Forge and Bond Thermoplastic Rims

forge and bond 30 em wheels 0008 6434420d99193


The Takeaway: CSS Composites unveils its new Force and Bond house brand to push the limits of thermoplastic carbon technology and USA manufacturing. Debuting are two new wheelsets: An enduro mountain wheel, and a gravel wheel. The thermoplastic carbon rims promise a smoother ride and greater durability than the more common thermoset carbon, and on the former they certainly deliver. Thermoplastic carbon is easier to recycle than other carbon composites, and the production process has, the company claims, a smaller environmental impact than typical thermoset carbon.

  • Rims are made in Gunnison, Utah from US-sourced materials
  • Built with USA-made Industry Nine hubs
  • Tubeless-ready rims with hookless beads
  • Lifetime warranty provides free replacement of rims damaged while riding
  • 29-inch enduro mountain and 700c gravel wheels are available now. Other sizes and categories to follow
  • Built with Industry Nine hubs. Offered in multiple axle configurations and driver body options
  • Only offered as complete wheelsets. Rim-only options available in the future

Price: $2,599
Actual Weights (with tubeless tape and valves)
Gravel Wheels: 1476g
– Mountain Wheels 28 spoke: 1850g
– Mountain Wheels 32 spoke: 1962g

forge bond em 30

The mountain bike wheels come with either 28 or 32 spokes.

Trevor Raab

After a handful of years acting as an OE supplier of thermoplastic carbon parts to well-known brands like Revel, Evil, and Chris King, CSS Composites debuts its own aftermarket bicycle components brand: Forge and Bond.

I encourage you to read my story about thermoplastic composites for greater detail about the features and benefits of the material. The short version is CSS makes its thermoplastic products in the USA, from as much US-sourced material as possible. Compared to thermoset composites, thermoplastic employs a simpler, more automated, and less energy-intensive manufacturing process.

Thermoplastic carbon is also recyclable: CSS can recycle over 99 percent of the material used to make a rim; even the material trimmings left over from the manufacturing of the rim can be reused to make other products. One example is the tire levers that come with every Forge and Bond wheelset, which a representative described as so tough and strong that they are the “Last tire levers you’ll ever need.”

Forge and Bond wheels are available for sale today at the brand’s website.

forge and bond 25 gr

Forge and Bond debuts with wheels for mountain and gravel.

Dan Chabanov

Who is Forge and Bond?

Forge and Bond is the new bicycle components brand of CSS Composites. If CSS Composites sounds familiar, that’s because it is the company that makes Fusion Fiber thermoplastic carbon rims for Revel, Evil, and Chris King’s wheelsets, and the thermoplastic handlebar for Yeti’s 160-E e-bike. And CSS representatives hinted that several other wheelsets, from familiar brands not yet named, featuring Fusion Fiber rims will drop soon.

No matter if it’s a Chris King, Revel, Evil, or Forge and Bond rim (or another unnamed brand), CSS’s underlying Fusion Fiber thermoplastic ingredients are the same, “Carbon-reinforced nylon with a standard modulus fiber,” according to Joe Stanish, CSS’s COO.

But that does not mean that the rims are the same no matter what logo they carry. It’s a bit like a cooking reality show where everyone starts with the same ingredients and finishes with different dishes.

Plus, the rims are only one part of a wheel’s composition. Spokes are a big part too: Dimensions, number of spokes, crossing pattern, and spoke tension all influence a wheel’s feel and performance. The hubs also play a role, though it is largely down to the performance and reliability of the bearings and driver. Assembly and quality control procedures are also large, and often underrated, factors influencing a wheelset’s performance.

forge and bond 25 gr

The wavy shape is called NXS (no excess) and pares away material from lower stressed areas.

Dan Chabanov

This is all to say that though rims may all come out of the same factory in Gunnison, Utah, every wheelset with a CSS rim is a unique meal.

Forge and Bond debuts today with two wheelsets: one for gravel, the other an enduro-rated mountain bike wheelset. Both wheels are 700c/29 inch only, hookless, tubeless ready, and use Industry Nine hubs and Sapim spokes, and sell for $2,599. More specs and details are below.

While the company did not offer specific details about future F&B products, it was clear that more wheel options—sizes and intended use—are on the way. In fact, the Forge and Bond website lists cross country and all mountain wheels as “coming soon.” I’d wager we’ll also see handlebars, stems, and seatposts fairly soon.

