For the gravel enthusiast demanding the best gravel wheelsets, 2023 brings a lineup designed for peak performance on rough terrain. These wheels balance robust construction with the lightness required for both spirited road climbs and technical descents. Whether you’re upgrading your gravel race bikes or looking for a set of wheels that can handle the demands of both road and gravel, the following selections offer reliability, speed, and compatibility with various tire setups, like the increasingly popular tubeless set-up.
List of Top 5 Carbon Gravel Wheels
- ICAN G25 700C – Best for Mixed Terrains
- ICAN G24 700C – Best Robust Wheels
- SUPERTEAM Carbon Wheelset 45TU-28 – Best High-Performance Choice
- ELITEWHEELS Edge Gravel Carbon Wheel – Best Lightweight
- ELITEWHEELS SLT Gravel Carbon Wheelset – Best for Professionals
Best Carbon Gravel Wheels For An Unparalleled Experience
For those seeking the best gravel wheelsets, the market in 2023 offers a variety of options that promise to elevate gravel and adventure riding.
Incorporating carbon rims into a gravel bike wheelset, the ICAN G25 700C stands out as a robust option for riders looking to tackle mixed terrains.
The 700C G25 wheelset is designed to support the adventurous spirit of gravel bike wheels enthusiasts. Its 25mm inner width is ideal for a wide range of tire sizes, offering versatility and the ability to adapt to various riding conditions. The wheelset’s carbon rims not only reduce weight but also enhance the overall stiffness, translating to improved power transfer and handling.
Compatibility with both 10 and 11-speed Shimano freehub bodies makes this wheelset a flexible choice for various drivetrains. The center lock rotor attachment system ensures secure braking performance, which is crucial when navigating unpredictable gravel paths. Additionally, the 24/24 hole count provides a balance of lightness and durability, making it suitable for long-distance rides and competitive events.
This wheelset’s tubeless-ready design maximizes the benefits of running lower tire pressures, improving traction and comfort on uneven terrain. The combination of these features makes the G25 an exemplary model of what riders seek in gravel bike wheels: reliability, adaptability, and performance.
- Lightweight and stiff carbon rims enhance handling and acceleration
- The tubeless-ready design allows for lower tire pressures and improved comfort
- Compatible with a range of Shimano drivetrains for versatility
- Limited spoke count might not be ideal for heavier riders or loaded touring
The ICAN G24 700C is a stellar set of wheels that captures the essence of gravel riding. It features carbon rims that are robust yet lightweight, ensuring a smooth ride across both road and gravel surfaces.
The ICAN G24 gravel bike wheels are configured to meet the demands of both gravel and road cycling. The 40mm depth carbon rims offer an aerodynamic advantage while maintaining the strength needed for rugged terrain. Roval Terra CLX technology is evident in the wheelset’s construction, promising a smooth transition between road riding and adventure riding.
Constructed with straight-pull spokes, the wheelset is engineered for both responsiveness and durability. The rim bed is designed for a tubeless set-up, which, when paired with the right rim strips, provides a reliable seal and reduces the chance of flats. The set also features a disc wheelset with a center lock mechanism, ensuring powerful and consistent braking in all conditions.
Ceramic bearings reduce friction and enhance longevity, while cup-and-cone bearings ensure easy maintenance. Compatibility with Campagnolo N3W allows for a wide range of gear options, and the Sigma Sports lifetime warranty offers peace of mind. These wheels are ready for the long haul, whether it’s a gravel race or an extended adventure ride.
- Aerodynamic 40mm depth carbon rims optimized for performance
- Tubeless-ready with included valves and rim tape for easy setup
- Durable straight-pull spokes and center lock disc brakes for reliability
- 40mm rim depth could be less stable in strong crosswinds
The SUPERTEAM Carbon Wheelset 45TU-28 is a high-performance choice for gravel enthusiasts who demand excellence in both speed and reliability. Its 700C tubeless-ready design is complemented by disc braking, ensuring that riders can navigate through challenging terrains with confidence and control.
This carbon gravel wheelset features a strategic profile that caters to the demands of mixed-surface riding. The disc braking system offers consistent stopping power in a variety of weather conditions, which is essential for the unpredictability of gravel trails. The tubeless compatibility of the wheelset allows riders to run lower tire pressures for increased grip and reduced rolling resistance.
