Gravel Wheelsets - State of the Union

Looking at dropping the OEM wheelset from my SC Stiggie. Part of the decision is sticking with 1x or going to a 2x. I just don’t ever see wanting to ride true gravel on a tire narrower than 38-40. Currently riding IRC Boken 40mm that actually measure out to around 42-43mm on the OEM spec wtb i23 rims.

Probably will be trying out the Conti tubeless terra and the René Herse Barlow pass this spring summer on gravel, chip seal, and JRA town. What are your favorite options? November 38mm all roads, HED eroica Carbon, enve g23, all look nice. Which direction would you go with this?

Bontrager 3v scare me a little with the spoke count and my body weight (175-205 depending on season).

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What’s the goal? The tire choice depends on how fast you want to go. Optimizing tire choice really matters for racing, but, if you’re riding solo, the wider the better. Tread depends on the worst surface you’ll encounter. I’m running the WTB Ventire 650b x 2.0 on my Exploro because that’s what it shipped with. I like them for mixed surface riding from road to MTB XC trails.

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No mtb trails. The gravel tires I’m using/planning to use are all on the faster side of rolling resistance for their size.

Looking to stick with 700 rims.

I took a little different approach that you may want to consider - or not :slight_smile:

I’ve got 28c tubeless road tires on 3T Discus C45s that I take on minor gravel on my 3T Strada. If I want to go faster on and off road, I’ll swap those 700c wheels onto my Exploro with tires that have some tread. Later this year for CX racing and BWR (if they happen - next year if they don’t) I’ll put some Serac CX Sand Tubeless tires on them.

I don’t plan on doing any gravel racing in 2020, just training rides and hopefully some rides with friends. The 650b wheels on the Exploro with 2.0 Ventures spec out to the same circumference as the 700c wheels and tires, so, handling stays the same, just a tire with more volume and comfort.

So, a similar strategy would be: you already have a set of 700c wheels, and any “upgrade” will yield marginal gains - which, again. won’t matter unless you’re racing. Having a set of 700c and 650b wheels with big tires will give you more comfort and speed depending on where you’re going. The 3T DiscusPlus i28 LTD wheels are amazing.

If you don’t what to go that route, and want to stick to 700c wheels, the 3T Discus C45s are designed to be the fastest wheel with with wide tires. For Gravel racing, those wheels and the IRC Boken in 700c x 40c would be super fast.

Disclaimer. I’m very partial to 3T because that’s our team bike, but it’s our team bike because we’re so in love with 3T products (not all of us ride 3T).


Sage advice. I’m in a similar position I think. One reason for the new hoops is dropping some weight on the gravel bike. I have a November all road 50mm set that I use on my road bike (28-30mm nominal tires, GP5ks, Corsa 2.0s, Schwalbe Pro One/G-One Speeds), and I’m similarly open to swapping those wheels to my gravel bike with bigger tires for days heavier on road with smaller segments of gravel.

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The performance benefit in dropping weight in wheels is nowhere close to what people make it out to be. There are cheaper ways to drop weight - and again, IMO, if you’re not racing, it doesn’t matter. The real benefit to upgrading wheels is aesthetics - the deeper the better :grin:

I’d add the DT Swiss GRC 1400 set for your consideration, @jct. They come in 700 and 650b and are tweaked for aero. I’m running the latter tubeless with WTB tires. They feel great and hold up.

Right now, like @BMAC615, I’m running the Ventures. For me, these hit a sweet spot that work great on my gravel and dirt, in the wet conditions I face (light mud, not clay), and did well in the (unfortunately) light snow we had this winter. I also have WTB’s Byways, which is a great tire with a slick down the middle but knobbies on the side that grabbed for turns and worked surprisingly well in 3-5" of snow, except when the grade went above or below ~6*-ish. They are a good tire, especially if you don’t need much traction on climbs (or can fly or slide down steep descents) and are spending a lot of time on road or easy off-road. I also have WTB’s Sendero for serious snow, which worked great last year but were never needed this winter.

