Review by Cory Tepper // Photos by Emily Peterson and Cory Tepper
As a long time fan of Atomlab I was quite stoked to see new product rolling out after some bumpy years of management changes and reduced industry presence. As a go-to rim for DH and DJ bikes the Pimplite has been in my stable for years and whilst indestructible she is not a light horse. Well, my favorite workhorse hit the gym, shed some grams and picked up an “SL” tattoo. Pulling these wheels out of the box was rad. They are light, loud and flashy, and I couldn't wait to mount them up and hit the trails.
Atomlab DHR SL 650B Wheelset Highlights
- Body: CNC machined 6061 aluminum
- Sealed bearings
- 102 Points of engagement in the freehub
- Colors: Black (more colors coming soon)
- # of holes: 32
- 142mm, QR, and bolt-on adapters available
- Weight: 12x135mm = 330g / 12x135mm 11spd = 328g
DHR SL RIM:
- DH / Freeride / All Mountain
- Welded Joint
- Tubeless profile
- 29.5mm wide, 25mm internal width
- ERD: 26” = 538mm, 650B = 565mm
- 26”x32h / 650Bx32h
- Colors: Black, red, blue, and gold
- Weight: 26”=427g / 650B=447g
- Uses Torque nipples - available separately
MSRP: $694.90 (complete wheelset)
Weight: 1860 grams (complete wheelset)
Pulling the DHR's from the box, three things stood out to me immediately: One, they are pretty light. At 1860g on my scale they aren't the lightest by any means but if they were to turn out as strong as I expected from Atomlab then we would be set. Two, they are pretty loud. They feature a 102-point engagement hub which adds up to 30 more angry bees yelling “I sound faster than I am”. Three, they are flashy. I would guess the production set will be all one color but I was stoked on the red hoops laced up to black hubs that I received for this test. Flair is key when you are mid pack.
The wheels are tubeless ready and super tight for beading the Schwalbes I swapped off my stock wheel set. While slightly frustrated with seating the first tire, I was prepared with some lemon scented Pledge and a cold beer for the second, and she popped into place with a couple of convincing PINGs and POPs. Rotors and cassette were hassle free, and the loud as hell hub did begin annoying my coworkers almost immediately, which is always a bonus.
A quick check in the truing stand found the DHR's true and round with good, even spoke tension. A little hop at the rim seam but that's par for the aluminum course. In the truing stand is also where I discovered my first dislike with these wheels - Torque nipples. The idea with Torque nipples is that they are lighter and stronger than traditional brass nipples, with a wide alloy base that helps create a stronger and stiffer wheel. The connection at the spoke hole has a larger pivot range which reduces stress on the spokes. Torque nipples can be used on Atomlab rims with any manufacturer’s 14 gauge and 14 gauge butted spokes. While the design makes sense I hate anything proprietary, especially from a company with a somewhat rocky customer service history, but the use of conventional spokes, 3x lacing and the fact that they included some extra nipples and the required proprietary spoke key (albeit heavy!) eased the pain.
On The Trail
The last couple months were full of a variety of riding: shuttle days, long pedals, evening quickies, rocks, roots, epic dust and even a couple of commutes in the city. Like most new wheels they felt stiffer than I was used to, giving my whip that “new bike feeling”again. The 102 rear hub was a highlight, love or hate the noise the near instant engagement is rad. When every little pedal kick is functional and almost without dead space it makes tech climbs and pedaling out of corners way more fun than usual.
Even with all that business going on in the hub, the resistance was minimal and they rolled fast (well medium fast…650B fast…). My frustration with the tire setup was instantly forgotten after some horribly sideways landings with 25 psi resulted in nothing but tiny burps and only partial pressure loss. These rims are super secure and I had ZERO issues with running them tubeless, even with gorilla tape for rim tape and well used tires. Set it and forget it!
There are no dings, dents, flat spots, wobbles or cracks to report despite multiple attempts at destroying these wheels. No spokes, nipples, pawls or egos were brokeneither. The DHR's roll fast, make fun noises, and encourage pedaling where you normally wouldn’t. That's a good riding wheel set IMO.
Things That Could Be Improved
As mentioned, seating tubeless was slightly tricky but not something I'd hold against a wheelset - I'd rather practice my expletives during installation and keep my tires on when things get rough on the trail.
As for the proprietary nipples, while I'm not a fan of anything that's gonna be hard to come by down the line when repairs are needed, the fact that the wheels still use standard spokes and come with spares takes the sting out of this point.
Long Term Durability
My last set of Pimplites were on my DJ bike for 5 years. While only on the SL 650B version for a couple months, they seem to be inline with the durability that Atomlab is known for. The hub will require maintenance (they all do…) but it pulls apart quickly with normal shop tools and no tech doc is needed to figure out how the pawl system works.
Spoke tension and trueness have not changed, despite taking some nasty hits. It seems to me that wheels that don’t have problems in the first few hundred miles typically stay problem free. Well, with no broken spokes, smooth bearings, and all their loudness and redness intact so far, I believe these will hold up and I will definitely keep on rocking them as my primary wheel set.
What's The Bottom Line?
I had zero problems with the DHR SL 650B's and I definitely recommend them as a burly all mountain wheelset. Atomlab has done a great job of taking a classic rim and making it bigger and lighter. The 102 rear hub is rad - the pedal feedback is amazing, the noise takes some getting used to but I secretly love it. My only real concern with these wheels are the oversized nipples and ease of access to parts in the future. But simply put, they held up better than most all mountain wheelsets do for me and at about $650 they come in at real good value too.
For more, cruise on over to www.atomlab.com.
About The Reviewer
Cory Tepper is a life long MTB nerd. He’s been riding since 1994 and spent a little time in the now defunct Semi-Pro downhill category. He’ll always love street riding and pumptracks, and will occasionally scare himself on a decently sized set of dirt jumps. During the day he turns wrenches on $10,000 road bikes and documents the lesser known riders as a photographer and video guy in his free time. Tepper has a three legged dog, and he loves gas station coffee, Dominoes and Katy Perry - basically he is THE best product tester ever. Count on Tepper to keep it real.