1.5 years on and here is my long term review of the ZTR Alpine wheelset.
I purchased the ZTR Alpine wheelset directly from notubes.com. The wheelset worked out to be around $700ish delivered. Shortly after i purchased it from them, usps changed their rates, and now it is quite a bit more to ship a set of wheels from us to aus. Currently you will have a better deal getting them either locally or purchasing individual parts and building the wheel yourself.
The wheelset is built up with a set of ZTR Alpine rims, 2.0-1.5 spokes, ztr own brand hubs and some red nipples. The whole set of wheels built up very light at around 1380g with tape and valves included and the front hub offers the versatility of 9mm qr to 15mm qr conversion (something i prefer to have on my hubs). I started using the wheelset on xc race bikes but also started to use it on my trail bike and finally now i am back to using the wheelset on a xc hardtail race bike. I also used the front wheel in both 9mm qr guise and also 15mm qr. My first impressions of the wheelset came from trying to fit what might be the most troublesome tyre in the history of mankind to tubeless. Previously i have tried fitting this tyre on dt swiss/mavic rims and it is hard work. There are tricks of the trade but the truth is the high volume of the tyres + the super soft carcass makes for a nightmare to seal. On the ZTR’s though they inflated first go. I was astonished.
ZTR utilises what they call BST (bead socket technology) and to put it in layman’s terms, they basically optimised the bead on the rim to seal with non tubeless specific tyres. They knew the core of their customers wanted to do ghetto tubeless conversions and specially catered for it by coming up with the BST. As a result the BST system is one of the most aggressive bead sitting system available. On mavic rims when tyres pump up you wont even hear any sounds of the tyre hooking into the beads, on dt swiss you might hear a faint pop or ping but on the ZTR’s you would be very much deaf if you didn’t know when the tyres on your wheelsets popped into place. Put it simply the ZTR BST makes for a very secure contact point between the rim and the tyre and that is a good thing when you want to convert ghetto tubeless and also when you run low pressure on your tyres (i have gone from 23psi up front to my now optimal pressure of 17psi). The rim internal width is also a surprisingly 20mm wide for something so light which supports all the high volume, big bag tyres that much better.
Second impressions came from riding the wheels. They spin up fast. Real real fast. Previously the lightest wheelset i have used are the old mavic slr’s and at 1520 they were no boat anchor and the ZTR’s spin up faster than them easily. But still, be warned, that unbelievable feeling doesn’t last forever and before long i have gotten used to how fast they spun up. Humans are very adaptable creatures and in this case i adapted to how the ZTR’s spun up. Problem is every other wheelset felt noticeably slower. The lack of weight is most noticeable on climbs but also very noticeable through any singletrack that requires you to accelerate out of corners. Just like when you hop on from say a slower commuter onto a proper roadie the ZTR wheel’s feel similar in that they encourage you to accelerate. They reward your effort accordingly and as such you never feel “lazy” to just let them coast out of corners. Purchase this wheelset for performance enhancement. Simple as that.
So you must be thinking, great, time to hit up lbs/crc/twe whatever for a build up and here comes podium right? No. First of all you need to know which spectrum of rider/riding you are in and this is the most important part. When i set up the wheels on my first bike i had a cable tie holding the front brake cable to the fork arch (as you do on rockshox forks). Everytime i got up out of the saddle for some hard effort id hear rubbing. It took me 1-2 rides to figure out that the side of the tyres was touching the cable tie stub. I know my tyre carcass is very soft but it had to move a fair bit to rub the cable tie stub so i think it is a combination of the tyre carcass flexing but also the front wheel flexing. Did it ride soft? In 9mm qr i can feel a bit of twang in the way the rims load up especially into hard corners whilst braking but overall for my weight it isn’t a massive concern. Once i switched over to 15mm qr that feeling mostly disappeared but the thing is i am very light. I am 56-57kgish and at most 60kg loaded up so it would be a completely different story under heavier riders i imagine. I am not saying that you cant use the alpine wheelset. You can. However you might need to rethink ticking the option of 2.0-1.5 spokes and instead go with thicker non tapered spokes. As long as you are honest with how heavy you are and what type of rider (smooth/rough) you are and what you ride (10 foot drops?) the alpine wheelset should be applicable for all but the heaviest riders.
I rode the wheelset on the trail bike and it didn’t slow me down on any of the slightly more technical sections. It handled small drops fine and remained stiff enough (with qr15) to not hold me back in the rough stuff and that is good enough for me. Would i bolt this wheelset up to a 160mm bike and visit menai and attempt some drops? No Would i bolt this wheelset up to a 140mm and under trail bike and gain the agility and manoeuvrability of a xc race bike? Definitely There are people out there that build their bikes to be 100% bomb proof but for myself i prefer to build it as light as possible without anything failing and the ZTR suits my ethos along that line of thinking.
The biggest worry with the ZTR wheelset was the lack of info re ZTR hubs. I am sure the ZTR hubs are some generic china hub but luckly they have held up great. No creaking, no looseness with the freehub and enough engagement points for it to compliment the lightweight rims acceleration. I have a feeling that i should grease the hubs after 1.5 years of use but so far it is still spinning smoothly drag free. One little nit pick thing is the fact that the free hub groove’s are interestingly cut to all the same gap. The gap size is the same as the biggest gap size necessary on the cassette so the confusing part arises when you have like a 10 part gear cassette and you cant simply align and install based on the one big gap on the free hub. Instead you have to look at the machined out teeth on the cassettes and align it that way. Not a massive issue but an annoyance for sure.
The wheelset is still true after all this time and i am honestly very happy with the purchase. A good light wheelset is an investment and the Stan’s ZTR wheelset is one of the best i have used so far. I am even contemplating personally building a set of mmx podiums on some nice hubs later on down the track just to reap the advantages of the BST system.
Rating for the ZTR alpine? 9/10 as long as you choose the right build and the right riding on them.