Project Wide Gravel Wheels: Introduction

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Wide Gravel Wheels
White Industries XMR hubs will roll at the heart of this project

Project Wide Gravel Wheels: Introduction

Wheels and tires are definitely the subject of much discussion and conjecture amongst cyclists of all disciplines. Gravel going cyclists are no different in this regard, we know that because of our Forum page and how many hits we get on our Tire Finder Page. Gravel riders are intensely interested in tires and all that goes along with that, including wheel choices.  We’ve also noticed, with much interest, the ongoing trend for riders to choose wider rims. We see that with road cyclists, mountain bikers, and fat bikers. What is not seen so much is any discussion or testing of how a wider rim than is commonplace for gravel riders affects a typical 35mm-40mm tire.

Wide Gravel Wheels
WTB’s wide KOM i25 rims were chosen for their excellent tubeless capabilities.

This project is going to try to uncover the effects of a wide rim on gravel class rubber. The way that a wide rim and tubeless tire interact, and how that affects gravel road performance, will be analyzed and compared with how the same type tires react with more “traditional” choices in rims. We will explore how the wider rim and 35mm-40mm tires affect ride feel and comfort, if at all. The expectation is that, just as mountain bikers and road bikers have experienced certain performance and ride quality benefits from wider rims and “plus sized tires”, gravel riders should experience similar benefits. That is the reason for Project Wide Gravel Wheels.

The rims chosen for this project come from WTB and are their KOM series rims which feature their TCS tubeless design and, as the name implies, a 25mm wide inner rim dimension. That’s huge compared to most gravel type set ups which typically are anywhere from 17mm-19mm inner rim width on rims. Is 25mm inner rim dimension too wide? This will be a question we hope to answer as we get into this project more.

The other main components chosen for this project are the White Industries XMR disc compatible hubs. These hubs were chosen because White Industries has an excellent reputation for quality, are USA made, and have versatility in hub interface so that these wheels can be swapped into several different bikes whether they have quick release drop outs or through axles. We expect to have zero issues with these hubs and that they should handle the dusty environment they will be subjected to with ease.

The bike that will initially see these wheels on it will be the Twin Six Standard Rando tested on the site last year. This bike can handle 40mm tires easily and should provide a good platform for the test to be conducted on. By the way, I liked the Standard Rando so much, I bought it rather than sending it back, so that is your full disclosure statement concerning that bike. The point is, the bike won’t get in the way of the analysis of the wheels and tires used in the testing.

Stay tuned for the wheels and specs on them. Then it will be on to riding gravel and seeing what the effects of these wide rims is on the tires we hope to introduce as well here soon and in the coming months.

Note: received the WTB KOM i25 rims at no charge for this project. All other wheel components are being paid for out of pocket by Guitar Ted. We are not being paid, nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Discuss and share your questions or thoughts about gravel bikes, gear, events and anything else on the Riding Gravel Forum


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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9 thoughts on “Project Wide Gravel Wheels: Introduction

  1. Where would you get the impression that most gravel setups are still using 17-19mm rims? Or, that the behavior of a wide tire on a wide rim would be any different on a gravel bike than it would be on an mtb or road bike? Of course all the benefits are the same. Glad you didn’t need a govt grant for this study, ’cause anyone who’s ever run a 20mm or wider internal width rim could tell you all about how it’s better when it’s wider.

    1. Most stock “gravel” classed bikes certainly do not come with rims with an internal width anywhere near as wide as 25mm. That’s why we’re doing this. Certainly, someone somewhere has done it, (we’ve gotten a nice comment on the Facebook page from someone chiming in with a positive experience as an example), but it isn’t what I would call a common set up on gravel bikes. Having been to many events over a decade of gravel riding, and being the director of Trans Iowa, I have seen a few things, maybe. I’ve tested a few rigs sent to me while running Gravel Grinder News and this site as well, so maybe I’ve noticed the rims and how wide they are.


      So, if it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile thing to check out, because you already have tried several tires on a 25mm internal width rim, or similar, on gravel, and you know, then this series maybe isn’t for you.

      But for those who haven’t had the chance to try it out, then this is for them. Maybe someone will gain some benefit from it, and if they do, it is well worth my time to publish the findings here.

  2. On my current/primary training bike right now I run (tubed) Challenge Gravel Grinder (38c) on Velocity Blunt SS rims (26.6 mm internal). It roles quite well. No problems so far.

  3. Excellent choice for hubs BTW. There are a lot of good reasons to run the XMRs. Big flange = stiff. Standard bearings for easy rebuild or ceramic conversion.

  4. Just laced up a set of WTB KOM i23s. The big advantage I find is that any tire on a wider rim gets quite a bit of added volume, allowing lower pressures. I put on an old set of Specialized 34c cx tires, and can run the same pressures as my MSO 40’s on my old Velocity A23 rims. This wasn’t the case before. I think the ideal tire width goes DOWN when the rim width increases. 40s are great when your rims are narrow, but you can get similar air volume from a 36 on a wide rim. Can’t wait to get my hands on the new MSO 36 tubeless.

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