Alloy wheels from a direct-sales brand, offering great value and light weight
Direct-sales brand, Silt, is a direct-to-consumer outfit based in Northern Ireland, and we’ve had good experience with its products in the past. Being part of the Scribe family, it also offers road bike wheels, and like Hunt, its products are very keenly priced.
Silt’s XC wheels come ready-to-ride and pre-installed with airtight tape, tubeless valves and spare spokes and nipples are included. The aluminium XCs wheelset didn’t quite hit the claimed 1,600g on our scales, but they’re still pretty darn light at 1,640g for a pair of budget alloy mountain bike wheels.
Part of this significant weight saving comes from using a thinner (25mm) rim. Lacing up using Plllar bladed spokes saves around 30% over standard J-bend steel spokes. These cold forged spokes are also much more aerodynamic than round spokes, although that’s more of an advantage on the road. They’re laced two-cross front and three-cross rear with alloy nipples.
Silt’s wheels use the brand’s own hubs with double-sealed ‘endurance’ bearings, special aqua grease and a proprietary star ratchet freehub design (using a leaf spring). This has a fast pick-up and isn’t too noisy while coasting. The hubs are shared across the brand’s other wheels, and our experience has shown that they are durable in wet UK conditions.
You’d expect a pair of wheels with such a low weight to immediately feel snappy and accelerate fast, but there’s not the instant, surging, zip we’ve experienced with some carbon wheels of equivalent weight (or even Hunt’s similarly light XC Wides). If you’re pedalling smoothly, the wheels turn over nicely, but heavier riders will notice some flex, and a slight wind-up under strong pedal loads. This translates into less of your power being transferred immediately into forward motion. As the wheels feel noticeably soft, that also impacts on the perception of speed when making bursts of acceleration.
Conversely, (and this is one of the quirks of wheel design compromises) they roll downhill over rough ground with exceptional smoothness and comfort, which gives good grip and conserves momentum over choppy ground. So obvious was the effect in back-to-back testing against the similar Hunt wheels, that it felt like the tyres were running a few psi less (they weren’t).
Most riders will upgrade to lighter wheels for an obvious boost in speed, particularly as climbing and pedalling takes up the greatest proportion of any ride in terms of time. That won’t be the case with the Silt wheels, even if they do bring other benefits. Heavier riders who are approaching the 120kg bike and rider limit, will definitely yearn for greater lateral stiffness and stability, too.
On the hunt for some new hoops? Our guide to the best mountain bike wheels lists only the very best out of the many our expert testers have ridden and rated. Match them to the best mountain bike tyres (all-round or terrain-specific) and you’re ready to roll.
Lighter riders may well appreciate the comfort and momentum on rough terrain, but overall, we were much more taken with Silt’s XC carbon wheels, thanks to their greater solidity, when we tested them. If not, the brand’s regular alloy trail wheels are still quite light and feel a lot more solid.