Hooked versus hookless beads

I know we said we'd need a breather but people have been pounding us with questions, and one of the bigger questions people have had has been hooked versus hookless beads. This is especially relevant right now as Enve has just announced their Foundation series, which feature hookless rims. 

First, to define. Hooked beads are the traditional clincher style, with a small inward facing protrusion around the out perimeter of the rim. Most of the wheels you've ever owned are hooked. Hookless have existed for quite a long time, so I am told, but have become more and more popular recently. Why?

Hooked - HED Belgium Eroica

There are three reasons, sometimes blending into one. Hookless carbon rims are much easier to manufacture. Molding the hood into a carbon rim is a bit of a pain in the butt, requiring more complicated molds and more labor, plus a greater chance of stuffing it up. Mountain bike rims, with their lower pressures, starting going hookless a while ago when people realized that not only were they easier and less costly to manufacture, you could put some extra meat at the outer edge of the rim where the hook used to be. Greater impact defense.

Hookless - White Industries G25A

The rims pictured above, which are a HED Eroica at top and a White Industries G25A immediately above here, show a hooked and hookless bead. Since hooked aluminum rims have none of the construction challenges of hooked carbon rims, I wondered in my review of the G25A why they'd done it that way. And I still don't know.

Enve has also promoted the more aerodynamic tire interface that they find with hookless rims. The hookless bead deflects the tire's sidewall less, which allow for a smoother transition between rim and tire, a la below. 

This image is from Enve's site

One issue that arises with hookless beads is that the hook provides tire retention security, and if you take that away you have to regain tire security somewhere else. For most, this is found in using tubeless tires. I'm not aware of any that preclude using tubes with your tubeless tires, but the non-stretch construction and shaping of tubeless beads are what these rims are after. But then what you have is a tire compatibility chart, and with the rate at which tires hit the market, someone's got a full time job keeping up with that. Based on our decade in the biz, buying stuff that you can't use with other stuff is not the most attractive of ideologies.

Now the wrinkle is that the more astute followers among you will know that I've been an advocate for hookless. We saw some issues with hooked carbon rims in the past, and it just seemed that the construction techniques afforded by hookless were the way forward there. But now we haven't seen a hook problem (knock wood) since forever. 

One "ask me anything" asker was curious about the All Road 23 being a hookless bead versus the All Road 38 and All Road 50 which have hooks. Notice that I didn't hot link the All Road 23. Despite our thinking that a really light, shallow, wide All Road rim is an attractive thing, there was basically no uptake on the product. And a big part of that was likely the tire limitations that we had to put on them. We didn't get tires to blow off of them at 80 psi, but we couldn't exhaustively test tires, and we are really really conservative with this stuff. No one wants to ride a 28mm tire at 100psi, which is still wayyyyy below what a hooked All Road 38 or 50 rim is going to carry, but people might want to use a 30mm tire at 60 or 70. People do strange things, and tires heat up in hot cars, and tire pressure gauges are inaccurate, and blah blah blah.

For mountain bikes, hookless. Use whatever tire, there's no problem. But for road and in between, it's more murky. The future may not have any hooks at all, I don't know. But absent any hint of carbon hook construction issues, and with the low low payback of potentially really marginal aerodynamic gain, and with the pain in the butt of needing to babysit a rim's interaction with every tire that comes on the market, we think that the "not mountain biking" part of our ecosystem is better off with hooks for the foreseeable future. 

There's been a ton of interest in both the rollyourown program and the wheel build interactive stuff. 

Thank you again for all the questions and comments, we will hope to keep this going as well and as long as possible. Our video experiments are coming along so the interactive wheel build session is progressing.

Stay safe and have a nice weekend. 


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  • Dave on

    Awesome. Thanks, Chris!

  • Chris Petron on

    Dave, I’ve been enjoying these articles. Thanks for sharing this information. I just learned something yesterday that I thought I would share. To build on your point about the hookless bead set up having a lower pressure threshold there’s actually a specified ETRTO threshold of 5 bar (73psi) for tubeless on a hookless rim.

  • Dave on

    Binx – Ain’t that the way, huh? Two sides to every story, huh?

    Nick – Interesting thought. Really the way to get there now is carbon. I think i25 alloy rims (Eroica or G25A, for example) are too wide if you use a cx-legal tire. If you race CX on 38s or something, then go with the wider rims. We definitely have a post in mind that will touch on a lot about your comment, though

  • Nick on

    If hookless means less chances of dented rims, count me in for my next tubeless CX wheelset.

  • binx on

    Good stuff. I think it’s at least mildly entertaining that two of the most well known aero wheel makers take the opposite position on hooked vs hookless rims: Enve says hookless promotes a better aero profile for the tire, and HED’s vanquish has hooked rims and have expressly stated a few places that the hooks also function to reduce the tire’s measured width for better aero performance. Even more interesting considering their respective positions, and the fact that HED’s rims are even wider on the external and internal dimensions than Enve’s road/aero rims.

    Hookless mainly appeals to me for the 28mm and above tires if you can get a nice fat, strong rim wall, and even at top winter weight around 200lbs, you could still run the tires at 60 psi or lower (based on many peoples tire pressure charts—e.g., Enve, Silca, Sram).

    Having said that, my all road 50s pull 95% pavement duty with aplomb onPro Ones, Conti Gp5s, Corsa 2.0s, G-one Speeds, and I enjoy being able to throw on any tire I want. Probably still won’t stop me from asking you to build my next set hookless if available just for the laughs.


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