Tubeless wheelsets have become way more popular recently, thanks especially to the growing number of tubeless tyres out there these days, and here are some of the best that we've reviewed for over a grand.
A tubeless system is essentially a clincher tyre inflated onto a rim without an inner tube. Instead, an airtight chamber is created with a tubeless-specific tyre, developed with a special bead and a compatible rim.
One big advantage is the substantially reduced risk of puncturing, as long as you use liquid sealant inside the tyre and keep it topped up. If the tyre is punctured, the sealant plugs the hole. The tyre might suffer a small drop in pressure if you puncture, but the sealant will deal with most small holes caused by flint and thorns, allowing you to keep riding.
If you want to go tubeless you need the right wheels, and here are 10 of the best, some for rim brakes and some for discs. They've all been awarded an overall of score of at least 8 out of 10 in road.cc reviews.
Swiss Side's Hadron Ultimate 485s take the fight to the bigger players in the industry with a compelling blend of aerodynamics, exemplary build quality and a competitive price. The trademark "whoosh" sound is no more, however. Today's range of Hadron wheels might look similar to those we tested previously, but in fact no components have been carried across – they are completely different.
Swiss Side offers two flavours of its Hadron aero wheelset – the Ultimate and the Classic. What's changed since we tested the Hadron 485s in 2016 is that both ranges now use full-carbon rims. In fact, Swiss Side is quite open about the fact that the current-gen Hadron Ultimate and Hadron Classic use exactly the same rims (in a range of depths and with rim- and disc-brake options). You might look at the pictures and assume that these are effectively the same wheels as the last lot of Hadron Ultimates we tested, but stay with me here – you couldn't be more wrong.
There is an immediate and quite obvious difference when you first start riding. All of the first-generation Swiss Side Hadron wheels made a rather noticeable whooshing sound, like a toned-down version of a disc wheel. This was because of the way the rim was constructed – the deep section was non-structural and so thin that you could flex it between finger and thumb, and this would amplify the vibrations from the road to make a noise. I quite liked it, actually, and I lost count of how many times someone commented on what a good noise they made.
The new Hadron rim is made as a one piece with the deep section thicker than previously, adding a claimed 20 per cent more lateral stiffness to the wheels. This is a welcome move – I found the old full-carbon Hadron Ultimates were less laterally stiff than I would have liked – and the new wheels are better in this respect, allowing me to set the brake pads closer to the rim. A side-effect of this change is that the resonant sound is gone. Rim weight has also increased slightly as a consequence, by approximately 30g per set. We weighed these 48.5mm-deep Hadron Ultimates at 1,529g including rim tape and valves but excluding skewers, exactly matching Swiss Side's claimed weight.
The combination of Swiss Side's aerodynamics expertise and DT Swiss's production quality yields good results here, and for less than the almost identical wheelset that DT Swiss sells. They are very easy to live with and stable on windier days, so if you're still using rim brakes you could do a lot worse than these. And if you're already on disc brakes, well, you're in luck too.
Think carbon fibre wheels and it's highly likely Enve is one of the first brand names that springs to mind. The US company knows carbon wheels and has put all its expertise into its first dedicated gravel design, these G23 wheels. They provide phenomenal performance, low weight and impressive durability, but you'll max out your credit card to purchase them.
Enve has built its reputation on carbon fibre wheels since it first launched in 2007 (when it was called Edge Composites) and with the new G Series, it's bringing this experience to the growing gravel and adventure bike market. It is offering the G27 (650B) and G23 (700C) using a rim profile optimised for wide tyres and a unique hookless profile intended to minimise pinch flats.
Despite the obvious vibration-damping qualities of a low pressure 40mm tyre, the Enve rims appeared to provide a bit more 'give' when barrelling along boulder and gravel-strewn paths and gulleys compared with many other wheels I've tested.
They just seem to help take the edge off the hits, whether it's riding along washboard surfaces, hard gravel tracks or taking on bigger impacts from rocks or roots.
It is possible to make a carbon fibre rim too stiff, but Enve gets it right with these. Build a really stiff rim and it'll give a harsh ride feel that can result in less control and more fatigue. The ride quality on offer here is exceptionally good, the rim helping to dissipate energy to generate a smoother ride with more control and less fatigue.
