There is a huge range of mountain bike wheels available to buy, from cross country race wheelsets to trail orientated ones to those using wider, tougher enduro and all-mountain rims. It's the latter two riding categories we are concerned with here. Our best-of will help you find the best trail and enduro wheelset from those we've tried, rigorously tested and reviewed. Here's our best on test...
[Updated 9th March 2020]
The best trail and enduro wheelsets
Need to know: trail and enduro wheelsets
The most important thing with wheels is to get the correct diameter for your bike, with 29" and 650b being the most common options, though older bikes may use a 26" rim. You'll also need to ensure that the hubs have the correct sizing and axle standard, though this is much easier nowadays with most bikes using a 'Boost' spacing of 148mm width with a 12mm axle on the rear and 110mm with a 15mm axle on the front. See what's on your bike currently and ensure your new wheelset is the same - failing that, consult your frame manufacturer.
Other potential pitfalls are with the disc brake mounting standard, with six-bolt and Shimano's Centrelock on offer. You can use adaptors to mount six-bolt rotors to a Centrelock hub, but it's not possible to fit Centrelock rotors onto a six-bolt hub, so once again check before you buy. You'll also need to make sure you have the correct style of driver body for your cassette on the rear hub, with Shimano HG, SRAM's XD and now Shimano Micro Spline on offer.
Rim width is another consideration, with 30mm plus internal widths now being common on most trail and enduro bikes to give a good shape to 2.4"+ tyres. Tubeless compatibility is a must, though most aftermarket wheels will come ready to go these days.
As wheels get more expensive, they tend to get both tougher and lighter, though outright weight isn't as much of an issue as many think in practice. The more expensive the hubs, the faster the freehub will engage, which is important when you're riding in technical terrain. It's worth considering the availability of replacement spokes - most lengths of J-bend spoke can be found easily, but special straight-pull spokes might be a lot trickier to source in a hurry.
The Sector 9i carbon wheelset is light, stiff and yet comfy on rough trails, which it can handle at anything up to enduro race speeds. If you ride 27.5" you'll have to build your own from just the rim, however, as this tubeless-ready wheelset is 29" only – and those looks won't be for everyone.
Crankbrothers Synthesis E 11 is a carbon wheelset of impressive quality, with top-class Industry Nine hubs, position-specific rims and unique builds for each end. It’s hard to fault these impressively robust hoops for concept and quality, although the difference in compliance between front and rear is hard to feel – and the price is top dollar.
If you can stomach the price tag, Crankbrothers' Synthesis E11s – with i9 hubs – are a seriously well-built, extremely responsive and lovely-looking addition to any bike. They don't solve the fundamental issues with carbon's willingness to shake rather than shimmy through the rocks, but if that doesn't bother you, you're unlikely to do anything but love the Synthesis E 11s.
Hope's 35W Pro 4 wheels are super-sturdy, wide enough to make the most of aggressive trail tyres, spin on excellent hubs and offer impressive strength and durability. High weight means they're not the most sprightly option though, and climbing on them can be a chore.
The Ryde Edge 30 OS Enduro wheelset goes a long way to prove that you really needn't pay the earth on a wheelset to get great performance. If you’ve got a few hundred quid to spend on a new wheelset, you could do far worse than a set of Ryde Edge 30s. They’ve been genuinely faultless and have left us thoroughly impressed.
The Halo Ridge Line 27.5" wheels are a bargain wheelset that has stood the test of time very well indeed. They might be a little heavy but at £240, tubeless taped and ready to ride, we are not going to moan too much about an extra 250g over priced rivals.
With a 30mm wide internal rim width, the Halo Ridge Line’s are built as a good match for the current crop of 2.5” tyres, it shows Halo is on the ball and have their finger on the pulse when designing new products. It’s great that the rims come taped and ready to roll once you’ve added tyres and sealant, that’s added value in an already bargain product.
FSA's Afterburner Wider wheelset is a respectably lightweight and versatile choice for trail riding that's put up well with some heavy usage. They're stiff without being harsh, the hubs have run smooth and the rims have stayed true. The only downside is that the 27mm internal width is a touch slender for the latest higher-volume rubber. All in all, this is a wheelset that's at a decent weight and price. It's possible to find lighter, wider and cheaper options but the FSA Afterburner Wider 148 wheelset is plenty tough and reliable and rides well to boot.
Miche might not be the first name you'd think of when it comes to mountain bike wheels, but the 977 AXY wheelset is a well featured and durable wheelset at a very respectable price and weight. It's available in both 27.5" and 29" sizes too. Overall, the 977 AXY is a quality wheelset with some great features that deliver reliable performance at a respectable weight and price. More aggressive riders might want to look at the wider 977 AXY Boost wheelset for running fatter rubber but as an all-around trail wheelset, it hits the mark.
DT Swiss' M1900 all-mountain aluminium wheels are a 30mm internal width wheelset with a budget price tag. Using different hubs but the same rims as the lighter M1700 wheelset, we did have a bearing niggle with our front wheel but the wheelset has on the whole been hassle free. They are still straight and dent free after six months of testing too.
If you value the quality of the wheel build, want a hard wearing wheelset with great ride quality and don’t mind the slower engagement of the hub then these wheels could be on your shopping list. For the price, they are a reasonable weight, they come in a range of widths and sizes to suit your preferences and despite being a trail rim, they stand up to the abuse of ‘enduro’ style riding well.
The Halo Vortex wheelset is relatively robust, wider than the average, pretty cheap but also slightly hefty too. If you want a good platform for running more voluminous tyres and don’t mind a bit extra weight then the Vortex’s will be a good choice for a sturdy set of hoops for long travel machines.
We'll be adding more wheels to this list as we test them. Next up are some more from DT Swiss.
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