A budget mountain bike wheel needs to be – more or less in this order – cheap, strong, not too heavy and, if at all possible, look like it cost three times the asking price.
The new Shimano MT65 SLX-level tubeless wheels kick all four requirements off the pitch, costing £139 for the rear and £129 for the front. They start with a 19mm-wide rim extrusion similar to the XT versions we’ve been using successfully for a few years.
The MT65 ones look set to follow that trend and have been well suited to frequent punishment on the local Cotswold rocks and not-so-local South Wales singletracks that provide an accurate, reliable home for the tyres.
The 19mm rim just about supports 2.2in trail tyres, but we wouldn’t ﬁt wider ones. On the subject of tyres, we ﬁtted full tubeless, ghetto tubeless (standard tyres converted with sealant) and standards with ease. Black straight-pull steel spokes help with the ample rigidity.
Of course, much of the brute strength is in the build rather than the individual components, but Shimano seem to have both elements balanced. Tipping the scales at a healthy 1,796g, the MT65 wheels aren’t going to add too much extra zap to the climbing prowess of your bike, but they’ll probably add signiﬁcantly to the accuracy of it.
All that said, they don’t feel leaden, and with the Shimano graphic designers upping their game on the looks front, they’ve been getting more than their fair share of attention.
Lastly, we come to the killer issue: price. Shimano wheels aren’t cheap, but they’re not boutique-price, either. We think you ought to give them a look if you’re in need of replacement hoops this summer.