As a company, Trek/Bontrager hasn't embraced the gravel movement as keenly as some of its rivals, but these new Aeolus Pro 3V TLR Disc Wheels aim to address that. They are light and very tough wide-profile carbon rims ideal for big volume gravel tyres, and they are reasonably priced with a good warranty and no weight limit.
Bontrager has considerable experience in the carbon fibre wheel market. We were impressed with the Aeolus XXX 4s and the Aeolus Pro 3s when we tested them last year, and it's the latter that forms the basis for the new Aeolus Pro 3Vs. The V stands for volume; these wheels are designed for big volume tyres.
How are they designed for wider tyres? Internal width is the key; these measure 25mm internally, up from 19.5mm on the road carbon wheels. We're seeing the internal width of most road and gravel wheels increasing over traditional measurements to better suit wider tyres that are fashionable these days. A wider rim provides a better foundation for a wider tyre, providing more stability than a wide tyre on a narrow rim.
One of the reasons you might want to buy carbon wheels for your gravel bike is the durability and strength they offer. These are mightily strong wheels and have stood up to some punishing riding, including on rock-strewn tracks better suited to mountain bikes. Hearing the rim clatter against the rocks does make you wince but the wheels have stood up to it all just fine, with no punctures or damaged rims. I've dented aluminium rims on these same trails but the Bontragers coped with it all just fine.
The wheels display the sort of stiffness you'd expect from a carbon wheel, but assessing stiffness through a low-pressure 40mm tyre is tricky. There is more stiffness detectable when coming from aluminium wheels, though, a generally snappier ride experience especially noticeable when riding singletrack trails with lots of sudden turns.
The high-quality carbon fibre Aeolus Pro 3V wheels are perfectly suited to wide road and gravel tyres, with top-notch performance and durability, backed up by a two-year no-cost replacement or repair warranty.
The Prime Ventous Carbon Disc Road wheels boast excellent build quality and great looks. They perform really well and are pretty good value too.
Build quality is very good with the wheels using a full-carbon rim, Pillar Wing spokes and Token's own D1 hubs, backed with a two-year warranty.
With sealant added, they inflated onto the rim easily with a track pump and straight away showed the trend for wider rims, the internal width spreading the tyre out so that it was a nice curve flush with the external 27mm edge. Mounted on the bike they looked great, and spinning the wheels led to a long wait for them to stop on the quality sealed bearings.
Tester Sean used the Token Ventous wheels for the 1,000+ miles of the Land's End to John o'Groats Deloitte Ride Across Britain. The early couple of days were super-hilly, lots of out of the saddle grinding and fast descents on the other side. The wheels were stiff but did have a little give under pressure – he's 90kg – but weren't fazed at all and continued on at pace whatever the gradient, the acceleration when cracking on at the base giving a welcome extra bit of speed to carry up.
On the other side, the super-smooth bearings and stiff construction made for a very controlled descent, inspiring confidence (in part to the rubber) on the twistier sections.
Sean concluded that he would gladly ride them every day after the punishment they endured with ease. They look good, perform well and are great for the money, with the quality of the components and competitive weight justifying the cost against competitors in the sector.
The Reynolds AR 41 DB Wheelset provides very good aero performance for everyday riding or racing and hilly sportives, with easy tubeless installation, and all at a competitive price that stands up well in a saturated carbon wheel market.
As the name suggests, the rim measures 41mm deep, but there are also 29 and 58mm options. The rims are also wide, being 30mm at their widest point, with a 21mm internal width – whopping compared to traditional 15mm internal width rims.
Reynolds also designs its own hubs to complement the rims and they're good looking items. They use straight pull spokes locked into stubby flanges along with the Centerlock interface for easily and quickly attaching disc rotors.
Performance of the wheels is highly impressive. The shape and depth of the rims produce very good handling in changeable and windy conditions, with no instability issues in strong crosswinds.
They're also fast, maintaining speed nicely. They don't have the outright savage speed of a much deeper design, but as an all-round set for everyday use and long distance rides over hilly terrain, they're a preferred choice.
The quality is very good, comparable to wheels costing a lot more, and lives up to our previous experience with Reynolds. We had no issues or complaints during our time with these, they just went about their business without fuss. And we've hammered them too, in the fierce pace of a local chain gang and on longer rides over the rolling Cotswolds and all of its potholes and rubbish road surfaces.
You get a lifetime warranty with the wheels, which adds a good bit of peace of mind, and just knowing that Reynolds has been producing wheels for a long time also makes them a reassuring choice in what is a pretty saturated wheel market.
