by The CXM Test Crew
Cyclocross, gravel, mountain biking and disc brake pavement pounding are now all possible on one wheelset, and can help justify putting down more of your hard-earned money knowing the wheels could get year round use. In Issue 29, we rounded up many of the latest “do it all” wheels, hoops that promise to handle your rides and races on several different bikes, or in several different disciplines.
And in Issue 30 we looked at the go-anywhere disc brake tubeless wheel options seen here. These wheelsets are easily swapped between bikes or help extend the versatility and performance of a single rig. Want to enter a road race on your cyclocross bike? Or add volume to your rubber for some more gnarly adventures? High pressure-tolerant, aerodynamic or wider rims can help get you there. And of course, they can help you ride lower pressure, flat less and shed some rotating weight come cyclocross season.
Our test crew rode these wheels on trails, pavement, gravel and even up and down stairs to see if they’d remain round, true and burp-free under typical rider use and abuse. Read on to see if there’s a wheel here that's right for you.
At Sea Otter 2015, we grabbed a first look at the new family of FSA carbon wheels, and at the 2015 Lost and Found, saw Ben Berden complete a grueling 100 miles of rocky dirt roads and gravel without issue. FSA is entering a crowded, competitive space, but brings bearing preload adjustability and XD driver compatibility to the table to create a versatile, reasonably future-proof wheel. The FSA SL-K doesn’t wow on paper in terms of price or weight, but tire set up is a snap, and its generous 21mm width makes any narrow tubeless cyclocross tire ride better. Adjustable bearings provide some insurance that you won’t have a sloppy hub after a rough season, and adaptable axle configurations help you move the wheels between your bikes.
TUBELESS: It’s hard to find fault with the FSA SL-K wheels. We mounted up 32c WTB TCS tires, and Specialized 1.8’’ tires with good luck, and were always surprised to find them still holding air even a week later. Installation and seating is relatively easy, even with a floor pump, but the rims aren’t ideal for tire conversions. Should you want to ride your bike on longer pavement rides, the rims will handle up to 80 psi, offering a smooth, fast ride with 28c road tires. The rims require tape, and we used yellow NoTubes tape and sealant without issue.
DURABILITY: The FSA SL-K wheels are designed primarily with moutain bike use in mind, and certainly handled all our mixed terrain adventures and misadventures with aplomb. The wheels aren’t the lightest at 1,560 grams, and at $1,800 USD, won’t excite bargain shoppers. But the axle and freehub options, bearing adjustability, and tubeless performance together create what feels like a safe investment in a wheelset that will handle everyday and race day use on cyclocross and mountain bikes. Should you accomplish that, suddenly the wheels look like they’re half price. Or you could buy three pairs of NoTubes Grail wheels. Tough decision.
PRICE: $1,800 USD
WEIGHT: 1,560 grams
OPTIONS: QR or 15mm thru axle front, 142x12mm thru axle rear via end caps
More info: fullspeedahead.com