Review: South Industries rims
Currently, they have two models to choose from. A 29" rim intended for cross-country and marathon use, and a beefier 27.5" rim for all-mountain riding. Both options are available in 28 and 32 hole variations.
The 29" rim was engineered to work best with 2.2" tyres with an eye on South Africa's gruelling multiday stage races, yet still be light enough to race XC at the highest level. The 27.5" model was designed for enduro and trail riding with 2.25 to 2.4 tyres in mind. South feel that the 28mm internal width is wide enough to stabilise the tyre on the rim but not so wide that it distorts the designed tread pattern and exposes the sidewall.
Testing & Development
New designs and lay-ups are tested in-house on a test rig that, much like their rims, was designed at their HQ in Cape Town. A rim can be put through it's expected life-cycle in 4 - 5 days and any abnormal wear or stress can be addressed before an updated design is tested again. Once they are happy with the results, the new design will be field tested by their sponsored riders to ensure, beyond any doubt, that the rims are ready for general consumption.
Attention to detail extends to the hand-sprayed clear coating that finishes each rim. Another in-house designed machine is used to spin the rim to ensure that the clear coat is applied evenly and that only the bare minimum goes on the rim. It does add 8g to the overall weight after all!
Each rim that rolls out of their plant gets marked with the weight, wheel builder, and date noted with the serial number. In doing so they ensure that weight stays within the target range and that should something go wrong down the line, the rim can be traced all the way back to the fibres that were used.
Such is the confidence in their design and manufacturing that they offer a 2-year manufacturing warranty and 2-year crash replacement with 50% of the recommended retail price to the original owner on all rims.
Wheels as tested:
South Industries 29XC carbon rim
Tune King/Kong hub set
Sapim CX-Ray bladed black spokes with alloy nipples
R 29 150.00
South Industries 275AM carbon rim
Novatec D771/D772 hub set
Pillar PB1415 (2.0/1.8/2.0) double butted black spokes with black brass nipples
R 19 195.00
28mm internal width, 32mm outside width
22mm deep profile
32h or 28h (drilled at 5 deg angle)
28mm internal width, 34mm outside width
23mm deep profile
32h (drilled at 5 deg angle)
The recommended retail pricing is R 6,985.00 for a 29XC and 275AM rim.
On the Trail
The 29XC Wheelset was tested on a trail bike with 120mm front and 110mm travel rear with Onza Ibex tyres and later with a set of Schwalbe Nobby Nics. Both sets mounted easily and I was able to inflate them using my Topeak JoeBlow Mountain floor pump. The wheels were converted to tubeless using Stan's NoTubes yellow tape and sealant.
Out on the trail, the wheels felt stiff, but with a good balance of compliance, and so were not unnecessarily harsh. This resulted in quick acceleration and a direct feel when stomping hard on the pedals. When pushing them into the trail through a berm there were no signs of flex or strain. At 1450g, the wheelset spins up fast and holds speed and momentum very well.
Not on review here, but the Tune King / Kong hubs used on this build are a good match for the high-end nature of the rims. Much like Hope and Industry Nine hubs, they can be converted to different axle sizes and can run either XD (for SRAM 11 and 12-speed drivetrains) or standard freehubs for everything else. Weight weenies will rejoice at the news that these weigh in at close to 100g lighter than DT240 hubs and just over 30g less than a set of American Classic hubs.
I found the internal diameter of the rims to strike the perfect balance between wide enough to round the tyre out, but not so wide as to flatten out the profile too much and expose the sidewalls. I have ridden wider rims, but the 29" wheelset was perfect on a 120mm / 110mm bike and I would suspect that they will do just fine from this use down to a XC / Marathon hardtail or 100mm bike. Due to their lay-up and intended purpose, I would not recommend fitting them on a longer travel bike.
The 275AM wheelset was fitted to a 140mm trail bike after being converted to tubeless and having some fresh Maxxis rubber fitted. They replaced a set of original equipment wheels that were a good 450g heavier, so the difference in feel and acceleration was very obvious. On top of that, the 28mm internal diameter was a good 4mm wider than the rims they replaced which resulted in grip for days compared to the stock wheels. Because I was not sure how much of the grip was down to the Maxxis Minion DHR II and Aggressor combo, I tried the tyres on the OE rims and realized just how much of a difference those extra 4mm's make.
As built, the 275AM rims were stiff and ran true for the duration of our review. There was never any doubt that they would hold up to the hammering of All Mountain use on our trails. The 27.5" wheelset felt at home on a 140mm trail / all mountain bike, but for rowdier riding, I would like to go with a slightly wider internal profile. Whether one should go as far as a 35mm internal width found on some rims is debatable though, and would largely depend on the type of bike, riding and user preference.
Online wheel builder
If you'd like to play around (and dream of that custom carbon wheelset you've always wanted), South have a nifty online wheel builder on their site. This will allow you to select your South rim of choice, pair it to hubs, spokes and nipples and it will tell you how much you should pay and what the actual weight of the wheels should be.
South Industries rims offer a great balance of weight, durability, good looks, and the latest in rim design. With several sponsored riders covering a variety of disciplines, these rims have been tested tough and have proven themselves capable.
In terms of overall feel, construction, and attention to detail there is nothing to fault them on and for their intended purpose, they hit the ball out of the park.
Interview with South Industries when they launched at the Africa Cycle Fair: