Gulo Composites GRX-SL Wheelset: Checkpoint

Gulo Composites GRX-SL Wheelset: Checkpoint – by MG

Wheels are one of the most common upgrades gravel riders make to their bikes, and for good reason. They are one of the easiest and most impactful upgrades you can make, but sorting through the options to find the best wheelset within your budget can be daunting.

GT Grade with Gulo GRX-SL wheels
The GRX-SL wheels upgraded the look and more importantly, the feel of our GT Grade Carbon Pro test bike.

That’s precisely why we review so many wheels at Riding Gravel. We know the difference great wheels can make. As a result, we have high expectations of the wheels we review.

Back in June, I introduced you to our long-term review of the GRX-SL wheelset from Gulo Composites. A relative newcomer to the scene, Gulo Composites’ wheels feature the company’s exclusive triaxial braided composite spokes. Claimed to be stronger and more impact resistant than traditional steel spokes, the Gulo G1 spokes come in at roughly half the weight of their stainless steel counterparts.

Since I covered the technical details and specifications of the GRX-SL wheels in my Getting Rolling post, I won’t rehash those in this post. Rather, I’ll focus on my ‘on the road’ experience with the wheels.

On the road with the GRX-SL wheelset

Gulo’s permanent graphics are subtle, tasteful and durable. The gold anodized spoke ends compliment the graphics of our test bike well, but black ends are available for those seeking a stealthier look.

From the first pedal stroke, it’s easy to feel the light weight of the Gulo wheels. At 1,296 grams for the set with tape and valves installed, the GRX-SL wheels are among the lightest wheels I’ve ridden, and they should be given their $2,625 asking price.

The GRX-SL wheels accelerate very quickly and are efficient under power, with a responsiveness that enhances the feel of any bike they’re mounted to. On several occasions, I noticed how easy it was to accelerate to match the pace of other riders in a group, particularly on climbs.

Despite their super light weight, the GRX-SL wheels have a reassuringly solid feel overall. The feel like wheels you could ride every day, not just on race day. Yet, despite their flex-free feel, the wheels don’t feel harsh at all over bumpy terrain. I suspect this has something to do with the G1 composite spokes, which seem to dissipate vibrations more effectively than stainless steel spokes.

Gulo GRX-SL rear hub
Gulo’s G1 composite spokes thread directly into the flanges of the ETI System hubs.

In an attempt to quantify this sensation, I rode the GRX-SL wheels back-to-back with two other wheelsets – one equipped with carbon rims and one with alloy hoops (both using butted steel spokes). While overall handling was relatively similar among the three wheelsets, the GRX-SL wheels had a noticeably smoother overall ride quality. They also felt easier to accelerate, both from a stop and when upping the pace on the road. This is likely due to the fact they weigh 200g less than the next lightest wheelset in my stable.

The 28mm tall carbon rims offer a good balance of strength, ride quality and aerodynamics. While they may not be the absolute most aerodynamic wheels out there, I never felt like I was at a disadvantage to riders on taller profile wheels. In fact, when riding the GRX-SL wheels, I’ve often found myself coasting up to other riders on fast downhills, even heavier riders who theoretically should have had a gravitational edge on me going down.

A true story

The 22mm internal width of the GRX-SL rim is well suited to modern 35-45c gravel tires. The rims use hook beads, so they play well with both tubed and tubeless setups.

After about 300 miles on the GRX-SL wheels, I noticed the rear wheel was slightly out of true, so I checked in with Richie Trent at Gulo Composites to get his thoughts. It turns out our wheels are very early production samples, and the company has since updated the thread locking compound they use on the spoke nipples. I could easily hear the spoke that lost tension when I plucked the spokes, as it gave a lower tone than the other non-drive spokes.

Truing the GRX-SL wheel wasn’t hard, however it did require the tire and rim strip to be removed from the wheel. Also, since the composite spokes can’t have any wind up/twist in them, two wrenches are necessary for truing – one to hold the nipple and spoke (to keep it from twisting), and another to turn the nut inside the rim bed to increase or decrease spoke tension as needed.

While most people won’t need to true their wheels often, the extra time and effort required to true the Gulo wheels is the most notable downside of the G1 composite spokes I’ve found to-date. That said, since truing the rear wheel, I haven’t had any further problems. In my ‘At the Finish’ review, I’ll let you know if any other issues arise.

The bottom line… for now

With low weight and a fantastic ride quality, the GRX-SL wheelset from Gulo Composites is a strong new contender in the high-end gravel wheel market. No, a $2,625 wheelset isn’t for everyone, but for cyclists with enough perspective to know the difference great wheels can make, they’re definitely worth a look.

Learn more about the GRX-SL wheels at GuloComposites.com.

NOTE- Gulo Composites sent over the GRX-SL wheels for test and review to Riding Gravel at no charge. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we will give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

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Author: MG

Matt Gersib is the 2014 Gravel World Champion in the Fatbike category. He's also finished some of the most challenging gravel events in the country, including the Dirty Kanza XL, TransIowa and the Dirty Kanza 200, among others. In 2015, Gersib was an inaugural inductee into the DK200 "1,000 mile club" of five-time finishers. In addition to his gravel cycling, Gersib is an accomplished mountain bike racer, with numerous race wins and championships, including the 2012 Nebraska State Marathon MTB Championship.

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