Review: Xentis XBL Wheelsets
Full gallery of images throughout

Outside of a proper fit, the best way to improving your ride quality is upgraded wheels. It can be an easy choice to make if you have the means but the research can be overwhelming. That's because there is no end to the brands and options available to you as a consumer... with more coming out every day. On top of it all, it's not cheap. Quality carbon wheels will cost as much, if not more than your frame. Where to even start? 

In my own search for the RIGHT wheels I’ve gone through more than I’d like to admit. One of the brands that caught my attention along the way is XeNTiS. They have a distinctive look, a focus on hand built end-to-end construction, and people have good things to say about them.  

When Stage Race Distribution asked if I was interested in riding some of their XeNTiS wheels to find out what all the hype is about, I quickly said yes. Although the XeNTiS wheels range from entry level to the feature filled high-end, I asked to ride the stock XBL series. Why? I believe this is the product offer that best represents the interests of the everyday and more budget conscious cyclist… like me.  

A Bit About XeNTiS Wheels

Drawing off the expertise of their ownership, automotive parts manufacturer Remus, all XeNTiS wheels are hand-built in Austria with incredible attention paid to them. Each model is available as tubular or clinchers and either as a complete wheelset or rims for custom builds. All XeNTiS rims are built with anti-rattle valve sleeves and an RFID tag embedded into the rim to help track the wheels through their lifespan. 

The XeNTiS XBL range of wheels have conventional profile shapes, an external width of 20mm at the brake track, and are finished in a glossy 12k weave. Branding is in either black or white decal graphics. If you’re looking for a wheel to de-badge this may be a point of interest to you. But if you choose to remove the stickers make sure to note the tire inflation limits that are included on the rim!  

Stock XBL wheelsets are laced to XeNTiS branded Shimano/Sram or Campagnolo compatable steel bearing hubs with Sapim CX Ray spokes. The front wheels use straight pull spokes where the back use both straight pull and J Bends. And all with internal nipples. Does that matter? Yes. Internal nipples mean the tire and tape will need to be removed in order to service or true the wheels. The good news, it's nothing out of the ordinary for your local bike shop. 

If you do some research on XeNTiS wheels (which is probably what brought you here), you’re going to find a lot of talk about their braking quality. That stopping power is thanks to XeNTiS' XBP braking surface. This proprietary machining process removes ~80% of the resin from the brake track to expose rougher carbon below. The end results is a brake track that creates greater friction and grip.  XeNTiS recommends using their branded Swiss Stop pads but say that the XBP braking surface works so well and is so durable that normal brake pads can be used. Although I haven’t tried myself.

To make sure you're ready to roll, each new wheelset comes with a set of quick-release skewers, rim strips, and a personally initialed production tag. A well trued rim should have less than .5mm of lateral (side to side) or radial (up and down) variance. The initialed production tag shows the final run out specs of your rims. 

Resource: A pretty good article on run out and rim variance
Resource: Park Tools Wheel and Rim Truing

Overall Impressions

The XeNTiS XBL wheels definitely have their own aesthetic thanks to their 12K carbon weave. Truthfully I’ve never been a big fan of carbon weave rims but there is something different about the XeNTiS XBLs which I find appealing. Their weave has an almost houndstooth appearance to it. And now available with all black decals, the XeNTiS XLB rims take on a really stealthy appearance that looks fast just standing still.

They are a lot for the eye to look at but how do they ride? Pick up the rim and that hand-built quality and craftsmanship can be felt. Despite their low weights (each listed below) they feel secure, stable, stiff, and importantly true on the road. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden on a narrower width rim, however, it didn’t take long to get used to seeing them over the bars. Best part is they were rolling as fast as they look and the 3 pawl freehub is surprisingly quiet. 

Aside from how quickly they spin up, it was the braking power that really raised my eyebrows. Braking is both fast and sure thanks to the XBP brake track. Honesty I could write about the braking in exhausting detail but I figured nothing would get this point across better than showing it. That’s why I headed out to a local testing ground to put together the video included here. Time and time again I was able to brake with complete control from 30kph to 0kph in about 10 feet.  To me, that’s impressive. Very impressive.  

Conditions for the braking test were dry roads, light cross wind, ee Cycleworks brakes and Swiss Stop Black Prince pads.

Scapin Anouk with Xentis XBL 4.2 wheels

Xentis XBL and their XBP machined brake track.

Xentis XBL and their XBP machined brake track.

XeNTiS XBL 2.5's - list price $1,599USD

The 25 millimetre depth of the XeNTiS XBL 2.5’s may not be the most popular choice but when it comes to climbing, these are a lethal weapon. At my age and weight, I’m not the worlds greatest climber and have never claimed to be. But put the Xentis 2.5s underneath me and I am searching for ascents…. laughing my way up to the top. The low weight of the XBL 2.5s give them a dreamy airiness and pairing them with 25c 320 TPI gumwall tires makes all the roads creamy smooth.  

