Gear Reviews

Touring Wheelset Review — Sun Rhyno Lite rims on Shimano Deore XT 36h hubs

First, I’d like to tell you a story. We began the ride on different wheelsets. Not because we wanted to, but because of a balls-up with the wheel order. I departed on what we’d originally planned for — Sun Rhyno Lite 36-hole rims, DT Swiss plain guage spokes, and Shimano Deore XT disc-compatible hubs. I’ve been riding on them since the beginning of the trip, almost without incident. Andy’s story, however, has been a different one, as you’ll know if you’ve been reading our blog.

There are many cycle tourers out there using Mavic XM721 rims, and as many horror stories as there are advocates. These rims are designed for downhill mountain-biking, so you would natually expect them to be made of tough stuff. No doubt they are, and no doubt they are designed to run big fat knobbly tyres at the relatively low pressures that the downhill biking crowd use in order to stick to the dirt with such style. They probably aren’t designed for narrower, high-pressure expedition tyres such as the ones that we (and countless other long distance cyclists) have been using.

That’s probably the reason that after just over 3 months, Andy’s rear rim developed a crack along one of the braking surfaces. It appeared one morning, and by the afternoon was 6 inches in length (6 real inches, mind you) and the inner-tube was emerging from the gaping hole. I’m as sure as I can be that the pressure of the tyre was the cause.

Our lesson has been painfully learnt, and we suggest you follow our advice (and that of numerous others) and don’t use this rim for touring except if you plan to carry no luggage and use 3‑inch downhill tyres. Much better would be the rims that I’ve been using (and that Andy has switched to). Recommended by numerous other cycle tourists for their strength and durability — and compatibility with the standard choice of Schwalbe XR expedition tyre — we had these hand-built for us. They are also compatible with rim-brakes.

Onto the wheels themselves. I have not yet serviced the front hub, but I had the bearings out of the rear hub twice in 6 months. These are standard 1/8‑inch ball bearings, which should be easy to find replacements for.

The first time, I was disappointed at how little grease was applied in the factory, and I would suggest repacking the bearings with a little more grease before you set off (this will also give you some hub-service practice if you aren’t accustomed to it).

The second time (after 4 months), I had neglected my maintenance and the rain and regular drivetrain cleaning had washed most of the grease away, which I admit was partly due to my overenthusiastic washing practices. The bearings had been running dry and needed to be replaced.

From now on, I will have the rear hub’s bearings out more regularly to keep them well greased and in good nick. There may well be better freehubs out there than Shimano, but none will have the same worldwide availability and compatibility throughout a wide range of parts.

A spare Shimano freehub and the tools to replace it should be part of your spares kit if you’re headed to really remote places. Luckily, as long as you can remove the cassette, removing the freehub itself is actually very simply, needing only a hex wrench and a good bit of elbow grease.

The wheels have rolled through everything in their path, carried the weight, and are still perfectly true. Have your wheels built by a reputable wheelbuilder — it’s an art. Like all moving parts, the hubs need attention — prevention is better than cure. But don’t use Mavic XM721 rims. For real downhill tyres and riding, great. For touring on 2.0’s or thinner — NO.

For the Sun Rhyno Lite rims on Shimano XT hubs we’re both now running, we think that regular hub servicing is a better long-term solution than sealed cartridge solutions that might last longer initially but conk out in a really inconvenient location, making you wish you’d gone with cup-and-cone bearings like these. The rims and DT Swiss plain-gauge spokes are bomb-proof, and the build quality by Leisure Lakes is top-notch. Now, we wouldn’t change a thing.

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21 replies on “Touring Wheelset Review — Sun Rhyno Lite rims on Shimano Deore XT 36h hubs”

If you’re looking for a tough rim, the Andra 30 would be hard to top: . I’m in Canada and had the wheelbuilder at SJS do the work for me and ship it over:–26-(559)-mtb-css-rim-black-36-hole-regular-drilling-prod18846/ . Following the advice that Thorn gives for their expedition bikes, I went with a CSS rim in the rear and standard in the front. (See the Thorn catalogue online for the thoughts on doing that.) I started with Velocity Aeroheat rims but the rear one cracked within 2500km so I switched to the Andras.

I forgot to mention that I use cantilever brakes since I built up a vintage 1985 Miyata mtn bike (you don’t need the latest and greatest — or most expensive to go off-road) and hence needed to order the following CSS-compatible brake pads from SJS: . Those look like the regular Eagle pads but they aren’t. For those in North America, try contacting Koolstop directly for the CSS pads. They’ll be near impossible to find locally so carry spares. Your front rim won’t need them if you went with the standard Andra 30 up front.

There are mixed reviews about the stopping performance of Andra 30 rims in wet conditions in the Thorn forums. Apparently they excel in dry conditions.

