The branding meeting must have been brief: “Hey, what does every cyclist want? A light bicycle. Okay, let’s name the company that.” I recall the first time I heard the name Light Bicycle. A friend had built up a set of their bonkers-wide-at-the-time 30mm rims on Phil Wood hubs for a feathery set that was relatively affordable. She said “their rims are cheap and super light, so if they break I’ll just lace up another one.” That was maybe ten years ago, and the brand has grown multiple branches of rims and wheelsets since.
Test pilot profile height: 175cm (5’9″) weight: 65kg (145lb) testing zone: Bellingham, Washington
AM930S build and options
The AM930S carbon wheelset we tested offers some cool features that you won’t find everywhere, with trusted elements like hub choices from Bitex, Chris King, DT Swiss, Hope, and Industry Nine, and tried and true spokes from Sapim. After selecting the rim you want you’ll get to choose the hub configuration and color, spoke number and style, nipple material and color, finish and decal customization, and you can have valves and rim tape installed if you like. There’s a 5-year warranty included that can be bumped up to a lifetime commitment for $50 per rim.
These particular wheels spin on I9 Hydra Hubs with 32 Sapin D-Light spokes laced two-cross to black alloy nipples, all compressing into a set of the brand’s latest 29″ Recon Pro AM930S rims. We went with J-bend spokes for easy replaceability and 6-bolt rotor mounts. With no decals advertising for the brand, the gloss finish on these wheels looks fantastic over their unidirectional hookless rims. The set weighs a hair under 1,600g, in keeping with the company name.
This build retails for $1,370, and the price drops to $1,100 with I9 1/1 hubs or $828 with Bitex hubs at the center. These rims alone retail for $289, weighing roughly 400g apiece.
AM930S setup and durability
With tape and valves at home, I opted to do this tubeless setup myself. Several wheelsets that I’ve tested came pre-taped, immediately requiring a re-tape as the glue had come loose during the flight from their factory. So, I wrapped the 30mm wide inner rims in Schwalbe’s blue tape, popped some Reserve Fillmore Valves in the holes, dumped in a helping of sealant, and snapped the tires into place with a floor pump.
The inner rim profile, or tire ditch, has a great shape for seating beads tightly against the hookless rim. I have yet to burp a set of tires on these wheels, which is always a welcome benefit. The external rim width is 37mm, and those 3.5mm wide bead walls are fat enough that I haven’t noticed any snakebite punctures following countless rim strikes at low tire pressure.
There are zero cracks in the hookless hoops, which is surprising given their regular use on the same trails that have eaten other rims this season. Like most of the amazing wheels we can buy today, these things are rolling round and true after heavy amounts of neglect and innumerable impacts. The spokes maintained tension, showing that they were prepped and built properly from the start.
Lateral and radial trail compliance
Ride feel is where it’s at with carbon rims since the layers of fiber and resin can be tuned to a desired level of compliance. These rims have a 3.3mm asymmetric nipple drilling that allows for a more symmetrical tension between drive-side and non-drive-side spokes, and Light Bicycle says of the wavy external pattern in the rim “the overall depth alternates between 18.1mm to 21mm, creating a ribbed inner circumference. The unique combination of a stepped sidewall and shapely rim bed gives the carbon rim extra vertical compliance. A finely-tuned Toray T700 layup features layers of carbon nanotubes in key areas to further the vibration damping properties. Carbon nanotubes increase impact resistance by 10% without adding weight.”
That’s a load of stiffness and compliance, but how do those characteristics behave on the trail? There’s a lot in that question. For instance, tire casings and pressure can greatly affect ride characteristics, just as spoke tension and carbon layup can. Folks who say those elements don’t matter, and it’s all up to tire pressure likely haven’t ridden a harsh or sloppy feeling set of wheels. I have, and this AM930S set from Light Bicycle is far superior to those circular pairs. In fact, they’re on par with some of the best wheels I’ve tested.
When adjectives like “hard” and “fast” come to the fore, this wheelset shines brightly. Like a gravity tire casing, the Light Bicycle AM930S rims come to life when you’re pushing the pace on proper gravity trails. On a flow track or any machine-built dirt, riders may not notice any meaningful performance gain with these wheels. They are made for a different party. Over larger stones and protruding roots, the rims show their compliant prowess as the speed increases. When I look into a turn that’s full of loose rocks and a lengthwise root I want the rim and casing to shift a little with all of those impacts, aiding the suspension’s efforts for maximum traction, and these rims deliver. Their lateral compliance is quite low, making for precise handling without being too stiff to create harsh feedback for the human perched above. Light Bicycle has managed the delicate balance between noodle and scalpel quite well.
Vibration damping isn’t easily tested during winter in Bellingham, as loam and roots don’t offer the sort of high-frequency impacts encapsulated by the word vibration. However, I do have a test track that tells this story quite well when the wheels are bolted to my hardtail. On that trail, the AM930S wheels feel a touch less smooth than the Reserve 30|30 or Evil Loophole wheels I recently tested. While they do eat some small chatter, they may be a little more fatiguing than some other wheels following a full day of riding. These wheels are also a little lighter than those mentioned above, and the shaping allows them to lose weight and remain tough enough for gravity bikes.
Durable wheels and tires can really boost my confidence, and these get filed under “don’t worry about ’em’ on any trail I’m willing to ride. This set was built to display the brand’s most robust gravity option, and they certainly perform accordingly. If I ordered these again I would go with a 28 spoke front for a touch more compliance and lower weight, and I might upgrade to the Sapim CX-RAY spoke option to drop even more grams.
Light Bicycle is making these rims themselves, so their knowledge of lead times and production delays is largely immediate. Current lead times are between three and five weeks, barring custom decals, which is quite good for a fully custom wheelset. Folks in the market for a lightweight carbon set with all the bells and whistles of the competition and a lower price will not be disappointed with these, and the wavy gravy also won’t get confused with your friends’ wheels while unloading the van.
- Price: $1,370 as specced.
- Available from Light Bicycle.
- Good value
- Confidence inspiring
Pros and cons of the Light Bicycle AM930S gravity wheelset.
- 32-spoke build may feel overly stiff for some
I have been using there dh/Enduro rims for about 2 or 3 years. I started with there non pro rims and beat on them for about 1 1/2 years also running cush core. I recently built up a new pair of the en732 rims on project 321 hubs and I have beaten the crap out of these rims bouncing them off rocks. Even put a rock through the tire and cut the rim tape and they have held up. Also have been riding bike parks on these rims. So I am very happy with them.
Why’d you lace them 2 cross? I’ve been making wheels for a while now (15+ pair) and do 3 cross on 32 and 28 spoke ones and 2 cross on 24. I’ve never thought to do 2x for higher spoke counts but I am on the heavier side, 190-200lbs.
Also, great review! I’ve been riding similar rims for years and love them. I wonder which companies use light bicycle’s factory? They all must come from a handful of factories, tracking down which come from where would be interesting.
As rim technology improves spoke setup becomes less crucial. 2 cross, with the right rim and boost spacing actually is plenty strong and slightly lighter due to shorter spikes needed.
Bought a pair of rims from them 2 years ago, the rear rim broke after a small hit on the 3rd ride. The warranty was this: 10% off of a new one. Never again from that cheap Chinese company. You get what you pay for!!!
So my assumption is that you got all these great benefits on the gnar stuff using proper tire casings and these wheels.
Meaning, you didn’t have any inserts like CushCore, correct?