Words by: Reamonn Ryan
Race Face sent over these Next R Carbon Wheels for us to review with no strings attached to give an honest review on the product. Naturally, I treated them like anyone else would if they got wheels for free. I put them through the wringer since I had nothing to lose.
Race Face is another well-known company, primarily for its northwestern roots and innovative components. With some of the best Freeriders and racers on the planted backing R&D, you can expect great things from the Pacific North West’s star child. Race Face has dabbled in Carbon Wheels for a while now and the Next rims quickly became an icon for companies to soon follow. What made the RF Next Carbon Wheel so much different from the competition? Well, it wasn’t exactly the rim’s design or carbon layup but more it’s warranty policy. A “no questions asked” warranty was offered for all Next Carbon rims. They literally ran over a set with a truck for the announcing video. Don’t believe me? Look here:
The Next Wheel comes in 3 offerings for different aspects of riding. They all feature the notorious Race Face Vault hubs backed by 120 points of engagement and oversized bearings. The first is the Next SL which is more of an XC / Trail rated wheel as it features a 26mm rim width for thinner tires. The Next offering is the Next R31 and you guessed it, it has a 31mm rim width to fit slightly larger tires for All-Mountain / Enduro riding. Third in line is the Next R36 rim which features 36mm rim width to provide more support for those plus-size tires (2.4” -2.8”). The set I rode to review was the RaceFace Next R31 since I am riding 2.35” tires on a 120mm Trail / All-Mountain bike.
Model: Race Face Next R31 Carbon
Weight: Set 1765 grams, front 835g, rear 930g
Rim Width: 31mm (internal), 34mm (external)
Rim Offset: 4.5mm
Hub Spacing: 12mm x 148mm (Boost)
Rotor Mount: 6-bolt
Driver Body: SRAM XD
Warranty: 2-Year no questions asked
The overall design of the wheel is incredibly good looking and thought out. Right of the bat, you will notice the oversized hub shells with a straight spoke design. This looks so much better than the traditional j-bend spoke design. The thin spokes lead to the asymmetrical carbon rims which look way too good to be on a mountain bike. Not to mention the wheel came completely blacked out. Silver parts can make the wheels look cheap and making sure everything that can be blacked out is, is pretty important to do. One thing I think most companies overlook is the importance of aesthetics to a lot of consumers. Much like a car, it could be the best on the market but if it doesn't look good, no one will buy it, or at least not as many people will.
Installing these wheels was easy. Sometimes with carbon rims, I find myself struggling to get tires on and off the rims but the e*thirteen AT Tires I chose to run, slid right on without an issue. I chose to run a 2.35” tire since it fits perfectly in between the tire widths we recommend for this rim width. To whomever it matters, I ran 25psi in the front and 27 psi in the rear. 12 rotor bolts and an E13 TRS+ cassette later, these pups were ready to hit the trails.
I had some experience on the Turbine R wheels when Race Face released them back in 2016 so the high engagement felt like home. Having 120 points of engagement is noticeable right off the bat. Most riders don’t even consider hub engagement but take it from me, it makes a big difference! The local XC/trail style trails always end and or start with tight switchbacks and having a quick engagement means you can exit corners with ease and speed instead of getting caught up on a bitch-pedal that takes you nowhere.
The carbon Next Rims are stiff and fast. Everything you would hope to come out of a carbon wheel. The overall stiffness helped me maintain speed on every part of the trail, especially the straights. I’m not much of a Strava user so I don’t know if my times are faster with these than my alloy wheels but it sure felt quick. The overall light feeling of the wheels also made the bike feel very responsive which was nice considering the lack of rain and trail maintenance has left a few new and extra features in a lot of the heavily-trafficked trails. The spoke tension held up fine and after multiple rides, I have still yet to adjust them. A lot of fresh wheels have a “break-in” period where the spokes tend to loosen after the first couple rides, Luckily, I have yet to have the need to do so.
Race Face claims these Next R wheels:
"Strike the balance between shred-ready and climb-crushing, we incorporated a generous 31mm internal width for a trail-stomping footprint, a durable carbon layout built for enduro style abuse, and an offset spoke hole layout delivering improved tension balance to up the sturdiness." - Race Face
And I believe this to be completely true so far. No matter the trail, the wheels perform just at you would hope to expect from such an investment. From smooth flow trails meant for maintaining speed to chunky Enduro style trails, I had not experienced any moment of concern for the wheels. Just as any rider should. If you have to focus more on your bike working than enjoying your ride then there is something wrong.
“I have only been on the wheels for a couple of weeks now but I am very impressed with the Race Face Next R31 wheels, Carbon wheels are always an investment but Race Face really challenged the market by making this wheelset more affordable for your average rider than let’s say an Enve wheelset. Backed by a 2-year no questions asked warranty, I see no reason why anyone wouldn’t want to run these wheels. They are light, fast, look great and have a killer buzz sound to ‘em. I’ll have a long term review out in the next couple months but for now, I recommend checking these things out if you are in the market” – Reamonn Ryan