These are the new XT Trail wheels with 15mm thru-axle front hub and 135x9mm axle rear hub. Weighing in at 1820g a pair (800g front, 1020g rear) they’re 228g lighter and £20 cheaper than the outgoing wheels they replace (the 20mm thru-axle XT AMs). They may be lighter and cheaper, but are they better? In a word, yes.
The rims are strong with solid outer walls and have taken numerous potential rim-denting knocks without so much as a scratch, whatever pressures we ran. The new steel freehub resists cassette scarring and is fast-engaging with pawl engagement every 10-degrees - more than good enough for most riders most of the time. Featuring 25.8mm wide rims, they can happily support tyres up to 2.5in. Be warned, however, they’re a genuine struggle to get tyres on and off (we snapped four tyre levers trying to ﬁx a trailside puncture) so ensure you use a strong set like Pedro’s ﬁne levers. Once on, the tyres remain secure and as the rims are UST they also seal well with tubeless-ready or full tubeless set-ups. Of course, they’ll happily take tubes, too.
After weeks of hard riding in all conditions, the 24 straight-pull spoke tension remains very good and the rim has stayed nicely true. The cup and cone bearings are still running smooth and should give years of reliable service if you invest the time to regularly service them. The front wheel costs £180 and comes in either 15mm thru-axle (tested) or 9mm QR (quick release) versions, however they lack interchangeable axles like some of their competitors’ wheels (notably Hope, Specialized, Mavic and Fulcrum), which is a pragmatic trick that we’d like Shimano to address to aid bike/ fork-swapping versatility. Centerlock disc mount only, the rear wheel costs £190 and is also available in a 142x12mm thru-axle option.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.