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Parcours Alta 650B gravel wheelset review

Small diameter, and big value from the British wheel brand

Two Parcours Alta 650B gravel wheels fitted with Hutchinson Touareg tyres, leaning against a wall on some grass
(Image: © Mildred Locke)

Our Verdict

Great value for money wheels that deliver a swift and responsive ride

For

  • Very stiff and agile
  • Lightweight and accelerate relatively quickly
  • Come with a lifetime warranty
  • Well constructed and durable

Against

  • Rudimentary freehub body doesn't engage as quickly as some competitors

Parcours is a British wheel brand dedicated to making aerodynamics more accessible. Having carried out a lot of research, and placed its focus on creating performance wheelsets that don’t cost a fortune, it launched the Alta 650B wheelset last year in a bid to offer the best gravel bike wheelsets on the market. 

This small-diameter model follows on the heels of its 700c sibling - the Parcours Alta - building upon these foundations and enabling the brand to explore its #ridefurther concept even more.

We’ve previously reviewed the Parcours Ronde all-road wheels and Parcours Strade road wheels, so the team here at Cyclingnews is pretty well versed in the quality to be expected from the brand, and it’s fair to say that the Alta 650Bs are no exception.

I’ve spent a lot of time with these wheels, riding them over a variety of distances on mixed terrain, predominantly in the surrounding areas of Bristol, plus a couple of stints away in the Purbecks and Lake District. Here’s how I got on with them.

Two Parcours Alta 650B gravel wheels fitted with Hutchinson Touareg tyres, leaning against a wall on some grass

The Alta 650Bs are a smaller version of the 700c Alta model from Parcours (Image credit: Mildred Locke)

Design, aesthetics and specification

The Parcours Alta 650B rims are, without a doubt, very classy looking hoops with a beautiful matte-finish and gloss black-on-black decals. This gives them an understated, elegant aesthetic that’s recognisable while maintaining subtle branding.

The carbon tubeless-ready disc wheelset features a 25mm internal rim width and hookless rim profile, optimising them for use with a wide range of the best gravel tyres - tubeless, of course - between 32mm and 45+mm wide.

They’re built around Parcours’ own precision-machined alloy Disc Centerlock hubs, complete with EZO cartridge bearings. These offer decent enough quality for the price point, and the wheels are laced with 24 Sapim CX-Ray spokes in a two-cross pattern at the front and rear for robustness against rough surfaces.

Off the shelf, the hubs are fitted for use with 12mm thru-axles, but for other standards there’s an option to use an adaptor kit. Meanwhile, for £200 extra, you can have them laced around a SON Delux 12 dynamo hub for unlimited light while on the move.

Performance

My sample Alta 650B wheels came setup tubeless with a pair of Hutchinson Touareg tyres already fitted, but for the sake of fair testing, I removed them, topped up the sealant, and replaced them again. Using the Topeak Joe Blow Booster reservoir pump, setting them up was much easier than my struggle with the Ronde tyres last year, I’m happy to say.

For use, I fitted them to the Stayer Groadinger UG gravel bike, which was originally kitted out with Stayer’s own Gravel Adventure Disc wheelset that I rated extremely well, so it’s fair to say that the bar was already set pretty high.

Still, swapping out to the Parcours Alta 650Bs, I found they delivered a good ride. They’re pretty lightweight, tipping my scales at 1,372g (608g front / 764g rear), and they’re well-constructed and durable. They’re definitely robust, standing up to some pretty rough descents in the Lake District and Purbecks, and I’d say they’ve held up very well and look surprisingly unscathed for the hammering they’ve received.

A close up of the freehub body

The freehub body is basic, but does the job (Image credit: Mildred Locke)

Riding over the rough stuff, despite their stiffness, the Alta 650B wheels do a good job of gliding over the bumps and smoothing out the terrain, while carving through mud is easy. Thanks to their stiffness and responsiveness, the wheels feel very agile and make it easy to sprint and accelerate out of corners quickly. While the angle of engagement isn’t as low (i.e. fast) as some other gravel wheels out there - with a 26-tooth ratchet ring combined with a four-pawl system, that angle is 13.8 degrees - it’s not hindered too much by this.

This is mainly because gravel bikes tend to have larger gears than mountain bikes, and so when you take into consideration the actual distance the crank arm has to travel for the freehub to engage, 13.8 degrees on a gravel bike is fairly level with a more snappy mountain bike hub.

I will say that in comparison to the Stayer wheels, I have been left wanting a little, and I am excited to put those back on the bike. I find them to be more responsive and fun to ride, with much faster acceleration, but they are more expensive (by £350) with a DT Swiss 350 hub at their centre.

A closeup of the front Parcours hub

The wheels are built around Parcours' own brand hub (Image credit: Mildred Locke)

Verdict

Overall the Parcours Alta 650B wheelset delivers a good quality ride feel, fast acceleration, a stiff and responsive handling, and lightweight agile manoeuvrability, all for under £850. This is not something to be sniffed at by any stretch of the imagination.

The wheels look great, they’re easy to set up tubeless, they’re built to last and they feel robust. They can take a good amount of hammering down rocky descents and up technical climbs, and they offer excellent value for money. If you’re looking for a way to upgrade your gravel bike without breaking the bank, a set of Alta 650B wheels is a great option.

Testing scorecard and notes
AttributesNotesRating
Ride QualityGood at holding speed, stable, smooth and confidence-inspiring8/10
StiffnessDecent stiffness and fast accelerating, without any discomfort8/10
AestheticsBeautiful and sleek, with subtle branding9/10
Tubeless CompatibilityTubeless setup is easy and they come with everything you need9/10
HubsServiceable, smooth and quiet8/10
Value for moneyExcellent value, offering a ride and spec that’s comparable with wheels twice their price10/10
Overall rating87%

Tech Specs: Parcours Alta 650B gravel wheelset

  • Price: £849 / $1,149 (standard build), £1,049 / $1,419 (Dynamo build)
  • Weight: 1,372g (608g front / 764g rear)
  • Internal rim width: 25mm (hookless)
  • External rim width: 30mm
  • Rim depth: 35mm
  • Hub: Parcours Disc Centerlock
  • Spokes: Sapim CX-Ray
  • Spoke count: 24 front / 24 rear
  • Lacing pattern: Two-cross

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Mildred joined as Reviews Writer for Cyclingnews and BikePerfect in December 2020. She loves all forms of cycling from long-distance audax to daily errand-running by bike, and does almost everything on two wheels, including moving house, and started out her cycling career working in a bike shop. For the past five years she's volunteered at The Bristol Bike Project as a mechanic and session coordinator, and now sits on its board of directors.

Since then she's gone on to write for a multitude of cycling publications, including Bikeradar, Cycling Plus, Singletrack, Red Bull, Cycling UK and Total Women's Cycling. She's dedicated to providing more coverage of women's specific cycling tech, elevating under-represented voices in the sport, and making cycling more accessible overall. 

Height: 156cm (5'2")

Weight: 75kg

Rides: Stayer Groadinger UG, Triban RC520 Women's Disc, Genesis Flyer, Marin Larkspur, Cotic BFe 26, Clandestine custom bike