How do you find the best gravel wheelset? How will different features change performance? This week, Randall discusses seven things to look for in a gravel wheelset.
This is Tech Corner, a mini-series we're doing with The Gravel Ride Podcast, garnered from Randall's 18 years as a mechanic, racer, product developer, and industry insider. Tune in at the beginning of every episode to catch Randall's 60 second tech tips.
RANDALL: Let’s talk about seven things to look for in a gravel wheelset.
1. Rims. I look for wide, tubeless, asymmetrical, and carbon. This is going to give higher volume tires a proper base of support so that when you run them at lower pressures, you’re not getting tire squirm. It also reduces the likelihood of pinch flats, improves rolling efficiency, and makes for a stronger, stiffer, more durable wheel.
2. Hubs. Hubs are often the first thing to fail on a wheel, so avoid cheap pall-based engagement systems and small bearings used to save weight and cost at the expense of durability. Instead, invest in hubs with a reputation for bombproof reliability.
3. Spokes. I like a minimum of 24, and ideally 28, lightweight wing-shaped spokes. This offers strength, stiffness, and durability while preventing spoke wind up that can accelerate fatigue and failure, all while maintaining a low weight.
4. Exposed brass nipples. Aluminum nipples split and fail while saving only a trivial amount of weight, and hidden nipples make it a nightmare to true your wheels while offering zero aero benefit.
5. Lacing patterns. I like two-cross patterns for their strength, lateral stiffness, and resistance to torsional loads, particularly when paired with an asymmetric rim.
6. Ignore aero. There are no lightbulb-shaped NACA airfoils for a reason. Unless you’re running tires of roughly identical width to your rim, you’re getting all of the side-wind buffeting with none of the aero benefit.
7. Last, great components can’t make a great wheel without proper spoke prep, strain relieving, spoke balancing, and other hidden details. Therefore, look for hand-built wheels from a brand that sweats the small stuff.
So that’s my take on wheels. Now, back to Craig and this week’s guest.
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