7-24-08 // Tested: FSA Gravity Wheels

FSA Gravity Wheels // $590
425-488-8653; ridegravity.com

When your friendly neighborhood bike shop can lace any hub to any rim with as many of whatever spoke you choose, a pre-packaged wheelset needs to offer a little more than matching stickers.

Enter FSA's Gravity Wheels. Aside from looking downright moto, they sport straight-pull spokes, which offer higher tension and can make for a stiffer, stronger wheel. They stray from the popular Mavic configuration by enclosing the spoke head at the hub, rather than leave it sitting in a slotted notch.

They also run the freehub body on three bearings, though the three-pawl setup is somewhat sluggish, only engaging every 17 degrees. The QR 135-millimeter rear axle is a good 13 millimeters thick, and a thru-axle is available with the optional 150-millimeter setup. Despite their heavy name, the Gravity's 2,500-gram weight is on par with other huck-friendly hoops. The eyeleted rim operates on the simple philosophy that size matters, and the deep, wide profile helps the wheel hold a tire and keep its shape.

Actually testing their strength was pretty simple: I tried to break them and I couldn't. After many weeks of sideways landings and negligent boulder-plowing, all I got was a broken frame pivot bolt and a feeling that maybe I'm not going big enough. When a jagged rock took out a rear spoke it was a headache to fish the broken end out of the hub, but it can be done without removing the cassette or rotor. That straight-pull stiffness really only comes into play in moderate-speed bouts with heavyweight rock gardens. And when it's that critical, it's nice to know that the tire will go wherever you point the handlebars.

The Gravity Wheels aren't just a way to put out another product with the FSA name. They're just as unique as any custom wheel. They're stiff, strong, not too heavy, not too expensive, and they have matching stickers.