FFWD Drift Carbon Wheelset Review

well tested FFWD Drift wheels

This was as much a test of me as it was the FFWD wheels as I was a big sceptic of carbon fibre when it comes to wheels. This stems from me buying, rightly or wrongly (that’s a whole other issue that probably needs a separate article) an open mould frameset direct from China a few years ago. It was creaky, flexy in places it shouldn’t have been and stiff where it make the ride uncomfortable. Could these wheels win over my pre conceived ideas about carbon rims? It was with intrigue I accepted the offer of a demo set of wheels from FFWD via the UK distributor Extra UK.

The Drift is FFWD’s first gravel specific wheelset. It’s available with either FFWDs own hubs or DT240 hubs, my review set came with the latter. The wheelset I tried out was one of the first available in the country and as such had had a hard life in the hands of other reviewers so they weren’t exactly pristine looks wise but the bearings were smooth. The freehub on the 240 hub is the DT EXP ratchet which on early models (as this was) had some issues of wear. This wheelset had those issues but Extra replaced the parts on behalf of DT Swiss and I can say that after the great back up from both companies I had zero hub issues throughout the test. If you are buying the wheels now they will have either a different, uprated ratchet or have been replaced with one so no worries there.

The ratchet has a very pleasing buzzing sound but the noise, or lack of, I liked most was that the 36mm deep section rims don’t make that very annoying rumble when riding on tarmac that deep section rims always seem to. This medium height also means the wheels are not eyeball shakingly stiff when riding off road. Plenty stiff enough to stop unwanted flex though. 24mm wide rims allowing up to 60mm tyres will also add to the comfort levels. I also like that the graphics on the rims aren’t BIG AND SHOUTY! as you seem to get on a lot of deep section wheels these days.

The rims are tubeless ready and come pre-taped. Just fit the supplied valves, add sealant and away you go. I tried two different companies tyres on these and both sets inflated and seated onto the rims with just a floor pump. they also held air effectively throughout the test period.

I have ridden on these wheels a lot. From familiar local routes, long days out in the Wye valley, Cannock chase, Malvern hills and weekends in Wales and they haven’t missed a beat. The biggest compliment you can give a product is when you forget about it being fitted to the bike and just get on with the riding. I’ll admit the first few rides I tested the water a lot thinking the wheels might be fragile, all part of my carbon phobia but from then on I just rode like i normally would. That is to say without finesse and with little skill! Sorry Extra UK and FFWD but these wheels have had a damn good test, down steps, over rock gardens in Wales on trails where a MTB would probably have been better. Rooty trails of muddy goodness and through the urban jungles of Birmingham. They haven’t missed a beat. If forgetting that the product is bolted to your bike is the best compliment you can give then these wheels are totally forgettable. Stiff enough for sprinting and climbing somehow they manage to be comfortable on rough down hills too. There’s some sort of carbon magic going on to achieve this.

The wheels stayed true despite my best efforts to bend them. I’ll admit I had to check them after a particularly rocky descent in Wales where I could feel the rear rim banging into the rocks and step downs on a fast section but I could see no damage and the rear tyre stayed inflated too. The spokes are aluminium and haven’t moved or needed a tweak throughout the test. At just over 1500g these wheels aren’t super light but do weigh considerably less than the alloy rims on my usual wheelset. This can be felt on climbs and accelerating the bike back up to speed after stopping. They are reassuringly not super light though and they gave me confidence that I never thought I’d have on a set of carbon rims.

There are a few carbon wheelsets in this weight range so the FFWD Drift wheels have some competition for your money but not all of those have been specifically designed for gravel riding, most are a road/gravel compromise. The Drift wheels fit the bill for UK gravel riding and could I’m sure double up as a road rim. That would in my opinion be a total waste of the design though.

As the weeks went on and I used the wheels over and over again I grew more and more confident in them and now at the end of the review period and they need to be sent back I’ve realised how much I’m going to miss them! I really don’t want to give them back and go back to my alloy rimmed wheels. The FFWD Drift wheels have if nothing else cured my fear of carbon, or this carbon wheelset have at least!

If I had the spare cash I’d splash out on a pair of the FFWD Drift wheels no question.

You can find more details on the FFWD Drift wheels from the FFWD website here

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s