For under £1,000, these gravel wheels are hard to beat
- - Semi-aero
- - Reasonably lightweight
- - Premium components
- - Good value for the spec
- - Built to withstand a lot of abuse
- - Subtle looks might not be for everyone
VeloElite is a small company in the UK that hand builds all its wheels using premium components like DT Swiss hubs and Sapim spokes. The company offers a variety of wheelsets with disc or rim options catering for disciplines such as road, off-road, and gravel use - like the disc-specific VeloElite Carbon 350-Gravel we have here for testing.
The sub-£1,000 price tag catches your eye immediately, being an attractive price point when looking at premium gravel wheels. Other players in the market offer similar wheelsets for more money (though not always, as we will find out). But how does a small-scale company such as this fare against the best gravel wheels in the business?
Design and aesthetics
Out of the box, it’s hard not to be impressed with VeloElite’s gravel wheels as you inspect them. Visually, they’re precisely the kind of wheel I like: a no-fuss matte-black rim with a subtle VE logo printed directly above the wheel valve.
That combined with the generous 38mm rim depth makes the wheels really stand out, especially against a titanium frame as you can see. I opted for 40mm Schwalbe G One Allround tyres with a very in-vogue tan sidewall, which amazingly, don’t get as discoloured as you might expect.
Specification and build
As standard, you get preinstalled rim tape, tubeless valves, and a cassette spacer included with the wheels, so all you have to do is mount your tubeless tyres and fit your cassette, and away you go. VeloElite supplies these wheels with whatever type of free-hub you desire - Shimano, SRAM XD or Campagnolo - free of charge. There’s a two-year warranty on the wheels, and VeloElite will discount a new set of wheels if you accidentally damage these.
Built to VeloElite’s specifications, the rims are a combination of Toray T700 and T800 carbon fibre, with a carbon strip reinforcement. This, according to VeloElite, "strengthens the spoke bed and stabilises the rim structure, also reducing the rim weight". The wheels also feature impact-resistant construction, which is a layer of composite material that, unsurprisingly, provides some protection from impacts to the rim.
The added strength and durability of these rims also makes them more suitable for bigger riders - there’s a maximum weight limit of 130kgs, which puts them above most other gravel wheels we’ve come across in our travels. All this imbues you with the confidence that you could really give these wheels some abuse without worrying about them getting damaged.
VeloElite’s gravel wheels, which are also good for cyclo-cross, have clearly been made with bigger tyres in mind. The rim width is 24mm internally, and 30mm externally, while the rim depth is a semi-aero 38mm. The rims feature a hookless design, and VeloElite says they’re optimised for the best gravel tyres in the 33-50mm range, running at comfortable low pressures.
Indeed, you can go with clinchers if that’s your thing but do note that, on narrower tyres at least, you’ll be limited to how much pressure you can run. Some manufacturers state somewhere between 70-80psi on hookless rims, but VeloElite doesn’t state this anywhere. In my book, it will be safer to go tubeless with these wheels, or simply look for gravel wheels with a hooked rim.
Because of their internal width, if you want to run the best tubeless road tyres on a bike with limited clearance, you need to take into consideration what the wider internal width of the rim bed will do to the narrower tyre. For instance, a 28mm tyre designed for a road wheel with standard 19mm inner rim width will open out to a 30-31mm tyre width on these wider rims. That’s no bad thing unless the clearances on your bike are not generous enough. Of course, most all-road and gravel bikes tend to be built with at least 32mm tyre clearance these days, but it’s worth bearing this in mind.
Spokes are high-quality straight-pull Sapim CX Ray - 28 per wheel in this build - with Sapim double-ended nipples, which is a good thing because it means your tyres don’t need removing when truing the wheel. VeloElite is keen to point out that it uses nipple washers in the build process too, which it says "ensures a super stiff wheel, and reduces friction - increasing strength at the rim–nipple interface".
All of VeloElite’s carbon wheels come with luxurious DT Swiss hubs, and the gravel wheels on test can be built with any of the three available variants, including the entry-level 350 (as tested), mid-range 240, and the top-tier 180 hubs. No matter which you go for, the rest of the wheel remains the same, but there’s a weight saving to be had for the more expensive options - 135g if you opt for the 180 over the 350, for example.
Performance and handling
On the scales, the VeloElite Carbon 350-Gravel (Disc) wheelset came in at 1,517 grams with tape and valves installed. That’s over VeloElite’s claimed weight of 1,465g, but not hugely so, and the overall weight is impressive given that the wheels have a wide and deep rim, and have also been beefed up for more rugged use.
