Equipment review by PBE Squad member, Mark Yanagisawa
There is nothing more satisfying than the sweet buzz of a precisely manufactured freewheel hub, one of six pawls individually engaging and disengaging with each passing tooth rotation, completely in sync. The noise is unmistakable and is the sound of the payoff from hard work, whether coasting down the backside of a big climb or pausing your pedal to keep traction on a trail. Yes, we are talking about Industry Nine! The magic originates from precise manufacturing at Industry Nine, locating in Asheville, NC – designing, fabricating and assembling wheelsets for every style of riding.
At the centroid of the wheel is the hub, which is expertly designed and machined, with 3 pawls and 20 teeth on the Torch resulting in 60 points of engagement and a whopping 6 pawls and 115 teeth on the Hydra for a crazy responsive 690 Points of engagement. These hubs engage almost instantly when you put down the power, and are robust and reliable. The hubs are engineering masterpieces and the icing on the cake is the creativity that comes with anodized colors, for virtually endless custom combinations.
There are many technical reviews for Industry Nine Wheelsets and I’d encourage you to give them a read (link to some here), as they breakdown the specs of each wheelset – but here, I want to share my personal experience with the AR25, i945 and a Hydra M60.
I remember my first time riding i9 AR25 Torch wheelset like it was yesterday. From the outside, the gold hub and single gold spoke among black spokes accented the 44 Bikes Huntsman’s finish perfectly, aluminum rim and the iconic torch road alloy direct thread spokes. But on the inside, the Torch hub and wide xD cassette (10-42T) offered me responsive and reliable power transfer. I was getting the best road & gravel – all road – combination. On the road the ride is smooth and absorbs all of the road chatter. At a stated weight of 1545g, you can hardly notice the wheels making a difference descending or climbing. On gravel I rode these wheels to a mechanical free finish at unPAved 2019. The AR25 with WTB Resolute 45s shined on the gravel roads of Bald Eagle State Forest, shedding and quelling the rocky and muddy road under me. The wheels withstood it all, even my reckless driving up and down “the difference”. These wheels are simply perfect for all-road conditions. They have taken me on countless road rides in Philly, gravel adventures, and raced without issues at Keystone Gravel, Middle Creek Gravel Grinder, unPAved, Kermesse Series, Monkey Knife Fight and Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo!
After my positive experience with the AR25s, I sprung for an upgrade to the i9.45 carbon wheelset with Torch hubs. The rim profile was the selling point for me, with extensive testing in the wind tunnel to fine tune the shape that delivers aerodynamic performance climbing and descending while being able to run a 40mm tire on it. Why did I care about aerodynamics? It was because in 2021, I was gearing up for my first Unbound 200 mile gravel race in Kansas! With hopes to slice through headwinds, sail tailwinds, roll fast and carelessly, Industry Nine was the only option! The i9.45 wheelset had WTB Raddler 45s mounted and took a beating from the sharp flint stone stirred up from the 2000+ riders on course, the relentless chatter from the gravel roads, steep and fast maneuvers on the “Little Egypt” section and up and down the rolling hills. Don’t be fooled, the riding in Kansas is not flat, and the i9.45 was the perfect choice to battle and conquer the terrain. Also, the fine folks at i9 were at the Unbound Expo and did a courtesy wheel inspection and tune-up on the spot so I was race ready! Back home in Philly, I have been riding the i9.45 year round outdoors on gravel, road and trails. The wheelset has taken a beating, and seen over 10,000 miles in a year – and has not given me any trouble!
On my mountain bike (yes I have a mountain bike – Revel Rascal to be exact), it has a set of ENVE M60 laced to i9 Hydra hubs, and let me tell you the hubs are sweet. I always wondered who would need a Hydra hub – for the noise? or performance? What I’ve come to realize is that the answer is both. When riding trails in Philly (or anywhere), if you’re not pedaling, you’re coasting. And when you coast on a busy trail, the extra “buzz” compliments my audible “rider back”, “on your left”, “just me”, “thank you” perfectly. People (and dogs) hear the noise from afar and instinct kicks to step aside for an approaching bike. From the performance, the hub engages immediately when you put down the power, there is no dead zone in the pedal stroke. I have found this particularly useful when approaching an obstacle like a slippery rock garden climb (like at Kitchens Lane). In my preparation to ride it, I build speed, and coast over the first set of rocks, and when I want to get a half pedal in an area of traction and to keep speed, I can do just that! The direct input, without delay or lag, is extremely predictable, which is essential for technical riding. It is hard to explain the benefits that can be gained from a Hydra hub, and it is really a case of “believe me” and “you have to ride it to feel it” situations.
My experiences have been nothing short of exceptional both in people and product. Every engagement with the Industry Nine team is positive, inclusive and educational. I am stoked on the quality, reliability and performance that Industry Nine offers, and that they are proudly made in the USA!