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Can I use MTB Wheels for gravel riding?

  • Leader
    May 11, 2021
    Can I use MTB Wheels for gravel riding?

    Can you run a set of MTB Wheels for gravel riding? It’s a very good question. It may not be lighter in most instances but it will likely be a whole lot cheaper. If weight isn’t a big issue for you then you may well be looking to save a couple of bucks in the wheelset department. We speak to the experts at Enve, Mavic and 3T to learn the pros and cons of running a mountain bike wheelset on a gravel bike.To get more news about Mountain Wheels, you can visit zpebicycle official website.

    I’ve noticed that a lot of mountain bike wheels (not brand specific) are lighter and cheaper than their gravel counterparts. Does it all come down to a hookless vs hooked bead, maximum tire pressure, and aerodynamics? Or, is there some other reason I shouldn’t use MTB wheels for gravel? I typically run a 38mm tire, tubeless, at 40 psi.
    Fatigue resistance: For the same hours of use, a gravel wheelset will cover more mileage than an MTB wheelset. Consequently, the number of wheel revolutions will be greater on an All Road wheel.
    Each wheel revolution induces variation in spoke tension (increased and decreased tension for each spoke per each wheel revolution). This repetitive cycle of tension has a direct impact on the fatigue resistance of a wheelset: more cycles means more fatigue.
    Consequently, the lower rim bridge (on which spokes are attached) needs to be designed to be stronger on a gravel wheel to avoid early cracks around spoke nipples, spoke failures, or the wheel becoming untrue.

    2. Spoke tension vs. tire pressure: Tire pressure has a direct impact on the initial spoke tension of a wheel: by compressing the rim, tire pressure reduces the initial spoke tension. To balance this, the initial spoke tension is higher on wheels intended to be used with a higher tire pressure.

    Gravel wheels are typically used with narrower tires and higher pressures than MTB wheels. An MTB wheel used with the narrower and higher tire pressure of gravel will most likely end up being under-tensioned.A properly designed Gravel wheel will be built with a higher initial spoke tension to balance the higher tire pressure, obviously considering the rim material resistance limits too. Rims, spokes and hubs must be designed so they can support this extra tension, without impacting the overall lifespan of the wheel. Don’t play it wrong by increasing the tension of the spokes of your wheel, you’ll make it more fragile.

    3. Impact absorption: An MTB wheel, even an XC one, must be designed to absorb huge impacts and shocks, induced by jumps, rocks, technical terrain and an aggressive riding style that comes with this environment. This is aggressive treatment that a gravel wheel is less likely to be subjected to (unless you lose your way and temper).

    An MTB wheel will then be overbuilt for normal gravel riding, or at least not built to resist the same type of abuse (see parameter #1 above). To resume, besides the basic fork/frame axle compatibility (Boost, 12mm vs 15mm), there are several factors that make a proper gravel wheelset design different from an MTB one.