Berd Spoke: Ride Feel

How Do Berd Spoked Wheels Ride?

Berd spokes create a wheel which feels different than one with steel spokes.  Whether you like that or not will depend on how you like your bike to feel.

We've asked a few of our friends about their thoughts on riding Berd spokes:

Pete Meffan

The rider: Pete Meffan

Test wheelset: Wheelworks OG Race with Berd Polylight spokes. Maxxis Ravager Tyres.

I had the OG Berd wheels on my gravel bike for about two months. During which I rode ‘typical Wellington gravel’. That is to say single track mountain bike trails. Most of my riding could be described as underbiking. So it goes by saying I need wheels to put up with abuse, and lots of it. Whether that is bouncing around Mt Vic roots or tearing down Polhill tracks at speed. My wheels needed to inspire confidence. I'm a climber by nature so I was also super excited to feel the weight too. 
First impression: hot damn these wheels FLY up the climbs. They were light, responsive, and getting out of the saddle to kick up steep slopes felt shockingly good. I was expecting a feeling of flexing out of the saddle, and they didn’t feel that way. They were snappy. 
As I gained trust in them I started taking them down more and more technical terrain. Started with Southern Walkway and then moved into Hippies, Parkbench, Watertower and Trevor (moderately technical rooty trails). First lap I tiptoed down. Second lap I let things roll a bit. Third lap I was having an absolute blast. What I love the most about these wheels on a gravel bike is their ability to soak up bigger impacts (like an unexpected root or pothole for example). It really feels like there is a tiny bit of suspension to just give you a bit of comfort. Now I’m not going to pretend that Berd spokes are going to make a grade 4 on a gravel bike feel smooth. You are underbiking after all. But for me it ticked all my boxes: they were light and responsive and they let me rip my favourite trails with confidence (or as much as a gravel tyre can give you anyway!).
I’m looking at my own Berd build now and I’m excited to take them on more adventures here and overseas for both racing and bike-packing.

Kirsten Hagan

The rider: Kirsten Hagan

Test wheelset: Wheelworks OG Race with Berd Polylight spokes. Maxxis Ravager Tyres.

Don't try these wheels. Just don't. Because you will want to buy them. By the second ride you won’t want to make eye contact with your old wheels because you know it’s over, you are already thinking how you are going to tell your partner that these wheels are a necessary piece of equipment for a 48 year old bike packer. 
I knew it exactly two-thirds into the commute home on these wheels. It’s the same feeling  as when I first tried their road wheels; I wasn’t timid on the second ride. I rode rocky trails on Skyline that I have avoided on this bike since first learning the hard way its preference is groomed gravel trails.
Most noticeable? The safety and confidence in descending. On my old wheels, I didn’t feel confident railing corners – or descending at any decent speed – which people who know me will be surprised at given I am known for a ‘let’s see how this goes at speed’ approach to descending. My weight felt more evenly distributed and the bike felt gripped to the ground meaning I could carry more speed especially into corners – hello railing, about time. 
Hitting rocky parts of the trail was completely different on these wheels. It felt like I had added suspension which meant I could travel faster through these sections with much more confidence about how the bike would cope. There was so much payback for each pedal turn that going uphill felt smoother and faster without needing to search for the path of least resistance. Not having to concentrate intensely on line choice to save the legs was a relief. 
And speaking of my 48 year old legs, I didn’t feel the same ‘feedback’ into my knee joints and when my retirement horizon is coming into view that is no small deal. I want to spend my future riding more and working less. Ahead of my first Edition Zero followed by five days of bike packing my way to Queenstown, it seems a no brainer to dip into the retirement funds for increased safety, confidence, enjoyment, and longer years on the bike.

