With ever changing hub standards, wheel sizes, rim materials and widths, we’re constantly looking at the latest and greatest under a microscope and field testing whenever possible. It’s easy to get caught up and focus strictly on flagship product and the latest breakthroughs.
Enter the SRAM Rail 50. Available in just about every rim size and hub configuration you could think of (yes, even 26″ is available) and come in around $1000/set (our 27.5″ hoops came in at $1072). We’ve been quietly hammering on a pair of 27.5″ Rail 50 wheels while they’ve found their way onto a couple of our 160mm test bikes over time. Read along to see what we found.
Our wheels came in right at the claimed 1750 gram mark. We mounted up our 110 SRAM cassette to the provided XD driver, but it should be noted that a standard driver is also available. We mounted up our tires tubeless with a floor pump and little effort. The Rail 50’s ship with valves and rim strips to keep things easy. The 28mm width is hardly wide by today’s standards, but it gave our tires a nice profile and did not seem flimsy by any means. The offset rim profile reduces dish front and rear, while nylon lock rings prevent the nipples from straying too far from their 24 bladed spokes. DT Swiss “star ratchet” internals on the rear hub are a proven design. Lastly, the Rail 50 features 2 cross, straight pull lacing and every spoke is the same length regardless of which wheel and side it’s on.
Enough of the techy stuff, let’s get down to brass tacks and see how all of these features fared on the trails.
We found the Rail 50 to be up to par for today’s expectations associated with heavy duty trail/enduro riding. Although we definitely don’t have any complaints, we have to say it straight away – once you ride carbon wheels, you become a bit jaded in terms of your expectations for trail feel. That said, the Rail 50 wheels felt great on the trail, but weren’t quite as lively and resilient as a set of carbon wheels. However – with that in mind, they come in at around half of the cost of the average set of aforementioned wheels and still did a fantastic job throughout the duration of our testing. Let’s just say, they didn’t hold us back.
SRAM made the brilliant decision to partner with DT Swiss for the rear hub’s internals and utilize their tried and true star ratchet engagement. It’s a simple, tool free design that’s lightweight and bulletproof. If you want to pull the hub apart to clean it and apply fresh grease to the engagement ratchets all you need is your hands and a clean area to work with. The Rail 50 ships with a standard 18T ratchet with has a relatively quick engagement. Considering the cost of the wheels, it would be nice if they had included DT’s 36T ratchet upgrade for faster engagement. Not a huge deal though as the upgrade can be purchased for around $90. All in all, solid engagement and feel.
Strength & Durability
After 8 months of solid abuse on and off or multiple bikes all over Southern and Northern California we’re happy to report back that these wheels have proven their mettle in a variety of conditions. We suffered only two flat tires from pinch flats but neither were severe enough to have blown up the rim or given them a major flat spot. We were quite impressed by how well the nylon lock rings worked. With a typical wheel, after repeated use and abuse, the spokes tend to loosen over time. We never really experienced this with the Rail 50 wheelset and found it refreshing to not have to worry about frequent re-tensions. As mentioned prior, the hub internals are a proven design that we found no flaws in. Their bearings held up great and we had no issues with axle strength. Although we never broke any spokes throughout the duration of our test, we really love the simplicity in utilizing just one spoke length…It is something one might not typically appreciate until they’re traveling or out on some huge adventure ride, but it’s brilliant and worth mentioning.
All in all we found the Rail 50’s to be a great all around wheelset. While there are more refined options available, those offerings come in with an added cost as expected. The Rail 50’s price and weight make them competitive for any consumer looking for a tough, no frills wheelset that’s in it for the long haul on any bike in the 120-160mm travel range. Although you won’t be hard pressed to find wheels this strong at a somewhat lower cost, it’s the premium features and refinements that justify its price tag and make them a worthy, no frills investment.
Thanks to Luca Cometti for the action photos.