Astral is a new brand, but their products aren't as new. Rolf Prima recently created Astral as a sub-brand as a venue to sell their rims to wheel builders, so many/most/all of their rims have been in circulation for a while, but not available as component rims. The first of their rims that we wanted to look at is the Wanderlust, which is a disc specific rim that's relatively wide and reasonably light and seems to be a great fit for wider road, gravel, and cross tires.
Out of the box, they certainly are handsome rims, with a nice matte finish and understated graphics (that we changed out for our very similar graphics on our test set). Weight is within a gram of two of the 450g claimed weight, and the ERD was spot on their 595.5mm number. 21mm internal width is accurate. The profile is 1.8mm offset to help even out tension imbalance from side to side.
The specs are quite similar to the HED Belgium+ rim, although the Belgium+ is a tad deeper, and this will inevitably invite comparison between the two. Why choose one over the other? Well, it's no secret that we love Belgium+ rims, but they have two liabilities. First is their slightly high price. You pay for quality in the case of HED, but at least you get the quality for which you pay. The second is that the tire fit isn't as secure as we'd like for tubeless cross use. You can burp them.
The Wanderlust is a bit less expensive than the Belgium+, about $30 less for a pair. That's not a ton, but it's something. More significantly, Astral has nailed tire fit on these. The tubeless profile is very effective, with wide-ish shoulders and a bead barb to keep the bead out on the shelf. Not likely to burp these, then. And yet tires aren't hard to put on, and the several tubeless tires we've installed have all gone right up with just a floor pump.
The Stan's Grail has always been our "King of One Thing" cross tubeless tire, but the Wanderlust seems a worthy challenger to that crown. The sidewall drop (from outer edge of rim down to the bead shelf) is a bit deeper at 5.3 than Stan's Grail at 4.75, which may make these a tad more vulnerable to dents if you bottom them out hard.
As noted, the finish is quite nice, but the joint isn't at the same standard as HED's. Really no one's is, and the joint comes through the build process stable and in good shape, so though it's a minor aesthetic thing if you're super OCD, it won't affect the ride or durability of the build. **UPDATE 3/28 - A day after we published this post, the sales manager for Astral got in touch to thank us for the post and to let us know that they had found the same thing in a batch of rims and reworked the rims that were able to be brought to what they call perfect, and recycled the rest. He also assured us that this was very much on their radar and that they'd make sure no rims with imperfect joints would get out going forward. Manufacturer attention like this is appreciated and certainly helps. Thanks, Tom**
One usual area of concern with offset rims is that the drive side (rear) or disc side (front) nipples can get artificially jagged to a more upright position rather than following the spoke's natural entry angle into the rim. This was particularly noted on some Santa Cruz Reserve rims we recently built, and it's evident on really all carbon rims because of their thicker spoke bed. As you may or may not see in the above shot, the spokes and nipples are allowed to follow their natural line in the Wanderlust built, which means no overstressed nipples and no realignment later on. You can also more or less see what a nice profile the 33mm IRC Serac Sand cross tire makes with these suckers. A 28mm road tire is a great fit, a cross tire is a great fit, and up to about a 47mm gravel tire will be an ideal fit.
They also some in 650b, which is more and more of a thing. Unlike the HED Belgium+, the profile of the rims is the exact same (the 650b Belgium+ is actually a nicer disc-specific profile than the 700c version). And Stan's Grail she don't come in the 650b.
Drilling options are wide open, with everything from 24 to 32. Our test set is laced 24/28, which is how I usually build these things. Tension drop is a bit high once the tire is mounted, but the nearly 70% tension ratio of the rear (and better than that on the front) make this something of a non-issue. The offside spokes have plenty of tension.
Once we stop having nor'easters every hour and a half we'll be able to get some more miles on these but they're awfully nice rims that seem to fill the wide road/cross/gravel niche in an effective way.