At KB Wheels we strive to provide the best wheels at the best price. For independent builders like me, the best prices for carbon rims are found in China, period. But do these rims also produce the best wheels? To verify the quality for myself I’ve been ordering from different companies in China and putting them through the test. I test against rims from Light Bicycle which have been my go to for several years. In this test I’ll be building up a set of mountain bike rims from Bola Bicycle, and have Nathan Barton run them in a few pro races. By the way, you can follow Nathan on Instagram at @nathan_mtb.
Bola’s “About Us” statement on their website, says: “Founded in 2010, Bola Bicycle Co. Limited is one of the finest Carbon Bike Rim Producer and Carbon Bike Wheel builder in Xiamen, China, having reputation for high-quality products. Our management and R&D team, having experts of 10+ years’ experience, was earlier, a part of one Taiwanese factory, and then we started our own business, to serve the growing demand from clients.” Like most Chinese sites, the wording is a bit awkward, but that’s typical so don’t let that stop you from checking out their products. The length of time they’ve been producing carbon rims is also typical; from 8 to 12 years for most companies. While I’ll be working with mountain bike rims, Bola is probably better known for their road rims.
The rims I ordered were advertised as having an outside width of 30mm, inside width of 23mm, a depth of 25mm, and weight of 390g. They were hookless with the UD matte finish and symmetrical spoke hole drilling. The cost was $145 each with shipping to the USA of $45 for the set. Options of different carbon fiber weave patterns, finishes, spoke hole number and asymmetry, and valves/tape were available for additional costs. I ordered the rims on November 25, 2017 and received them on December 23, or in about 4 weeks.
The rims were shipped via EMS, which in the USA ends up being delivered by the US Postal Service. They arrived in good shape with no damage to the box. The rims were packed in the typical foam sleeves. On inspection I noticed the exterior of the rims were heavily sanded, with imperfections still visible.
The weight was 370g, the outside width was 30mm, inside width 23mm, and depth 26mm. The advertised weight was 20g heavier and the depth 1mm shallower. While lighter with more depth is desirable, I prefer it when everything matches up with the advertised weight and dimensions.
I laced the rims up to DT Swiss straight-pull boost hubs with Sapim D-Light spokes and secure lock aluminum nipples. The build was straight forward and went well, and I brought the drive side and front disc side tensions up to 110 kgf. I was worried that the slick inner surface of the rim would make it difficult to get tape to stick but it didn’t. I installed the valve, mounted tires and aired them up dry. The tires seated well and I was able to release the air add sealant through the valve stem. The seal held tight after adding air again and very little sealant leaked from the bead interface.
I handed the wheels over to Nathan and had him put them to the test on the pro XC circuit, including the Pro Men’s field at Fontana and Bonelli Park (US Cup), Sea Otter and Soldier Hollow. At Fontana Nathan finished in the top 20. Despite the brutal conditions that occur in Pro XC racing, the wheels held strong and true in all races. Nathan describes them as light, stiff and responsive.
For ease of purchase I give them a 5 out of 10 due to the long delivery time and confusing rim documentation. Payment was straight forward though, and the rims arrived in good shape. Also, the delivery time, though long, was in line with orders from China. For finish I give them a 7 out of 10. There was obviously a lot of sanding with imperfections remaining, and overspray was still in the spoke and valve holes. Though this didn’t seem to impact build or durability, other rims I use from China don’t have this issue. Finally, for build and durability I give them a 9 out of 10 and for cost a top rating of 10. Bottom line, I would not hesitate to use them again in my wheel building business.