Reality does set in that rides aren’t all uphill. Many point the overall advantage to deeper rims because they are easier to keep up at high speeds. The good news here is that I found the XeNTiS XBL 2.5s very easy to accelerate from a dead stop but also easy to hold at rolling pace. I’m not sure if this particular wheelset was the exception to the rule for the XeNTiS branded hubs as the 3 pawl free hub was surprisingly quiet. 

Looking across the XeNTiS range the greatest upside and downside to the XeNTiS XBL 2.5s are their light weight. On the ups, the front weighed in at 558 grams while the rear came in at 693 grams on my scale. Thankfully at just 1251 grams (claimed 1260 grams) these keep me and my bike under the 85kg combined rider and bike weight limit. Even though I may be skirting that weight limit, I did not feel any brake rub when riding in or out of the saddle. I suspect that's a result of the boxed A shaped profile of the rim which is quite strong. 

Resource: Corey Wood on Rim Design

On the downside their lightness made the back end of the bike kick around a bit when rolling over bumps and rough roads. I noticed this a few times when riding both in and out of the saddle. Let’s be honest though, is that the worst problem in the world to have?    

Resources: XeNTiS XBL 2.5 Tech Specs

  • Dimension: 622 x 13C ETRTO
  • Tires: clincher 18-622 to 25-622
  • Tire inflation pressure:
    • 10,0 bar (18-622)/145 psi in 18-622
    • 9,5 bar (21-622)/ 136 psi in 21-622
    • 9,0 bar (22-622)/130 psi in 22-622
    • 9,0 bar (23-622)/130 psi in 23-622
    • 7,5 bar (25-622)/116 psi in 25-622
  • Braking surface: XBP CARBON (patentiert / patented)
  • Rim depth: 25mm
  • Rim width: 20mm
  • Spoke count: 20 straight laced/24 straight NDS and 2x DS
  • Spoke type: Sapim CX Ray
  • Hub: XeNTiS with steel bearings
  • Compatibility:
    • Campagnolo 9/10/11-Speed
    • Shimano 9/10/11-Speed
    • SRAM 10/11-Speed
  • Accessories: XeNTiS warranty card / XeNTiS quick release / XeNTiS Rim tape
  • Weight per set: WHITE: 1260g / ALL BLACK: 1260g
  • Max. combined weight: 85kg

Xentis XBL 2.5 - front wheel - on the scale

Xentis XBL 2.5 front wheel - 558 grams

Xentis XBL 2.5 - front wheel

Xentis XBL 2.5 - rear wheel

Xentis XBL 2.5 - rear wheel - on the scale

Xentis XBL 2.5 - rear wheel - 693 grams

XeNTiS XBL 4.2's - List Price $1,655USD

Light. Stiff. Aero. The sultry love triangle that everyone is searching for. It also seems to be the dilemma that every wheel manufacturer claims to have a solution for. Side by side, the XeNTiS XBL 4.2s are the peanut butter to the 2.5s jelly. At 42mm deep the XeNTiS XBL 4.2s are well within the lightweight category and able contend on stage with the most popular of wheels.  By my scale the front came in at 647 grams and the rear wheel at 790 grams for a total of 1437 grams  (claimed 1407 grams.) For comparison sake that’s lighter than even some of the best shallow aluminum clinchers but with all the aero advantages that come with a deeper profile. The deeper depth of the XBL 4.2s also raises the maximum combined rider/bike weight limit to 100kg.

The upside to the XeNTiS XBL 4.2s is the how light and slippery they are in the wind. Even without the latest toroidal rim profile shapes, the XBL 4.2s cut through the wind and I have not found any concerning performance issues with yaw angled winds. Out on the road they were very easy to keep rolling and a complete blast in a pace line. As with all the XeNTiS wheels the XBP brake track exceeds expectations. In fact it was the XBL 4.2s which I used for the braking test because of their more popular depth and higher weight. Each time they were able to come to a controlled stop from 30kph in about 10 feet. When moving up to the 42mm depth, XeNTiS molds a magnet into the rim bed to connect with your speed/cadence sensor. If you can line it up, that’ll help add to the cleanliness of your bike. The embedded spoke magnet is a great little detail but it depends if you are able to line it. For me I use the WOOdman Components Cadenze sensor that is mounted in the axel of my pedal and that alignment moves my Garmin GSC-10 sensor too back the chainstay to catch the rim magnet. And you won’t need that rim magnet if you are using the newer Garmin sensor

The downsides to the XeNTiS XBL 4.2s are that if you’re considering these against a shallow carbon wheelset like the XBL 2.5s they do take a bit more effort to spin up. That’s thanks to the slightly heavier rotational weight but it was really only noticeable when swapping between the two wheelsets.

