Ritchey P-650b Build Part 2: Ritchey Vantage II 27.5″ Wheels and Z-Max Evolution Tires
To go along with the Ritchey P-650b frame, the bike needed some 27.5″ wheels. Unlike many of the 27.5″ bikes on the market, the P-650b frame utilizes standard quick releases front and rear, so the wheelset needed to reflect that. Thanks to their solid blend of light weight, adaptability, and tubeless ready rims, the Ritchey WCS Vantage II alloy wheels seemed like a perfect fit. The II in the name refers to the fact that these are the next generation to the original Vantage rims that lit up the race courses in the 1990’s. For their reincarnation, the Vantage IIs feature an OCR (Offset Center Rim) design laced to Ritchey WCS hubs with light weight spokes.
Even Back in the 90’s, Ritchey was already running fairly wide rims with a few actually close to the current Vantage II external width. In this case the alloy rim measures 20mm deep with an internal width of 20mm (19.83), and external width of 24.35. Both front and rear rims use an offset design to equalize spoke tension as much as possible, and the rims are tubeless ready needing tape to run tubeless. Fortunately tubeless tape and valves are included with the wheels and are easy to install.
Ritchey’s WCS hubs uses a standard J-bend spoke design with fairly large hub flanges for increased stiffness. You’ll notice the hubs are Centerlock only – good news if you’re a fan of the standard. As mentioned, both hubs are convertible between the standard QR and thru axle. The rear uses different end caps to switch between 135 QR and 142×12 thru, while the front essentially uses a second axle that sits inside the 15mm hub. Once the axle is installed in the hub, the QR skewer is inserted through the adapter, and clamps the whole assembly in place. It’s an interesting take on a 15mm to QR9 adapter, and due to the design it seems like it may work for other 15mm hubs as well. Ritchey also sells a really nice 6 bolt adapter kit if Centerlock isn’t your thing, but at $40 a pop you’d probably be better off buying new rotors.
Front and rear wheels are laced 3x with 28 DT Competition 2.0/1.8 spokes each.
Unlike a lot of hubs on the market, Ritchey houses the 3 spring loaded pawls in the hub body rather than the freehub body. Hub internals are easily accessible with just two allen wrenches. You’ll find the tubeless tape, valves, and rear skewer inside the wheel box, but other parts like the front QR adapter and skewer are sold separately. SRAM’s XD freehub bodies are also available for the Vantage IIs.
XX1 weight savings isn’t just from losing the front derailleur. The freehub body is 7 grams lighter!
Weighed with rim strips installed, but no skewers, valves, or other parts in the 135 QR rear and 15mm TA front configuration, the wheels checked in at 900g for the rear and 760 for the front. Removing the rims trips would get closer to Ritchey’s claimed weight of 1,587g for the set.
Like the wheels, the Z-Max Evolution is a modern take on a classic Ritchey design. Based on the original Z-max which has been Ritchey’s signature tread for more than a decade now, the current version features tread lugs which are spaced a bit wider and are a little shorter for overall better performance. Only sold in 2.1″ widths across the board, the WCS tires use a dual compound rubber with a tubeless ready casing for better traction and a supple ride.
Not bad on the weight at 599g, but then again it is only a 2.1″ tire. The combination of the Z-max and the Vantage II wheels set up with the Ritchey tubeless kit required more Stan’s sealant than expected, but they sealed up fairly quickly. The Vantage II wheels are definitely not the most fool proof in the tubeless set up department, but I wouldn’t call it difficult. Especially considering the tires can be seated with a floor pump. After slowly leaking for a few days, they sealed up well and haven’t needed air since.
First impressions from the trail point to an extremely quick combination between the wheel and tires that should be perfect for fast XC riding. You can pick up a set of WCS Vantage II Alloy wheels for $799.90, with the Z-Max tires going for $69.95 a pop.