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Carbon rims for gravel racing?

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Carbon rims for gravel racing?

Old 11-10-19, 07:29 PM
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Koyote
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Carbon rims for gravel racing?

Hi all. Looking for some advice. I'm currently running some pretty heavy-duty wheels on my gravel rig: strong alloy rims, laced 32h/3x with DT Swiss Competition spokes (double-butted, 14/15g). Probably around 1800 grams for the set, and bombproof.

Am considering some cf-rimmed wheels, and most of them seem to come with light/thin spokes, and fewer of them...Like this example. Lighter, and more aero than the wheels I am running. My only concern is strength: when racing, it's easy to inadvertently bomb through a pothole or other obstruction that might be avoided when riding more recreationally. What do you all think of the durability of such wheels? I wouldn't want to be left stranded in the middle of such an event.

And in case someone asks: I am generally a little under 170lbs during racing season. Thanks in advance!
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Old 11-10-19, 07:54 PM
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While your current wheelset is probably totally adequeate, you'll be happier with carbon rims. Chances are good that you won't have a catastrophic failure in a race.
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Old 11-10-19, 08:15 PM
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Carbon rim = expensive taco.
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Old 11-10-19, 09:03 PM
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There are really good aluminum rims now for $800 that are about the same weight at $1500 carbon rims. They can take dents, pinches and dings too with no structural integrity issues. The really expensive carbon rims ($2-$3,000/ can save maybe 200 grams at most, but in that weight range they are not as sturdy as a heavier carbon or aluminum rim. I ride a set of Reynolds carbon and frankly, I'd rather have purchased the $800 DTSwiss Aluminum rims. With the carbons, I am always worried when I hear a rock smack against the rim (every time I ride pretty much) that it will cause structural failure. With an aluminum rim I am just thinking about a blemish to the paint or decals... It really is a personal choice, but I lean to aluminum unless you are road racing where you do not have focks smacking on the rims all of the time... There is not much benefit to a $1200 carbon rim over an $800 aluminum one, so to have any advantage at all you need to get in the $2 - $3,000 carbon price range.
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Old 11-11-19, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by gravelslider View Post
There are really good aluminum rims now for $800 that are about the same weight at $1500 carbon rims.
I havenít come across those aluminum-rimmed wheels that come in at under 1500 gÖ Examples?
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Old 11-11-19, 08:52 AM
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Roval SLX 24 aluminum wheelset, claimed 1515 grams, $800

https://www.specialized.com/us/en/ro...=233754-156781

EDIT: I guess these are road wheels but is a good example of how a light aluminum wheelset is built.

This set came to mind when talking about light aluminum wheelsets. I'm sure there are others if you look around.

But back to your OP. I have the Roval C38 carbon wheelset on my gravel bike. 600+ miles and no issues or damage to the rim. I will say that a light wheelset can make a difference in ride feel and acceleration. It's worth the extra.

Most importantly. Buy what you can afford. Don't go crazy for marginal gains.

Last edited by Bryan C.; 11-11-19 at 08:59 AM.
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Old 11-11-19, 09:33 AM
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You can run lower pressures on clincher carbon rims than any aluminum clincher rim, because when you pinch, the carbon takes the hit better. You are running tubeless I hope.

Most clincher CX tires are now not only designed for tubeless, but also to roll well at lower pressures (ramped knobs etc.)
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Old 11-11-19, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
I havenít come across those aluminum-rimmed wheels that come in at under 1500 gÖ Examples?
If you are looking at carbon rims for gravel (24 - 25MM internal width), the question really is what carbon rims under $1500 come in at 1500 grams? The excellent Reynolds carbon ATR is 1685grams in 700c...

The last set of aluminum rims I bought were American Classics with internal 25MM width. They were $825 and weigh 1485 grams for the pair. The Roval set mentioned above are a good newer example of a great and light aluminum gravel set.

At the $1500 range for carbon GRAVEL rims the target weight is more like 1600 grams (+/- 50g).

You may find an imported off-brand set of carbons from China for $1500 that comes in close to 1500g, but like above you can get a good name brand aluminum set for about the same (or less) weight for significantly less money.

The reality is, new aluminum wheel sets are a better value now and more durable; for the better carbon set of gravel wheels that are better than an $800 aluminum set you really have to spend over $2,000 to have any significant weight advantage.
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Old 11-11-19, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by gravelslider View Post
If you are looking at carbon rims for gravel (24 - 25MM internal width), the question really is what carbon rims under $1500 come in at 1500 grams?

At the $1500 range for carbon GRAVEL rims the target weight is more like 1600 grams (+/- 50g).
I never gave a $1500 price limit...But nonetheless, did you look at the link I provided? 24mm internal rim width, 1484 grams, $1600. They are not off-brand, either.

