Swiss Side's Pion Disc Brake Wheelset is a good choice for a fast road setup, with a respectable weight which, combined with the slight aero advantage from the 32mm depth, gives a performance boost over stock rims, but for off-road/gravel use the 18mm internal rim width limits tyre choice to 30mm or narrower. They're easy to set up tubeless, but there are very good cheaper alternatives.
Pros: Good weight for aluminium wheels of this depth; build quality; high max system weight will suit bigger riders; easy tubeless setup
Cons: Max tyre width 30mm
If you're looking for a wheelset upgrade under the £500 mark then you've got seemingly endless options – Swiss Side's Pion Disc Brake wheelset is fighting in a very crowded market.
> Buy these online here
The Pion range – it's available in disc and rim brake versions – is Swiss Side's cheapest option, and the only aluminium wheels that the Swiss company still makes. The Pion Disc is aimed at riding varied terrain, be that on the road or on gravel, and I've been using them for some cyclo-cross riding too.
Setting these up tubeless was very easy – Michelin's Power Mud CX tyres, Vittoria's Rubino Pros, and Challenge's new handmade Strada tyres all went up without any trouble.
No matter where I rode with these wheels, they felt nippy and very positive, reacting well to sprints out of slow corners and accelerations on steeper climbs. They felt very solid under me, with no hint of movement under heavy braking, and even though I've subjected them to rougher off-road riding than they're designed for, they've come out running perfectly true.
Aluminium is a popular choice for a durable wheelset, and the Pions have proved perfectly robust, thanks in part to the very good build quality. As you might expect from Swiss engineering, the components that make up the wheels are good quality, with DT Swiss's Aero Comp bladed spokes and 370 hubs.
These are laced in a two-cross pattern front and back and deal with the forces from the drivetrain and disc brakes well, with no noticeable flex under load.
The hubs offer the choice of 5mm x 100mm QR or 12 x 100mm thru-axle front, and 5mm x 135mm QR or 12 x 142mm thru-axle rear. It's not as extensive as some – Hunt's 4 Season hubs, for example – but it'll suit many current road and gravel bikes. Swiss Side provides all the end caps that you need in the box, along with good QR skewers and DT Swiss tubeless tape installed as standard.
While these are good wheels for road use, for proper gravel riding and for cyclo-cross I'd have expected to see a slightly wider internal rim profile. Tyre clearance on gravel and adventure bikes has grown, with many accepting 40 or 50mm wide tyres, but the Pion, measuring 18mm internally, is rated to just a 30mm tyre. Seeing as gravel and cyclo-cross tyres rarely dip below 33mm because of the need for high volume tyres to soak up the rougher surfaces, it seems pointless to limit wheels aimed at off-road use to 30mm rubber.
Even though these performed pretty well off-road, wider tyres allow you to run lower pressures, which improves grip and comfort on loose and bumpy surfaces. If you're looking for a wheelset to mix serious gravel/CX riding with road, you'll need to look elsewhere.
Weight and value
Measured with the DT Swiss tubeless tape fitted, the Pions weighed 1,801g on our scales. While they don't feel overly heavy when riding, you can go lighter – for around the same money or less.
Prime's Baroudeur SE Disc wheels, another aluminium option, come in at a claimed 1,585g and cost just £299. Their 19mm internal rim bed is slightly wider, and they have a 30mm rim depth.
Hunt's 34 Aero Wide disc wheelset is similar to the Pions at £479, slightly wider (20mm internal, 26mm external), and claimed to be quite a bit lighter – 1,548g.
You can still spend more, though: Fulcrum's Racing 3 DB wheelset is £559.99, though they are slightly wider internally at 19mm and they support 15mm thru-axles too.
> Buyer's Guide: 20 of the best disc brake road wheels
If you're looking for a dedicated set of aluminium road disc wheels then the Swiss Side Pions are a good choice. They work well for road riding and feel quick in a sprint, plus you're getting good build quality so long-term reliability shouldn't be an issue. However, if you don't want to be limited to using a 30mm tyre, especially when cyclo-cross season rolls around, you'll need to look elsewhere.
Strong, robust and fairly speedy, but the narrow rim limits tyre choice and there are more versatile options out there
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Make and model: Swiss Side Pion Disc Brake wheels
Size tested: 32mm deep aluminium rim
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?
From Swiss Side: "The PION is a wheel that excels in any terrain, with a super stiff and lightweight 32mm deep aluminium rim. The wide 18mm internal width generates the stiffness whilst maintaining light weight and allowing the fitting of wider tyres from 23mm up to 30mm wide. The tubeless-ready rim design, pre-fitted with tubeless rim tape, makes this wheel compatible with the latest road bike & gravel tyres. The PION wheels share the same high precision and durable DT Swiss 370 hubs from the HADRON Classic wheel line. Together with DT Swiss Aero Comp bladed spokes and lightweight aluminium nipples, the PION is a high-performance allrounder which can accommodate almost all riders with an allowable system weight of 130kg. Manufactured through DT Swiss, once again the highest possible Swiss quality and durability is assured"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
From Swiss Side:
32mm deep, 18mm wide internally
DT Swiss 370, custom for Swiss Side. Rim brake wheel hub/axle dimensions are: 5mm x 100mm front / 5mm x 130mm rear. Disc brake wheel hubs/axle dimensions are: 5mm x 100mm, 12 x 100mm front / 5mm x 135mm, 12 x 142mm rear.
DT Swiss Aero Comp J-bend spokes with DT Swiss ProLock standard aluminium nipples. Front Rim Brake (radial 1:1): 20 spokes. Rear Rim Brake (radial / 3-cross 2:1): 24 spokes. Front Disc Brake (2-cross 1:1): 24 spokes. Rear Disc Brake (2-cross 1:1): 24 spokes.
Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
Rate the wheel for performance:
Good on the road, but let down by the limited tyre size for off-road use.
Rate the wheel for durability:
Rate the wheel for weight
Rate the wheel for value:
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Very easy. The three sets that I tried went up with just a track pump.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Skewers were solid and you get tubeless tape, valves and end caps for QR and 12mm thru-axles.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
On the road, these are very nice wheels to ride and I got through a fair few miles without issue. For gravel, they're a bit too narrow internally.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
The tubeless setup was really easy.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
The narrow profile of the rim and max tyre size mean they're a road-only wheelset.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
About the same as the Hunt 34 Aero Wide wheels which, thanks to their wider rim, are much more versatile.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? No, I'd want a rim that allows for wider tyres.
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Maybe. They'd have to be looking for a dedicated road training wheelset
Use this box to explain your overall score
Swiss Side talks about using these wheels for gravel riding, but the 30mm max tyre size really limits these to on-road use. For the money, you can get a lot more versatility.
Age: 24 Height: 177cm Weight: 62kg
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
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