The Best Mountain Bike

Mountain Bike

Finding the best mountain bike wheelset can be a tricky job because wheels are arguably one of the most critical upgrades you can make to your mountain bike. Wheel weight, rim width and stiffness can all affect how your bike handles – for better and, sometimes, for worse.We’ve spent hours rigorously testing a whole host of different mountain bike wheelsets from different manufacturers to find out which ones perform the best while being fantastic value for money. If you’re on the hunt for a new set of hoops hopefully this list of our top picks will guide your purchase.

Best mountain bike wheelsets, as rated by our expert testers

  • DT Swiss E 1900 Spline 30: £345
  • Mavic Deemaax Pro Sam Hill: £900
  • Nukeproof Horizon: £350 £40 for SRAM XD driver
  • DT Swiss EX 1501 Spline One 30: £850
  • DT Swiss EXC 1200 Spline 29: £1,900
  • Formula Linea 3: £780
  • Hunt Enduro Wide: £359

DT Swiss E 1900 Spline 30

Mountain Bike
  • Best-suited to enduro riding
  • Both the hub and rim are reliable
  • Exceptional comfort over rough terrain
  • Not the lightest, but light for the price

As a popular OEM (original equipment manufacturer) choice, thanks to its performance and price, the E 1900 has proven to be a tough, reliable and comfortable set of wheels.

The hubs are centerlock but the wheels are supplied with adaptors should you want or need to run six-bolt disc rotors.

The freehub has 24 points of engagement, which can create feelings of pedal-input lag under very specific circumstances. However, most of the time, out on the trail, this proved to not be a problem.

They come pre-taped for tubeless-ready compatibility and the rim beds are 29.8mm wide.

The E 1900 wheelset proved to be very comfortable and didn’t squirm or flex, creating no strange quirks or noises when pushed hard.

Mavic Deemax Pro Sam Hill

  • Best-suited to enduro or all-mountain riding, but can be used for trail riding, too
  • Fantastic at smoothing out trail chatter
  • Real UST tubeless means no rim tape
  • A bit weighty for the price and narrower than most rims on the market

Although we tested the limited-edition Sam Hill Deemax Pro, these wheels are identical to the normal Deemax Pro, except for the graphics. They’ve got a 28mm internal rim width and have Mavic’s UST tubeless rim with a solid rim bed.

This means they’ve got Mavic’s own spoke nipples that thread into the rim externally (rather than in the rim bed). Spokes are custom Mavic ones, too, and six are included with the wheels.

We found the 28mm internal width to be a good compromise for most tyre widths, especially if you’re planning on using 2.4in or 2.5in tyres.

The wheels were exceptionally comfortable during the testing period and impressed us. The freehub also engaged quickly and was quiet when freewheeling.

Nukeproof Horizon

  • Best-suited to enduro or all-mountain riding
  • Great value, exceptional ride quality, tough
  • Quick freehub engagement
  • SRAM’s XD driver costs extra and some tubeless tyres were hard to inflate

The 42-point engagement hubs – that have been redesigned since the first iteration to fix issues we highlighted – engage plenty quick enough and create a loud buzzing sound when you’re freewheeling.

The Nukeproof-branded WTB rims have a 29mm internal width and resisted dents well. They didn’t need truing during our test period. They also proved to be comfortable wheels on the trail and we experienced less hand pain compared to Hunt’s Enduro Wide wheels that were tested at the same time.

Although they aren’t the lightest on the market, their performance to value ratio is top-notch, making it tricky to tell the difference between the Horizon wheels and a set that cost double the cash.

DT Swiss EX 1501 Spline One 30

  • Best-suited to enduro or all-mountain riding
  • Tough and resilient rims
  • Good ride-feel and light enough to compete with carbon hoops
  • Hard to justify extra cash over DT’s own E 1900 wheels

As one of DT’s top alloy wheels designed for enduro, these are a popular option regularly specced on more expensive all-mountain and enduro bikes by a lot of manufacturers.