Sammie Maxwell

Photo credit: Russel Baker

The bike: Giant Anthem

The rider: Sammie Maxwell - 2023 U23 Womens XCO New Zealand National AND World Champion

Wheelset: Wheelworks FLITE TrailLite with Berd Polylight spokes

When I first saw my FLITE TrailLite Carbon rims on the new bike, my first thought was “Man those rims are wide!”. I’m not going to lie: I was apprehensive of the move to wide rims. I was sure I was going to notice a difference in rolling speed with the change from 25mm rims and 2.2’ tyres to the TrailLite’s 30mm rim paired up with 2.4’ tyres. However, after one pedal down the road I was pleasantly surprised, these wheels rolled well. And not just well, but I’m willing to say even better than my old narrow ones. On the tarmac it seemed almost effortless to maintain speed along the flat and on the dirt the wider tyres hooked corners better and didn’t stall over the rocks and roots. Perhaps it’s their lightweight design, or just the magic touch of the Wheelworks Team, but either way I’m not questioning it!

Then there are the Berd spokes. The idea of supporting your entire wheel with some ‘strings’ just seems like madness, and with a self-proclaimed riding style of ‘controlled chaos’ I could just see myself doing some serious damage to my wheels if they had Berd spokes. But I was reassured that they would be strong enough, so I decided to give them a go. And let me tell you, even goldilocks would be impressed with these things! Somewhere in the perfect zone, located between too strong and stiff and too flimsy and easy to break, you’ll find the Berd spokes. They have just enough flex to absorb the shock of bumps and roots on the descents allowing you to maintain speed, but not so much flex to feel like you’re losing power to them on the climbs. They feel strong and durable, but not too rigid; they are just perfectly firm, absorbing energy from the trail and the converting it into movement forward and over obstacles rather than hanging you up on features.

Now I can’t claim that this is all to do with the wheels, I did just move from a hardtail to a fully so perhaps some of the newfound smoothness is to do with a rear shock, but one thing I am sure about is that this combo is working and I’m in no hurry to change it. I’m sold on the wider, lighter rims that allow me to run lower pressures with fatter tyres while still holding speed, and the Berd spokes that help me maintain this speed even as I encounter rocks and roots. Plus, there’s the fact that every time someone asks you about your bike you get to show off your crazy spokes and impress everyone with your fancy technology 😉

Ethan Woods

The bike: Canyon Lux

The rider: Ethan Woods - International XC Racer

Test wheelset: Wheelworks FLITE TrailLite with Berd Polylight spokes

Compared to usual wheelset: Wheelworks FLITE TrailLite with DT Swiss Aerolite spokes

My first ride on them was in Kaiteriteri MTB park and they blew my mind. I have never ridden wheels that felt so different. They have a real feeling of weightlessness, they pop really nicely out of jumps and berms on my short travel Canyon lux.

I have also found them to be very quiet compared to the same wheels with DT Swiss aerolite spokes. I think that this is just the added compliance of the spokes being able to flex a little bit more. It also takes away the edge on rougher trails, especially when climbing. I can leave my suspension locked out for longer, making my climbing more efficient and faster (the Strava KOMs don't lie). Or if you're doing big days in the saddle, it keeps you more comfortable for longer. I did 180km of gravel from the bottom of the Rainbow ski field to Hanmer Springs and back. And I was able to stay comfortable for the whole ride.

I have found these wheels to be really responsive in their acceleration and with only one or two pedal strokes you can easily be up to full speed on a trail. They are also really easy to move around on the trail. With a short travel bike you can’t generally plow through a rough section of trail, instead you have to pick your lines. With these wheels I can easily jump or move from one line to another allowing me to ride way smoother.

I will struggle to race on anything other than these wheels now.

I think these wheels are good for anyone with a shorter travel bike looking for an edge over their competition. It would also make a great addition to a gravel bike for the extra comfort on the longer days.

Sam Nelson

The bike: Orbea Oiz TR

The rider: San Nelson - Trail Tryhard

Wheelset: Wheelworks FLITE TrailLite with Berd Polylight spokes

Usual wheelset: Light Bicycle 25mm rims on DT Swiss 240 EXP hubs

Alright, Berd wheels first 30km thoughts (at Makara Mountain Bike Park)

First climb Koru > Makara Peak. Everything felt smoother, not numbed or dulled down and there was no feeling of wasted energy or loss of efficiency.

Keeping the bike in full open mode as this is how I climb 99% of the time, I spent the first two climbs and descents getting used to the feeling.

