Handbuilt in the Netherlands by FFWD, the F3A Disc Brake wheelset is designed for use on the road, gravel tracks and for some cyclo-cross abuse. They are solid all-rounders which feel great to ride, come with plenty of accessories, a three-year warranty and excellent DT Swiss hubs.
FFWD has long been known for its deep-section carbon race and time trial wheels. After many years of racing against the clock on various iterations I have always been impressed by the build quality and longevity of its wheels. The F3As show that FFWD has delivered that same level of quality into its lower end options too.
While many will scoff at a price of £624.95 for what FFWD considers a set of training wheels, there is very little to fault here. After all, if you're not racing then you are training in some form, and the F3As will cope with pretty much anything you throw at them.
Out on the road they perform brilliantly, and while not in the superlight category at 1,630g, they are responsive to your input and feel pretty agile. Acceleration feels quick, and spinning them up from a standstill doesn't feel like a chore every time you have to do it.
Laced up with 24 spokes front and rear in a 2:1 pattern, with twice the number spokes on the side that requires the most force resistance (brake side on the front, drive side on the rear), they are brilliantly stiff. Although pad rub isn't a concern from wheel flex like it is on a rim brake model, you can still feel a lack of lateral stiffness on some disc wheels, but you get none of that here.
Attacking short, sharp climbs, the F3As transfer the power from the pedals while being as tight as a drum.
With all of this stiffness they aren't the most forgiving set of wheels I've ridden, but they aren't harsh by any sense of the imagination, especially when paired with larger volume tyres which the 19mm internal (24mm external) rim width allows.
The build quality is excellent. The F3As were true and well tensioned straight out of the box, and you can feel why FFWD is happy to recommend them for gravel and cyclo-cross use.
Taking to the local tracks and trails, they saw plenty of abuse from rocks and potholes without flinching and have remained true throughout.
Confirming a belief in its products, FFWD offers a three-year warranty, plus, if you are unlucky to wreck them in a crash, a discounted rebuild or replacement wheel for the original owner.
The rim itself is made from aluminium alloy and comes in at 27mm deep. The black finish is hardwearing so even if you are riding off-road a lot, they aren't going to start looking shabby any time soon.
They are tubeless ready and in the padded wheel bag you'll find tubeless tape and a set of valves.
The black gloss graphics do look pretty cool, but personally if I've just spent over 600 quid on a set of wheels, I'd like the option of other colours for a bit of shouty bling.
At the heart of the wheels are DT Swiss 350 hubs which I've used on various wheels over the years, and I reckon they are a tough and reliable choice. The bearings spin smoothly, showing barely any resistance whatsoever, and if you are a fan of a quiet freehub then you'll like these, with just the minimal of ticking to be heard when you aren't pedalling.
As you'd expect, the F3As are set up for 12mm thru-axles as standard, with 100mm front width and 142mm for the rear to match the majority of the latest disc-equipped bikes on the market.
Freehub options are Shimano/SRAM, Campagnolo and SRAM XDr.
We have the Shimano version, and while I would normally like to see some form of steel strip on the splines to protect the freehub body against the cassette biting in from heavy loads, the F3As aren't showing anything other than a few little nicks into the metal, so no real concerns there.
When it comes to value there is some tough opposition out there from the usual candidates, most notably Hunt, which continues to bring out well-specced and priced wheels for every occasion.
Its 4 Season Disc wheelset is tough enough to deal with the same type of riding styles as the F3A, and has the same rim width. It's a few grams lighter too, and almost £300 cheaper.
These FFWD wheels remind me of the fit and forget kind of durability of the FSA Afterburner AGX wheelset. The FSAs are more gravel-orientated and come in quite a bit heavier at 1,789g, but both wheelsets have that quality, solid ride feel to them that you just know is going to make them last and last for years to come.
Pricing of the pair is similar, with the FSAs coming in at £619.95.
Overall, you can get lighter and cheaper wheels but sometimes it doesn't just come down to that. The FFWDs offer an excellent ride feel backed by a top quality build and look the business too, all backed up with that three-year warranty.
Top quality wheelset for road use, and strong enough to take on the gravel tracks too
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road.cc test report
Make and model: FFWD F3A Disc Brake wheelset
Size tested: 700C, 27mm rims
Tell us what the wheel is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
FFWD says, "Bringing disc brakes to FFWD's ultimate training wheel set. The lightweight F3A is the affordable trainingsets based on the high quality parts that FFWD is known for. The rims are tubeless ready and is perfectly suitable for road and gravel bikes.
DT Swiss hubs are known for their high quality and low and easy maintenance. On the disc brake models the 2:1 spoke ratio brings more spokes on the critical side of the wheel making sure the best balance and durability is reached.
ALSO FOR GRAVEL BIKES!
The wider rims with tubeless compatibility in combination with the disc brakes make these wheels your perfect choice for gravel use. Go up to 40mm to choose your ideal tire profile to attack those gravel roads!
FFWD wheels are always shipped as a complete package including most common accessories protected by a nice wheel bag. Outboxing will be something to look forward to!"
A quality wheelset, fast and well built.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
FFWD lists these features:
27mm tubeless ready aluminum clincher
Specific rim and build for disc brake compatible frames
UV Protected Decals
Spoke Count: 24H Front/24H Rear
Lacing Pattern: 2:1
Hub Option: 12mm Thru-Axle DT 350 Straight Pull Center Lock
Hub Spacing: Front: 12/100mm, Rear: 12/142mm
Components: DT Aerolite spokes, DT Pro Lock Brass Nipples
Freehub: Shimano/SRAM 10/11, SRAM XDR or Campagnolo 11/12 speed
Color(s): Matte Black
Weight: 1630 grams (set)
Rim Width Outside: 24mm
Rim Width Inside: 19mm
Weight limit: 110kg
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
No issues with trueness throughout the test period.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Various tyres from 25mm road tyres to 40mm gravel options fitted relatively easily.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
The rim tape was decent quality stuff and the valves provided a tight seal for tubeless use.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They feel great whatever the terrain.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
The very responsive ride feel and quality build.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Slightly petty but I'd like some brighter decal options.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Brands like Hunt, Scribe and JRA wheels are often tough to compete with when it comes to grams versus cost ratio, but although more expensive, FFWD has backed up that cost by creating a very tough wheelset with great build quality.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The F3As offer a great all-round package; their performance is impressive, but the real highlight is their exceptional build quality.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!