Fitting your gravel bike with the best gravel wheels can transform your ride. The difference in weight, stiffness, width and tyre compatibility can upgrade your gravel racing or adventure bike from something that is cumbersome and dull to a bike that is fun, fast, and most importantly, enjoyable.
In the past couple of years, gravel bikes have gone from modified cyclo-cross and touring bikes to purpose-built, ride them everywhere machines. With the new frame designs and their ever-expanding tyre clearance – plus the clever way brands are making room for this ballooned rubber – we've also seen an explosion in gear to kit out these adventure and all road bikes.
In the early days, if cyclo-cross wheels didn't fit your needs, your options were skinny overbuilt MTB hoops or road wheels that might not be up to the task. Now we are flush for choice for specific gravel bike wheels in both 700c and 650b sizes.
Best gravel wheels
Lightweight gravel bike wheels that won't break the bank
Internal rim width: 23mm internal | Depth: 28mm | Sizes available: 700c and 650b | Weight: 1,685g (700c) | Brake mount: Centre-lock
Reynolds ATR or 'all-terrain road' are carbon fibre hoops designed to handle a bit more abuse than its Attack or Assault Aero wheels. Available in both 700c and 650b sizes the brand started with the carbon layup used for its MR5 MTB wheels and adapted it into a toroidal shape measuring 28mm deep, 21mm between the bead and 29mm outside. Reynolds claims they weigh 1685g (700c) on their website; however, in reality, they are closer to 1550g, which is pretty light for heavy-duty hoops.
They come out of the box with tubeless tape and valves pre-installed and feature external brass nipples for simple truing. The rims are built around Reynolds CNC machined TR3 hubs with 36 points of engagement, which will accept an XD Driver and can be installed tool-free.
Reynolds also backs its ATR hoops with a no questions asked crash and damage replacement policy.
An incredibly light wheelset designed to transition effortlessly between tarmac and gravel roads
Internal rim width: 25mm | Depth: 32mm | Sizes available: 700c | Weight: 1,296g | Brake mount: Centre-lock
Not only are they achingly beautiful, but they're also incredibly well rounded and can be manipulated to dismiss anything you throw at them through tyre pressure experimentation, be it tarmac, gravel or even singletrack. As an all-round option, nothing we've tested thus far comes close to the value and versatility they provide in spades.
The Roval Terra CLXs, then, are neither a gravel- nor road-wheel-specific wheel option. Instead, they combine lightweight performance with an ultra-stiff chassis for use across every imaginable discipline. As a wheelset upgrade, the Terra CLX offer speed, cornering precision and a tailorable ride quality that will not just make you faster but improve the way you ride, especially on unpredictable surfaces like gravel.
Stan's No Tubes Grail MK3
The best wheels for fuss free tubeless setup
Internal rim width: 20.3mm | Depth: 24.5mm | Sizes available: 700c | Weight: 1,675g | Brake mount: 6-bolt or Centre-lock
Best known for sealant and rim tape, Stan’s No Tubes has long made high-quality rims which have gained favour among CX, MTB and Gravel riders. The Grail MK3 Alloy rims are designed specifically for high volume tubeless tires and use the brands patented BST-R (bead socket technology) rim bed designs—broad shoulders along the centre channel and short sidewalls. Historically Stan's wheels have made for some of the easiest tubeless installs and the Grail MK3's which come with valves and tubeless tape pre-installed are no exception.
The rims are made from 6069 Series aluminium which makes for a reasonably light rim (1675g for the wheelset), the updated Grail is lighter stiffer and most importantly more dent resistant than the previous version.
Measuring 20.3mm between the bead, the Grail MK3 suits tyres between 25mm and 40mm and 24.5mm deep and spin on Stan's Neo Hubs. There is a tinge of flex which can be felt hammering out of the saddle, the Grail MK3's are incredibly reliable and some of the more comfortable wheels we've used to date.
For those with deep pockets these are the best that money can buy
Internal rim width: 23mm | Depth: 25mm | Sizes available: 700c and 650b | Weight: 1,305g, 700c with Envy Alloy hubs | Brake mount: Centre-lock
Finding a happy middle ground between its road and MTB wheelsets, the G23 700 measure 23mm internally and feature ENVE's Wide Hookless bead which provides a larger more forgiving surface during bottom outs and is claimed to all but eliminate pinch flats — in our experience, it has worked pretty well. ENVE also offer these wheels in a 650b version which push the internal rim width out to 27mm.
