The Drift gravel wheels from Dutch company FFWD combine lightweight carbon rims with excellent, well proven hubs to create a stiff, high performance wheelset – but this level of performance comes at a price.
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The FFWD Drift feature a hookless carbon rim with a 24mm internal width. This extra width creates a more stable tyre which is more important as the tyre width increases – the Drift wheels are designed to fit a wide range of tyres, from 30mm to 60mm (2.35”) meaning you can even fit 29” mountain bike tyres to your gravel bike (note these aren't Boost hubs, so the Drifts will not fit most modern mountain bikes).
At 1580g (with tape, which is pre-installed) they're on a par with many road wheels, and the 36mm rim depth means at least a small element of aerodynamic benefit compared to a box section.
The 12mm channel is deep enough to make for really easy tyre fitting and inflation on all the tyres the wheels were tested with, including some tyres I have previously struggled to either install or inflate.
The spokes are DT Swiss' bladed Aero Comps (24 front and rear) and the brass prolock nipples promise easy maintenance over the longterm.
The hubs are also DT Swiss – 240EXP, widely regarded as some of the best all-round hub sets available – and combine excellent durability with low weight and friction. The ratchet system within the freehub delivers near-instant pickup and is very strong.
We tested the Shimano type freehub, but there is also the option for SRAM XDR and Campagnolo – although the latter's the standard freehub and not the newer Ekar-compatible N3W freehub body.
The initial and overwhelming impression is how stiff the wheelset is. Even with wider tyres fitted, the wheels have very little flex under high power efforts for steep climbs or sprints. They also give noticeably sharper handling on less technical, faster descents such as typical forest road or byway tracks.
This stiffness isn't always brilliant, however. On more technical sections the wheels like to ping off rocks and make for tricker descending – especially at low speeds – throwing you off course where alloy wheels are happier to shimmy through.
Does this make them too stiff? This will depend on your intended use – having fitter bigger tyres, and keeping to faster, more open tracks and trails, I had no negatives to report.
At £1500, these are a considerable investment and face some tough competition. The Zipp 303 Firecrest is an obvious contender, as although they're £100 more they're just over 200g lighter (claimed). There are also some excellent wheels for much less, including the Zipp 303S is considerably cheaper at £985 and still has a moderately wide 23mm internal rim and close to the Drift wheels on weight at 1550g.
Just Riding Along's Mahi Mahi 40 wheels offer a 40mm rim depth and 22mm internal width, plus the option of custom builds, for £850. What all these wheels lack, however, is those fantastic DT Swiss hubs.
The FFWD Drift wheelset delivers a mix of proven, high performance DT Swiss 240EXT hubs and broad, stiff 24mm carbon rims. Though arguably a little too stiff for some on technical ground, in general this is a light, very efficient and versatile wheelset that promises to keep performing for years to come.