The Chris King GRD23 Wheelset Has Landed
28 JULY 2022
By Charles Coleman
Launching at Chris King’s infamous Guest House event in April, 2022, the hotly anticipated GRD23 wheelset has now landed. Our head wheel builder Charles Coleman was the first to build and ride the new wheelset.
‘Chris King are going to release a rim’ is a phrase we’ve heard many times so when they actually landed in the warehouse I knew I’d need to build a pair and get out on the trails. They teamed with CSS Composites who produced the rim Chris King have been designing in-house. Thanks to their FustionFiber™ carbon, Chris King could stay true to their B-Corp roots with a fully recyclable carbon composite to avoid any extra landfill when the rims come to the end of their life.
Chris King’s renowned R45D hubs need no introduction and are laced to the rims using Sapim CX-Ray’s and Sapim Alloy Nipples and washers. They're tensioned up to 120kgf and balance really well and consistently, something that is key in any premium wheel set.
The nipples are externally adjusted (opposed to internal, à la Enve), which make it easy to complete any adjustments in the future without the need to remove tyres or sealant. That said, being a well-built carbon rim, they haven’t required any adjustment in the past few months of riding, despite a good few direct hits! The rim bed is finished cleanly making tubeless taping a cinch and the Chris King logo on the valves make a nice finishing touch.
I mounted Specialized’s Rhombus 42mm tyre to the front and their Pathfinder 42mm tyre to the rear (when mounted, they measured true-to-size at 42mm). After a few test runs I settled on 23psi in the front and 24psi in the rear – the rims have a nice wide hookless bead and tyres a tough sidewall, so you can be confident at running lower pressures than you would with some other manufacturers, even though you may feel a few pinches.
I ride a good mix of bridleways and fireroads and rode the GRD23’s on the same routes I do normally for a good direct comparison. An immediate difference was felt on the first singletrack descent – they rail around the corners! It’s a really direct feel that inspires confidence. There was no wallowing through the rocks, they held their line really well and felt as stable as the M525’s I have been riding up until now. Onto the finer gravel fireroad and they still dampen the ride better than most, almost on par with Enve’s G23’s.
The GRD23 roll fast and skip along encouraging you to accelerate instead of taking it easy! Weight wise they are a little heavier than the superlight M525’s (around 60g per wheel) which was barely noticeable, but I only felt this accelerating on short, steep climbs from a slow speed.
The Chris King rim is narrower than the M525 (GRD23’s 23mm vs M525’s 25mm), initially I thought this would impede the ride/cornering feel due to how the tyre sits, but instead it actually felt grippier through the corners. This gave the trust to really lean the bike into corners, especially on singletrack, and felt confident I wouldn’t wash out. The GRD23 inspires you to really push these into corners with full confidence, knowing that it’s probably going to be more the rider than the wheelset that’ll cause an error!
I’ve hit a good few rocks and roots and felt the rim impact a few times and there's only a muted noise from them, no noticeable loud ‘twang’ like you might get from other carbon rim manufacturers which was reassuring. The lifetime warranty from Chris King also backs this assurance – if you do manage to break a rim, then you're very well cared for and a replacement rim will be built into your hub ready to ride in no time, all taken care of by us here at Saddleback.
All-in-all, I think they are really very good and more than live up to their expectation as a top-end wheelset. They're super versatile and very good fun to ride over any terrain, they just want to make you ride quick everywhere and pop off those little dirt mounds on the trail! Good fun riding, just how it should be.