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Recreational Cyclocross and Gravelbiking This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

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Old 03-20-17, 11:41 AM   #1
RockiesDad
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Thoughts on new wheels for gravel bike?

Was thinking about upgrading my wheels on my CX/gravel type bike and was wondering if there are any specific parameters for gravel riding to prioritize? Some parameters I can think of are weight, stiffness/flexability and spoke count. Budget is $500.

So would a heavier wheelset be better due to more rotational weight to keep the bike going forward sort of like a heavy flywheel effect? Would a more flexible wheelset be better for comfort in gravel? Is more spokes better for reliability purposes?

For me I would like to have a wheelset that is light for grinding uphills, medium stiffness for comfort and better handling and something pretty much bulletproof. I'm kind of new to biking and have only limited knowledge on how to choose wheels. Please enlighten me. TIA...
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Old 03-20-17, 11:45 AM   #2
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Heavier is not better.

Tire choice will make more of a difference when it comes to comfort than wheel choice.

Look for something wide, reasonably light, and built from reliable components. Run fat tubeless tires at sensible pressures for comfort and control.
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Old 03-20-17, 12:07 PM   #3
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A bigger wheel is better IME. I've spent some considerable time on 26", 27.5" and 29" wheels on my gravel bikes the past 6 months or so and it's obvious the bigger wheels roll better on the gravel and dirt roads down here.

Rim/wheelset stiffness can be a factor in comfort but it's so hard to measure or find reliable info that you'll just have to ignore it.

Choose the lightest wheelset with the widest rims available in 32h drilling for $500. Are you running QR or TA?
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Old 03-20-17, 12:25 PM   #4
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Why do you want to buy new wheels? What's wrong with the ones you have now? The answer should be your guide.
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Old 03-20-17, 12:49 PM   #5
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Choose the lightest wheelset with the widest rims available in 32h drilling for $500.

This sums it up nicely.
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Old 03-20-17, 12:56 PM   #6
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why do you want to buy new wheels? What's wrong with the ones you have now? The answer should be your guide.
+ 1.
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Old 03-20-17, 02:22 PM   #7
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What type of brakes? What type of hub? Quick release or Thru axle? 130, 135 or 142mm wide on the rear?
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Old 03-20-17, 04:27 PM   #8
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Why do you want to buy new wheels? What's wrong with the ones you have now?
That's what my wife said... I thought I could come here and get a little support from my fellow biking buddies but nooooo...

Well, I was looking into getting a second set for road use since I will be starting to commute to work soon. 60/40 road and gravel.

Looking at 28 hole 2x WTB Freq Team CX19 with disk, 15mm TA front and 135mm QR rear. Sipan Race spokes and brass nipples. I could go wider with the rims to 23mm since I am using 35c tires. Just curious is more spokes better? I'm about 170# and not too hard on my bike. I think I can get away with 28 holes.
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Old 03-20-17, 04:52 PM   #9
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Also consider ease and reliability of tubeless setup and freehub mechanism reliability.
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Old 03-21-17, 10:57 AM   #10
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That's what my wife said... I thought I could come here and get a little support from my fellow biking buddies but nooooo...
Buy her some jewelry when (or right before) you get the wheels.
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Old 03-21-17, 01:07 PM   #11
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I would say it depends, to some extent, on what kind of gravel you're going to be riding. If it is very rocky, with deep stream crossings, a 32 spoke wheel isn't a bad idea -- although 28 will probably work fine. The less load per spoke, the better.

If you stay with the 135mm QR rear, I would at least get one of the DT Swiss RWS thru-bolt style skewers. The extra security is worth a lot. (At the bottom of a steep, rocky descent at 2015 Dirty Kanza, my QR rear wheel decided to part company with my bike and roll towards a fast-moving stream. The skewer was still closed! The RWS skewers prevent that.)

And I'll disagree with the advice to go tubeless. On gravel, you're not worried about pinholes, you're worried about gashes and cuts from the rock/gravel. (I've never had or seen a snakebite in a tubed tire on gravel.) Tubeless tires are just as likely to slice as tubed tires -- and repairing/tubing them is a much bigger, much messier hassle. (And you still have to carry tubes, either way.)
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Old 03-21-17, 01:28 PM   #12
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A second wheel set is a huge convenience if using the bike for gravel as well as road. I have several extra wheel sets with tires of varying widths and treads, and it is much more convenient
to swap wheels than tires.

You didn't mention what kind of brakes are on your bike, and that makes a difference with regard to rim choice. However, if using canti or other rim brakes, Velocity Dyads are great rims for a gravel bike and reasonably light weight for a wide, sturdy rim. They also are available in black or silver and a range of spoke counts. I personally don't like tubeless wheels. I briefly owned a wheel set with Velocity A23 rims and installing or removing tires was such a hassle that I quickly sold them. I couldn't imagine trying to fix a flat in less-than-ideal conditions with those wheels.

