“Strong, light, cheap: pick two” is the phrase that is often punted around, but has SILT managed to tick off all 3 with the new SILT AM Carbon wheels?
We all wish it wasn’t true, but it’s a fact that you cannot have a cheap, light and strong product. It’s easy enough to find a cheap handlebar, for example, but will it be strong or lightweight? Strong tyres? Try finding light, strong and cheap tyres. Then how about wheels?
Who is SILT?
SILT might be a new name to you, but the people behind the brand have plenty of experience in the bike industry already. Before launching the SILT brand, key members of the SILT team spent time designing and developing products for Nukeproof and then Hunt.
The SILT range currently consists of alloy and carbon wheelsets for XC, All-mountain and eMTB, with prices kicking off at just £370 for a pair of alloy wheels or £800 for carbon rimmed hoops. SILT sells its wheelsets through its online store, where customers can also purchase spares, including freehubs, bearings, and tools, all at very reasonable prices.
SILT AM Carbon 29er wheels – Features
Obviously, the £800 price point of the SILT wheels is a major selling point of these carbon wheels, but the feature that SILT appears to be most proud of is their Ratchet Drive freehub system. This exclusive design uses a rotating ratchet ring which engages to a second fixed ratchet in the hub. Whereas other manufacturers use a coil spring to engage the two, SILT uses a stainless steel leaf spring design. A ratchet based freehub offers a few benefits over a standard pawl setup, the main one being that with more teeth in the system, forces are spread across a wider area and should result in lower wear. Another benefit is the lack of moving parts, instead of four or more individual pawls each with a spring, you have a simple ring and single leaf spring to maintain and service. The system also provides fast, almost instant drive engagement and it doesn’t hurt that it creates a nice satisfying ‘buzz’ while coasting.
As mentioned above, SILT offers all the parts needed to service your wheels, so if you were to ever wear a ratchet to the point of needing a replacement you can pick one up from SILT with a fresh leaf spring for just £15.
Each hub runs on a combination of 6902 and 6802 Endurance bearings, these are high-quality stainless steel bearings with contact seals on the outer edges and are manufactured with ‘Aqua grease’ that promises to repel moisture and ensure long life. The bearings are also available from SILT as is the tool for installing them.
These internals live in fully CNC machined alloy hubs with a standard 6 bolt disc pattern and 32 holes for spokes. Hubs are available in either Boost or Standard spacing, and you can choose either a Shimano Microspline or SRAM XD freehub when ordering, and of course spare freehubs are also available if you ever needed a spare or wanted a change.
SILT uses Sapim D-Light double-butted spokes to keep the hubs and carbon rims together. These are simple J-Bend spokes that you should be able to find anywhere, though spare spokes and nipples do come included with the wheels.
So far each of the components listed above are the same as the alloy AM SILT wheel model, so if you wanted nice hubs with great weather sealing and quality spokes but don’t feel the need for carbon then the alloy models could be the way to go.
However opting for the carbon AM saves over 130g, and gives you a wider and deeper rim. The SILT Carbon AM rim is 24mm deep with an internal rim width of 31.2mm. For additional strength, the sidewalls and spoke holes are reinforced, and each spoke hole is angled to follow the path of the spoke for better overall construction.
Out of the box each rim is taped but beneath the tape is a ramped rim bed to aid tyre installation. The rim also features a bead lock design to ensure the tyre stays put even when running lower pressures.
SILT AM Carbon 29er wheels – The Ride
I tested the SILT AM carbon wheels on a YT Izzo fitted with a RockShox Pike then a Fox 34 Grip 2, a Cotic BFE Max with Fox 36, and also on a Santa Cruz Tallboy. On each bike, I tested the wheels with Michelin Wild and Force AM tyres. I found mounting and inflating the tyres on the SILT rims very easy and needed only a track pump to ensure a good bead seal.
Over the past few years I’ve ridden on plenty of carbon wheels from a variety of brands, and what we have now in terms of carbon rims and construction is way ahead of what we had five years ago. Five years ago brands were still making overly stiff carbon rims that forced shocks through to the rider, or at the other end of the spectrum, carbon rims that were made of some carbon/cheese formula that would self destruct with surprising ease.
Modern carbon rims though are much better, and in terms of comfort and strength SILT has managed to deliver a wheelset that resists side loads and flex but doesn’t feel harsh in rough terrain. It might be the latest Grip 2 Fox 34 that helps, but I didn’t feel any unwanted arm pump or fatigue during extended runs with the SILT wheels mounted. Steering precision is excellent and even after repeated rock garden runs, the rims still look pretty good with only a few cosmetic marks here and there.
The first big ride out on the Tallboy saw the rear end come to the end of its 120mm travel more often than usual (it’s a PITA to measure sag on the Tallboy 4) but even with lower air pressure and the repeated thud of the rear end wasn’t enough to shake the SILT wheel off track. More impressive each wheel has remained true and the spoke tension hasn’t needed any fettling.
SILT’s Exclusive Ratchet Drive freehub ensures constant and direct power delivery. Because the hub engages so quickly, climbing is smooth and it’s easy to get into a rhythm on long slogs. The overall low weight of the wheels is an advantage too and in fact, the SILT AM wheels roll along with as little effort as a pair of XC wheels might
I’ll have to revisit this review to update you all on how the bearings last through UK winter riding, but so far each wheel is running as smooth today as day one, perhaps smoother with no play or wobble detected.
Things we would like to see
- Nothing at this time.
Things we love
- Great price.
- Good weight, 1758g.
- Very good build quality and affordable spares.
“Strong, light, cheap: pick two” before you jump to the comments, no I’m not trying to suggest £800 is cheap, well if you’re comparing it to alloy wheels it’s not. Compared to some carbon wheels though the SILT Carbon AM 29 are very affordable, they look great, are well made, appear to have good spares availability and they’re pretty light. Although I’ve tested the wheels on short travel bikes, the terrain I’ve tested them on is fast, rocky and harsh, and even running out of travel on more than one occasion wasn’t enough to pringle these carbon hoops. I have a feeling these SILTS will be seen on a few more test bikes over the year.
|Product:||Carbon AM 29|
|Tested:||by Andi Sykes for 3 months|
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