With its 45mm rim depth, the wheelset strikes a balance between aerodynamics and stability, making it suitable for both racing and leisurely exploration. The robust construction ensures that the wheels can withstand the rigors of gravel riding while maintaining a lightweight profile that doesn’t hinder performance.
Attention to detail is evident in the wheelset’s aesthetics, with sleek graphics that complement its technical prowess. The user-friendly design means that maintenance is straightforward, allowing riders to spend less time on upkeep and more time enjoying their rides.
- Aerodynamic rim profile for enhanced speed on flats
- Tubeless-ready design for improved traction and comfort
- Strong disc braking performance under various conditions
- Higher rim depth may affect handling in windy conditions
The ELITEWHEELS Edge Gravel Carbon Wheels set a new standard for performance on mixed terrain.
The ELITEWHEELS Edge offers a 25mm internal rim width that provides a broad base for gravel tires, enhancing stability and control over rough road surfaces. The wider rims are also suitable for mountain bikes, enabling a versatile setup for adventurous riders. The hookless bead design is engineered for seamless compatibility with tubeless tires, reducing the risk of pinch flats and facilitating lower tire pressures for improved traction.
These carbon gravel wheels feature state-of-the-art hub engagement, ensuring that every ounce of power transfer is converted into forward motion. This is especially beneficial on-road wheelsets, where efficiency is paramount. Additionally, the wheelset is designed to accommodate both road or gravel wheels, giving riders the flexibility to choose the best road bike wheels for their riding style and conditions.
With an ultralight weight of just 1439 grams, these wheels are designed for speed and responsiveness. The 45mm wing-shaped rim profile cuts through the air with minimal resistance, while the 20-spoke configuration balances strength and weight savings. The 45mm rim depth provides an aerodynamic advantage without sacrificing stability in crosswinds, making them suitable for a variety of road or gravel conditions. This set of the best carbon gravel wheels is crafted to deliver a blend of performance and durability that gravel riders demand.
- Ultralight at 1439g for nimble handling and quick accelerations
- 25mm internal rim width ideal for a range of gravel tires
- Advanced hub engagement for efficient power transfer
- Might be less suitable for heavier riders due to the 20-spoke design
ELITEWHEELS SLT Gravel Carbon Wheelset is tailored specifically for gravel and cyclocross enthusiasts.
The wheelset is equipped with a high-quality ceramic bearing hub, ensuring smooth and efficient rolling. Center lock disc brake rotors provide reliable stopping power under all conditions, essential for the unpredictable terrain of gravel racing. The rim’s 35x32mm dimensions offer an optimal balance between aerodynamics and stability, making this set of gravel wheels a top choice for racers and serious riders alike.
It comes with a center lock mechanism designed to secure the disc brake rotors, ensuring quick and easy installation or removal. The 35mm rim depth paired with a 32mm external width provides an aerodynamic edge while accommodating wider tires, which are crucial for maintaining grip and reducing rolling resistance on loose surfaces. The XDR freehub is compatible with a wide range of drivetrains, including SRAM XDR or Campagnolo, offering versatility for various bike setups.
The SLT series boasts a stiff and lightweight construction that is responsive to acceleration, helping riders to surge ahead when it counts. With a 25mm internal rim, these wheels support wider tire widths, which are essential for comfort and performance on rough gravel roads. The tubeless-ready design with tubeless tape installed simplifies the setup process and enhances the overall riding experience.
Despite their lightweight profile, these wheels maintain a robust structure. The hooked rims are designed to hold the tire securely, even at lower pressures, adding confidence during aggressive riding. The inclusion of dt 240s hubs, known for their 240 exp hubs, enhances the wheelset’s reliability and serviceability, making them a long-lasting investment for discerning gravel bike enthusiasts.
- Center lock disc brakes for superior stopping power
- Ceramic bearings for smooth, low-friction rolling
- Tubeless-ready with tubeless tape installed for convenience
- Limited compatibility with non-XDR freehubs
The Buyer’s Guide to Carbon Gravel Wheels
This guide will navigate the nuanced differences in carbon gravel wheels to ensure buyers make an informed decision, aligning their purchase with their riding style and performance requirements.
Wheel Size: 700c or 650b?
When selecting gravel bike wheels, riders must choose between the de facto standard 700c wheel size, ideal for gravel riding and road riding, and the smaller 650b option preferred for its ability to accommodate wider tires. The 700c size offers a larger rim diameter, which maintains speed and rolls over obstacles with ease, while the 650b wheels provide a plusher ride with the added volume of 650b tires.