Which is why Thorn recommends using a CSS Andra 30 rim in the rear and a non-CSS Andra 30 rim up front. Once the rear rim is polished from use, it definitely won’t stop as it did at first but then it also won’t crack or wear through. The front rim will give you lots of stopping power even with a load. According to the latest Thorn porn (, once the CSS rim is polished, you can also start using normal brake pads instead of the dedicated CSS-compatible pads. For rim brake users like myself, there isn’t a better/stronger rim than the Andra 30. Others agree: . Verdict? Bulletproof — but, yes, it isn’t perfect. Is anything?

To save you a bit of time trolling through that Thorn porn, go straight to page 36 for the lowdown on the Andra 30 rims. Thorn makes no bones about mentioning the shortcomings of the polished CSS Andra 30 in wet conditions. That’s why they recommend the standard Andra 30 up front. I found the noted noise of a fresh CSS rim in rear to be akin to normal brake “shuddering” and it drops with use. No biggie and certainly not a deal breaker.

Hi Tom, what’s DT swiss spoke length in mm’s for the set up you mentioned above? (Sun Rhyno Lite 36-hole rims, DT Swiss plain guage spokes, and Shimano Deore XT disc-compatible hubs)?
Also what’s your opinion/experiences on the shimano front dynamo hubs to power lights and usb devices?
Thanks, IP

Hi Tom,
Thanks for your insights. Though, I still have a questions. You are talking about the Mavic XM721 rims and that they prone to crack. However, in the Mavic range, which could have changed from last year, I only see the EX721. This is indeed the rim for downhilling. But there is a XM719, a cross mountain rim, which is a descent rim for long haul cycle touring I have been told. Any experiences with that rim?


This wheelset was built in 2007, so it’s very likely the product line-up has changed. I’ve had great experiences with the Sun Rhyno Lite, also mentioned in this review, which has been going strong for 6 years now.

Hi Tom, great article. I love reading your blog and enjoyed watching Janapar the other day with my girlfriend. We are excited to be going on a trip soon. I wonder if you know about any 700c size rims similar to the Rhyno Lites. I am building my bike on an On One Inbred 29er frame. It will probably end up looking a bit like the Surly Ogre.

Doh! I didn’t spot that one. I wonder if they are still in production because they don’t seem to be in the current product line. Maybe I can find some left over stock somewhere. Thanks for the tip.

Hi Tom, can you recommend anyone good that would lace up a rear wheel and send it out to the US? Currently on the Continental Divide with a cracked wheel rim! I have no idea of any good wheel builders for the Rhyno Lite. Limping along in Idaho at the moment!
Thanks in advance!

Sorry, I don’t know — but I’m sure a U.S. builder would be better than having one sent from abroad. Sun Ringle is an American company so it shouldn’t be difficult. Good luck!

Funny thing you mentioned aluminum shards. I popped one of the Kool Stop pads down and, lo and behold, I saw something shiny in the black pad. I pried the shiny piece out with a pick. 

As for rims. I measured both the Rhyno Lite and Alex Adventurer 700c, 36 h, rims and found the brake walls to be ~2 mm thick. I measured with both a digital vernier caliper and an old-fashioned manual vernier caliper. Other rims were less than 2 mm thick. First I measured the whole rim width at the braking sidewalls. Then I flipped the caliper over and extended the pointer under the bead to the inside edge of the braking sidewall with the butt of the caliper against the outside of the opposite sidewall. Next, I subtracted the latter from the former to get the brake sidewall thickness. Do this several times and take an average.

Very interesting about failure of Mavic XM721. Could just be bad luck where some grit got between the brake pads and rim. I had to remove a Velocity Dyad rim (rear, 700c, 40h) the other day after only 6400 miles on it because the left side had a line scribed into the sidewall. There was a concavity of about 1 mm on that left side; the right was fine. I was fairly diligent about wiping the rims down after riding in the rain, but I guess I wasn’t diligent enough. From now on, I splash water onto the brake pad surfaces and wipe the rim surfaces clean! I’ve also changed how I brake. I rely mostly on my front brakes now and tap the rear brakes as an auxiliary. (Of course, in panic stops, I hit both brakes simultaneously.) Your favorable review of Sun Rhyno Lites has convinced me to try one.

We were using disc brakes, which made the rim’s failure even more unexpected. I’d found many similar stories on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree website regarding Mavic’s MTB rims.

did you clean the brake pads? they get aluminum shards stuck in them that grind the rims brake wall up. pocket knife or other pokey thing and something abrasive on the pad such as the sandpaper square included in a patch kit will clean the brake pads just fine. don’t drag your brakes. on or off. your rims will take longer to wear through.

Looking at buying some bombproof wheels. I heard that there were now issues with the newer Shimano XT model hubs for touring as they are now built differently and LX is now the way to go. Just stuff I’ve read on a blog; if anyone has any info on this that they can share, it would be much appreciated (the bike touring specialist shops in the UK didn’t mention this so not sure how accurate it is).

Thanks for posting this — I hadn’t heard, but it’s good to know. LX and XT were always pretty much interchangeable in terms of parts — trust Shimano to change that in search of bigger profit…

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