Tested: Syncros DS28 All-Mountain Wheelset

Syncros’ DS28S are billed as all-mountain wheels—light enough to be ridden all day, yet stout enough to handle any terrain without turning into an aluminum taco.

They are respectably light (2,000 grams), but about 100 grams on the hefty side of the all-mountain pre-built wheel market. Then again, these hoops are solid. The 28-millimeter wide, triangulated profile of the eyeleted rims delivers considerable strength and stiffness. Likewise, the 32-hole, three-cross lacing pattern might lack technopanache, but offers proven durability.

The hand-built wheels are available in 26-inch and 29-inch versions, and sport double-butted DT Competition spokes and DT Swiss nipples. No skimping here. The Syncros FL hubs roll on custom, double-row, angular, cartridge bearings and the front hub is available in either 20-millimeter thru-axle or traditional quick-release versions. The American Classic freehub design contains six simultaneously engaging pawls. Hubs stop working when their pawls jam, so having more pawls is, theoretically, a good thing and the DS28s held up fine despite plenty of rain and mud.

The wheels are designed to be run with tubes, which brings me to the Bead Lock feature. To keep tubes from rotating inside the tire, which can tear valve stems, Syncros machines scallops into the rim, locking the tire bead in place. I initially worried that these cut-outs might actually abrade the tire’s sidewalls. Although I didn’t encounter any such problems, others apparently did and Syncros is discontinuing Bead Lock on future models.

What do I think of these wheels? Let’s start with what I don’t like. The DS28s are not UST compatible. If you want to go tubeless, you’ll need to go the sealant/rim strip route. And the wheels could also stand to lose 100 to 200 grams—they’re not boat anchors, not by a long stretch, but they could be lighter. If you favor low air pressures, I’d recommend you hold off on buying a set of DS28s until the 2009 models are available, since you’ll want to avoid the Bead Lock feature altogether.

What did I like? I’m no flyweight. I hurt wheels, yet the DS28s are still pretty darn straight after four months of slamming into rocks, landing flat on most jumps and general trail abuse. I like that these wheels keep rolling true. I like that I can find replacement spokes at just about every bike shop on the planet. And even though $650 isn’t pocket change, I like that these wheels sell for a couple hundred less than comparable wheelsets.