So you’ve gotten yourself a fat bike. You’ve had a lot of fun with it. On the beach, over snow and on your favourite local trails. Heck, you may find that you are riding it more than any other bike you own and it has become your bike of choice, even when another bike might be faster or easier. However, you may have reached the point where you are thinking about saving a little weight. Where better a place to start than with the wheels? Fat bikes aren’t exactly known for having the lightest wheelsets in the world, right? And everyone knows intuitively that if you can save a bit of weight on your wheels, pedalling can become just that little bit easier. Heck, the whole wheel industry seems built upon the premise that lighter is better. But just what are your options when it comes to dropping some rolling mass? DT Swiss reckons it has the answer in the shape of their BR2250 Classic wheelset.
The BR2250’s are DT Swiss’s first foray into the world of fat bikes and on paper at least, they have a lot to offer the discerning fat biker. Coming in one size only, good old 26 inches (remember those?), the wheels are distinctive to say the least. The inner section of clincher rim is machined out in a lattice work of aluminium that looks positively anorexic compared to the 100mm Surly Clown Shoe wheelset that I replaced. With an inner diameter of 76mm and an outer diameter of 81mm, they arguably hit the sweet spot for most fat bikers who aren’t spending all of their time rock crawling and beach riding.
As you would expect, DT Swiss uses their own DT Competition Spokes laced with their Pro Lock aluminium nipples onto their 350 fat bike hubset. By waiting for the dust to settle on fat bike standards, DT Swiss has gone for the popular 150mm/15mm bolt thru axle at the front and 197mm/12mm bolt thru axle at the back. I think this is a wise choice as in my experience, if you are getting a fat bike, you might as well run one that will take big wheels!
The hub design for discs is ingenious as they come supplied with an adaptor on which you can run either centre lock or 6 bolt pattern discs. Kudos to them for coming up with that little design treat. I ran my hubs with a Shimano freehub but they also now come supplied with a SRAM XD freehub body kit. As mine were sent for test and I run Shimano, the SRAM XD freehub was omitted from my delivery. Rim tape is also included in the package.
Take a load off Annie.
In terms of weight, DT Swiss claims they are 2228g. On my scales they were a shade more but I wasn’t going to complain. Compared to my Surly Clown Shoe wheels, they were a whole kilogramme lighter. I’ll let you ponder that for a moment. A KILOGRAMME! I have entire rear wheels that weigh less than that! I knew my stock wheels weren’t the lightest but even still, that was a massive weight saving.
Fitting them to my frame, a Surly Ice Cream Truck with Rock Shox Bluto forks, was straightforward although I had to source a new tool for one of the centre lock rings as my own one was too shallow to get purchase to tighten it sufficiently when attaching the discs. The 6 mount points on the adapter include tabs which the lock ring sits partially recesses into. After several months of use, I still can’t figure out why they are there. All they succeeded in doing was frustrating me as even with a centre lock tool without chamfered edges, I had to be careful to ensure the tool didn’t slip when tightening or removing the discs. I ran 6 bolt pattern discs with the supplied adaptor with a bit of grease in the right places to stop any creaking. Had they been my own wheels, I would have happily filed off the end tabs.
My cassette fitted on easily with a bit of heavy duty grease on the freehub body. Being someone who enjoys beach riding, experience has taught me the importance of grease in certain areas to keep the bike running when exposed to salty sea water. My tyres, a pair of 4.8 Surly Bud and Lou’s fitted easily without recourse to swearing, grunting and gurning. I had intended to go ghetto tubeless but once fitted, I couldn’t be bothered. The wheels worked and I was happy.
How do they ride?
From the very start, let me be clear. Dropping a kilogramme of rolling weight makes for a very immediate and noticeable difference to a fat bike’s handling. My Surly Ice Cream Truck is a veritable beast of a toy. It has the feeling of a hard charging trail slayer where almost nothing can stop you. Despite losing 20mm in rim width, the tyres still had a nice profile and I can’t say I noticed a massive difference in grip except when on slow speed, rock crawling missions where the extra width of the Clown Shoes does help with squeezing out traction. However, in terms of effort expended, the effect was dramatic. I could ride faster for the same amount of effort, or to put it another way, ride longer for the same amount of effort. The wheels imbued the Truck with a sense of added playfulness.
Popping the front wheel became that much easier while I could get out of the saddle and honk on the pedals for a bit of sprinting fun. It also made catching and passing roadies on the way home from the trails that much easier!!!! Climbing became that bit easier too. Traction is never an issue with fat tyres but take a bit of weight off and there is less weight to propel forward. The pay-off is immediate. Heck, even hike-a-bikes felt less of a chore. A fat bike is never going to be light unless it is made of carbon with tyres that offer about as much grip as a frozen fish on a wet mossy rock but knowing I was having to carry a bike that was over two pounds lighter than before gave me a bit of a psychological boost.