Though you can lose some weight at the rear by opting for one of the more expensive hubs, I’m personally not sure that it’s worth £450 to lose 135g. Pound–for–pound, the entry-level DT Swiss 350 version is definitely the way to go.
I chose to install 40mm Schwalbe G–One Allround tyres - a good combination if like me you mostly cover roads, and poor quality ones at that - on your gravel bike, but you want the option of going off-road. They’re not super-wide, but at low pressures they’re very comfortable, and they’re pretty fast, too. On the 24mm wide internal rims, they shape up nicely without there being much of a lightbulb effect.
Fitting these to the VeloElite wheels took a little bit of work, thanks to a very tight spot right at the last section which despite my best efforts wouldn’t budge. Eventually, I opted for a tyre lever which enabled me to pop it on.
Using a tubeless air chamber to inflate the tyre, it snapped onto the hookless rim without issue at the first time of asking. I tried running between 35 and 50 psi to see what worked best, and eventually settled on around 42-44 psi as a good compromise for speed and comfort.
On the road, there’s everything to like about these wheels - they are quick to get up to speed, and they roll nicely thanks to that semi-aero design. As it’s only a 38mm rim depth, I had no issues with the wind catching the wheels and moving the bike around.
Climbing isn’t too much of an effort, even when compared with my usual summer combination of a 50mm deep rim and 28mm tyre on a Condor Italia RC road bike. Though completely unscientific, my usual road rides felt only a little bit slower than on that bike, and I had no problem keeping up - and even leading in some places - on my regular Sunday club ride.
The fast engagement of the rear hub means they spin up quickly, and the free-hub is nice and quiet. Stiffness levels are excellent, but they’re comfy too. No matter the surface, they just glide over everything, even with the tyres pumped up to the upper limit of my pressure testing range.
If you’re currently tabbing through pages of gravel wheels, wondering which to purchase, then let me make this easy for you: VeloElite’s Carbon 350-Gravel wheels are a no-brainer. No, they’re not quite as cheap as some other brands, but you get some nice features for your £999 and the reassurance that these wheels have been designed to basically be bombproof.
They’re also reasonably lightweight, and fast enough on the road if you choose to use them away from actual, you know, gravel, which makes for a great all-round wheel. They would work well on any disc brake bike that has the clearances to suit. And they excel on the rough stuff too, with a good level of compliance no matter how rough it gets.
The two-year warranty is pretty good too, and the crash replacement discount isn’t half bad, considering it’s essentially a freebie for something that’s your fault.
Naturally, you’re thinking, “this all sounds great, where do I sign up?” But before you do, it’s worth considering what else is out there, for similar money.
At the lower end of the spectrum, you can’t go wrong with the Hunt 35 Carbon Gravel Disc X-Wide. They’re slightly narrower than the VE wheels at 23mm wide internally, 30mm wide externally, and are slightly shallower with a 35mm rim depth. They aren’t quite as premium - at least concerning the hubs used - but they are only £799. Weight is a claimed 1,548g, so not quite as light, though the max rider weight limit is a decent 120kg.
If you want to go the UK-built custom route, then Stayer offers its Gravel/Adventure Disc Wheelset. This comes with highly–acclaimed Hunt RS4 CL hubs (though you can get them for slightly less with the same DT Swiss 350 hubs) for slightly more at £1,190. The rim features a 24mm internal, 30mm external, and a depth of 35mm. Claimed weight is 1,530g, though the rider weight limit is much lower at 110kg.
A pricier but not ludicrous option comes courtesy of Roval’s Terra CL wheels, which are specced with the same DT Swiss 350 hubs. The rims are slightly wider than VeloElite’s at 25mm, though the 30mm external width is the same. They have a shallower 32mm rim depth, but the claimed weight of 1,408g makes them a better option for climbing. Rider weight limit is a generous 125kg. The £1,400 price tag makes them a much more expensive option, but being under the wing of Specialized, the brand has solid backing.
- Temperature: 2C/35F to 15C/59F
- Terrain: A- and B-roads, cycle path, gravel
- Riding: Solo fast rides, commuting and chaingang
- Mileage: 365km
Tech specs: VeloElite Carbon 350-Gravel
- RRP: £999
- Weight: 1,517g (actual)
- Depth: 38mm
- Internal width: 24mm
- External width: 30mm
- Spoke count 28/28, three–cross
- Tyre format: Clincher, tubeless
- Brake: Disc
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