Riders who opt for 650b wheels often prioritize comfort and traction, especially when tackling rugged terrain akin to mountain biking. These smaller wheels, paired with wider tires, offer better handling and stability, a boon for those who venture onto trails that resemble paths designed for mountain bikes. The choice ultimately hinges on the rider’s preference for speed or agility in their gravel riding experience.
Tubeless Tyre Compatibility
Modern gravel tires are increasingly designed for tubeless setups, which eliminate the risk of pinch flats—a common inconvenience in rough terrain. Tubeless tires, sealed with tubeless valves, allow for lower tire pressures, enhancing grip and comfort on uneven surfaces. This compatibility is a critical factor for riders seeking the best performance on gravel.
The benefits of tubeless tire systems extend to reduced rolling resistance and the ability to self-seal minor punctures with liquid sealant. For gravel bikes that are subject to diverse conditions, the transition to a tubeless setup is not just a preference but a strategic choice to ensure reliability and optimal handling on every ride.
Rim Width Considerations
The trend towards wider rims has transformed the landscape of gravel bike wheels, offering a better seat for wider tires. A wider internal rim width increases tire volume and allows for a more pronounced tire profile, improving traction and ride comfort. This synergy between wider rims and tires is essential for the varied terrain encountered in gravel riding.
Moreover, wider rims provide structural benefits, including increased lateral stiffness and strength, which are paramount when traversing challenging gravel routes. While wider tires paired with these rims can impact aerodynamics negatively, the trade-off is often justified by the gains in stability and control for the gravel enthusiast.
The Anatomy of Carbon Gravel Wheels
Carbon rims stand at the forefront of gravel wheel technology, offering a blend of lightweight construction and strength. The resilience of carbon fiber allows for wheels that are not only lighter but also capable of absorbing trail vibrations, contributing to a smoother and more responsive ride on mixed-surface roads.
Understanding Rim Materials
Alloy rims have long been a staple in the cycling world, valued for their durability and cost-effectiveness. While they are typically heavier than carbon rims, alloy wheels offer a robustness that is well-suited for the unpredictable nature of gravel surfaces. Riders often consider alloy when seeking a balance between performance and budget-consciousness.
However, the advent of carbon gravel wheels has shifted the preference for many riders, as the weight savings and improved compliance of carbon materials translate into a more efficient and comfortable ride. The choice between alloy and carbon rims is influenced by rider priorities, with carbon emerging as a popular option for those seeking to optimize their gravel setups.
Axle and Brake Rotor Compatibility
Gravel bikes have embraced the versatility and stopping power of disc brakes, with disc brake rotors becoming a standard feature. These rotors come in two main attachment styles: center lock and six-bolt. Center lock systems offer a more straightforward installation process and are commonly found on high-end wheelsets, while six-bolt systems provide a more traditional and widely compatible option.
When upgrading wheels, compatibility with existing axles is crucial. The gravel bike market has mostly settled on thru-axles for their improved stiffness and safety, yet it’s important to ensure the new wheels match the frame’s axle standards. A mismatch can lead to compatibility issues and affect the overall performance and safety of the bike.
Tubeless Set-Up: Necessity or Preference?
The shift towards tubeless set-ups has introduced new considerations, such as internal rim width, wider rims, rim shape, tire pressures, and hookless versions with hookless bead designs. These elements combine to create a more seamless and secure interface between the tire and rim, enhancing the performance and reliability of tubeless systems on gravel.
Going tubeless on gravel offers significant advantages, including the reduction of flats and the ability to run lower pressures for improved traction and comfort. The absence of a tube also eliminates the risk of pinch flats, which can be a frequent issue on rough terrain. With sealant in the tire, small punctures can self-repair, allowing riders to continue without interruption.
Moreover, tubeless tires can offer a noticeable reduction in rolling resistance, contributing to a more efficient and responsive ride. While setting up a tubeless system might require more initial effort, the long-term benefits for gravel riding are substantial, making it an increasingly popular choice among riders.
Carbon vs. Alloy: The Ultimate Showdown
When it comes to gravel bike wheels, the choice between carbon and alloy materials is critical. Carbon wheels are prized for their lightness and vibration-damping capabilities, which can lead to faster and less fatiguing rides. Alloy wheels, while generally heavier, offer durability and a lower price point, making them a viable option for many gravel cyclists.
