Shimano has never been afraid to chuck out the rulebook, and this XT wheelset inherits all the tricks used in the top line 965 XTR high rollers. This means its unique rim design with spokes hooked into the sidewalls, which it reckons creates a laterally stiffer wheel. It certainly feels pretty stiff, but rules out rim brakes. The medium width rim gets swamped by tyres over 2.3in too, although it is fully UST tubeless compatible.
The spokes are arranged into pairs, which cross over then insert into opposing sides of the rim. The Big S says this increases strength, but it also leaves big gaps for sticks, and our long term test sets have suffered several spoke losses cos of it. Yet having the nipples at the centre of the wheel definitely makes them feel more responsive than the weight suggest. The XT's score on hub quality, with the well sealed and serviceable cup and cone bearings, and the freehubs are super durable too, the supplied QRs are securely positive, and the price is good.