When it comes to cycling, one of the best upgrades you can make is wheels. Not only can a lighter set of wheels heavily improve performance, but they can also have a huge effect on aerodynamics, comfort, and looks.
Gravel wheels are unique, and although they look very similar to road wheels on the surface, they do have some very big differences. Our amazing readers often ask, “What is the best gravel wheelset, and how do I choose one?”
Finding the right gravel wheels for you can be challenging, and it can be an expensive mistake to make if you end up with the wrong wheels for your bike. In this article, were going to be telling you everything you need to know by discussing:
- What Are Gravel Bike Wheels?
- What Unique Features Do We Look For In Gravel Wheelsets?
- Our Top Recommended Gravel Wheelsets
- How To Choose The Right Gravel Wheelset For You
Watch The Top Gravel Wheels Guide Video
What Are Gravel Bike Wheels
Let’s get back to basics and speak about essentially what gravel wheels are. Gravel bike wheels are designed for riding on gravel and also mixed terrain.
They not only have to be lightweight and aerodynamic, but they also need to be incredibly strong. The demands of gravel riding can be tough on a wheelset.
There’s a common misconception that because road bike wheels and gravel bike wheels have a diameter of 700c and also have the same modern 12mm through axle mounting, they are interchangeable. When gravel bike wheels have some unique characteristics, we look for setting them apart from road wheels.
What Unique Features Do We Look For In Gravel Wheelsets?
Gravel bike wheels have some very unique features that set them apart from other kinds of bike wheels. Here’s what we look for in a good gravel wheelset.
Large Internal Rim Width
Gravel bike wheels have an internal rim width of between roughly 20 mm and 25 mm. This is more than road bikes but less than mountain bikes. This size is designed to accommodate gravel tires from 32c to 50c perfectly.
Gravel bike wheels have to take much rougher terrain than wheels that are designed for roads. They are often made with stronger construction, such as more spokes, and carbon versions often have slightly thicker walls with more layers of carbon sheet.
Multiple Wheels Sizes
Gravel wheels quite often come in different sizes. The majority are 700c, but many companies also offer 650b wheels. A smaller wheel means you can fit larger tires and also can make the handling more agile but harder to control.
Disc Brake Compatibility
Gravel cycling is best done with disc brakes. You will typically find gravel bike wheels to be only disc brakes. When we look for gravel wheels and see rim brake versions, we instantly write them off as they won’t work for our bikes.
A tubeless setup is one of the best ways to enjoy gravel cycling. Not only do they mean you can run lower pressures, but they also have the ability to self-heal if the puncture is small using its own sealant.
Value For Money
Not only do we look for performance and durability, but we also look for value for money. We look for wheels at all different budgets, but we want to know we’re getting great wheels for the money we’re spending.
Our Top Recommended Gravel Wheelsets
Now for the fun bit, let’s start telling you about some gravel wheels. Here are our topic picks for gravel riding on mixed budgets.
Hunt Gravel Race Wheelset
Internal Width: 22mm
Hunt is a big name when it comes to bike wheels, and their gravel bike wheels are a great example of what they can offer. They offer a variety of gravel wheel ranges, but their gravel race is one we really wanted to speak about.
Coming in at around $500, they are very cheap, and you get a lot for your money, including a small spares package. They come in at a very lightweight 1459g. They are aluminum wheels, but they also offer a carbon version for an extra $300 saving you around 80g of weight.
They have a depth of 25mm, making them a great wheel for climbing and staying lightweight. They also have an internal rim width of 22mm, making them a great wheel to suit mixed sizes of tires.
They are also tubeless compatible and obviously come only in disc. The technology Hunt use is very basic, but it works.
- Great Price
- Look Good
- Hunt Quality
- Good internal Rim Width
- Not very aero
- Not the lightest
- Basic Technology
Hunt makes a great gravel wheelset. It’s basic stuff, but it’s an excellent price, performs well, and ticks all the boxes for us.
Mavic ALLROAD SL ROAD+
Material: Maxtal (Lightweight Aluminum)
Internal Width: 25mm
Mavic has really impressed us with the ALLROAD SL ROAD+ wheels. They might not be the lightest or deepest, but they will be your best friend on many gravel adventures year after year.
The first thing to mention is they are made of Maxtal, a very lightweight form of aluminum and incredibly strong.
They are a little heavier at 1555g, and surprisingly, they are smaller, being only 650b. For that extra weight, you get a wider internal rim width of 25mm for those big 40c+ tires and some strong aero spokes. We highly recommend them for gravel riders who love riding off-road riding.
Coming in at $900, they are not the cheapest for the specification, but Mavics are not basic wheels. They are at the forefront of technology, and you will get bearings built to last years, and they are going to require next to no maintenance.
