Rim Reviews: FSW3/Kinlin XR31T

This is a review that gets interesting starting with the title. There are a lot of branded wheel products that use these rims. This one from Hunt is among them - it's a set of XR31Ts with Novatec A291/F482 hubs and bladed Pillar spoke. Only it's not, because it's the Hunt Race Aero SuperDura. Here's another one from them - the Hunt Race Aero Wide. Slightly different hubs (still Novatec) and straight pull Pillar spokes, but same rims. The set weight on that one is a bit hopeful, too. Of course we call our primary product that uses them the FSW3, but that name has a lot of heritage with us (if being in your 7th year of business lets you claim heritage) and we, um, well, we pretty much tell you immediately what they are. 

Sorry, this picture's terrible. I should be - wait for it - shot. (drops mic)

I'm not picking on Hunt here in particular, I just happened to have top of mind awareness that they use XR31Ts. And anytime you see a rim that talks about having Niobium in it, there's roughly a 100% chance it's a Kinlin rim. I've said before that Kinlin should just have named the XR31T "our new proprietary alloy rim" since that's what so many brands call it (Hunt actually doesn't do that - but neither do they tell you what rim it is). We actually get ours with the special bead blast finish so ours are kind of more proprietary than most. 

I had an instinct to chastise myself for talking about the business of the rim instead of the rim itself as a product, but it's a valid part of the product, and a very valid part of the story of the product that we make with the rim. On which more later. 

Slight smoke break here - congratulations for finding this page and thanks for reading. We'd like to offer you free US domestic shipping on any order over $100. Just use code "ilearnedsomething" at checkout. And now we return to our regular programming. 

Anyhow, the actual rim itself: 31mm deep, 24 wide outside, 19 wide inside, ~500g average weight, offset rear rim, offset disc version, tubeless ready. For road tubeless it sets up just very easily, for gravel tubeless it's flawless too. For aggressive dedicated cross tubeless, I'd recommend the Stan's Grail first, then Easton R90SL, and potentially AForce rims before. For one, the tire fit is tight but not that tight (by which I mean inflated tire fit - tire installation is a separate thing and that's pretty easy with these). For two, the circumferential tolerances are not as very precise as the others show (you can of course add a layer of tape to rectify if needed). For three, the bead shelf on the off set side of the off set rims is really small. Though I haven't done it, I can imagine tripping the bead off the shelf and then huge burp.

They scored great in the wind tunnel. It surprised us none that they were good, it did surprise us how good they were - we didn't expect them to equal a 303 and be better than a Flo 30. Of course, as that test proved, we are talking about small order differences here. That said, you'd rather be at the head of the class than not, and these were at the head.

The offset rear (both front and rear for disc) is a nice boon. Most branded wheel products that use these don't take advantage of that. It's sort of an inventory pain, but it does make the spoke tension more even from side to side. That means you can use a lower overall spoke tension, which is good for business. (Once a spoke is in tension, that is as strong as it gets - end of story. Adding spoke tension does not make stiffer wheels. That myth needs to die today, please.) 

These rims make a nice set of wheels. I use them often. For a racer or group rider on a budget, they are like the ideal setup: fast, good quality, strong, good looking, pretty freaking durable, and when you crash them out you just lace a new rim on and boom off you go because they're at the very inexpensive end of the scale. 

So what makes these a lesser quality rim than, say, Eastons? Good question. 

You see that joint ^? If we were looking at an Easton, you wouldn't. Neither with a HED, and an AForce you'd only see a tiny little bit. In worst cases, you set that rim aside, which we do on occasion. We always do a light prep of the brake track on these post-build, pre-ship. Also, the joint should be halfway between those two spoke holes. It doesn't affect anything at all, but in my OCD world it should be in the middle. I often talk about braking being really superb on HEDs and Eastons, and now Al33s. The extrusions come out so regular on those rims it's kind of nuts, which means that when the machine the brake track in, the wall thickness is all very regular to like a microscopic degree. It's a little less so on these. You're not going to feel anything remotely like "thump thump tweak ack thump" when you squeeze the brakes with these, but it's not going to be as buttery smooth and solid as on those other rims. And that also means that while we can put a good build with regular and even spoke tension on these, it won't be perhaps as regular and even as on the others. But you're not asked to dig as deep into your pocket to get a set of these as the others, either. 

