later, I heard from Fabian. “The wheels are a big improvement! The most notable thing is that running the same tire set up I had before (Nobby Nics front 2.4 and rear 2.25) at the same pressure (Front 20 and Rear 22) there is no discernible “squirm” whatsoever.
I reckon we did good, but I’ll leave the final word to Fabian; “I think with all the constant push to just go with new bikes, it’s easy to forget how great some of our old machines are. I’m no luddite, but when something works well, it just does. Everything can be improved with some intelligent upgrades for a fraction of the cost of all new”.
Well said, Sir.