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Race Face Next R31 wheelset review

Race Face’s Next R31 wheels use distinctive oversized hubs and mid-width carbon rims to give serious acceleration and wide tyre support but how do they ride long term?

Race Face Next R31 wheelset
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Light and tight trail wheel for boosting responsiveness but not comfort

For

  • Light for the width
  • Superfast engagement
  • Fat hub and short spoke stiffness
  • 2-year warranty

Against

  • Not indestructible
  • Stiff ride feel won’t suit everyone

Race Face has always pushed the super light XC angle with its Next component range. With XC getting rowdier and trail becoming ‘Downcountry’ it has introduced the Next ‘Rally’ range for faster, more furious riders. These carbon wheels hit the tighter-and-lighter-than-most target bang on but that won’t suit every riding style and don’t expect them to be totally bombproof.

Construction

There are two Next R wheels now, the ’31’ here and a more recent, wider ’36’. The actual internal lip-to-lip measurement is 30mm, with a depth producing a naturally stiff but light rim. They come pre-taped and valved ready to go tubeless. The oversized, tapered barrel bodies of the Vault hubs mean that the 28 spokes in each wheel are relatively short even in a three-cross pattern. The spoke holes are also offset 4.5mm to reduce the dishing offset and increase stiffness. 

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Race Face Next R31 wheelset

The 4.5mm offset spoke pattern increases wheel stiffness (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Race Face Next R31 wheelset

The rim uses a 30mm internal width to support larger tyres (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

The hubs use six independently sprung pawls, each with three teeth. These are arranged in two phases (so only three pawls engage at a time) to give a super-fast 3-degrees of engagement on the 120-tooth driver ring. 

The wheels are available in 27.5in (currently going cheap) 29er 100/142mm and 29er Boost - tested here. Rock Shox Torque Caps are also available. 

Performance

With valves and tape already installed, inflation is quick, easy and secure and we’ve never had any burp or stability issues even at teen pressures. The three-cross pattern means the spokes are at a more tangential angle like a leaf spring to suck up some shock but they’re definitely firm rather than bouncy in damping terms. The wide bearing stance and stiff oversized tapered hub bodies mean tracking is excellent too, turning in noticeably more quickly and accurately than most wheels we’ve tested. While weight is good rather than amazing, the spoke angle means excellent torque transfer. Add the super-fast-reacting freehub and they’ve got an outstandingly eager feel under power, snapping out of corners or any other acceleration situation instantly.

The precision feel and super-fast pickup will highlight excessive pedal pull back or firm compression damping though. They certainly don’t flex and smear for extra grip like the latest Mavic/Crankbrothers/Zipp/Hunt wheels do though. We also eventually smashed the rear rim on the first set with a big rock strike on landing so they’re not indestructible if you’re a fan of ugly terrain and low tyre pressures. The second set is still going strong though and we’ve had no mechanical issues with the hub or the wheel build itself. 

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Race Face Next R31 wheelset

Larger hubs mean shorter spokes and a stiffer wheel (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Race Face Next R31 wheelset

Available in both Shimano and Sram XD driver options (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict 

Big hubs, tight build and almost instant engagement give Race Face’s Next R wheels a distinctively tight handling and rapidly responsive ride. There is a limit to what the rims will cope with though and the firm, not flexy, ride feel won’t suit all riders or all bikes.

Tech spec: Race Face Next R 31 

  • Internal width: 30mm
  • External width: 36mm
  • Weight: 830g (front), 930g (back)
  • Engagement: 3-degrees
  • Price: £1,548