So now that it sounds like I've just critiqued these pretty heavily, let me tell you that they are still very good rims - way way better (usually encompassing all of the things I've said in the paragraph above, and more others) compared to the average OEM wheel. They're very much good enough for us to carve a nice spot out for them in our product mix, and for a bunch of other people to put their names on, too. I'd posit that no one else would turn a critical eye toward a product they sell. No, they'd be all "super awesome best rim rah rah!" but yeah that's the rock we push up this hill called life. 

What would I change about them? Product wise, they are a great product that gets really really high marks in a lot of areas, and has a few niggles that their price point papers over. Really they exemplify the challenge we face in transparently building with identifiable products. One company's "superb value wheelset, they ought to be commended for the work they do for mankind in democratizing availability of outstanding wheels" can be a "geez, that's kind of an expensive way to get those components" when it's pointed at us - simply because you can identify what we use. But instead of trans-shipping boxes, we're actually building the things here, and offering variations, and writing things like this and getting them to the wind tunnel and all o' that crap, and all o' that crap adds up. But Kinlins do let us put a wheelset that "Bikes, Inc" in general would have no trouble charging you $1000 for on our site for $575. And that's pretty darn valuable. 

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Thanks for the rare objective review of your own products, good and bad. Since you bring up Hunt, any idea how they get such low weights on their carbon wheels and if they use open mold carbon rims? I'm a bit suspicious that their weights can be lower than high end wheels of similar depth.

Chris K

Ken – They're similar, no earth shattering differences between them, but the Kinlin is a bit stiffer. Remember that the hub plays a significant part in the whole equation (as do spokes) but if you use same lacing and spokes but build a Kinlin rear with a Bitex or Novatec hub and an Easton with a White Industries hub, and they're the same or maybe a tiny bit in favor of the Easton. Neither is a noodle in any case – we've never found stiffness to necessarily be a "more is better" situation. Keep the rear from hitting the (properly adjusted) brake pads or feeling mushy, keep the front from exhibiting any understeer, and you're more or less stiff enough. – Dave


Dave…thanks for doing the review. I enjoyed reading it. How would you rate its stiffness vis-a-vis Easton R90SL? Given Kinlin's additional 4mm in rim-height, one may assume that it could be stiffer. Is that the case? Thanks.


Hi Chris -Can't say whether they're open mold or not because I don't know. I think I'd read somewhere that they say their carbons are their designs, or at least some of them. A carbon rim has a lower start up cost than alloy if you want to do your own, just as a piece of info you can use when you evaluate claims. A few things that immediately cause me to throw the BS flag in general (not talking about Hunt or anyone in particular here) are the ubiquitous 24/30/38/50/55/60/85/88 depths, and if a company that's not really big has more than one or two shapes. There are also construction "tells" that I can easily spot – Yishun-produced rims have a few (LOTS of places use Yishun rims), others do too. There's one way to make a carbon rim of a given size lighter – take material out. In rim brake rims, that to me means you're going to have heat problems (need mass at brake track as a heat sink) and probably also durability problems. Disc rims being lots lighter just means durability/"what if" proofness are perhaps compromised. Generally being outlier light means you are selling problems to your customers and buying them for yourself as well – generally. Conversation with a knowledgeable friend who sells and sees all brands of wheels the other day leads me to believe that none of them really have carbon sorted. I'm glad we're out of it. We've obviously taken a sales hit because of it but life, and we believe our wheels. are generally better for it.


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