A dedicated gravel wheelset made from carbon typically offers the best in weight savings and ride quality, with carbon’s damping properties providing a smoother experience on rough terrain. Conversely, alloy wheels are recognized for their resilience, often incorporating features like cup-and-cone bearings, which lend themselves to easier maintenance and longevity.
Ultimately, the decision between carbon and alloy for a gravel wheelset hinges on the rider’s priorities. Those valuing performance and reduced fatigue may lean towards carbon, while riders looking for ruggedness and cost-effectiveness might prefer alloy.
Understanding Disc Brake Options
Disc brakes have revolutionized the cycling industry, and on gravel bikes, they provide consistent, powerful braking regardless of conditions. Their ability to remain responsive to acceleration and quick direction changes makes them an ideal choice for the demands of gravel cycling.
Centrelock vs. Six-Bolt Discs
Choosing between center-lock and six-bolt disc brake systems is a key consideration when selecting a gravel wheelset. Centrelock rotors, which are fastened with a lockring, offer a more streamlined design and quicker wheel changes, ideal for riders who prioritize ease of maintenance and clean aesthetics.
On the other hand, six-bolt rotors are attached with six individual bolts, providing a secure and widely adopted connection. This system is often favored for its universal compatibility and availability, making it a reliable choice for gravel riders who may require replacement parts in varied locations.
Making the Right Choice for Your Ride
Selecting the best carbon gravel wheels for your ride hinges on compatibility with varied road surfaces and personal cycling styles. Gravel cycling presents a unique set of demands, and the best gravel wheelsets cater to these with precision. Factors such as rider weight, preferred terrain, and riding aggressiveness play a pivotal role in the selection process. A wheelset that excels on steep climbs may not provide the same level of comfort on long, bumpy descents.
For enthusiasts who prioritize speed and efficiency, a lighter wheelset might be the go-to choice. Conversely, those who prize durability over weight savings might opt for a sturdier build. Understanding these nuances ensures that the wheels not only fit your bike but also enhance your riding experience.
Navigating the Terrain with Confidence
Carbon gravel wheels are engineered to withstand the diverse challenges of gravel riding. Their robust construction and advanced materials provide the durability and performance necessary to navigate through rough terrains while maintaining speed and control.
Durability Meets Lightweight Design
Advanced wheel designs often incorporate cup-and-cone bearings, which are renowned for their durability and serviceability. This type of bearing system also contributes to a lighter wheel build, striking a balance between performance longevity and reduced rotational weight.
The quest for the best gravel wheelsets is a balance between weight, strength, and responsiveness. Riders must weigh the benefits of a lightweight wheel, which can improve acceleration and climbing ability, against the strength required to handle the unpredictable nature of gravel roads. Ultimately, the ideal wheelset should offer a harmonious blend of these characteristics, ensuring that riders can confidently tackle both the climbs and descents that define the gravel riding experience.
Weatherproofing Your Ride
A disc wheelset with ceramic bearings hits the sweet spot for riders seeking a smooth ride in all weather conditions. These components are less susceptible to the elements, providing consistent performance and longevity, even when riding through water, mud, or grit. When confronting adverse weather, the right wheelset is paramount. A disc wheelset equipped with ceramic bearings ensures a smoother ride and increased durability against the elements. The resistance to corrosion and lower friction of ceramic bearings provide a performance advantage in wet and dirty conditions.
Moreover, the disc brake system offers consistent stopping power, which is crucial for safety and confidence when navigating through unpredictable weather. Riders can take solace in knowing their wheels are built to endure whatever the skies may bring.
Serviceability for the Long Haul
For longevity, a set of gravel wheels with straight-pull spokes can be a wise selection. These spokes typically offer a smooth ride and are easier to service, ensuring that riders can maintain their wheels with minimal fuss over time. Maintaining a set of gravel wheels shouldn’t be a daunting task. With straight-pull spokes, riders can enjoy a smoother ride and the ease of straightforward maintenance. These spokes are known for their strength and simplicity when it comes to making adjustments or replacements.
Regular maintenance not only prolongs the life of the wheels but also ensures consistent performance. A wheelset that is easy to service empowers riders to confidently handle their maintenance, ensuring their investment continues to roll smoothly for miles to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are wider rims truly superior?
