Looking at off-road wheels? Consider your rims...
The rim is often undervalued when it comes to choosing your next wheel set. Generally it's either black or silver.......and that's all most people know about them. On a wheel assembly, the rim is responsible for more than just holding your tire and tube. The rim is second in line behind the tire/tube setup to absorb the impacts when hitting obstacles. The forces from the impacts are then sent through the spokes and into the hub. (Back to why the hub is so important!) When choosing your new rim, understanding the materials, design and coatings of what makes that rim is important. The two biggest names in rims are Excel and D.I.D.
All off-road rims are made from aluminum. The difference in rim materials comes in the type of aluminum they are made from. As I stated in the hubs article, I am not a metal expert by any means however, we all know there are different makeups of aluminum depending on what characteristic is being sought. For example rigidity, flexibility, withstanding hot environments or cold environments may require different makeups of aluminum to get that specific characteristic. The other factor is price point. Higher quality materials will be used in race/pro level rims as apposed to budget rims. With these two items taken into account, rims typically have three levels: beginner/budget, intermediate (sometimes called OEM plus) and a professional level. For Excel rims the order would be Excel One, Excel Takasago and the Excel Takasago A60. D.I.D does not offer a budget rim. They offer the DirtStar and DirtStar ST-X as the intermediate and pro level respectively.
The design of a rim may appear simple but looking closely at the Excel A60 and D.I.D ST-X compared to the Takasago and DirtStar, you will notice a cross section profile change. Pro level rims are designed with not only high quality materials but with function in mind. These rims have a more angular center profile, as apposed to round, to shed mud and dirt build up through the course of a race. This keeps the bike weight as close to normal for a faster more consistent bike.
Rims typically come with one type of coating like hubs, anodized. Again, you may see wheels that have been powder coated or painted but this is not common when dealing with quality wheels. Anodizing provides a clean look with a tough coating and gives you many color options. Black and silver are the most common for aftermarket colors but you can find them in the major manufacturers colors. (The D.I.D A60 only comes in black.)
What makes a quality rim?
As stated earlier, rims can be made to meet certain price points and meet specific characteristics using different materials. This material makeup is probably the biggest factor when it comes to rim quality. Rims that are made from low quality aluminum tend to bend and deform quickly under stress and for this reason, even though the price is nice, should not be considered except for a true beginner. D.I.D DirtStar and Excel Takasago rims are the starting point for rim upgrades. These rims will perform well for most weekend riders and a majority of riders on the track and trail. Pro level rims should be considered if you race often, perform high impact maneuvers like large jumps or freestyle or you ride aggressively and tackle gnarly obstacles.
It should be noted here that OEM rims are NOT the same as there like named aftermarket equivalent. OEM Excel Takasago and D.I.D DirtStar rims found on stock bikes are NOT the same as the aftermarket version. As for the differences, it's likely the material and the fact that they are mass produced quickly is the reason for them being considered "weaker" than the aftermarket version. You can identify an aftermarket Excel Takasago by the yellow lettering on the rim as apposed to white on the OEM rims.
$ Beginner: Excel One (Typically not even considered as an option)
$$$$ OEM: Excel Takasago or D.I.D DirtStar (OEM versions)
$$ Intermediate: Excel Takasago or D.I.D DirtStar
$$$ Pro: Excel Takasago A60 or D.I.D DirtStar ST-X
(Dubya Edge wheel sets we sell come with an OEM quality Excel rim.)
Rim choice does matter! Selecting the proper rim for your type of riding and skill is important to the longevity and safety of the wheel assembly.