Beyond those bits, I can only speculate but perhaps cranks, road and gravel forks, hub shells, dropper posts, flat pedals, bottle cages, and suspension linkages. Essentially, any bicycle product you see that’s made of plastic or thermoset carbon-fiber composite could be on Forge and Bond’s vision board. And I wouldn’t rule out bicycle frames either.

forge bond em 30

Fusion Fiber thermoplastic is at the heart of Forge and Bond’s wheels.

Trevor Raab

Why Forge and Bond?

While I find CSS’s Fusion Fiber technology and its sustainability story compelling, I still wanted to hear from company representatives why they decided to launch a new brand when they seemingly had a thriving and growing business supplying rims to OE customers.

“We want to showcase our technology with Forge and Bond,” said Stanish, “We’re not keeping things away from our OEMs, but we are a little more flexible with what we can do on the Forge and Bond side.”

Kell Kirby, Forge and Bond’s chief engineer, jumped in to say “We kept finding ourselves a bit held back trying to build exactly what [the customer] wanted. So, we said, ‘Let’s own that ourselves and take it to the next level.’ And then when we have that technology figured out, it is that much easier when we come to OEMs. We can say, ‘we can do exactly this, and here’s an example you can ride.’”

Forge and Bond F+B 30 EM

F+B 30 EM

Joe Wheadon, Forge and Bond’s vice president of sales and marketing added. “It’s not an us versus them situation at all. It’s more like we’re all this together. And the more we can innovate Fusion Fiber technology surrounding this material—our goal is to bring that to more OEMs. Forge and Bond is an innovation wheel. It’s our way of creating a revenue stream so that we can invest in the material science and the design of the products.”

forge and bond 25 gr

One visible detail that sets the Forge and Bond rims apart from the rims CSS makes for its current customers is the NXS (no excess) exterior shaping. The wavy appearance is the result of removing material from areas where it is not needed for strength or durability.

Complimenting its recycling and sustainability story, Forge and Bond wants all damaged wheels returned to its facility so the material can be reclaimed and turned into other products. The wheels get a lifetime warranty that states all rims damaged during “normal intended use” are replaced for free. If they’re damaged in other ways Forge and Bond will offer a “cost-effective” replacement rim.

forge and bond 25 gr

Forge and Bond’s 25 GR gravel wheelset

Dan Chabanov

25 GR 700c Gravel Wheel Details and Specifications

Rim weight: 380g
Wheel set weight (I9 Torch)
: 1510g
Outer Rim Width:
Inner Rim Width:
Bead Wall Thickness:
Rim Depth:
Spoke Count
: 24h
Sapim CX Ray
Rim Type:
Hookless / Tubeless
Hub Spec:
Industry Nine Torch
Driver Option: SRAM XDR or Shimano/SRAM HG
Tire Size Range:

forge and bond

Forge and Bond’s 30 EM 29″ mountain bike wheelset

Matt Phillips

30 EM 29-inch Mountain Wheel Details and Specifications

Rim weight: 530g
28h wheelset weight (I9 Hydra): 1884g
32h wheelset weight (I9 Hydra): 1982g
ERD: 594
Outer Rim Width: 38mm
Inner Rim Width: 30mm
Bead Wall Thickness: 4mm
Rim Depth: 22mm
Spoke Count: 28h or 32h
Spoke: Sapim D-Lite
Rim Type: Hookless / Tubeless
Hub Spec: Industry Nine Hydra
Driver Option: SRAM XD or Shimano Microspline
Axle Spacing: Boost 148mm, SuperBoost 157mm
Tire Size Range: 2.3”-2.6”

How They Ride

Bicycling received four wheelsets ahead of the launch to ride: Two gravel wheelsets, and two mountain wheelsets (one 28-spoke wheelset, one 32-spoke wheelset). I rode a gravel wheelset and the 28-spoke mountain wheelset on my home terrain around Durango Colorado. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, test editor Dan Chabanov rode the other gravel wheelset while photographer and product tester Trevor Raab banged around the 32-spoke mountain wheelset.

Despite the cast of characters, the different regions, and the different products tried, there was a unifying theme: The Forge and Bond wheels ride beautifully.

The claims of a smooth and damped ride are not mere ad copy: It is real and noticeable, and quite delicious. I noticed the vertical compliance of the wheels much more while riding the gravel bike than I did sampling the mountain bike wheels. Which makes sense: My gravel bike is rigid, while I ran the mountain wheels on the latest generation Trek Fuel EX full suspension bike. But while the vertical compliance wasn’t as noticeable while riding the mountain bike, I could feel improved tracking and traction as I slammed through rocky terrain.

