WTB Proterra Wheels: Checkpoint – by Guitar Ted
The new Proterra wheels by WTB were introduced here about a month ago now. There have been several rides done on these wheels since then and that means it is time to give you my first impressions on the ride performance of these wheels. Proterra is a line of wheels that is a value oriented upgrade for your bike. Especially if that bike may have stock issued wheels which typically are not of the best quality. The entry to mid-level gravel bike owner should look at these Proterra wheels closely as this is the sort of ‘everyday’ wheel which may make your ride better.
I got these i23 Proterra wheels set up with the provided SG2 Resolute 700 X 42mm tires from WTB and mounted a cassette and rotors. That all went on the Noble Bikes GX5 we have here as a test mule and the riding began. My first impression of the Proterra wheels was that just as I had heard a loud free hub when they first were unboxed, I still heard a loud free wheel when I coasted after mounting them up. These are wheels that will not allow you to sneak up on your friends. I’d say they are a little less loud than Hope hubs, but definitely louder than most.
Beyond that, the Proterra wheels did what wheels should do. As a gravel rider, I’m not so sure hub engagement is that big of a deal, but the Proterra wheels seem to be okay in that department. What I was really wanting to learn was how laterally stiff these wheels are, and would they be hard on a rider in terms of vibrations and handling. So, I tried to hit every loose patch of gravel I could find. Here’s what I’ve found so far….
First of all, when I say “laterally stiff” that doesn’t mean what you might think it means. It really isn’t a descriptive term for what I am seeing in wheels. Maybe ‘wobble‘ is more close to the mark. Wheels, being a structure under tension, act in ways that are not always obvious. When a wheel hits an inconsistent feature like loose, crushed rock, the inputs of force can cause strange wobbles in the front wheel which you, as a rider feel as ‘vibrations’. These results of the wheel and loose rock interacting can, if severe enough, cause you to have to ‘correct’ for these forces at the handle bar. A wheel with more of these noticeable traits is less good, and the opposite, a wheel which seems ‘quieter’ at the handlebars, is a better thing.
I said in my opening post that I was quite familiar with the Shimano GRX wheel set, a wheel set I feel is comparable to the Proterra wheels. The GRX exhibited a noticeable amount of this front wheel wobble, or oscillation, and it did make those wheels a bit less fun on deeper, loose rock. In comparison, the Proterra wheels are much ‘quieter’ and do not seem all that bothersome in this area, although I did note a bit of wobble in them on loose gravel. That said, give the point to the Proterra wheels here for being easier to ride.
So Far…. The WTB Proterra i23 wheels are a subtle looking, value priced wheel set at $649.00 for the pair. You get smooth EZO sealed bearings, easily serviced parts, and WTB’s proven tubeless rims. Nothing ‘shouty‘ going on here, just a workingman-like wheel set. Plus, they pass the critical ‘wobble/oscillation test’ which means they will handle well on sketchy gravel. Better than most other value priced and stock wheel sets.
In our final look at the Proterra wheels, I will be assessing how the internals are holding up with use in moist, dusty, perhaps muddy situations. I will also try out a different set of tires on these wheels to test compatibility with a non-WTB branded tire. (Because I know how you gravel riders like your mixing up of things) That should come in about another month. Stay tuned….
For more on the WTB Proterra i23 wheels see the WTB webpage for them here: https://www.wtb.com/collections/gravel-wheels/products/proterra-light-i23-wheels
Note: WTB sent over the Proterra wheels and a set of SG2 Resolute tires for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel. We were not paid nor bribed for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.