A wider external width allows for a broader tire width, which, in turn, can enhance traction and comfort on loose surfaces—a consideration that holds particular relevance for gravel riders. Wider rims are often lauded for their ability to improve the contact patch of the tire, yielding better grip and a more stable ride—factors that are especially beneficial in the unpredictable conditions of gravel riding. The increased air volume also allows for lower tire pressures, which can absorb shocks and vibrations from rough terrain. Despite these advantages, wider rims come with trade-offs, such as potential increases in weight and aerodynamic drag.
Why is internal rim width important for gravel wheels?
The internal rim width of gravel wheels is crucial because it directly affects tire volume and shape. A wider internal rim width allows for the use of wider tires, which can improve grip and comfort on uneven gravel surfaces. For instance, a 25mm internal rim width is becoming the sweet spot for many gravel tires, providing a good balance between tire support and overall wheel performance.
Should I choose hookless or hooked rims for my gravel wheels?
When selecting gravel wheels, the choice between hookless and hooked rims depends on personal preference and compatibility with your chosen tires. Hookless rims are becoming more common due to their stiff and lightweight design, which can offer better performance and durability. However, ensure your gravel tires are compatible with hookless rims before making a decision. Hooked rims, on the other hand, can accommodate a wider range of tire types and pressures.
Can I use the same wheelset for road riding and gravel racing?
Yes, you can use the same set of wheels for both road and gravel racing, especially if they are designed as road and gravel wheels. These dual-purpose wheels are typically durable enough for the demands of gravel racing while still offering the responsiveness and low rolling resistance desired for road riding. However, for optimal performance, you might want to consider a dedicated gravel wheelset specifically designed for the rigors of gravel riding.
What is the ideal rim shape for carbon gravel wheels?
The ideal rim shape for carbon gravel wheels typically includes a wider profile that supports wider gravel tires effectively. This shape helps distribute the forces over a larger area, reducing the risk of damage from impacts and providing a more stable base for the tire. Look for a rim shape that complements the type of gravel riding you do, whether it’s fast gravel races or long adventure rides.
Are tubeless set-ups recommended for gravel bike wheels?
Yes, tubeless set-ups are highly recommended for gravel bike wheels. Running wheels tubeless allows for lower tire pressures, which can enhance grip and reduce the chances of pinch flats on rough gravel surfaces. Furthermore, tubeless valves and sealant help to quickly seal small punctures, maintaining air pressure and letting you continue your ride with minimal interruption.
How does rider weight influence the choice of gravel wheels?
Rider weight is an important consideration when choosing a set of gravel wheels. Heavier riders may require wheels with a higher spoke count or stronger rims to withstand the additional forces exerted during riding. It’s essential to check the manufacturer’s recommended weight limits to ensure the wheels can safely support the rider’s weight without compromising performance or durability.
What are the benefits of carbon rims over alloy rims for gravel wheels?
Carbon rims typically offer advantages over alloy rims in terms of weight, stiffness, and overall performance. Carbon gravel wheels are light, stiff, and lightweight, which makes them more responsive to acceleration and better at maintaining speed. They can also absorb vibrations for a smooth ride, even on rough gravel paths. Although carbon rims can be more expensive, they are a popular choice for gravel riders seeking a wheelset upgrade to improve their riding experience.
Is there a difference in performance between 700C or 650B wheels for gravel bikes?
Yes, there is a difference in performance between 700c and 650b wheels for gravel bikes. 700c wheels, the de facto standard for road cycling and gravel racing, offer faster rolling speed and are better suited for smoother gravel roads and road climbs. On the other hand, 650b wheels are smaller in diameter and allow for wider tires, which can provide better traction and comfort on more technical terrain. Riders may opt for 650b wheels when they prioritize maneuverability and shock absorption over top-end speed.
What type of hub engagement is best for gravel race bikes?
For gravel race bikes, a hub with quick engagement is preferable, as it allows for more immediate power transfer when pedaling. Hubs such as those around 10 degrees or less, which means less lag between the time you start pedaling and when the force is applied to the wheels. This can be particularly beneficial during races where quick accelerations and responsive handling are crucial.
Final Thoughts on the Finest Carbon Gravel Wheels of the Year
As the season turns and the gravel paths beckon, the allure of a wheelset upgrade becomes undeniable. The set of the best carbon gravel wheels specifically for gravel ensures that every adventure riding experience is elevated, combining the robustness required to withstand the rigors of off-road use with the finesse to conquer rolling resistance. Whether navigating through a technical descent or powering up a climb at 10 degrees, the right carbon wheels paired with bike shoes that offer superior grip can transform the ride into a symphony of speed and control.