Last edited by Koyote; 11-11-19 at 02:44 PM.
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Old 11-11-19, 03:39 PM
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Sorry, I missed the link. That looks decent, and a good price. Have not seen these before. I am surprised they went hookless bead for easy tire mounting. I am more concerned about too-easy tire blow off the rim than easy mounting... Have you seen any reviews? $1,600 though, ouch... For me, I have had too many scares in big ruts and potholes. Just yesterday I had a rock a little bigger than a softball where I nipper the corner with my tire and it teeter-totter flipped and whacked my rim with a nasty hollow crack sound that echoed through the whole frame. Scratched some rim paint but no worries other than that. I am aluminum only now for gravel. I love my American Classics, have 2 sets. Wish I had a set in 650b now...

The really good carbon rims do get light, but get way too expensive in my book to beat up on chunky gravel. For the price of the Whiskys you can get two sets of DT Swiss or whatever and have a set of 700s & 650s...
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Old 11-11-19, 04:19 PM
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Despite similar initial concerns, Iíve grown comfortable with the durability of carbon wheels. They can be ridden hard. If they work for mountain biking, they can withstand gravel.

Iíve been running the Rodeo Labs wheels (~1450 grams) for over two years. I have raced them. I have taken them on singletrack, over roots and rocks, and down some gnarly terrain including drops and big hits. Iíve broken spokes. Iíve had a rock break the valve off. The rims are still true. As I have learned the hard way, Iíll break before they do.

This summer, I built a set of Carbon Fan XC 27.5 hoops with DT240s and XRays. Under 1200, in both grams and dollars. I havenít run these as hard as I have my other wheels yet, but I got them specifically to use for rowdier riding. I expect them to be fine. Thatís not to say you canít destroy carbon wheels. You can. But a hit that will take out a carbon rim would probably significantly damage any (non-boat anchor) aluminum rim as well.
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Old 11-11-19, 04:29 PM
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The Bontrager Aeolus pro 3v is a pretty heavy duty gravel wheel. I bought a set and they are pretty darn strong and a reasonable price.
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Old 11-12-19, 03:38 PM
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I'm generalizing, but in general, hookless carbon wheels can take a bigger hit than aluminum - which will bend if they take a hard hit. I do have a hookless pair - they seem to hold the tire tighter than my hooked aluminum - on the other hand the hooked tires can take a higher pressure (i.e. 70-120psi). I don't need that much pressure, so hookless doesn't hurt in my case for gravel (<70psi).
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Old 11-12-19, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by blazin View Post
Iíve been running the Rodeo Labs wheels (~1450 grams) for over two years. I have raced them. I have taken them on singletrack, over roots and rocks, and down some gnarly terrain including drops and big hits. Iíve broken spokes. Iíve had a rock break the valve off. The rims are still true. As I have learned the hard way, Iíll break before they do.
When you have broken spokes, did the rims stay true enough to ride home? I have wondered if cf rims have greater inherent structural integrity and hence might be rideable even with low-spoke counts and a broken spoke. That would alleviate some of my concern.

Originally Posted by Sliced View Post
The Bontrager Aeolus pro 3v is a pretty heavy duty gravel wheel. I bought a set and they are pretty darn strong and a reasonable price.
Interesting! Thanks for pointing those out. Those look like good rims, and the spokes are expensive...So I wonder about those proprietary hubs. So far, so good, I presume?

Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
I'm generalizing, but in general, hookless carbon wheels can take a bigger hit than aluminum - which will bend if they take a hard hit. I do have a hookless pair - they seem to hold the tire tighter than my hooked aluminum - on the other hand the hooked tires can take a higher pressure (i.e. 70-120psi). I don't need that much pressure, so hookless doesn't hurt in my case for gravel (<70psi).
That's solid info, on-topic. Thank you.
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Old 11-12-19, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
Carbon rim = expensive taco.
only if the wheel is not properly built and under spoked. carbon rim has actually much higher fatigue tolerance compared to alloy and can withstand higher spoke tension.
Just finished building my new 1298g carbon wheelset, 28h/28h, DT 350, CX-ray, 280g XC carbon rim 25mm deep 23mm wide. Could saved another 30g going alloy nipple, but those CX-ray spokes are too expensive to risk it. total parts come out to be under $600. 2 hours of fun wheel building time is free of charge. Huge difference in acceleration compared to my current 1770g Hplus son Hydra

Last edited by Chi_Z; 11-12-19 at 11:37 PM.
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Old 11-13-19, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Chi_Z View Post
only if the wheel is not properly built and under spoked. carbon rim has actually much higher fatigue tolerance compared to alloy and can withstand higher spoke tension.
Just finished building my new 1298g carbon wheelset, 28h/28h, DT 350, CX-ray, 280g XC carbon rim 25mm deep 23mm wide. Could saved another 30g going alloy nipple, but those CX-ray spokes are too expensive to risk it. total parts come out to be under $600. 2 hours of fun wheel building time is free of charge. Huge difference in acceleration compared to my current 1770g Hplus son Hydra
280g rim? Wow. Have more info?
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Old 11-13-19, 12:19 PM
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I can't post links yet (since I don't have 10 posts) but chain reaction cycles has an absolute STEAL right now for their Prime Road Wheels for $159 shipped! They weigh about 1550g from what I believe. From the reviews I've seen they are pretty bomb-proof and honestly, for $159 shipped... You can get 2 or even 3 pair for the price of anything else that comes even close to 1550gs

