Despite the many technological developments in mountain biking, one component that has stubbornly stayed true to its roots is the humble spoked wheel. Aside from the frame, and the forks, the wheels are the most important part of the bike and make the biggest contribution to how it rides. A good set of wheels then, is a wise investment.
Aiming to offer just that is Strada. Based down in sunny Sussex, Strada launched into the business of offering hand built wheels about two years ago. Their pitch is to offer a custom hand-built wheel building service, something that once used to the mainstay of the bicycle world.
Since the late 90s factory-built wheels have risen in popularity demoting the once familiar process of choosing wheels from their components parts and having an expert wheel builder put them together, a thing of the part. Wheel building has almost become a lost art.
Strada are offering a custom hand-built wheel service for the growing number of riders who want to specify a set of wheels, based on personal taste and riding style. There are other valid reasons for hand-built wheels, namely the ease of replacing broken spokes.
These wheels chosen for review are their £496 MTB XC tubeless wheels, and first impressions when they arrived were that they were built to the highest quality. Our wheels have been built around their own branded hubs. Designed to Strada’s own specifications, they roll smoothly on ceramic bearings and, while not as tasty as some of the pricier Hope and Chris King hub options, they’re a light place to start, 245g rear and 145g front.
Stitching both wheels together is 32 DT Swiss Super Comp spokes. They’re laced to BOR-FRM XMD 333 rims. Made from extruded 6082 alloy with a sleeved, welded and CNC design, they have an asymmetric profile. Light at just 330g each but despite this lack of they have proved durable in the world’s toughest mountain bike a event, the Cape Epic stage race – as a sticker proudly proclaims.
They came pre-fitted with rim strips and valves, and combined with a pair of Bontrager tubeless-ready tyres and some sealant, they inflated easily, the beads popping up into rim at the first attempt, using just a regular track pump.
At a shade over 1430g the wheels are light, positioned as they are to be solid cross-country wheelset for the rider looking to reduce the weight of the bike, without breaking the bank or resorting to some exotic wheels.
They do come with an 80kg rider weight limit, though. Safely under the weight limit, we fitted them to the resident Kinesis cross-country race bike and found them to be a light wheelset that spins up to speed impressively. Any concerns over stiffness were quickly dispatched, there’s minimal lateral flex or twist even at race speeds through some of the roughest trails on our local test loop.
Pick up on the cassette is snappy and fast, making for good response out of corners when getting back on the pedals. Perfect for racing. They are a forgiving wheelset too, translating some comfort through to the rider on longer rides or more inhospitable terrain – nice when you’re on an aluminium hardtail with a 100mm suspension fork.
We’ve been riding them for a good while now and they have remained absolutely as true as the day they arrived. The bearings are still running smoothly too. A sign of how well built they are that even now, spoke tension remains good throughout, proving just how good proper hand-built wheels are in the long-term.
A good value wheelset for the privateer racer wanting a fast, light and responsive hand-built wheel.