Massive nipples. Stop sniggering at the back.

First Look: Crank Brothers Zinc 3 Wheelset

Hot on the heels of the Sixth Element wheelset we received a couple of weeks ago, we have the Crank Brothers Zinc 3 hoops. Again, they are a striking set of wheels, and we reckon could be an attractive option to those looking to make a step up from an OEM stock pair.

Crank Brothers has been turning (geddit?) out wheelsets for some time now, with its main focus being the mountain bike market. As disc brake use has gradually become the norm in more and more forms of cycling, it made sense for those companies already with their hat in the ring to put all their knowledge to good use to make wheels to suit other forms of riding. It’s therefore not a surprise to see Crank Brothers producing a gravel and ‘cross specific option.

There’s no mistaking a Crank Brothers’ wheel for anyone else’s

Zinc 3 Wheelset

The Zinc 3, despite its numerical allocation is currently Crank Brothers’ only gravel/cross wheelset. The aluminium wheels take their design cues from their burlier big brothers in Crank Brothers’ mountain bike range. It’s a design approach that has endured a number of years now, and one which the development team at the American firm clearly stand by. Other than the obvious (fortunately the wheels are still round), every other traditional wheel building norm seems to have been thrown away….

Starting at the edges, the rim is not drilled for spokes, but features machined lips for pairs of spokes to meet at. Crank Brothers claim a few of theoretical benefits from this approach. Firstly, it leaves the rim bed hole-free, meaning that rim tape (or tubeless tape) is not required. Secondly, by pairing spokes, the resultant triangle is apparently stronger. Finally, should you snap a spoke, it is possible to replace it without removing the tyre.

No normal rim

Pair me up

Lets move a little further in towards the hub. Crank Brothers has flipped the whole spoke around, placing the nipple at the hub end. They have also made the nipple significantly larger than normal, with it stretching out along half the radius of the wheel. Crank Brothers claim this distributes the mass closer to the centre of the wheel, for lower rotational inertia, making the wheel faster to accelerate. We have a feeling this might be a pretty marginal benefit at best, but wouldn’t want to be accused of cynicism before starting.

Massive nipples. Stop sniggering at the back.

Finally, the hub uses straight pull lacing. It has 3 pawls, and 21 points of engagement. The wheels come with a Shimano freehub (an XD driver is available separately), 15mm/9mm front end options both included; and 10x135mm/12x142mm rear end options also thrown in. In summary; the wheels will almost certainly fit your current bike.

Straight pull, 6 bolt, swappable end-caps, Shimano freehub. All in one photo!

I spy

We’ll be fitting some shoes to the Zincs this week and they will do an initial stint on the Specialized Diverge we currently have to test, before hopping around a few other test bikes. Stay tuned for our thoughts.

In our experience, two wheels usually work better than one on a bike

Specification

  • Rim material: 6061-t6, smooth weld joint
  • Rim finish: shot peen, black anodizing
  • Spoke material: stainless steel
  • Front: 21mm (internal) rim; 24H; two-cross lacing; 9mm/15mm end caps included
  • Rear: 21mm (internal); 24H; three-cross lacing; 10x135mm/12x142mm end caps included
  • Freehub: 3-pawl, 21T, alloy, Shimano (XD Driver available separately)
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Weight: front – 774g; rear – 924g; total – 1645g (claimed) 1668g (actual)
  • Total cost: £629.99
  • From: ExtraUK

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