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FFWD Drift gravel wheels review

Seriously tough and purposeful all-road wheels that are still relatively light, ride comfortably and work with wide tires. Pricing is competitive too but not as well warrantied as some

FFWD Drift gravel wheels
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Seriously tough and purposeful all-road wheels that are still relatively light, ride comfortably and work with wide tires too. The pricing is competitive but they're not as well warrantied as some

For

  • Relatively light
  • Surprisingly smooth
  • Tough, impact-proof rims
  • Wide, tubeless tire friendly
  • Top-quality DT hubs
  • Sturdy spokes and brass nipples
  • Stainless steel bearings
  • Quality wheelbase provided

Against

  • No lifetime warranty

FFWD has been building rock-solid road wheels with a distinctively direct feel and DT Swiss mechanics for years. The brand's first gravel wheel follows its established methods but still stays usefully light and surprisingly comfortable despite heavy-duty strength.

Specification

As well as a suitably rugged/rad name, the Drift rims are dimensionally on point too. The taped rim bed is 24mm wide and hookless sidewalls mean no tire pinching. FFWD says they’re suitable for 30 - 60mm tires and even though we’d say 28 (depending on the brand) to 50mm is more realistic, that still covers most all-road/wide gravel options. Tubeless valves are included and we had no trouble hand-fitting tubeless tires and popping them into place with a track pump but be careful not to exceed the low 72psi maximum pressure.

The 36mm depth and broadly rounded profile are enough to give you some aero gains without risking obvious gusting or too much vertical to shrug vibration. FFWD has created a deliberately tough carbon lay-up for the walls too and we’ve been getting regular thumps running 30psi on rockier surfaces without any splits or splinters. Brass nipples and sturdy bladed DT Aerocomp spokes give extra tensile and truing insurance. Lacing the 24 spokes three non-drive side and one cross drive side means there’s only a 2mm difference between lengths on each side so transplanting across in an emergency is potentially possible.

The hubs are the latest, lightweight DT Swiss 240s block flange pieces which puts overall weight close enough to the 1,500g benchmark for agile bike feel. That also means stainless steel bearings and solid - if not particularly rapid - take-up via the new Ratchet EXP freehub system that comes in SRAM, Shimano HG and Campagnolo options. They’re currently only available in 700c size though so 650B fans miss out.

FFWD Drift gravel wheels

The Drift's spin on excellent DT Swiss 240 hubs (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Performance

That’s a shame too as the Drift’s are a really good all-round, all-road wheel. The slow freehub pick-up and relatively sturdy rims with brass nipples mean they don’t quite leap into life as you might expect for the overall weight. Once you’ve worked up through the gears though, they hold speed really well and even when the revs are right down low on a steep climb or slow, sticky surface, those stout spokes mean they surge forwards with real purpose. 

They still feel dynamic when you’re throwing the bike around too and there’s nothing in the profile to interfere with cornering choices or windy day confidence either and overall precision and surface feedback are excellent. Given the punishing experiences we’ve had on previous wheels and the fact that FFWD only ever talks about “heavy-duty” or “stiffness” in its text or diagrams for the Drift wheels, it’s the relatively forgiving ride quality of the wheels that really surprised us. We’re not going to say they float like a set of Zipp Firecrest or some other deliberately ‘comfortable’ wheels, but they certainly didn’t sting and slap like stiffer wheels we’ve ridden. They do it without feeling dull or diluting tracking accuracy and speed feel either and with strength in depth throughout the build, seeing you through serious trouble and the aggressive lines they encourage you to take.  

The only caveat to that is that they only come with a conventional three-year manufacturer's fault warranty rather than the lifetime, no questions asked coverage that’s becoming increasingly common for carbon wheels. You do get a really nice padded double wheel bag for when the Drifts are off the bike though.

FFWD Drift gravel wheels

They are stiff and precise whilst dampening trail harshness (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict

FFWD has used its extensive experience to slot the new Drift wheels right in among the best gravel options. Especially if you’re a powerful, high mileage rider who wants to run wider tires at lower pressures. They’re light enough, they handle really well and balance precise feedback with a surprisingly forgiving ride that’s still designed to handle rough play. Pricing is competitive too although the warranty isn’t as good as some.

Tech Specs: FFWD Drift gravel wheels

  • Price:  $1,699.00 / £1,524.95 / €1699.99  (700c with tubeless valves)
  • Weight: 1540g (700c with valves)
  • Rim: 24mm
Guy Kesteven
Guy has been riding mountain bikes since before they were mountain bikes and is right handy on an offroad tandem (of course he is).