Like @BMAC615, my DT Swiss GRC’s are on my 3T Exploro.


I have a set of SC Reserves that really transformed the ride. Mine are the 650b hookless with 25 id. They are not areo at all, but I was going for light and strong.

For aero-ish the 38 Novembers could be good, or the new $1300 ZIPPs have pretty fantastic specs (hookless, FYI).

NOX Citico with i9 hubs have been flawless. I ride them on very rocky abusive trails and they have held up perfectly. No complaints…just something to consider.

I hear you, but on the gravel rig, anything past that 40ish mark starts to seem somewhat excessive with 40mm tires on it.

I ride the Barlow Pass’s on my i9 Ultralight 235 TRA wheels and I’m a huge fan. Those wheels are really light for aluminum. The tires measure 42mm at 40psi iirc. They just fit in my OPEN UP. Width isn’t the issue, but rather height. Just something to note. The Rene Herse tires have been able to handle the mild gravel/dirt just fine and they feel so great on pavement.

Are you using the standard or extra light casing tire?

Just the standard. I was concerned with weeping sealant. So far zero issue with OG Orange

I put my vote in for the Enve G23. Really solid wheelset with Enve’s lifetime incident protection and made in the U.S.A.

They are not the most aero option if you want to run smaller diameter tires but they are engineered to have some compliance built in and offer excellent ride quality.

For smoother roads and gravel where you are looking for an aero benefit, the Enve 4.5 AR is also an option.


Not specific opinion to your question, but I want to vouch for November! They are too legit to quit!! I have two wheelsets from them… top notch! They’re also blowing out their blog with a decision matrix of sorts… may be helpful?!


I’ll offer some suggestions on your plan… I have a similar situation with my gravel/ commuter bike. I have 700x32c tires for commuting on stock wheels, and run them with tubes (will likely switch them soon to tubeless). I just got a set of 650b wheels and have WTB Venture 47c tires for this bike to swap, and those MUST be setup tubeless (IMHO). So, my point… the hassle of switching tires as you go wider becomes more problematic (that is, if you want to run the wider tires and lower pressures, and therefore tubeless). Good luck!

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Agree with @hawkeye1824 hawkeye and some others. I run the 700x32 stockers for commuting and the occasional cross event, and I’ve got a set of DT Hubs on Chinese Carbon (Lightbike) 650 rims that I run 45s on for most of the riding I do, including singletrack, a lot more of that than anything else really. They work out to the same diameter as the 700x32, and the bike handles the same, just more tire for everything, If our frame fits it, I cant recommend it enough.

Yeah, LB and November have an awesome value proposition.

In terms of aesthetics, which is likely over half the battle, that 35-45mm rim depth looks like the sweet spot. Has anyone noticed much of a difference in moderate depth rims like that vs the shallower rims like a g23 in terms of comfort, or does it all come down to tire pressure/volume for you?

Rim width has the biggest aero effect when pairing with wide tires. The wheel “feel” depends more on spoke count, spoke pattern, spoke tension and hub flange. Most of the carbon rims are super stiff and the builders compensate with build techniques to make them all fairly similar, unless you’re going with a 32 spoke overbuild. Tire type, volume and pressure have the biggest influence on ride characteristics.

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Unless you’re running sub-35 psi and bashing on rocks, I’d pass on the G23. These are MTB rims, you’d be better served with the AR3.4 for most everything else. They look nice though.

I wouldn’t worry about the 24x24 spoke builds unless you’re going bike packing or hitting mtb trails. I"m 200 and have had an issue on any of my 24x24 wheels. The deeper rim section helps a lot too. In any case, Bontrager warrants those without a weight limit. These probably have an ATSM classification of 2 (like other wheels similar to this), which means theyre ok for 6" jumps a their weight limit.