Here’s some of what Dan said about the gravel wheels:

Where these wheels absolutely shine is in their ride quality. It’s sublime and compares rather favorably to hand built alloy wheels I’ve used in the past. It’s hard for me to distinguish if this is because these are simply well built wheels that use quality J-bend spokes built to relatively shallow rims or because there is some special sauce baked into the rims with what Forge and Bond calls FusionFiber. Either way, the result is a superbly smooth riding gravel wheelset that felt its best when hitting rough, rocky, rooty sections with a bit of speed. Uphill performance was quite good, particularly when seated. Even on really rocky climbs, as long as you had the power to keep the gear turning, the wheels seemed to keep finding traction.

forge bond em 30

Forge and Bond uses USA made Industry Nine hubs.

Trevor Raab

I’ve personally sampled CSS’s other work riding Chris King, Evil, and Revel wheelsets and they all have a notably damped ride. But in my opinion, the Forge and Bond wheels take it to the next level with a noticeable jump in smoothness. Are Forge and Bond wheels too damped? I like feedback and I like feeling some of the road and trails in my hands, feet, and butt: I did not find the F&B wheels too damped. But I do think they might cross that line for some riders.

Which makes me wonder: If future iterations of CSS rims get much more damped will they cross a threshold and become soggy and dead? Time will tell I suppose but I do think that when it comes to high-performance bicycles and enthusiast riding, there is such a thing as too smooth and too damp.

The F&B’s smooth and damped ride extends beyond vertical compliance and into wheel tracking and tire traction. Trevor said the wheels are, “Balanced in terms of not pinging off things but still able to confidently point them where I want to go,” which is an important and nuanced point. Conforming to the trail so they track straighter and stick to the ground more is great, but it loses some of its shine if the wheels are also flexy and compliant in the wrong ways and the bike doesn’t respond to rider input.

And that seems to be one of the more magical things about the Forge and Bond wheels. That they do offer noticeable compliance and the right kind of give, in the right directions, for performance benefits, yet they still feel snappy, responsive, and accurate. It’s a rare case where there seem to be no noticeable downsides to their prodigious upsides.

We need more time to evaluate long-term durability, but I’ve been on wheels with CSS rims for over a year and haven’t needed to touch them, which bodes well. And in my limited time on the Forge and Bond mountain wheels so far I’ve subjected them to a few good hits—some of which caused me to wince and stop to check for damage. So far though, they’re as straight and unblemished as new.

forge bond em 30

The wheels come pretaped and with insert friendly tubeless valves.

Trevor Raab

None of these Forge and Bond wheelsets are particularly light. Though the brand made a somewhat sly move by debuting wheelsets in categories where weight is lower on the priority list and things like smoothness and durability are more important. We’ll need to wait and see how thermoplastic rim technology does when put to use making light cross country wheels, or light and aerodynamic road racing wheels.

But while not particularly light, they do have “decent snap” as Dan put it. So, no, they don’t feel lighter than they are, but neither are they sluggish.

Another area where the wheels score will is aesthetics. “These wheels make a strong first impression,” said Dan, ”Pulling them out of the box, the finish of the carbon jumps right out at you. It’s beautifully organic with a deep, almost pearly-like finish that is a step above every carbon rim I’ve seen, except perhaps the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO rims.”

It seems erroneous to call Forge and Bond a new wheel brand as the company has had literal years in the game on the OE side. Even so, the prospect of getting potential game-changing materials and technology straight from the source is exciting. Especially when the final product is as superb as Forge and Bond’s.

Headshot of Matt Phillips

Senior Test Editor, Bicycling

A gear editor for his entire career, Matt’s journey to becoming a leading cycling tech journalist started in 1995, and he’s been at it ever since; likely riding more cycling equipment than anyone on the planet along the way. Previous to his time with Bicycling, Matt worked in bike shops as a service manager, mechanic, and sales person. Based in Durango, Colorado, he enjoys riding and testing any and all kinds of bikes, so you’re just as likely to see him on a road bike dressed in Lycra at a Tuesday night worlds ride as you are to find him dressed in a full face helmet and pads riding a bike park on an enduro bike. He doesn’t race often, but he’s game for anything; having entered road races, criteriums, trials competitions, dual slalom, downhill races, enduros, stage races, short track, time trials, and gran fondos. Next up on his to-do list: a multi day bikepacking trip, and an e-bike race. 


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