Unfortunately, I was a cheapo and went to their clearance section and bought a pair of Pro-Lite Gardias for $119 but they weigh 1950gs )= Didn't find out about the Prime Road Wheels until after my Gardias shipped (would have went with the Prime wheels... but the Gardias are a little bit stronger and better for off-season riding anyways) so just gonna stick with em.
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Old 11-13-19, 01:00 PM
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Aeolus

Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
When you have broken spokes, did the rims stay true enough to ride home? I have wondered if cf rims have greater inherent structural integrity and hence might be rideable even with low-spoke counts and a broken spoke. That would alleviate some of my concern.

Interesting! Thanks for pointing those out. Those look like good rims, and the spokes are expensive...So I wonder about those proprietary hubs. So far, so good, I presume?

That's solid info, on-topic. Thank you.
No issues as of yet with the hubs. I am at around 500 miles on them and they are still running smooth and true. Hope you find what you need.
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Old 11-13-19, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
Hi all. Looking for some advice. I'm currently running some pretty heavy-duty wheels on my gravel rig: strong alloy rims, laced 32h/3x with DT Swiss Competition spokes (double-butted, 14/15g). Probably around 1800 grams for the set, and bombproof.

Am considering some cf-rimmed wheels, and most of them seem to come with light/thin spokes, and fewer of them...Like this example. Lighter, and more aero than the wheels I am running. My only concern is strength: when racing, it's easy to inadvertently bomb through a pothole or other obstruction that might be avoided when riding more recreationally. What do you all think of the durability of such wheels? I wouldn't want to be left stranded in the middle of such an event.

And in case someone asks: I am generally a little under 170lbs during racing season. Thanks in advance!
There are a few companies with affordable CF rims that do custom and semi-custom builds.

Prowheelbuilds does some...otherwise Light-Bicycle I've found to be good cats.
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Old 11-13-19, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by loheiman View Post
280g rim? Wow. Have more info?
from aliexpress, weights are spot on 283g and 284g. Easy to built, 1000 mile so far no issue. Only downside is 22mm internal is pretty small for gravel rim
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Old 11-13-19, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by alrightythen55 View Post
I can't post links yet (since I don't have 10 posts) but chain reaction cycles has an absolute STEAL right now for their Prime Road Wheels for $159 shipped! They weigh about 1550g from what I believe. From the reviews I've seen they are pretty bomb-proof and honestly, for $159 shipped... You can get 2 or even 3 pair for the price of anything else that comes even close to 1550gs

Unfortunately, I was a cheapo and went to their clearance section and bought a pair of Pro-Lite Gardias for $119 but they weigh 1950gs )= Didn't find out about the Prime Road Wheels until after my Gardias shipped (would have went with the Prime wheels... but the Gardias are a little bit stronger and better for off-season riding anyways) so just gonna stick with em.
You know what they say: light, cheap, strong...pick two.

It only takes one broken spoke or broken hub flange to ruin your whole ride. Ask me how I know.
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Old 11-13-19, 08:23 PM
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I am running a set of industry nine carbon wheels on my gravel bike and a set of Reynolds black label carbon wheels on my cutthroat. The catch with the Reynold black label wheels is they have the same industry nine hubs as my I9 wheels on the gravel bike. I am pushing 240lbs (Large statue), riding for 20 years, pushing big watts, my wheel stake a beating and the I9 wheels and hubs have cause me no issues. Reynolds also has their warranty now. I would really aim for the industry nine hubs, I think that engagement makes the biggest difference. Even my alloy wheels of theirs are super fast spin up and hold their speed.
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Old 11-13-19, 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
When you have broken spokes, did the rims stay true enough to ride home? I have wondered if cf rims have greater inherent structural integrity and hence might be rideable even with low-spoke counts and a broken spoke. That would alleviate some of my concern.
Yes, Iíve been able to ride home with a broken spoke. Though I certainly did so gingerly. Wheel wasnít true, but was certainly rideable. Helps to have disc brakes.
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Old 11-13-19, 09:12 PM
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Originally Posted by loheiman View Post
280g rim? Wow. Have more info?
pretty much every one of the main Chinese wheel companies have a ďskyĒ or ďflyĒ weight XC rim.

I used this one for a build:

https://www.carbonfan.com/t800-tubel...28mm-33mm-35mm
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Old 11-14-19, 04:43 AM
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Enve G23 wheels - Bomb proof and a hair over 1300 grams. Pricey but you get what you pay for. I have them and love em! It really doesn't get any better than this when you look at the reliability/warranty etc unless you want deep dish aero which for most people won't make sense on gravel.
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