From a narrow selection of cyclocross, touring or cross country mountain bike wheels just a few years ago, the bike industry has really cottoned on to the surge in popularity when it comes to gravel, and we've seen many new gravel-specific wheel ranges enter the market since.
To excel over a range of off-road terrain from smooth gravel roads to chunky fire roads and singletrack, racing to epic adventures, these wheels feature some key adaptations.
Almost all gravel wheelsets will be disc brake specific, tubeless-ready, and spin around thru-axles. The internal rim diameter will be somewhere between road wheels and MTB wheels, typically in the range of 20-25mm, to accommodate wider gravel tires.
Sizing, spoke count and materials will be where the real choices come in, with 650b wheels gaining popularity among riders seeking greater volume tires for comfort and for tackling more technical trails.
Gravel racers and bikepackers will have different demands in terms of wheel weight and durability too, but we'll touch on that a bit later. Last but by no means least, how much you have to spend plays a crucial role in determining which gravel bike wheels are best to suit you and your budget.
Choosing the best gravel bike wheels for you
Below is our pick of the best gravel wheels. Read on for more details on what to look for when shopping for the perfect wheels to help help you get the most out of your gravel bike.
With each bike is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Zipp 303 S
The 303 S are one of Zipp's most unique wheelsets, in that they are not designed for the sole purpose of road racing. Instead, these wheels are meant for bashing down rough unpaved roads.
With a 23mm internal rim width and hookless profile, the 303 S are intended for wide tires at low pressures — in fact, the stated max pressure is 72.2psi!
Being a wheel with Zipp written on the rim, it should not come as a surprise that they are aero optimized, in this case, designed to be speediest with 28mm tires.
Hope 20Five RS4
Lancashire UK-based Hope offers greatly customizable wheelsets, and their popular 20Five wheels are available in either 24 spoke straight-pull or 32 spoke J-Bend configurations. These aluminum 700c alloy rims are best for tires between 25-40mm wide, and the whole wheelset weighs in from 1,640 g.
Besides being a strong and dependable wheelset at a great price, you also get to choose from six different hub colors, including black, red, orange, blue, silver and purple.
If you've got more cash to spend and fancy a lighter carbon wheelset, check out their new RD40 RS4 wheelsets at £1,250 / $1580 weighing 1,495 g.
Reynolds ATR Carbon Disc
With 23mm internal width and 32mm external, the Reynolds ATR are lightweight carbon gravel wheels, designed to take a beating so your wallet doesn't have to. Reynolds borrowed the carbon layup from its MR5 MTB rims, the 40mm rim depth hits a good balance between aerodynamics and stiffness.
Strung in the middle of the rims with 24 steel spokes are Reynolds Allroad center lock disc hubs, which see 10-degrees between engagements at the rear.
Reynolds makes them in both 700c and 650b size, and they are backed by the brand's lifetime warranty.
Shimano GRX wheelset
Shimano laid down their commitment to the growing gravel discipline in 2019 by launching the world's first dedicated gravel groupset, the GRX. Alongside the off-road friendly gearing, powerful braking and ergonomic hoods, Shimano also released two wheelsets in the range specifically for this use too.
The GRX wheels come in either 700c or 650b sizes, weighing in at 1,600 g and 1,540 g respectively. They both feature 21.6 mm internal rim diameters, which makes them compatible with most gravel tires, and alloy rims with subtle branding. These center-lock wheels come tubeless ready in the box, already taped and supplied with tubeless valves.
Taking a nod from Shimano's MTB wheel line up, the GRX wheels feature an asymmetric rim profile to aid with mud-shedding in mucky conditions.
Tipping the scales just 48 grams heavier than Roval's ultralight climbing wheels, the Alpinist CLX, the Terra CLX gravel hoops are a feathery yet surprisingly robust set of gravel wheels. At 32mm deep the carbon rims see the snub nose profile that has become so popular and are built and tested to pass Rovals Mountain Rim standard.
Said to work with tires ranging from 28-47mm, the rim's 25mm internal rim width, and a hooked bead to ensure performance with the widest cross-section of tires. While the hub shell may say Roval, on the inside are DT Swiss' new EXP internals for easy maintenance.
Better still, Roval backs them by two-year no-fault crash replacement policy and a lifetime warranty.
Stayer Adventure/Gravel custom wheelset
Built to order, these customizable wheels from London-based wheel builders Stayer were the choice for James' dream gravel bike build, who remarked that he was "very impressed with the performance, build quality and weight of the whole package."
The 24mm internal rims best suit tires between 28-50mm width. The wheelsets weigh upwards from 1,480 g, dependant on your hub and freehub body choices.
You can opt for DT350 hubs from DT Swiss or Hope's RS4 or PRO4 hubs with the build, and choose between 700c and 650b wheel sizes. As each wheelset is made to order, if you have any other ideas, Stayer can take that into account.
For the full custom treatment, Stayer can also fit your new tires and set them up tubeless for you.
DT Swiss G 1800 Spline
A great budget option from DT Swiss, the G 1800 Spline retails at just under £350 / $495 with the choice of both wheel sizes. You'll have to compromise a little on weight for this price though, with the front and rear wheels together weighing in at 1,895 g.
As you move up through the DT Swiss G series wheels (where the model numbers decrease to GR 1600 and GRC 1400), this weight reduces to 1,727 g and 1,545 g respectively, with the GRC 1400 wheelset topping out the range as its flagship aero carbon gravel racing option.
