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Gravel bikes combine the characteristics of both road bikes and mountain bikes, utilizing specific wheels to handle widely variable surfaces with ease. Cyclists frequently ask questions about the ideal wheel diameter (650b vs. 700c), the best rim width, the braking system (discs or rim), tubeless compatibility and the best spoke count and type to balance between lightness and strength. Other questions involve the importance of the hub, tire compatibility and technological innovations to improve performance.
Which wheel diameter should you choose for gravel, 650b or 700c?
The choice of wheel diameter depends on the type of terrain and riding style. 700c wheels are preferred for speed and long distances on mixed terrain. The smaller 650b wheels often allow wider tires to be fitted, offering greater damping and traction on more technical terrain. Deciding which size is a question of compromise between comfort and performance.
Why is the tubeless system recommended for gravel?
The tubeless system offers a number of advantages for gravel riding. It allows you to use lower tire pressures, offering better traction and increased comfort, which are essential on varied terrain; it minimizes the risk of pinch punctures; and, in the event of a puncture, tubeless sealant or tire plugs generally seal the leak.
How important is the number and type of spokes for a gravel wheel?
The number and type of spokes play a crucial role in the robustness and comfort of gravel wheels. A wheel with more spokes is generally more robust, ideal for rough terrain and heavy loads. Flat, bladed or aero spokes may offer a slight improvement in aerodynamics, but may be less durable than traditional round spokes. The choice of spoking pattern, such as cross-spoking, also influences durability and the wheel's ability to dissipate shock. For gravel, it's essential to balance strength, flexibility and weight for top performance.
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