We've all heard Keith Bontrager's 'Strong. Light. Cheap. Pick two.' adage before, and in the XC world that saying still tends to hold true. Silt wheels, the small Irish upstart, are hoping to change that with their XC Carbon wheelset. The wheels weigh in at 1396 grams for the pair, and are priced at $1,000 USD.
That's obviously still a lot of money, but compared to the prices of other carbon wheelsets in this category these are one of the least expensive pre-built options currently on the market. So while cheap might not be the right word, they're still a relative bargain. As for the strong portion of the equation, I've been bashing them around for the last few months to see what they can handle.
Silt XC Details
• Wheel size: 29"
• Intended use: cross-country
• Rim material: carbon fiber
• Rim width: 27mm (internal)
• Hubs: Silt Ratchet Drive
• Rider weight limit: 120 kg (264 lb)
• Weight: 632 g (front) / 764 g (rear) / 1396 g total
• MSRP: $1,000 USD
• More info: www.siltmtb.com
The XC wheels' carbon rims have an internal width of 27mm, and a depth of 25mm. The rim bead is 2mm thick, which is pretty typical for a cross-country rim, although we are starting to see more options hit the market that are a little wider, in the neighborhood of 4mm. The idea is that a wider rim bead helps reduce the likelihood of a pinch flat when the tire gets smashed against the rim.
The 28 hole rims are laced up to Silt's own hubs with Pillar bladed spokes in a 2-cross pattern.
The rear hub uses Silt's Ratchet Drive system that functions in a similar manner to what's found on DT Swiss' EXP series of hubs. A 36-tooth ratchet ring is fixed in place on the inboard portion of the hub, and it interfaces with another ratchet ring that sits on a leaf spring in the freehub body. That means there's 10-degrees of crank rotation between engagement points, a fairly typical number.
The wheels use a total of six stainless steel bearings (two in the front and four in the rear) in the common 6902 and 6804 sizes. Accessing the bearing that's behind the fixed ratchet ring does require a special tool, but thankfully Silt has those available for $15. The wheels do come with spare spokes, spare nipples, and tubeless valves at no extra charge. SETUP
Getting the Silt XC wheels setup up tubeless was relatively straightforward, although I did need to resort to a charger-style pump to get the extra blast of air needed to seat the tires. Whether that's down to the tires or the rim design is hard to say – I was using lighter, thinner casing tires for most of the test period, and those can require additional coaxing to pop into place.
I ran a couple of different tire combinations during testing, with widths between 2.3” - 2.4”, and tire pressures in the low 20's, typically 21 psi in the front and 23 psi in the rear. Those pressures worked well for the wetter conditions that prevailed, and I managed to avoid any pinch flats during that time. ON THE TRAIL
The Silt XC wheels took the place of a wheelset that was just 100 grams lighter, so it wasn't the wheelset's fairly light weight that I noticed right away. Instead, it was the racket the hub made when I was coasting. Now, I've ridden my fair share of loud hubs, but out of the box Silt's Ratchet Drive is louder and more distracting than anything I've tried before. The overall decibel level is louder than a Chris King or Industry Nine hub, and the lower pitch seems like it makes it more noticeable.
Granted, I prefer quiet hubs over noisy ones, but I think the cacophony this hub makes may be excessive even for riders who think they're in the “loud hubs are better” camp. I was able to quiet it down to a much more tolerable level with a mixture of Dumonde Tech freehub oil and DT Swiss special grease, but over time the noise will return as the oil and grease dissipate (Silt also has their own MV1 grease for sale that can be used to help reduce the noise). The hub has a very positive engagement, and I didn't experience any popping, skipping, or anything that would make me worry about stomping on the pedals as hard as possible. The 10-degrees of engagement is fairly typical, and while there are plenty of faster-engaging options out there, I never had any moments when I thought that a few degrees quicker engagement would have improved my ride experience.
Noise aside, the Silt XC wheels have a precise feel to them, with a slightly sharper ride quality than the Roval Control
wheels that I recently tested. By 'sharp' I mean that they transmit a little more trail feedback. It's not a massive difference, but I found the Roval wheels had a slightly more muted ride feel. There's no way to attribute that to one specific factor, but the Roval's wider and slightly thicker rims may play a part here - they seemed to disappear underneath me a little more, while the Silt wheels were a little more pingy in rougher sections of trail.
Silt's Ratchet Drive uses one fixed and one free ratchet ring, each with 36 teeth.DURABILITY
The rims themselves have held up well to everything I've subjected them to, and that includes plenty of root-filled, techy XC trails, the kind with tricky sections that would probably cause a bunch of riders to get off and start running during a race.
They have a decidedly XC feel to them, and by that I mean that I never felt the temptation to put heavy duty tires on them and stick them on an enduro bike to shed some weight. While they deliver plenty of stiffness and precision for cross-country and general trail duties, they're not designed for smashing down the roughest trails around, or hitting big drops. Still, they withstood plenty of rooty, chunky descents without needing a trip to the truing stand, or making any worrying noises.
As far as wet weather durability goes, the bearings are still spinning smoothly, and there aren't any signs of unexpected corrosion or water ingress.
It's worth noting that these wheels do have a 120 kg (264 lb) rider weight limit, and Silt recommends that riders over 90 kg (198 lb) check them regularly. That's not quite as high as the 275 lb weight limit of the Roval Control carbon wheels, but it's not that far off. For heavier riders looking for light wheels without a weight limit, Reserve's 28 XC
wheelset may fit the bill, albeit at a higher price.
Silt does have a generous crash replacement program. According to the terms, "If your carbon wheels are damaged as a result of a crash; SILT MTB will replace the damaged part at no cost to the original owner. Labour, additional parts are not covered."
Excellent price for a set of light carbon wheels+
Good crash replacement policy
Extra loud freehub noise might be too much for some riders