I have several sets of wheels built with 32 and 36-hole Dyad rims laced to Shimano hubs. They are reasonably light for strong wheels, and none of them have ever gotten out of true or broken a spoke. I use them on my touring and commuting bikes, but they would be equally good on a CX or gravel bike. If you prefer tubeless tires, than the A23s are considerably lighter weight although not as strong as the Dyads.
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Old 03-21-17, 01:54 PM   #13
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I'm running WTB i23 laced to Hope Pro 4 hubs and they are fantastic. I roll on Panaracer GravelKing 40c tires. Tubeless. I love tubeless. If I get a puncture that won't seal...so be it. I'll throw a tube in there and keep rolling. I'd rather ride tubeless and deal with a cut if it happens because you're installing a new tube either way. So might as well enjoy the benefits of tubeless as long as you can before/if it happens. Which it hasn't in 1500 miles so far since I've started going tubeless. But of course it could happen at anytime. But not worth worrying about.
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Old 03-24-17, 10:10 AM   #14
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Buy her some jewelry when (or right before) you get the wheels.
Right there is the reason I have so much trouble sticking to my bike budget. One of my bikes was close to $40k. Of course it came with a new car, but that's what it took.
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Old 03-27-17, 03:18 PM   #15
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And I'll disagree with the advice to go tubeless. On gravel, you're not worried about pinholes, you're worried about gashes and cuts from the rock/gravel. (I've never had or seen a snakebite in a tubed tire on gravel.) Tubeless tires are just as likely to slice as tubed tires -- and repairing/tubing them is a much bigger, much messier hassle. (And you still have to carry tubes, either way.)
I went tubeless because I got tired of the snake bites with tubes. I rarely get any other type of flat. But hitting a rock or sharp bump at low pressure with a tube seems to be guaranteed to give me a snake bite. They are my biggest fear when riding (and why I ride with more pressure with tubes than I want).

I have a repair kit for tubeless tires that can fix them without them being taken off the wheel. But yeah, a slice in a tubeless tire can be a mess!
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Old 03-27-17, 03:20 PM   #16
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In my personal experience, the biggest benefit to more spokes is that the tire is still rideable if a spoke brakes. Fewer spokes means the tire is really going to go out of true if a spoke is missing. With 36 spokes ya hardly know if one brakes.
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Old 03-28-17, 08:57 AM   #17
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I think I can get away with 28 holes.
There really aren't any absolutes. Some rim/hub combinations work very well with lower spoke counts, some don't. And 32h doesn't guarantee a stiff wheel (though it does up the odds). On a bike that can run wider than 25mm tires, you're best off to get the lightest, stiffest wheelset your budget allows. You can adjust comfort with tire selection and pressure. If buying from a reputable brand/builder, spoke count and type is possibly one of the least important considerations -- most won't build/sell something that doesn't work well.

Arguably more important is hub choice, since maintenance and serviceability for certain hubs can carry hidden costs. For example, anyone with a set of cone wrenches can service Shimano hubs, but a shop with the tools to service Chris King hubs could be a couple hour drive. Your LBS may or may not have any clue how to service (or source parts for) a random unbranded Asian hub. Hub adaptability to other axle standards may also be an important consideration on disc wheels.

Rim selection matters a lot less with disc brakes, since you don't really need to consider replacement availability. If you care about running tubeless (plenty of other threads will give you endless arguments why you should/shouldn't) then it's wise to see what others have had good/bad experiences with.
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Old 03-28-17, 10:42 AM   #18
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...If you stay with the 135mm QR rear, I would at least get one of the DT Swiss RWS thru-bolt style skewers. The extra security is worth a lot. (At the bottom of a steep, rocky descent at 2015 Dirty Kanza, my QR rear wheel decided to part company with my bike and roll towards a fast-moving stream. The skewer was still closed! The RWS skewers prevent that.)....
This isn't because of any issues with 135mm QR hubs. Literally, millions of riders use them on their disc brake mountain bikes without issue under much harsher conditions that a gravel grind. I can't imagine what you did wrong, whatever it was, 10mm thru bolt isn't going to fix it....

As for running tubeless, it's about the better ride quality. Tubeless is ubiquitous in the mountain bike world and has become the preferred solution, nothing to be afraid of....
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Old 03-28-17, 10:52 AM   #19
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...Budget is $500....
Shimano CX-75 hubs (28*) $178
DT Swiss RR460 rims (28*) $80
Sapim CX-Ray spokes (56) $168
Alloy Nipples (56) $14
labor $100

Total = $540

You could save ~$100 by going with DT 2.0/1.8 spokes instead of the aero Sapims. DT rims are tubeless ready too.

If you want wider rims, look at the Stans Arch.
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Old 03-28-17, 11:39 AM   #20
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This isn't because of any issues with 135mm QR hubs. Literally, millions of riders use them on their disc brake mountain bikes without issue under much harsher conditions that a gravel grind. I can't imagine what you did wrong, whatever it was, 10mm thru bolt isn't going to fix it....


I don't think anyone's surprised to discover that you've never ridden a bike hard enough to pop a QR rear wheel out of the dropouts. (It's not exactly a rare event if you ride rocky descents at speed. That's why gravel bike manufacturers started going to thru axles a couple years back.)
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Old 03-28-17, 12:20 PM   #21
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Old 03-28-17, 12:29 PM   #22
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...That's why gravel bike manufacturers started going to thru axles a couple years back.)
The reason why manufacturers are moving to through axles is that the consumer has trouble using old fashion QR properly and it results in legal entanglements due to implied liability. it's a good thing judging by your experience...
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