The G-series wheels use a bell-shaped rim which provides for a laterally stiff wheel, that also offers some degree of absorption and dampening. They also get ENVE's moulded rim holes, which the brand says makes their rims stronger, but also puts the nipples inside the rim making truing difficult.
The 700c version weighs 1305g for the set, and they are pretty snappy when pressure is applied. As you'd expect from ENVE, the G23's are stiff but don't wander into the bone-rattling harshness of the M-Series. Also to be expected is the hefty price tag, but you get what you pay for, and the G23's are also backed by the brand's no-questions-asked lifetime replacement policy.
Mavic Allroad Pro Disc
Bombproof gravel bike wheels that come with tyres
Internal rim width: 22mm | Depth: 24mm | Sizes available: 700c | Weight: 1,670g | Brake mount: 6-bolt
It's been a few years since Mavic dove into gravel and adventure riding, and the Allroad Pro hoops have evolved to better suit what we're looking for out of an all-road wheelset. With a 22mm internal rim width, Mavic recommends 28mm to 62mm tyres and the undrilled rim bed makes means no tape or rim strips are needed to take advantage of the UST system.
The alloy rims can take a beating, and though they weigh at 1,670g, they are efficient and responsive. As Mavic sells its wheels as a 'system', the Allroad Pro's come with Yksion Allroad UST rubber in either 35mm or 40mm widths. At first glance the Mavic tyres look like they're shod with knobs; in reality, they are slick with deep channels cut into the rubber.
With a carbon hub shell at the front and alloy at the rear, the Allroads spin on Mavic's Instant Drive 360 freewheel system which boasts 9-degrees engagement and features with centre-lock brake mounts. The hubs will also take a standard or Road XD driver, opening up gearing potential.
Zipp 30 Course DB
A alloy road wheelset that is more than capable of taking it into the rough
Internal rim width: 21mm | Depth: 26mm | Sizes available: 700c | Weight: 1,650g | Brake mount: Centre-lock
Zipp doesn't mark the 30 Course as a gravel-specific wheel, but with a 21mm internal rim width and a robust alloy rim they are at home on well-maintained dirt roads, and bomb holed jeep tracks alike. Slotting in as the brand's first tubeless-ready wheelset (the wheels come with tubeless tape and valves pre-installed), the rim itself borrows its toroidal rim profile from the 202 Firecrest and spins on the same 77/177d hub set.
In the box, the Zipp 30 Course comes with end caps for every modern axel standard and will accept both 10/11-speed Shimano or Campy freehubs, as well as Sram's XD driver for a dinner plate rear cassette. Weighing in a 1,650g, they are weight competitive for a gravel alloy wheelset, but they are some of the most laterally stiff we've found.
Hunt 30 Carbon Gravel Disc
A convergence of performance and value
Internal rim width: 21mm | Depth: 30mm | Sizes available: 700c | Weight: 1,479g | Brake mount: Centre-lock - 6-bolt adaptor included
Hunt is a relative newcomer to the wheel market, but since launching the brand has made waves with its road and gravel wheelsets. The 30 Carbon Gravel disc wheels marry the brands 30 Carbon rim with its 4-season hub which uses six-pawls for five degrees between engagements.
With a 21mm internal width, and 27mm external the 30Carbon Gravel disc wheels made for a well-supported tire in widths from 28mm up to 50mm, and Hunt employs its H-Lock tubeless rim bed, for painless tyre installs.
For years we've heard about high TG resin designed to withstand the heat caused by rim brakes, but the 30Carbon Gravel is only available in disc brakes Hunt has gone the opposite direction using a proprietary low temp resin claimed to be less brittle and offer superior impact resistance and vibration dampening. All of this makes for a wheel that weighs in at 1,479g.
Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels 650b
A tubeless-specific, hookless, wider, lighter gravel-wheel option
Internal rim width: 21mm | Depth: 45mm | Sizes available: 650b/700c | Weight: 1,355g | Brake mount: Centre-lock
At 45mm, Zipp’s 303 has the same rim depth as its predecessor. The company’s aerodynamicists calculated and tested various rim profiles, finding 45mm of depth being the optimal blend of aerodynamic efficiency and spoke tension.
