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Teton Tested: Mercury’s X3 Plus-Tire Wheels

A “by riders, for riders” company, Mercury Wheels brings American-made products to the table with an emphasis on unrelenting research and development. Originally from Mississippi, Mercury is now based in Ogden, Utah, which is a powerhouse of American bicycle gear manufacturing. Originally focused on road wheels, Mercury has recently ventured into producing mountain wheels, and the X3 Alloy Plus 27.5” wheelset is a hit.

Specs

At 40mm wide externally and 35mm interally, the X3 Plus wheels mated up nicely to our 2.8" Schwalbe Nobby Nics. Ryan Dunfee photo.

For $799, the X3 Plus wheelset has all the standout features that you could ask for in a high-performance wheel, with a 27.5” diameter, 35mm internal width, and 40mm external width. At 1838g for the set, the weight is pretty solid for an alloy wheelset of its width and riding intentions.

In a world where alloy wheels made for the all mountain and enduro crowd is dominated by 32-hole drilling with a 3-cross lacing pattern, the X3 stands out with a 28-hole drilling and a 2-cross lacing pattern. Mercury claims that this makes the wheel laterally stiff while giving it enough compliance to smooth out rougher portions of trail. The spokes are Sapim Race double-butted spokes for strength and weight savings.

The X3's are drilled with 28 holes and a 2-cross lacing pattern, giving them a slight amount of flex to smooth out rough trail. Ryan Dunfee photo.

Mercury has also given thought to ease of use, and offer several conversion kits to fit all types of axles, so it’s easier for the consumer to swap the wheels from bike to bike without compatibility issues.

The Ride

The Mercurys hold strong when putting down the hammer or laying into a hard corner. Ryan Dunfee photo.

Like any wheel in the plus-sized range, the 35mm internal width is the most notable feature as soon as you hit the trail on these. The tire profile changes dramatically when compared to rims of regular width. Most riders these days are on tires ranging from 2.3 to 2.5 inches, for which a rim width of 25-30mm seems to be adequate and useful. But at 35mm, the Mercury rims are designed for the newer plus-sized tires, and riding them on a set of 2.8" Schwalbe Nobby Nics was a blast.

I had a blast throwing myself into gnarly terrain and found it surprisingly easy to survive thanks to the margin of error afforded by the rim/tire combo. During climbs, the moderately low weight of the wheelset didn’t hold me back when accelerating up steep pitches, and the wide tire profile made it easy to clear loose climbs without much regard for finesse. The 2-cross lacing pattern felt stiff under torsional loads, which means acceleration is instant and the rim didn’t lag behind the hub when I tried to put down power.

When it came time to descend, the lateral stiffness of the Mercury X3 wheels was very welcome. I had no trouble leaning hard into corners and the wheels didn’t have any undue flex when thrown around and side-loaded. Since the wheels were tested with 2.8” tires, the tires kept a nice rounded shape and cornering was smooth and predictable without any vague, drifty spots as the bike was leaned over.

Tire Selection and Tire Pressure

First time on a plus wheel? Make sure to get the tire pressure right; 2-3 psi can make a huge difference. Ryan Dunfee photo.

Wide rims give tires more volume, which in turn makes tires more sensitive to changes in pressure. On a 25-30mm wide rim, I find it easy to play around with pressure and make changes on the order of 5-10 psi without affecting ride quality too much. But with the 35mm rim width, and especially when paired with plus-sized tires, small changes of 2-3 psi can significantly alter the ride quality.

This is both a boon and a curse. By making slight changes in tire pressure, you can change the personality of your bike from a high-traction machine for clearing chundery terrain to a fast-rolling speed demon for flowy trails. The cons are that it takes a bit more initial setup to figure out what tire pressure works for you and your terrain, and if you happen to lose some pressure out on a ride you’ll definitely feel the bike’s handling change.

That said, now that I’ve experienced the ungodly amount of traction that these rims help my tires achieve, I don’t know if I’ll be switching back to narrow rims anytime soon.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re looking into wheelsets for weight savings, ride quality, or just plain bling, the  Mercury X3 Plus wheelset ticks all the boxes and left me smiling after a long ride on them. The price won’t leave your wallet empty, the ride quality is impressive, and the high quality parts and interchangeable end caps make it an easy choice for anyone looking for a future-proof wheelset. 

From The Column: Teton Tested

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