Monday, April 11, 2016

Project Wide Gravel Wheels: Update

Up at East Janesville Church the other day.
The idea was to run wider rims than maybe what any cyclo crosser or roadies would ever consider for a gravel road bike and see what, if any performance advantages there are when running those wider rims. Once again, I tried the WTB KOM i25 rims which, as the name implies, have a 25mm inner rim width. Keep in mind that many rim companies are saying "wide" for a road rim is 20mm, maybe 21mm, of inner rim width. Yes, the KOM i25 is "really" a 29"er rim, but hey! That's a minor detail, and so I used them anyway.

One other thing I did here was that I did not weigh the wheels. I did this because I think it might affect the way I look at this project, if I knew, and I really think a good set of wheels with a reasonable weight is going to feel great no matter. So, I don't have a weight on these wheels, and weight wasn't the biggest concern here, quite honestly. I was mostly wanting to see how, or even if, tire performance could be enhanced.

That said, here are a few things I've noticed about these wheels, and a comment about what they do to tires so far.

The White Industries XMR hubs are amazing. Normally, you probably do not think much about your hubs, and that would be considered a great thing in a hub. These hubs I actually do think about once in a while because I could see how much better they spin, and that translated in to a faster coast with longer times off the power without losing ground to other riders or slowing down too much. The build is solid. I have had no issues with the wheels at all, but I will say that the KOM rims are a pretty lightweight extrusion. I wouldn't place any bets on how long they will last, but so far, so good. And I have pounded these wheels doing curb hops, bunny hops, and generally banging them around.

So, anyway, the tires...... Well, I've only mounted one set so far, so I have to reserve judgement on the tire part. That said, I feel they have made a big tire less crowned, wider, and more stable in the loose stuff as a result. The tubeless factor makes for lowered pressures and I have found that makes these wheel great over rough terrain and deeper grounds, like sand, and really deep gravel.

So far so good, like I say. More soon.......


Smithhammer said...

I'll be curious to hear your continued thoughts on the subject. Honestly, I don't understand why so many folks run such skinny tires and/or wheels on gravel (unless their 'gravel' is very different than what we have in my neck of the woods). The advantages seem few and far between, and there are clear reasons why the trend in various segments of the off-road bike industry is moving toward fatter tires, whether it be for "monster-cross" or trail riding. This trend, in combination with tubeless setups becoming more widespread and user-friendly, isn't coincidental.

Guitar Ted said...

@Smithammer: i agree. I think that for many riders coming from the road biking side, it all seems too mtb-ish. Maybe that is where the resistance to this comes from? I'm not sure....

Smithhammer said...

@GT - Agreed, I think it comes from folks who have gotten into gravel from road biking, and for whom a 38mm tire probably seems 'huge.' I came at it instead from a life-long MTB side, and see clear advantages to more volume, with the assumed 'sacrifices' being not actually borne-out by real-world performance. I think a lot of the perceptions that a tire on gravel that is a few millimeters wider somehow provides 'notable resistance' is also largely coming from folks carrying over a mindset from a road biking background, but the trend toward higher-volume/wider tires isn't a fad - people are embracing it for lots of good reasons.

Of course, we can probably expect that at some point after things have trended this way for a while, there will be a counter-trend of riders going back to really skinny tires on gravel, for no particularly good reason other than that it will be seen as 'retro.' ;-)