Rolf Alsea Carbon Mountain Bike Wheelset Review

Get ready to rip some some serious single track with the newly updated Rolf Alsea carbon mountain bike wheelset. Built in Oregon and designed to hammer pretty much any trail we were brave enough to tackle, this wide profile, modern designed wheelset will provide more performance than most riders ever need.

Rolf Alsea Carbon Mountain Bike Wheelset Review
The Rolf Alsea carbon mountain bike wheelset aboard our Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup

Whether lining up on race day or shredding local trails with friends, the Alsea is the do-it-all wheelset you can rely on.  At an impressively light weight of 1,435g for the pair, they’re perfect for every occasion. So if you live for miles of flow, taking on root-filled singletrack, bombing the steeps or punching the uphill switchbacks, this is the wheelset for you. Stiff, light and bombproof, they check every box.

Rolf Alsea Carbon Mountain Bike Wheelset Review
Yeah the rims on the Rolf Alsea are carbon and looks super cool, but it has substance to support the good looks.

Carbon Rims

Let’s face it, when something is made from carbon we all get a little giddy, especially when it is wheels. When was the last time you said, “Damn, that is a nice-looking set of alloy hoops.”

Wider is better, well at least in the mountain bike wheel market. For 2019, the Alsea was updated with a wider hookless carbon rim profile, Rolf claims 30 percent increased stiffness and even greater impact resistance and the perfect width to support tire interface and enhance trail feel – all without sacrificing weight.

Rolf Alsea Carbon Mountain Bike Wheelset Review
The Rolf Alsea features a 25mm interior rim width to increase handling performance when paired the newer – wider tire designs.

There are a handful of advantages to riding a wider rim, such as better traction, ride quality, rolling resistance, stability, and even weight in some cases. Most people overlook this, but the tire is another part of a bike’s suspension. Your tire can give you an extra half, to an inch, of suspension upon impact depending on your pressure choice. When running a wider rim, you are increasing the air volume which is resulting in a smoother ride. Since the base of the tire is now wider, the rider can run their suspension a tad bit stiffer without getting a harsher ride, all while gaining more control.

As stated above, now that your tire has a wider base due to the increased rim width, it creates a much larger contact with the tire on the ground. When you take your same tire and mount it to a wider rim, instead of your tire being an oblong pear shape, it is more round which results in more contact area and setting your cornering knobs in a more consistent contact with the riding surface. Aside from the cornering traction, wider rims also have a huge benefit when climbing. Since there is greater air volume in the tire, you are able to run lower pressures resulting in much better traction on the climbs!

Rolf Alsea Carbon Mountain Bike Wheelset Review
Our Maxxis 2.2-inch wide tires paired with the wider Rolf wheelset made for a ride that gripped the corners, tracked well over rocks and roots and kept traction on the climbs.

Getting Excited About Spokes

But the carbon rims are not the only thing getting attention around here. The Alsea wheels also feature paired spoke technology, pretty much the technology that put Rolf on the map back in 1997.

What makes the paired spokes so cool besides the “wow” factor? It’s all about the tension. Bringing the spokes to the rim in pairs neutralizes the left and right pull allowing them to build true wheels on lighter rims with fewer spokes. Higher tension means stiffer wheels, while the fewer spokes and lighter rims help create increased aerodynamics and faster performing wheels. 

Rolf Alsea Carbon Mountain Bike Wheelset Review
Paired spoke technology allows the spokes to be tightened to a higher tension, creating a stiffer and lighter wheel.
Rolf Alsea Carbon Mountain Bike Wheelset Review
We are super excited that the nipples are not hidden here. Granted in 12 months we haven’t had to touch a thing on these wheels, it is still nice to know we can re-true them without getting covered in tire sealant.

As with all Rolf wheels, the Alsea is hand-built in Oregon around their XST hub platform with a CNC’d 6/4 titanium high engagement drive mechanism. Three independently-sprung steel pawls provide a high speed engagement.

Rolf Alsea Carbon Mountain Bike Wheelset Review
The SRAM compatible XD Driver is capable of running a 10-tooth rear sprocket giving you the ability to run a slightly smaller front chainring and not lose any top end.

Other keys features include patented Differential Flange Diameter in the rear, that is supposed to effectively double the number of torque absorbing spokes, creating a more durable wheel. We’ll take their word for it.

Notice the different diameter? A representative from Rolf informed us that it effectively doubles the number of torque absorbing spokes, creating a more durable wheel. I think I was sleeping during that engineering class.

Inside both hubs lies an over-sized steel axles for increased stiffness and durability, and these are paired with Enduro brand steel bearings. Stopping power comes from center lock rotors.

Each build can be configured to match your needs. Choose your freehub and axle and customize with decals and hub options. The XST hubs are designed and manufactured in the United States and assembled in Eugene, Oregon.

Toss in a 15-mm thru-axle, paired spokes and a carbon rim and you have a super stiff wheelset that goes exactly where you want it to go.

Rolf Alsea Specs:

  • 29″ – tubeless ready carbon clincher
  • Weight: 1,435g [660g/775g]
  • Spoke count: 24/24
  • Spoke type: Bladed CX Ray
  • Rim Width (ex): 30mm
  • Rim Width (in): 25mm
  • Hubset: XST w/ T2 High Engagement
  • Brake type: Disc brake (Center Lock)
  • Freehub: Shimano/SRAM 10/11-speed or SRAM 1×11/12
  • Includes: tubeless ready, valve, and Rolf Prima’s Certainty

At the end of the day, this is an expensive wheelset at $2,199. Yet it’s an amazing wheelset that will give new life to your bike, or in our case, take a pretty special bike and make it freaking amazing. Learn more at

More Rolf Alsea Images

Okay we just thought this was a cool photo!
Rolf has been doing paired spoke technology since 1997.
The minimal graphics on the Alsea are just enough to get noticed but don’t scream come check me out. If you do want bright neon colors, Rolf does offer a custom program.
Tires mounted and ready for rotors. How easy is it to mount the Maxxis tires to the Rolf Alsea? We did it in a parking lot in Vermont and mounted them without an air compressor.
Rolf Alsea Carbon Wheelset
Thanks for building some killer wheels Dan! You are the man. A six pack of local brew is on the way. Cheers, Mark



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