DT Swiss has a grand history and reputation when it comes to wheels, and you'll find these specced as standard on many bikes including Canyon's carbon Grail gravel bikes.
ENVE G23 Clincher 700c wheelset
ENVE caused quite a stir when it launched its G-Series gravel wheelsets at Dirty Kanza in 2018. Formerly known for their premium road and mountain bike wheels as well as finishing kit, ENVE staked their claim as one of the first brands to release a pair of high-end gravel racing wheels.
There are 700c and 650b options, named G23 and G27 corresponding to their all-important internal rim diameter. This wide hookless bead supposedly helps to reduce the risk of pinch flats. At just 300g, the carbon fiber rim is super light. The whole wheelset weighs in from 1,287g, dependant on hub choice, which includes the ENVE alloy hub, i9 Torch Road or Chris King R45.
Of course, such a mega lightweight wheelset comes at a price, so we might just have to drool over these for a while.
HED Ardennes SL Plus Disc
Weighing in at a respectable 1,481 g, the Ardennes SL Plus from HED proves that you don't need carbon rims to build a lightweight wheelset. The aluminum alloy Ardennes rims are laced onto HED 545 center lock hubs.
With a 21 mm internal rim diameter, these will be suitable for most gravel tires and some wider road tires too.
For a super lightweight gravel wheelset, check out HED's new Carbon Eroica, weighing in at an incredible 1,340g. But of course, the catch is the price, and to acquire them you'll need to part with nearly £2000 /$2195.
Halo Vapour GXC Dynamo wheelset
- RRP: front (dynamo) £220 / TBC , rear £259.99 / TBC (wheelset £479.99 / TBC)
- Wheel size: 700c or 650b
- Rim material: alloy
- Rim internal: 21mm
- Spokes: 32
- Tubeless ready: yes, supplied with tubeless tape
We couldn't discuss gravel wheels without including a dynamo hub option. This device, which makes up the front hub, converts the energy from the rotation of the front wheel to electrical energy, which can be used to power a set of fixed lights, or even charge devices through a USB adapter.
This system is popular with long-distance tourers and commuters alike, meaning you can keep rolling without having to remember your lights - or remembering to charge them.
Although this wheelset is very affordable, the penalty comes in its total weight of 2,075g. There's also a slight increase in resistance from the SP Dyno PL series dynamo hub, although most riders won't feel this.
These wheels are built with long-distance and tough use in mind, laced with 32 J-bend spokes which not only make the wheels really strong, but also mean that should the worst happen, you have a better chance of replacing the broken spoke on your trip.
What makes the best gravel wheels?
Just like anything, the best gravel wheels for you will be totally dependant on what terrain you ride, as well as your riding goals. If you want to compete in gravel races, weight will become more of a priority, whereas for long-distance bikepackers strength and durability are more vital.
When considering what wheels to get for your gravel bike build or upgrade, you'll need to consider wheel size (700c or 650b), tubeless compatibility, intended tire width (linked to internal rim width), durability, frame compatibility and the all-important budget. Let's break it down.
Wheel size: 700c or 6560b?
700c has long been the standard size for road cycling wheels, but 650b (the equivalent of mountain biking's 27.5") is becoming pretty popular for gravel riding. This smaller wheel size yields greater clearance between the fork and rear triangle for greater volume tires with knobblier tread, making technical terrain much more accessible.
There's also comfort benefits from choosing greater volume tires as you can run the pressures a little lower. Although (most) gravel bikes don't have suspension, don't underestimate how much difference tire pressure can have on comfort.
Rocky drop-offs, rooty trails and mucky fire roads, gravel riding can be tough on wheels. When considering how durable and strong you need your wheelset to be, take into account what you intend to do with them.
If it's easy gravel roads you intend to ride, you won't need to pay as much attention to this as if you're planning on loading your bike up with bikepacking bags and heading off to explore, for example.
Most gravel wheelsets have between 24 and 32 spokes. Consider upping your spoke count if you take in more technical terrain, load up your bike with bags or are a heavier rider.
You might also want to take serviceability into account too. For example, some wheels use standard size bearings that are readily available from a number of reputable manufacturers, which makes replacing them easier.
Rim internal width
The internal width of the rim is a good indicator of what tires are most compatible with a wheelset. For gravel tires, look for an internal rim width between 20-25mm, although most manufacturers will indicate an optimum and acceptable tire width range.
Don't limit yourself to options labeled as gravel wheels either. Check out cyclocross, touring and cross country mountain biking options before settling on the best choice for you.
You'll need to make sure that your existing frame is compatible with the wheels you'd like to run. Most of the wheels listed here are compatible with 12mm thru axles and standard thru-axle hub spacing of 100/142mm, as well as disc brake only. Make sure you check these details before you buy to avoid an expensive mistake!
A lot of these wheels are also available with different freehub bodies dependant on your groupset choice, so make sure those are compatible too.
If you have a quirky frame or have any niche requirements, it's worth speaking to a wheelbuilder as they can help determine what the best build will be for you.
As you can imagine, wheelsets vary hugely in price from entry-level at £300+ to as much as you're willing to spend.
Standard wheelsets will feature alloy rims, and you'll pay a premium for lighter carbon fiber rims. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the more lightweight materials will be involved.
As weight is more key when it comes to wheels due to their rotating mass, shaving some weight off here can make quite a difference to your ride.
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