Wheels are pretty essential when it comes to riding your bike and finding something that you are not going to turn into pringles on your first case of a jump is pretty important too. We have enlisted Al Evans to test some kit for us and after spending the last few months in the UK he is heading back to Morzine to search out more trails like this. He’s been sent of with a bunch of other kit too so expect some more reviews landing soon. Here’s his Superstar Tech 4 DS25 wheels review:
Words: Al Evans | Photos: Andy Lloyd
Superstar Tech 4 DS25 Wheels Review
Superstar are a UK company that pride themselves on selling directly to the consumer – meaning that their cheap prices don’t reflect a lack of quality, just a cutting out of the middleman. They’ve recently been picking up pace with a growing number of UK made precision bike components. Here we have a lovely simple and functional wheelset that is keen to impress.
On first impressions the wheelset is pretty average looking – black and red, round with spokes and a hub. Okay, a basic observation – however, Superstar seem to be positioning this wheelset at the no-thrills, basic end of the wheel-spectrum; which is no bad thing, but this needs to be taken into consideration. They come with rim tape, the hub clicks nicely and there were no nasty burrs or welds or surprises. The finish is of a high quality and they hide nothing, but don’t show off more than they are.
The hubs have nice high flanges decreasing spoke length and therefore wheel flex, the free wheel body is clean looking and well put together. The eyelets for the nipples are pretty standard, they house normal J-bend spokes meaning replacements are easier to get hold of than pesky OEM straight pull or bladed jobbies. The disk mount has been faced to remove the anodising to allow a more flush disk fitment, nice touch. They come with good quality rim tape already lined up with the valve hole, it’s the little things that make the difference.
The rim is pretty wide, especially for an Enduro or All-Mountain wheelset. This can mean a few things, firstly tyres are easy to get on the rim but harder to seat than an untrained puppy; it required several attempts and a lot of PSI to get the tyres to sit straight. Secondly it changes the tyre profile, tyres will sit more square with a wider rim, making the transition between grip and slip quite extreme when rolled over in a corner. Narrower rims make tyres rounder and give a less ‘on – off’ feeling. Thirdly, the wider rim will ‘stretch’ your tyre out, increasing it’s surface area and grip, but also rolling resistance. And fourthly, it makes for a stiffer rim simply because of the use of more material. None of these are deal breakers, but are considerations to be thought about if you like narrow rims, are especially lazy when it comes to tyre changing or are conscious of rolling resistance or tyre shape then be aware of these points.
The wheels are quite heavy when considering their intended use – All-Mountain or Eundro. This means that there is an element of misdirection of the intention of the wheels – a 15mm front axle and a 12X142 rear hints to the Enduro and All-Mountain markets. As we’re all quickly learning, there appears to be a no compromise approach to this part of the scene and this wheelset does offer elements of compromise, namely in its weight.
So where does this wheel set fit in? I guess they would compliment a beginner Enduro or All-Mountain rider, or someone looking for a strength-orientated wheelset. Amongst the shiny bling bike porn that cruises around UK trail centres and European ski resorts in summer these wheels are fairly innocuous with no garish graphics or wanna-be gimmicks. I guess that is their market, they’re wheels (as previously pointed out!) they turn, and will continue to do so in a nice round fashion if you’re riding the extremes of Les Portes Du Soleil, Bike Park Wales, or Fort William or your local riding spot. So therein lies their strengths – their weight and simplicity. The wheels won’t be requiring constant maintenance of truing and fettling, they’ll go round for as long as you can. But this is at the non-monetary cost of making your bike heavier and harder to pedal up the hills. You get reliability and strength but you miss out on performance that high-end wheels from Mavic offer.
So how did they ride? Well, really quite well I thought, the most noticeable trait was their stiffness. No matter how much they were encouraged they refused to flex in corners, trail whips, ground skids or severe cases. Lighter flexier wheels can twist enough in corners to make the tyre hit the frame – no such nonsense with the Superstars. This results in an accurate ride – you point, it goes, and line maintenance is very good. Essentially, the wheels don’t feel like they’re made out of rubber bands. The wheels weren’t noisy, the spokes did not ping or twang under stress and instilled confidence, which is great but finding excuses for why you didn’t hit a jump needs to come from elsewhere; maybe not enough quinoa or bulgar wheat was eaten at lunch.
Obviously, this brings me back to the weight – the climbs were noticeably harder because of the increased rotational weight, as was acceleration on track – sprinting my little chicken legs produced less speed than when performed with lighter wheels. Rolling speed was okay, but these wheels aren’t as well suited to a flat, acceleration based trail centre track common in the UK. Acceleration is key, and ease of acceleration makes riding more fun – with this in mind the wheels could be a solution for the gravity Enduro rider – take the chairlift up and ride down the downhill with confidence.
It’s fair to say that these wheels are good – in fact they’re nice, simple, easy to maintain, strong, stiff wheels, but, with it, they’re a bit heavy. The DS25 wheelset could be run by a wide range of people with a focus on a slightly less competitive element that top end wheelsets can offer – specifically, they would be very well suited to someone that is looking to get in to the Enduro or All-Mountain scenes – they’re a great place to begin. They would be equally suited to someone that has little to no mechanical sympathy and wishes to smash their way down the hills without considering the way up, owing to their strength – be it shuttle, chairlift or self-propelled. As a second set of strong hardy wheels or a get-you-going my first Enduro bike build they’re spot on. Well-done Superstar, for making All-Mountain and Enduro riders stoked.