- Great looking wheelset
- Mavic quality
- Excellent technology
- Wide internal rim width
- Not very light
- Very shallow
The ALLROAD SL ROAD+ wheels are excellent for gravel riding, and we feel it suited off-road more than mixed terrain.
Yoeleo Gravel Pro Wheels
Material: Carbon Fiber
Internal Width: 22mm
Yoeleo has been around for about 12 years, and they have been producing wheelsets and complete bikes. The Gravel Pro Wheels have to be spoken about because they offer something very few gravel wheels do, and that’s a 50mm depth and a very lightweight setup of 1512g.
This rim depth offers excellent aerodynamics, and if you are a gravel rider who likes to have some high speed on the road, these will benefit you. Not only do you get depth, but you also get width coming in with a 22mm rim width they can accommodate for those bigger tires too.
The Yoeleo wheels are also tubeless-ready. They also come with spares in case needed and even have a 52t ratchet system in the hub giving it a lovely whine when you stop pedaling. We also really like the design. It’s a unique carbon finish up close, unlike normal layered carbon.
- Unique carbon finish
- Large 50mm depth
- Great price for carbon wheels
- 52 Ratchet hub
- Brand not as well known
- Depth does add weight
The Yoeleo wheels are the perfect compromise for a set of gravel wheels that will perform on and off-road well.
Zipp 353 NSW Gravel Wheels
Material: Carbon Fiber
Internal Width: 25mm
The new Zipp 353 NSW Gravel Wheels have appeared on podiums at many gravel races. For many riders, they are considered the best. Firstly, let’s talk about that design and the sawtooth rim, which adds strength, helps aerodynamics, and looks amazing.
Coming in at 1308g, they are incredibly light and have a 45mm depth. That’s some amazing engineering.
The internal width also boasts a large 25mm gap. It is worth noting that these wheels are hookless, meaning you can only use hookless tubeless tires to make them work.
Coming in at $2000, they are not a cheap set of wheels, but there’s very little way you could improve them from a performance angle. They also come with a lifetime warranty, so you have the security they are going to either last or be replaced for free.
- Incredible performance
- Sawtooth design
- 45mm depth
- Only 1308g
- A wide internal rim of 25mm
The Zipp 353 NSW is an amazing gravel wheelset. They offer much more than just good looks but performance and a lifetime warranty. Apart from the price, there’s little we can say bad about them.
Enve G27 650B
Cost: $3000 (Chris King Hubs)
Material: Carbon Fiber
Internal Width: 27mm
Enve, for many cyclists, is at the top of their dream wheels list. They are what many top professionals use and are at the forefront of wheel technology.
At $3000, they are the most expensive wheels on this list, but they are top-notch.
They weigh only 1289g, and you can go even lighter if you opt for different hubs. They come with a small 25mm depth, and what’s even more impressive is that it is paired up with a 27mm internal rim width, making them the only wheels on this list that are wider than they are longer.
They offer different versions, and you get a choice of hubs. Chris Kings hubs are the best they offer, which are just incredible for performance, reliability, and also noise. The Enve’s are a big investment, but there’s little that can beat them, especially when it comes to 650b wheels.
- Very light at 1289g
- Chris King hubs are incredible
- 27mm width for the larger tires
- 650b performance is hard to find
- Cost is high
- They look fairly basic
Enve has been making amazing wheels for a very long time. The G27 is an excellent gravel wheelset and perfect if you’re planning on winning races.
How To Choose The Right Gravel Wheelset For You
When it comes to picking the correct gravel bike wheels for your bike, here are the questions you need to be asking yourself.
Before looking for gravel bike wheels, it’s a good idea to have a budget in mind so you know exactly what you will spend. It stops you from spending too much and regretting it and too little and replacing them later.
650b Or 700c?
We recommend 700c if you do a lot of road riding, as they work better with smaller tires and are more efficient at higher speeds. 650b is better for off-road riding because you can fit bigger tires, and they are more agile.
A deeper wheel can give you advantages when it comes to road riding at high speeds. For slower speeds and climbing a wheel with less depth will be better. Pick for the riding you do.
What Rim Width?
Regarding rim width, the larger the width, the better to suit the wider tire. The smaller the width, the better to suit a skinnier tire.
Consider the tires you mostly use and match them with the rim width. For mixed tire sizes, I recommend around 22mm.
A Final Note
The right gravel bike wheels can make a huge difference to your cycling. They can improve performance, offer more durability, make you more comfortable, and even make your bike look better.
Thanks for taking the time to check out our article; ensure you enjoy the video too!
Robbie Ferri has spent years working in a bike shop, has worked with industry leading brands on product creation, has been a semi pro athlete, and is a fully qualified strength and conditioning coach. He has broken World Records, bikepacked all over the World and raced ultra distance at a top-level.