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Dutch brand FFWD has long been known, as the name “fast forward” implies, for its aerodynamic carbon wheels. But after seeing the move to off-road riding by so many riders the brand has introduced its first-ever dedicated gravel wheelset, the DRIFT.
Gravel offers an entirely new set of priorities for making wheels. While it’s one of the most important aspects of road wheels, aerodynamics took a backseat for this project for the simple reason that when tires start getting past the 35mm mark, there is poor airflow from tire to rim. FFWD instead pushed durability and excellent handling to the forefront for the DRIFT.
The 24mm-wide hookless rim, which measures 36mm deep, features a carbon layup that prioritizes strength over gramshaving. Other choices like DT Aero Comp spokes—rather than more aerodynamic, bladed-spoke options—point to the emphasis on durability as well. As a result, at 1,580 grams as weighed, these wheels are not the absolute lightest option available. But when riding off-road in terrain that challenges wheels like nothing on-road can, that extra durability is really something to want. And FFWD is confident enough in these wheels to offer a three-year warranty and a five-year crash-replacement program, which offers new wheels at a significant discount; so you can feel assured about taking your carbon hoops into tricky terrain. FFWD also includes a padded wheel bag for extra protection in storage or when traveling.
For hubs, FFWD makes an easy choice and goes with the tried-and-true DT Swiss 240, one of the most popular and reliable high-end hubs available. Introduced earlier this year, the EXP version of the 240 has an overhauled, simplified mechanism inside that results in lower weight, a longer bearing lifespan and a stiffer ride thanks to a wider bearing stance. Quick to engage, this latest version continues to offer a ride quality that is every bit as good as the previous 240. And the other benefit of going with DT Swiss hubs is getting top-tier hubs in a wheelset that is more modestly priced at just $1,699.
Of course, that’s a lot of money to spend if the wheels are no good. Luckily that’s not the case. Noticeably stiff, they’re very responsive at high speeds, translating all of your watts into forward momentum. But these wheels are especially good at lower speeds (which you encounter more frequently in gravel), like riding up steep inclines over loose terrain or clawing your way through muck. The wheels simply provide instantaneous acceleration from the moment you put power down, and that can be the difference between riding up a grueling, muddy hill, or putting a foot down and walking.
$1,699; 1,580g (as weighed); ffwdusa.com