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TGR Tested: We Are One Union Carbon Wheels

We Are One is a small brand manufacturing carbon mountain bike parts out of Kamloops, BC. Check out our thoughts on their Union enduro wheelset. Max Ritter photo.

Last fall, we ran a roundup of some of our favorite carbon fiber mountain bike wheels here on TGR Tested and found out just how different the ride quality and durability can be across the board when it comes to putting high-end hoops on your bike. This year, we wanted to dig a little deeper into this special little segment of the industry, and wanted to dive deep into a set of wheels we had been hearing a lot about from riders like our friend and Accomplice athlete Graham Agassiz – the Union wheelset from Canadian brand We Are One Composites. With a tagline of “rims you can depend on” we wanted to put that to the test – because for us, dependability is something we value incredibly highly in our gear. That being said, it’s not just about a product not breaking. It also needs to perform well for its intended purpose. Long story short, We Are One’s Union enduro-focused carbon fiber wheelset does both of those things – and provides one of the liveliest yet most solid rides we’ve ever felt on a bike. If that’s enough for you, go ahead and pop a pair of these on your bike right now, you won’t regret it. If not, read on for more on what we love about these wheels.

The Tech:

We Are One started as the brainchild of owner Dustin Adams, who was simply not satisfied with the quality of products in the industry. If you haven’t heard of Dustin, he’s a shredder in his own right, winning mountain bike races all the way up to World Cup level before pursuing a career in manufacturing bike parts, working for NOBL before starting his own brand. In other words, he knows a thing or two about how things work in the bike industry.

With a 30mm internal width, these wheels play nice with the like of burly 2.4-2.5" tires we like to ride. Max photo.

We Are One does all manufacturing in-house in their Kamloops, BC facility, which allows them to put an emphasis on quality control and gives them an opportunity to practice more sustainable manufacturing processes. Each rim goes from the mold to the drill (where spoke holes and valve holes are drilled), and then directly to the wheelbuilder who laces up spokes and a hub. According to We Are One, they don’t need to sand or patch the carbon in the rims, and skip painting them to keep down both the weight and the amount of harmful chemicals used in the process. The raw finish won’t hide imperfections if there were to be any.

Carbon wheels are simple beasts but getting them to ride in a way that most mountain bikers will like is a bit of an art form. Of course, they need to be light, but if they get too light, they’ll likely break. Furthermore, stiffness is a huge talking point, and balancing lateral stiffness and radial stiffness makes a big difference. For enduro racing, which the Union was specifically designed for, feedback from riders and testing suggested that lower radial stiffness was preferred. Of course, enduro racers break gear like nobody else, so impact resistance was also paramount. The 29-inch rim weighs in at 495g per rim, features a pretty standard 30mm internal width (which plays nice with just about any 2.4 to 2.5-inch tire). All these aspects were taken into account when We Are One designed the mold and manufacturing process for these rims. Fully built, the wheels aren’t the lightest of the bunch, but read on for how well they perform on the trail.

The Industry 9 101 hub might be one of the best "budget" hubs ever made. Max Ritter photo.

The Ride:

Mountain bike wheels are one of the most overlooked aspects of a bike’s componentry. Truth be told, one just about every bike I’ve ever built, the stock wheels came off immediately, and I’ve looked to replace them with something better. A well-built wheel simply rides faster, smoother, and is more reliable when you ride hard. I prefer the ride quality of carbon fiber wheels on my trail and enduro bike, since it promises faster acceleration and a damper ride through burly rock gardens and chunky trail. I’m somewhat picky when it comes to hub choice as well, preferring something with quick engagement that is also not too heavy. We Are One offers the Union built with either an Industry 9 Hydra hub, or the less expensive Industry 9 101 hub. I tested the 101 version, and will say those hubs are a phenomenal value, riding nearly as well as the much more expensive Hydras at a significantly cheaper MSRP.

So how do the Unions actually ride? For the test, we popped a pair of the 29-inch Unions on the 2021 Rocky Mountain Altitude, a purebred enduro race bike. The wheels are also available for 27.5-inch bikes, or as a mullet setup. Testing occurred around the Tetons and included a weekend trip to Moab, where the wheelset got plenty of chances to become friends with wheel-destroying square edges.

Enduro racing is hard on bikes, but in lieu of all the canceled races this summer, we figured spending some time on our favorite freeride trails would do the trick. Matt Ditullio photo.

From the get-go, the wheels completely changed the bike. The most immediate difference was how much damper the bike felt, staying glued to the ground in rough conditions, and not bouncing or deflecting off rocks and roots on the trail. Past carbon wheels I’ve tested have provided the opposite feeling, giving the bike a twitchier ride feel, but that's not the case with the Unions. I couldn’t get over how fun it is to load the bike through a corner or a rough section, and just trust the traction. To me, it’s clear that the idea of reduced radial stiffness works. That’s not to say these wheels aren’t stiff, though. Laterally, there is more than enough stiffness to hold a line and provide precise steering and control. That precision is exactly what will set these wheels apart from those stock aluminum wheels you probably have on your bike.

So far, I’ve had zero issues with durability on the rims, even after repeated attempts to break them on flat drops and nasty edges in the desert and on our home freeride trails. I’ve been running a Cush Core tire insert in the rear, and even rode out of a trail with a flat rear tire on just the insert, and the rims have shown no signs of damage.

Nothing like being able to trust wheels when it matters. Lily Krass photo.

Another thing worth pointing out is We Are One’s lifetime warranty that covers any damage to the wheel while you ride your bike. From their website: “If you break a rim while riding, we send you a new one. Period. It is that simple.” Seems like a pretty good deal.

The Bottom Line:

Creating a strong and light carbon wheel that actually rides well is not an easy task, but We Are One’s Union achieves all three of those things in a package that won’t break the bank. I don’t want to call these budget wheels, but at $1,400, I don’t think that I’d spend any more on pricier offerings from other brands. These are surefire upgrade for any enduro or trail bike, and will give your machine a much more precise and smooth ride, without you having to worry about breaking them.

Buy the We Are One Union wheels here.

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