I then decided a full gas run up T4 as hard as my heart would let me was called for. The wheels felt firm enough leaning into the high banked corners - there was no feeling of softness or big flex from them. Down full Pohatu and Starfish I was able to open things up more, the rough sections of Pohatu being notably faster rolling.

I was able to roll and rail harder again than before, much more so than on my original Orbea wheels and with less fatigue feeling from top to bottom on a long run. It was like I had an extra supportive 10mm of travel, but not.

The best analogy I could come up with for the difference in feeling when climbing, traversing and somewhat descending, is like this:

It’s like when you have been riding your bike for a full season or more and not had the suspension serviced. Then you send it away to Jono at Suspension Lab and he does his wizardry. You get the fork and shock back and it feels like every bump is still there but it’s being taken care of before the harshness hits your body. Not a mute feeling, not like a coil feeling either just really active and supportive feeling.

On the downhills the only way to put it into words is an extra few mm of suspension but also the most controlling and supported few mm you ever felt. The wheel tracks perfectly well but you can also open the brakes up a bit and let it take care of bits better. It was an added 10% confidence feeling if I had to put a number to it.

A few days later I did a second ride at Makara peak where I rode every trail in the park including 4wd roads and link trails (except Yeah Gnar). This really solidified my feelings above on these wheels and their validity on marathon usage.

Andrew Ivory

The bike: Kingdom Void Trail (single pivot Ti) - 130mm rear travel with DVO Topaz 2 and 140mm Rockshox Pike Ultimate Fork

The rider: Andrew Ivory - 80kg - Weekend Hacker

Test wheelset: Wheelworks FLITE TrailLite with Berd Polylight spokes, Maxxis Rekon Race tyres

Compared to usual wheelset: Wheelworks FLITE Enduro Carbon with DT Swiss Aerolite spokes, Vittoria Barzo XC/Trail tyres

I swapped the wheels over at work and rode home through town on the Berd build - I immediately noticed a reduction in road buzz over the cobbles down Lambton Quay, not a scientific test and could have been a bit in my head, but they certainly rode super-smooth.  

After a few more short rides I took them for a morning at Whareroa: a few loops of the 250vm climb then grade 3 descent of Track 2 / Red Tape. They felt fantastic uphill! Accelerated really nicely and smoothly, light over the terrain and easy to control. I blitzed all my uphill PBs. I guess this was not a huge surprise, given they saved a big chunk of weight over my regular wheel/tyre combo.

What I wasn’t expecting was how incredible they felt for me on the downhill. As an average weekend hacker, I really appreciated how soft and forgiving they were, letting me hit corners and technical sections with more speed, while still maintaining control on the exits. I can understand why a pro might find this “softness” slows them down, but it definitely worked well for me. I ended up blitzing all my downhill PBs as well, and even bagging a first-ever top 5 KOM for the circuit repeats.   

Obviously I’m sold on the Berd spokes and I’m looking now at how I can incorporate them into a gravel build - another discipline where the forgiving nature of the Berd spokes should make a tangible difference to an average rider’s confidence and speed.

Jesse Cseh

The bike: Deviate Claymore - 165mm rear travel with DVO Jade X, 170mm DVO Onyx fork.