On the beach.
On rocky beach rides, I ran the tyres a bit firmer than I would normally. The lack of heft left me a bit nervous. A single wall construction with that much material cut out reminded me of the not so good old days when folk used to drill out everything. Brake levers, cranks, chainrings, heck even brake arms were fair game. Thankfully fashions moved on when everyone realised that cutting bits out of the things you stand on and the things you need to stop was a monumentally stupid idea. Since these have been designed with cut outs, I proceeded to testing safe in the knowledge that nothing structural had been removed, albeit wondering just how strong they would prove to be given their floaty light qualities.
River deep, mountain high.
It was on big mountain rides that I really appreciated the qualities of the wheels. On a bit of a whim, I decided to ride all of the 4000 foot peaks in the Cairngorms as a day ride. It was a tough but incredibly enjoyable day out. I won’t lie. There was a LOT of hike-a-bike. However, the reward of incredible views and plateau trails that were practically made for a fat bike more than made up for the long carry up onto Braeriach and the boulder field of despair that is the summit of Cairn Toul. The wheels coped well with everything I threw at them and stayed true despite their feather like weight.
Down, down, deeper and down.
On the descents, they do lose ground to heavier offerings. For someone who is coming afresh to a fat bike, you probably wouldn’t notice it, but coming from heavier wheels I found that the BR2250’s were more easily knocked off their line and didn’t feel as planted when attacking the trail. It’s a bit like swapping from DH wheels to XC wheels. The zip and spring you get with XC wheels is offset by the feeling of increased skittishness and less direct steering. The BR2250’s are the same, albeit in a much wider format. As with all wheels, it is all about compromise. You pays your money, you takes your choice.
On my regular XC rides, I ran the tyres at between 15 and 20 psi as I find it a good compromise between grip, rolling resistance and stopping pinch flats. Everything was going really well until I noticed a sizeable ding in the rear rim and another smaller one on the opposite edge on the same size. The latter isn’t worth writing home about but the larger fingertip width one has caused a bulge in the flat section of the rim. I don’t remember any rim strikes nor did I manage to puncture the tyres at any point during the test and there is no tell-tale scuffing on the rim that would indicate a rock strike. Curious. The front wheel remains completely round. By contrast, I have taken some corkers of impacts with my three and a half year old Surly Clown Shoe rims and they remain undented and arrow straight. In the quest for light weight, there is a trade-off to be made in terms of impact resistance and durability.
Born of frustration.
Stripping the wheels down to return them to the importer, I had what can kindly be described as the Devil’s own job of removing my cassette. The lockring unscrewed after a bit of persuasion but when I tried to remove the cassette, things went badly wrong. The wheels feature a really neat 18 point ratchet system. It is a proven design that in my opinion is well designed and executed. It’s not quite up there with Chris King’s Ring Drive system but it is still a good system.
Applying some gentle tapping and then some not so gentle pressure, the freehub came away in my hand, cassette still very much firmly attached. “Bollox!” I said pithily. It’s designed to do this and is not normally a problem; the cassette still being attached was though. No matter how gently nor how hard I tried, it wasn’t moving. Next stop, the vice and a rubber hammer. No effect.
Stop! Hammer time!
After that, it was a toss-up between the angle grinder and smacking it with a heavy duty hammer and chisel. Given that I managed to cut a fairly large hole just below my knee with an angle grinder last year (Here’s a tip – don’t do that at home, kids!) I went for the persuasive percussion engineering approach. I won’t lie. It wasn’t pretty and there was a LOT of cursing and swearing but eventually I got the damn thing off. Despite my usual routine of greasing the freehub up for coastal riding, I think the salt water had done its work and given me a major headache. The alloy freehub had the tell tale teeth marks of the cassette digging into it. I had been sure to properly tighten the lock ring at the start of the test and checked it regularly so would discount movement on that front. For the sake of adding a little weight, a stronger steel freehub body would have been a better option, especially for coastal riding.
DT Swiss has done a sterling job of bringing a lightweight wheelset to the fat bike market. They bring an immediate and noticeable benefit to any fat biker who wants to drop some rolling weight and improve their bike’s cross country performance. They look great too.However, the rims are very light and for me at least, they are pushing the boundary that trades off performance and durability. I am not a heavy rider at 6 foot 1 and less than 80 kilogrammes and while DT Swiss recommends a 130kg upper weight limit, heavier riders tackling the kind of rocky terrain I ride may find that durability is more of an issue. Those saving their fat bikes for winter snow outings are probably not going to punish their wheels the way I do on Scottish mountain descents. If you are a less aggressive rider and accept the limitations that lightweight components come with, you’ll have yourself a fine set of wheels.
|Product:||BR2250 Fat Bike Wheelset|
|Tested:||by Sanny for 10 months|