Resources: XeNTiS XBL 4.2 Tech Specs

  • Dimension: 622 x 13C ETRTO
  • Tires: clincher 18-622 to 25-622
  • Tire inflation pressure:
    • 10,0 bar (18-622)/145 psi in 18-623
    • 9,5 bar (21-622)/ 136 psi in 21-623
    • 9,0 bar (22-622)/130 psi in 22-623
    • 9,0 bar (23-622)/130 psi in 23-623
    • 7,5 bar (25-622)/116 psi in 25-622
  • Braking surface: XBP CARBON (patentiert / patented)
  • Rim depth: 42mm
  • Rim width: 20mm
  • Spoke count: 20 straight laced/24 straight NDS and 2x DS
  • Spoke type: Sapim CX Ray
  • Hub: XeNTiS with steel bearings
  • Compatibility:
    • Campagnolo 9/10/11-Speed
    • Shimano 9/10/11-Speed
    • SRAM 10/11-Speed
  • accessories: XeNTiS warranty card / XeNTiS quick release / XeNTiS Rim tape
  • Weight per set: WHITE: 1407g / ALL BLACK: 1407g
  • Max. combined weight: 100kg

Xentis XBL 4.2 - front wheel - on the scale

Xentis XBL 4.2 - front wheel - 647 grams

Xentis XBL 4.2 - front wheel

Xentis XBL 4.2 - rear wheel

Xentis XBL 4.2 - rear wheel - on the scale

Xentis XBL 4.2 - rear wheel - 790 grams

Another Perspective by Eryn Stott

Earlier this year I shot two incredible custom Mosaic Bespoke Bicycles for the March Mosiac’ness article. One of those is built up with the XeNTiS XBL 4.2s so I reached out to the owner, Eryn, to get his perspective on these wheels. Here are his words.

"I can't say enough about how awesome these wheels are. I've been on them for three years now. The braking is incredible, on a quick descent in Pennsylvania a car blew a stop sign and these performed as I was hoping. For a deeper rim they climb really well and you don't get that flex sound like I've experienced with higher end carbon hoops. The hubs roll smooth from first pedal stroke and they have a distinctive freewheel noise. Just enough to remind people in front that you're there. Oh and did I mention they're handmade?"

Custom Building With XeNTiS Rims

Although I've been riding the stock built XBLs I know XeNTiS rims are available for custom builds. So I reached out to two builders and friends who I know have done a lot of work with these rims. I want to share their impressions for anyone considering these for a custom build.

Corey Wood - Service Technician & Wheelbuilder

A photo posted by Corey Wood (@cheekywood) on

"Building a carbon wheel by hand tells you a lot about the rim itself. How the material responds to your input shows you how thick the walls are, how thick the second wall is, what quality of finish is left inside the rim after manufacture, etc. Some of them make a lot of noise throughout, which can be sort of frightening. It’s fun and really interesting.  XeNTiS rims are very light, and yet, remain quite a stable rim during the tensioning part of the build process. Rarely do I hear from a client needing a XeNTiS wheel to be trued, which is always a good indicator of a tight build but also of a reliable component.  

Different brands do their thing their own way, and most have some special feature that differentiates them from the others. Sometimes that feature has an impact on the riding experience, and sometimes it does not. XeNTiS carbon rims have one of the best braking surfaces going. This detail, for me, is probably the most important one for a carbon rim.  It very directly tells me that I will trust my machine to take me safely down steep descents and that I will be able to realize the full potential of the wheels while doing so, without the worry of a sloppy entrance to a technical turn(hair raised on back of neck).  When it matters, it matters a LOT. 

I’m looking forward to my next build.  And my next ride."

Andrew Schwab - Wheelbuilder, Urbane Cycle

"Beyond just factory built wheels, XeNTiS rims are a great choice for custom hand-built wheelsets. While they may not be as technologically innovative as some companies, XeNTiS offers class leading low weight, excellent braking characteristics, and a wide variety of profiles, graphics, and carbon layups to suit the most discerning rider. The quality of their rims has shown steady improvement over time, and are certainly worth considering if you are looking for a unique, lightweight wheelset."

Bottom Line

The XeNTiS XBL wheelsets are a quality contender that stands up side by side with the biggest brand and made only more attractive by their price point. On the road their construction, reliability, and braking performance make the XBL series of wheels a really compelling offer for anyone looking for a serious upgrade in their wheels.  

If you are choosing between the 2.5 and 4.2, the XeNTiS XBL 2.5 is the better choice for those with KOM dreams and maybe for those who’s rides have a lot of starting and stopping. The XeNTiS XBL 4.2 is the clear choice for those who like to sprint or roll fast and long. 

All things considered, the Xentis XBL 2.5 would be my choice. Why? Because once they were gone I couldn't stop them from rolling around in my mind. Yes the XBL 4.2s have an aero advantage I'd elect for the energy saved in climbing which is where I need help.

If a wider profile and a matte UD finish are a must have for you, take a step up to the XeNTiS squad series.