The rider: Jesse Cseh - 75kg - EWS racer

Test Wheelset: Wheelworks FLITE TrailLite with Berd Polylight spokes, Maxxis Rekon Race Exo tyres. 
Usual wheelset: Wheelworks FLITE Enduro Carbon, DT Swiss Aerolite spokes, Dial Hubs, DH casing Maxxis tyres with Cushcore F & R.
Upon fitting these to my bike, I ran my eyes over the shoestring looking spokes and had already made my mind up about how they were going to feel; and how a wheelset like this would not suit me one bit.
I rode up to Mount Victoria and immediately was blown away with how different my bike felt. I change lots of things on my bike very frequently, but NEVER has one component made such a drastic difference to the handling. It took me a few laps to get to grasps with these wheels, but I was super impressed with how they handled climbing. My enduro bike handled like an XC bike with super quick acceleration and made for a super supple feel on the descents. If I closed my eyes and turned my head off, I was on a 10kg XC race bike blasting up climbs at warp speed. Descending – whenever I needed to put down some power out of a corner or along a flat section the wheels would allow me to gain speed far quicker than my stock wheels.  I actually couldn’t believe what such a simple wheel swap did to the handling of my bike. 
If you're someone who wants to have one bike to do everything on, a set of burly enduro/trail wheels, and a set of these, gives you the opportunity to run two completely different bikes to cover a super broad range of riding. 
As you’d expect with super light mountain bike wheels, I did personally notice the lack of stiffness in the wheels when descending very rough fast sections of track, but that’s not what these wheels are designed for. Particularly when pushing super hard into a corner to try and gain momentum from it, I found the wheels soaked up a portion of energy that I had come in with to leave me with less speed out of the corner than I would normally expect. 
So who are these for? I think these wheels would be perfect for someone who likes to smash out 30km+ rides on a Sunday, they want something comfortable over a long period of time, maybe even for someone who likes to smash out the odd XC race such as Karapoti, although not an overly technical course it can be rough at high speed and these would do a great job of dampening some of the feedback to the bike in order to keep you fresher for longer. 
Will these wheels make you faster? You're goddamn right. I think you just need to have perspective on what they are designed for. As mentioned, for me, I would run a set of these for a long training ride or any intervals I wanted to do on my mountain bike and have my enduro wheels ready at hand to swap out for when I wanted to smash down a grade 6 at warp speeds. 
Bonus is people will stare at your wheels and question what’s going on, but have no time to actually say anything because you’ll already be gone before they can say "what". 

Jacob Molé

The bike: Cube Stereo 150 Race C:62 - 150mm rear travel with 160mm Rockshox Super Deluxe Select+ and Rockshox Lyrik Select+ fork

The rider: Jacob Molé - 83kg - Aspiring Shredder

Test wheelset: Wheelworks FLITE TrailLite with Berd Polylight spokes, Maxxis Rekon Race tyres

Compared to usual wheelset: Wheelworks FLITE EnduroLite Carbon with DT Swiss Aerolite spokes, Maxxis Assegai / Dissector tyres

I installed the wheels on my bike and rode directly up Waimapihi to get some laps on my most frequented tracks. Instantly, the massive weight reduction made the bike feel more alive, which is true for any wheelset that drops weight. However, the other thing that was immediately noticeable was how soft and quiet the wheels felt. I often slam on the pedals trying to accelerate as quickly as I can, and the Berd spokes made any drivetrain engagement feel way less harsh. 

Climbing up the hill felt super great; I got to the top faster than ever, where I met-up with a regular riding buddy. Ready to rip, we headed over to ride Car Parts first, a great track to feel out some fast pushy corners and wow these wheels felt fast. The XC tyres were a big part of that, but the first track on the Berd build the bike felt like it was simply floating. So much of the usual chatter and buzz of the track melted away. Pressing through corners on the track felt really great as well, as the wheels felt more “springy”, entering corners softly and boosting out the other side. I left my buddy in the dust to both of our surprise!

We moved over to ride Ikigai, where I was interested to see how the wheels would feel jumping. This is where I wasn’t as stoked. The feeling of take-off felt less precise, but mid-air felt just the same as my usual wheels. The initial hit of the landing felt good –a bit softer, but I want to find split-second balance when moving into the next feature, and that felt a little dampened. Other than that I really enjoyed the rest of the flowy track on the Berd build, feeling a lot of the same great things as Car Parts: confident cornering, carrying more speed, hovering through rocky, gravely sections.

Last up was Serendipity, a good little test on how the wheels would feel on roots. I actually found most of this track to feel much the same as my usual wheels. I took as many rooty features as I could, and felt the wheels follow all the lines I wanted them to. Overall, just as comfortable as I would usually be, but definitely enjoy the smoother feeling, particularly on the cobblestone exit.

I’m super interested in continuing to ride wheels with Berd spokes, as overall I really enjoyed how they made my bike feel. The most dramatic feeling was how smooth the ride felt, other changes were noticeable, but more in inches comparatively. I reckon with more time on them, I would find them my go-to for bike park and afterwork rides, or particularly well-suited for a hardtail.