Because they’re a popular OEM wheelset, we’ve managed to test several sets of the EX 1501 and have always been happy with their performance.

Although the 10-degree, 36-point engagement ratchet freehub isn’t the quickest to transfer power into forward motion, the wheels are light enough for this to not be a problem.

Ride quality is good but we couldn’t notice any significant performance improvements over the five-star scoring and less expensive E 1900.

DT Swiss EXC 1200 Spline

Mountain Bike
  • Best-suited to enduro or all-mountain riding
  • Quick-engaging hub and feel good over rough terrain
  • Fairly expensive

With a 30mm internal rim width and 180-level hubs with the reputable Ratchet System freewheel, these are DT’s 29in enduro wheelset.

They use bladed, straight-pull spokes and weigh 1,893g when set up tubeless with rim tape and valves.

We found them to be compliant enough to not generate any unwanted hand pain on long descents and they retained crucial stiffness to give plenty of steering accuracy.

Formula Linea 3

Mountain Bike
  • Best-suited to enduro or all-mountain riding. For XC/trail wheels from Formula check out the Linea 2 and for downhill the Linea G
  • Light enough to compete with carbon wheels
  • Feel great on the trail and have fast pickup, low-friction hubs
  • Can be noisy when ridden hard

Clever bearing placement on the hubs means their skinny looks are deceiving. They’re easy to dismantle and have 60 points of engagement. As a bonus, they spin particularly well when freewheeling.

They’re built with straight-pull spokes that don’t contact where they cross one another which means that when ridden hard, the spokes do make a ringing noise as they flex around.

We found ride comfort to be similar to most other alloy wheels and more comfortable than a lot of carbon hoops on offer.

Hunt Enduro Wide

Mountain Bike
  • Best-suited to enduro or all-mountain riding
  • Wide rim bed is well-suited to wider tyres
  • Fast-engaging freehub helps swift power transfer
  • Not as compliant as Nukeproof’s Horizon or DT Swiss’s E 1900

Even though they’re sold with four spare spokes and a spoke key, the Hunt Enduro wheels are built to last. The 36-spoke rear wheel is stiff and can handle a lot of abuse, while the 32-spoke front wheel is a little more compliant.

The freehub has 120 points of engagement and makes that satisfying buzz when you’re freewheeling. Because the rims are 33mm wide, they’re best suited to wider tyres – such as 2.8in – and can square off the profile of skinner rubber.

We did find the wheels to be pretty stiff but this seemed to be the compromise for an exceptionally tough set of hoops.

Hope Fortus 26 Pro 4

Mountain Bike
  • Best-suited to enduro riding
  • Backed up by Hope’s legendary customer service
  • Great hub with snappy engagement laced to strong rims
  • Let down by narrow 26mm internal rim width if you prefer tyres wider than 2.4in

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Hunt All-Mountain Carbon H_Impact

Mountain Bike
  • Best-suited to enduro riding
  • A tough set of rims for heavy riders thanks to light front, burlier rear design
  • Fast engaging hub and well-priced for carbon hoops
  • They aren’t any lighter than the majority of aluminium enduro wheelsets on the market

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Newmen EVOLUTION SL A.30

Mountain Bike
  • Best-suited to enduro riding
  • Impressively tough rims withstood plenty of abuse
  • Hubs look well designed and built to last
  • Wheelset is light compared to other alloy offerings
  • The hubs were draggy, and hard pedalling caused the spokes to make noise

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Spank Tuned 350 Vibrocore 28h

Mountain Bike
  • Best-suited to enduro riding
  • Tough rims took a lot of abuse without sustaining any damage
  • Their unique selling point – Vibrocore – didn’t improve the ride, instead making the wheels less comfortable
  • Heavier than we’d have liked

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Zipp 3Zero Moto

Mountain Bike
  • Best-suited to enduro, all-mountain or trail riding
  • The compliant design takes the harshness out of big hits and reduces the risk of punctures
  • Heavy considering the price and the in-built flex caused a spoke to poke a hole through the rim tape

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