I urgently needed a new rear wheel for my winter bike, and ended up buying an Alex Rims SX-44, the 29″ variant. This is clearly a budget disc brake wheel priced fairly low, but from the description it seemed like a no-nonsense wheel with decent components. My goal was to set this wheel up tubeless with Schwalbe Marathon studded winter tire (HS 396). Below are some facts and thoughts about this wheel.
It sports a Shimano Deore FH-M475 hub with a six-bolt flange for brake rotor, DT-Swiss 2mm non-butted stainless black spokes and silver 12mm silver nipples (for black Park spoke wrench). The rims are double-wall with rounded side walls (i.e. disc-only) with silver grommets-reinforced nipple holes. The internal bead width of the wheel is 20mm. The rim is drilled for Schraeder valve. The wheel bears a label “Hand Built in North America”. The wheel came with a very nice Shimano internal cam QR skewer, but with no rim tape.
The wheel came spinning pretty true. The spokes were more or less evenly tensioned except for one spoke on the left side tensioned very low. I measured the tension to be on average 120 kgf on the right side, and 86 kgf on the left. I measured the spokes to be 291mm long on the left side, 290mm on the right.
The spokes’ thread was absolutely dry, and there is no evidence that any type of spoke prep was applied when building the wheels. For me this was absolutely unacceptable, especially given that this wheel was for my winter bike, which is going to ride in salty sleet. I had to undo every nipple and apply spoke prep (I prefer anti-seize).
The hub was adjusted too tight. I loosened it a little bit, but decided no to open it up, although I was curious whether there was sufficient grease in the bearings. I’ll re-pack it in the end of the winter, and will update this review.
The branding is just four stickers (two on each side) that can be peeled off fairly easily, leaving a nice black rim with no branding at all.
Tubeless set up was a breeze. One layer of Gorilla tape (exactly half of a 2″ width worked very well) with 80ml of Stan’s Race sealant. I used Joe’s No Flats Schraeder valve. Inflated with the valve core removed, and the tire seated from the first try. Inserted the valve core and inflated through the valve – no issues. There was some sealant leakage around the rim joint, but it sealed up very quickly.
Overall, I think that this was a decent wheel for the price, but I wish they prepped spoke threads. What a shame, especially given the proudly displayed “Hand Built in North America” label. What does this label really mean? No decent wheel builder would leave spoke threads with no lubrication, so if you say “Hand Built”, you’d better live up to the expectations.