Spank 345 Wheels

We’ve looked at Spank wheels previously, having reviewed the Oozy 295 a few years back. The 345 is a new generation offering that reflects the trend towards wider rims. Where the 295 measured 24mm between the bead hooks, the 345s are a full 30mm wide (35mm externally). Wide rims allow you to use lower air pressures for enhanced traction without encountering excessive tyre squirm or burping.

The main pitfall with going wide, at least when using an alloy rim, is that the rims tend to get pretty heavy or very fragile. In an effort to avoid these problems, Spank uses a unique and quite elaborate rim extrusion. Where the inner wall of a rim is typically concaved, their ‘Ooh Bah’ shape is convexed—it actually has a raised ‘bump’ between the bead hooks. It’s claimed to be both stronger and stiffer than a traditional design and the end result is a 540g rim weight (29-inch). A solidly built wide alloy 29er rim is usually around the 600g mark while wide carbon trail rims are in the 450g zone—the 345 sits somewhere in in the middle ground. I am aware of one wide alloy rim that’s as light as carbon but they dent easily.

Centre of Attention

The 345 wheelset comes with some nicely finished Spank straight-pull hubs. They’re heavily machined with plenty of excess material removed from around the disc mounts. The end caps press tightly into the front hub, so they won’t fall out when you’ve got the bike in the back of the car. You’ll also find an inner axle sleeve that protects the bearings from over tightening. The rear hub uses threaded end caps, so the cassette won’t fall off inadvertently when the wheel is off the bike. With 30 engagement points, the freewheel uptake is responsive enough and the wheels are supplied with end caps to suit most common axle standards (although the ‘boost’ version is not adaptable).

Spank runs 32 triple butted stainless steel spokes per wheel; they go from a robust 2.2mm at the hub to 1.8mm through the centre and back up to 2.0mm at the nipple. Aside from the straight-pull format, it’s a fairly traditional three-cross build and the spokes were tight and even right out of the box—always a good thing. The wheels are built with alloy nipples which saves 40g over the brass equivalent. Personally I’d prefer brass nipples as I know they’ll still be easy to true 18 months down the track. The graphics are laser etched into the anodising and quality-wise the finish is top notch.

All up the wheels weighed 2,070g for the pair including tape and valves—bang on the claimed figure. That’s around 250g more than the narrower 295 wheelset but still a respectable weight for a wide-rim equipped $829 wheelset. A set of wide carbon wheels may be 200g lighter but you’ll be paying at least $1,000 more for the privilege.

Aftermarket Spank wheels come pre-taped for tubeless use; a good thing as the complex convexed inner rim profile makes them harder to tape than a more traditional tubeless ready rim. Bead Bite is another feature that’s worked into the inner rim profile; the bead shoulders and retaining lips have a multi-lipped serrated surface that’s designed to improve bead retention and resist burping.

While it always varies between one tyre and the next, we found mounting and inflating tyres to be a little tougher than average (an air compressor or tubeless specific pump was usually required). Once inflated the wide rims offered plenty of sidewall support and we were able to run as little as 18psi without encountering any burping or excessive tyre roll on the trail. While the bead retention is certainly sufficient, we don’t feel it was noticeably better than the competition—most widetubeless ready rims can be run at similar pressures without burping.

Where the wheels did shine was in their general robustness. In one instance I hit a sharp square-edged rock at high speed when landing from a jump. Running just 18psi at the time, it was an instant double-flat with big cuts in both tyres. I expected a couple of dented rims too but the 345s remained intact; the rear had a mark in the anodising from hitting the rock but that was it. With some hard riding the wheels did need truing by the end of the review but they held up well and pulled up straight with a few turns of the spoke key.

The hubs were super smooth and they remained that way throughout the review. Thanks to the matte anodising and laser etched graphics, the wheels were still looking good after a thorough flogging too. For the modest asking price, they exude quality and wouldn’t be out of place on any high quality bike build.

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