The 303 has a hookless bead shape, which should mount tubeless tyres with ease. Zipp is aware that many road and gravel riders are now accepting that wider tyres roll better, especially on imperfect real-world roads.
Available in both wheel sizes - 700c and 650b - the Zipp 303 wheelset has become a popular choice on the gravel racing scene with riders such as Ted King employing its services on his Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 1.
How to choose gravel bike wheels
On the surface, gravel bike wheels don't look all the different to road wheels, however, they need to be able to stand up to considerably more abuse. While the best road bike wheels can be as feathery as 1kg, a light set of gravel wheels will often tack on an additional 500g of armour.
Also, expect to find rims ready for tubeless gravel tyres. Each brand has its own system, some are distinctly better than others, requiring no frustration, broken tyre levers or a flash pump/air compressor to get a tyre on the rim and inflated.
There is a range of alloy and carbon options out there, with carbon fibre commanding a considerably higher price tag.
1. Gravel wheel sizing
These days, the best gravel bikes can roll on either standard 700c wheels or smaller 650b hoops wrapped in chunkier tyres. 650b or 27.5in comes to us from touring bikes, however, in recent years, mountain bikers have cottoned on to the mid-size hoops for their manoeuvrability and lighter weight when compared to 29er wheels and tyres.
On gravel bikes, 650b wheels and tyres allow for fatter rubber, making for a bigger tyre footprint, lower tyre pressure and more traction and more bump absorption. On the other hand, 700c wheels require a skinnier tyre, but see less rotational mass and rolling resistance, and slightly better rollover capability — tyre choice will also have a significant effect in this arena, but that is for a separate guide. Even though the rims are two different sizes, both are nearly the same diameter with a tyre mounted and inflated, meaning you can swap between them without drastic changes in geometry or handling characteristics.
Your preferred wheel size will likely depend mainly on what kind of gravel riding you plan to do. If you ride smooth gravel, with a bit of tarmac mixed in 700c is your go to, however, if you're up for a big adventure with plenty of rutted, washboard gravel, singletrack or bushwhacking, 650b will serve you better.
2. Gravel wheel braking options
The benefits of disc brakes, especially in wet and dusty conditions are well documented, and most modern gravel bikes will have disc brakes. If you are in the market for a new set of gravel wheels, you're going to need a set of rotors too, so take note of whether the hubs accept centre-lock or six-bolt rotors.
Centre-lock rotors are attached to the hub with a lockring, while six-bolt discs use, you guessed it, six individual bolts. Centre-lock rotors are easier to install, and the hubs are typically a few grams lighter, but the rotors are generally a few grams heavier. If you do find yourself with incompatible hubs and rotors, adaptors do exist, however.
3. Gravel wheel rim width and depth
Just like on the road, gravel wheels are continuing to get wider. While average road wheels are usually measuring between 17mm and 23mm internally, median gravel wheel internal rim width seems to have settled about 21mm for the time being. Inner rim width is the critical figure to look at because it will determine how wide a tyre you can run, the profile and volume of the casing, and tyre pressure.
Typically when talking about external rim width, we'd be speaking in terms of aerodynamics, which does come into play, although to a lesser extent than on the road. Some brands employ external width to help prevent pinch plats, but the essential thing to take into consideration is what will fit into your gravel frame.
With such a wide range of tyre widths and tread patterns on offer, aerodynamics are less of a factor when it comes to gravel-specific hoops. Look for rims under 30mm deep.
4. Gravel wheels rim material
The age-old question of carbon versus alloy rims rages on in the gravel world just like it does with mountain bikes or on the road. In the lab, carbon wheels are stronger than alloy hoops; however, the trouble is in the real world they don't bend, dent or buckle; instead, they just break. Riding gravel you're likely to be subjecting your wheels to regular bottom outs, and rock strikes from projectiles launched by your riding mates tyres.
Because carbon wheels are usually built to be stiff, they can also have a harsh ride quality, especially over rough road surfaces. That being said, the energy transfer of a good set of carbon wheels when you get on the pedals, lean into a corner or pop over an obstacle is a feeling that alloy can't quite match.
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