The Levati XC32 wheelset's insanely low weight is impressive but the wheels go beyond that with a reasonably wide carbon rim offering good tyre support and a build that has proven to be sturdy and reliable. Are they a genuine contender among the best mountain bike wheels read on to find out.
Levati is a British firm headquartered on the South Coast that produces a modest range of wheels with a focus on lightweight construction without sacrificing durability or performance.
Levati XC32 wheelset – Technical details
The wheelset uses a T700 carbon rim with an external diameter of 32mm (the figure that gives the wheelset its name) and an internal diameter of 27mm. The rim shape and spoke holes create an asymmetric lacing pattern that is intended to equalise spoke tension and each spoke hole is strengthened by a visible raised area surrounding them.
To help reduce every gram, the bladed, straight-pull stainless steel spokes are held in place with black alloy nipples. The hubs are unbranded with a spoke count of 28 front and rear and feature a centerlock disc-brake mounting interface. The wheels can be had with the choice of Shimano HG, Shimano Microspline and SRAM XD freehubs.
The freehub has 54 points of engagement and uses a six-pawl mechanism with simultaneous pawl engagement.
The wheelset is advertised to weigh 1,308g, with our test wheels weighing 615g for the front and 725g for the rear with tubeless tape. The actual weight of 1,340g falls short of the claims with the claimed figure most likely taking in a naked rim and possibly a different freehub.
Levati recommends a maximum system weight of 120kg, which is the total mass of the rider and gear. They additionally provide a three-year warranty against defects beyond natural wear and tear.
Levati XC32 wheelset – Performance
The wheelset arrived pre-taped, with valves and a few spare spokes in case a replacement is ever needed. Tyre installation and inflation were straightforward, and a few different brands of tyre were tested, all of which were equally simple to install. The rim has an internal diameter of 27mm. This is a little below some carbon cross-country options, including the Roval Control SL and Bontrager Kovee which are both 29mm, but wider than most aluminium and some other carbon rim options aimed for cross-country use.
The low weight is notable for a cross-country wheelset and this was apparent when riding. The hubs have a 54-point engagement freehub with a six-pawl engagement and a 6.6-degree pickup. It feels quick and the faster pickup is welcome on stop-start sections, however, it doesn't quite match the smoother sound or movement of a star-ratchet design – but there is no impact on actual performance. For cross-country mountain biking, I find a quick engagement within the hub is most apparent and important on climbs with some technical steps and terrain that requires a lot of on/off pedalling.
The freehub is noisy and, while it is not the loudest we have tried, the buzz is noticeable, which may divide opinions. The premium quality, but unbranded Japanese bearings given to the hubs run smoothly. The bearing sizes are standard so replacements should be easy to source and the freehub slips off without tools, providing quick and easy access for light maintenance.
The impressive performance continues in descending situations with a combination of a broader tyre profile and the stiffness of the construction both contributing to a wheelset that changes direction quickly. There is no obvious flex and the overall performance boosted my confidence, enabling me to set some seasonal PBs down my favourite trails.
After testing, the wheels have remained completely true and the spoke tension is tight and, most significantly, consistent throughout both wheels.
Levati XC32 wheelset - Verdict
The weight of the wheelset will undoubtedly be a deciding factor for many cross-country riders, so it is worth comparing it to other options on the market.
The Roval Control SL29 weighs 1,240g, the ENVE M5 weighs 1,388g and the Reynolds Blacklabel XC 259 Hydra weighs 1,380g – all of those wheels carry a premium price tag of more than £2,000.
Hunt produces a few lightweight options closer to the price point of the Levati XC32, including the recently released Proven Carbon XC Race UD Carbon Spoke, 1,254g (£1,349) and the slightly cheaper Carbon Race XC, 1,469g (£999) but few other choices combine price, weight and a rim spec close to 30mm ID.
As a new player in a highly competitive market, there may be a degree of uncertainty among potential buyers but Levati has managed to create a wheelset with a specification list, pricing and performance that competes, if not outperforms, many of the established brands.