Dutch wheel builder FFWD is well-known for its aerodynamic designs for both road and track, with lots of innovative rim profiles in its armoury, such as its NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics)-profiled, five-spoke carbon track wheel, the Five-T.
The Drift is the brand’s first dip of the toe into the gravel world and it’s brought plenty of smart thinking to the design.
The rim is 36mm deep (and follows an aero profile even with its shallow depth). Internally it’s wide at 24mm, making it a usable width for tyres from 30mm up to a huge 60mm.
It’s tubeless-ready and hookless, meaning the walls of the rim are flat so the tyre relies on pressure to seat properly. The rim is built into a wheel using DT Swiss’s tough yet light 240 hubs; here it’s the new EXP version of the legendary 240, which means a simplified and tougher freehub, along with better bearing support for longer life and a much stiffer structure around the axle.
FFWD has chosen thicker-gauge DT Swiss Aero Comp spokes, which are held in place with brass nipples to further add to the strength of the build. Nevertheless, FFWD has kept the weight down to a very respectable 1,525g for the pair (including tubeless tapes and valves).
Setting these up tubeless is a cinch, with the hookless rim helping the tyre seat easily. However, I do have an issue with the tubeless tape: it’s light and thin and, while the rear stayed airtight throughout testing, the tape on the front wheel developed a leak after a few hours’ riding.
Upon inspection, I found that the tubeless sealant had got under the edge of the tape, causing it to lose its adhesion to the carbon, and it tore as a result. Fitting new thicker tape sorted the issue.
In motion, the Drifts roll light and they feel tight with a stiffness that translates to instant acceleration. This is a great advantage when you’re navigating tricky terrain at slower speeds or sprinting on a favourite stretch of road.
In all, the Drifts are a superb set of very tough off-road hoops. Tyre fitting is a breeze and they ooze quality in all but one simple area: weak tubeless tape. If FFWD upgrades this, it’s got a stunning set of wheels on its books.