As a dedicated road cyclist, I stepped outside my comfort zone in 2021 to purchase a used Salsa Cutthroat, an ultra-endurance mixed surface bike inspired by the Tour Divide. I fell for this style of adventure cycling so hard and decided to upgrade my wheelset in 2022 to get even more out of the experience. I opted for a Light Bicycle Falcon WR35 wheelset: tubeless-ready flyweight rims with 28 holes in the front/rear, Sapim D-Light spokes and DT350 hubs. These hand-built, carbon wheels have a depth of 35mm, interior diameter of 25mm, and custom magenta decals and silver nipples to match my Cutty’s gorgeous fade. Light Bicycle wheels are fully customizable—sky’s the limit!—however I *just* wanted a sturdy, lightweight, and aerodynamic wheelset, so I kept everything pretty simple.
I first tested my new hoops on a week-long tour of Southern Vancouver Island this spring with my partner. We charted a course from Ladysmith to the provincial capital in Victoria (and back again), linking up rail-trail, logging roads, and regional bike paths while enjoying one-pot wonders next to the rivers and lakes we pitched camp alongside. Though we soaked up a few sunny days, we also encountered torrential downpours, sloppy mud, and even awoke to snow dusting our tent on the last night of the trip. I paired my Light Bicycle wheels with WTB Riddler 700C x 37mm tires, and they flew over crushed gravel trails and pavement, but also stood up to the rougher roads and rocky singletrack.
Later in the summer, I had the opportunity to tour again, this time solo: my route charted a 360-mile loop around Bozeman, Montana, on packed gravel farm roads, jeep tracks through lonesome woods, and paved secondary roads. I encountered everything from wide open vistas, to big mountain climbs, and narrow winding canyons. While I stopped for pie and ice cream at every opportunity, I spent most of my time miles from anywhere: after the pavement ran out in these one-bar towns, the closest thing I had to companionship was free-ranging cattle—if I was lucky. Again, the wheels performed flawlessly, capable of handling the variable terrain even under the weight of a loaded bikepacking rig.
In September, I switched gears to compete in the BCBR Gravel Explorer XLT, a challenging five-day gravel race in the beautiful Okanagan Valley. The event’s motto “everywhere a gravel bike can go” certainly held true: though the routes weren’t mega long, each day featured a different palette of adventure; a bold and brash mix of everything a gravel bike is capable of, from gut-busting 3,000 foot climbs to tire-swallowing sand and boulder-strewn descents featuring spectacular views of surrounding wine country. I placed first in my age group (and never went over the bars). To fine-tune my setup for the event, I swapped my WTB Riddlers for a pair of wider and knobbier WTB Raddler tires to help me safely navigate the fast and loose descents. Despite being on a lighter, unloaded bike, the challenging terrain combined with the high intensity of the BCBR Gravel Explorer put considerable stress on my equipment, though thankfully the only mechanical I had was a water bottle cage shaking loose on a steep, rough descent.
My final (and favourite) event of the season was The Big Lonely, a 347-mile self-supported bikepacking race looping around the delightful beer and bike paradise of Bend, Oregon. The route ascends 26,000 feet to explore the diverse and expansive Central Oregon region on a mix of 30% singletrack, 50% gravel/double-track, and 20% paved scenic bikeways. I climbed the iconic Mrazek trail in the Skyline Forest, rode along the Metolius and Crooked Rivers, summited the relentless Ochoco mountains, and crossed the high desert on a 30-mile ribbon of smooth singletrack. With limited resupply and large swathes inaccessible (or rarely frequented) by vehicle traffic, the route lived up to its name. Anticipating rugged terrain and sharp volcanic rock, I used beefier Maxxis Ikon 29 by 2.2-inch tires for this event. I lined up ready to compete and went out hard, limiting my stop time and forfeiting sleep to power through the frigid, moonlit night to establish a new women’s Fastest Known Time (FKT) and place third overall.
With all the things that could go wrong in the backcountry, it’s a relief knowing my wheels aren’t something I need to worry about. Of course, anything could happen: that’s why I carry spare spokes, nipples, and a spoke wrench along with my other repair kit. However, after over 6,000 km of use this season, I’m confident that my Light Bicycle wheels can take me wherever my Cutty and I choose to travel, whether that’s an off-road bikepacking trip, a rollicking training ride with massive elevation gain here in BC’s Okanagan-Thompson Plateau, or a self-supported FKT attempt. I love how a quick tire swap is all that’s required to dial in my setup—I’ve had no issues mounting any of my tubeless tires on the rims, either.
The WR35’s are responsive, reliable, and lightweight: a versatile jack of all trades that I can dress up or down with different tires to accommodate various surface conditions and riding styles, from all-out gravel racing to self-supported ultra-endurance challenges. The 35mm depth is enough to offer aero gains without throwing me off-balance in a crosswind, and the massive 25mm inner diameter provides a stable profile for wide gravel tires.
Light Bicycle wheels aren’t just hand-built carbon wheels: they’re built for adventure, competition, but most importantly, backcountry freedom.
Bike Frame: Salsa Cutthroat, 2018
Groupset: SRAM Force 11spd, 34t front chainring, 10-42t cassette
Handlebars: Salsa Cowchipper
Stem: Redshift ShockStop Suspension Stem, 80mm
Saddle: Specialized Oura
Rims: Light Bicycle WR35 disc 29” flyweight rims, 28h
Hubs: DT350 hub, straight-pull
Spokes: Sapim D-Light
Nipples: Sapim alloy (silver)
Tires: Maxxis Ikon 29 x 2.2” (rough terrain); WTB Raddler 700C x 40mm (general riding/touring); WTB Riddler 700C x 37C (fast mixed-surface terrain)