Is this the Phase 2 of gravel wheels?

Moons back we mounted 33c cyclocross tires to road wheels, then we slowly grew our tire sizes in width, lowered the pressure and shrunk them in diameter (650b). Ha! the ageing of wheels… sounds sorta funny when I put it that way.
Anyroad… Most of the developments have been focused around tire functionality for different terrains and tubeless optimisation. Now it appears we are entering Phase 2, where wheel development has specifically targeted gravel & adventure and designed specifically for that. This is all with performance, terrain and current tires in mind, aka better for the rider.
I would note and say that this is mainly consumer innovation and not really technical innovation, most of this tech has existed in mountain bike rims for a while.

Wheel / Rim Trends

First – Wider is better when offroad, Along with the tire trend we are also seeing the rims catch up. Now it’s common to see manufacturers talking about internal rim width as a selling feature and the hot number is “25”. A relatively large distance allowing you to mount wider tires, and create better tire profiles while using a lot of different tire pressures.

Second – Hookless vs Hooked. Six months ago it seemed the trend was to move to a hookless for a variety of reasons. Now we are seeing manufacturers launching hooked rims. We feel this is in regard to safety, particularly where users may be mixing uses and using higher tire pressure in some situations which requires a hook in the rim wall to catch the tire bead. The manufacturing operation to add a hook is really not that much more than a single operation, and mounting a tire is not that much different hooked vs hookless. Safety is winning here.

Astral Wanderlust Rim Specifications. Hooked

Third – Weight and ride feel. These rims and wheelsets are being designed with more compliance and a ride sensation that is dedicated to gravel and offroad. You will notice the rim shapes are different (especially in carbon models) The weights of these rims have gone down since the vertical stiffness is not as required like prior years where carbon was made stiff as possible, we are now seeing an activity based optimisation.

Santa Cruz Reserve 22 Carbon – Notice the lower profile rim shape and spoke reinforcement areas.

There are a ton of choices out there, but for the comparison table below I focused on some of the industry leaders from HED, Enve, Astral, Santa Cruz and Roval. These are 700c rim specifications and the Roval’s only come as build wheelsets (more info below cart).

Specification Chart

HED Belgium
HED Belgium
Astral Outback253044 – 66390hookless
Roval Terra
Roval Terra
Enve G232331.533-45330hookless
Santa Cruz
Reserve 22

The latest addition on my list here is the Roval Terra wheels, just launched a few days ago. They offer some really good specifications, currently only available as a built wheelset that are very very light.

  • MTB-level durability
  • Road-level weights (1296g clx, 1357g clx evo)
  • Carbon layup optimised for ultimate balance of ride feel, durability and weight
  • Tubeless-first design; the best fit and easiest installation
  • DT 180EXP hub internals (single star ratchet) offer light weight, stiffness, reliability and ease of service
  • Hooked bead for security with any tire choice
  • Tire compatibility for the widest range of options:
    • CLX: 700×28-42mm
    • CLX EVO 700: 38-47mm
    • CLX EVO 650: 42mm – 2.1″
  • Terra CLX and Terra CLX EVO Models for $2500
Breadwinner B Road showing the Roval CLX wheels

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