Netherlands-based brand Scope's R4c wheels have a quality ride feel backed up by a decent amount of aerodynamic benefit, making them a good all-round road wheelset. The weight is pretty impressive too, and the price isn’t bad when you realise it includes tyres and valves.
The stiffness of this build is one of things that impressed me most. Hard sprinting and climbing efforts that had wheels like the Aera AR55 set touching the brake blocks had no effect on the lateral movement of the R4c pair at all. Cornering hard and heavy braking does little to unsettle them either.
The ride quality is good too. Some deep-section rims, especially those from the budget end of the spectrum, can feel buzzy and harsh over rough road surfaces but there is none of that here. The 45mm-deep, rounded rims are perfectly damped and make for a very pleasurable ride when the tarmac is far from smooth.
On the flat, you start to notice the aerodynamic benefits of a deep-section rim once you get to about 50-60mm in depth, so the Scopes aren't quite as easy to keep rolling above speeds of around 25mph but they really aren't that far off.
On the flipside you've got the added benefit of more versatility as they are less susceptible to strong crosswinds than a deeper wheel and the weight can be kept down, making them a decent climbing wheel.
The SKF bearings in the Scope hubs run smoothly and the freehub engagement at the rear is quick and precise for when you want to hammer away from a standing start.
These Carbon 30 Disc Dynamo wheels are excellent. The rim is 30mm deep, made from unidirectional T24/30 carbon fibre with the spoke holes reinforced with a 3K weave. It's a reasonably wide profile, with a 27mm external width and a 21mm internal profile.
The wheels came with tubeless rim tape fitted, and a hole for the valve. Fitting Schwalbe G-One Speeds was easy. Our review pair came tightly built and true, and they stayed that way during testing. With 28 spokes front and rear they're built for bikepacking and ultra-distance rather than fully loaded touring; Hunt recommends a 115kg limit for rider and luggage.
The SON Delux dynamo is specifically designed for road riding. It weighs just 395g and when turned off generates just 0.4W of drag, barely more than a standard front hub. The efficiency is rated at 65%, and the dynamo outputs 3W of power at 20km/h, so to power your lights or your USB charger you can expect to be putting less than 5W into the system. We used the dynamo with a Busch & Muller IQ-X front light and a Supernova E3 rear, getting easily enough power to light the way.
At the rear Hunt is using its 4Season Disc hub that has extra shielding for the EZO cartridge bearings inside. Both front and rear hubs use standard J-bend spokes which should be fairly easy to find a replacement for if you pop one out on tour. The wheels come with two spares of each length to take with you too, plus a spoke key, 6-bolt adaptors for the Centerlock disc mounts, tubeless rim tape (fitted) and tubeless valves.
Overall these wheels are excellent. They're light and well built, the front dynamo is as good as they come for road riding and the rear hub has been great too. They're sensibly built, come with spares, and are set up for the long haul.
The original ATR rim was a chunky affair, and this design (called the ATR 2 when we reviewed it, but having since be renamed) is even wider: 23mm internally and 32mm externally, with a depth of 40mm. The bulbous profile follows the developments in aero wheel technology that are pushing towards increasingly toroidal designs, but Reynolds doesn't make any particular aero claims for this wheelset.
You get 24 spokes front and rear; that's not much for an all-purpose wheelset like this, but one of the main benefits of a carbon rim is that it's laterally stiffer for the same weight, meaning that the spoke count can be reduced.
If you're heading off to terrain that's more challenging, especially with a loaded bike, then carbon does still have advantages over alloy for its impact resistance.
These ATR wheels were easy to set up tubeless. Ours came fitted with rim tape and were supplied with valves. The 40mm Schwalbe G-Ones went up first time; bigger tyres that were a baggier fit required a couple of extra wraps of tape to tighten things up, but we got them sealed just fine.
Our test wheels came fitted a Shimano 11-speed freehub. You can also have an XD driver if you want a wider cassette, or a Campagnolo freehub.
The disc mount is Centerlock and these wheels come set up with 12mm axles front and rear. You can run the front as a 15mm axle; those end caps come with the wheels. If you want to run quick releases then QR end caps are available separately.
We had a very positive experience with these wheels. As a 650B wheelset, they're not necessarily overpriced considering the materials and build quality (and lifetime warranty), but you might question whether, for riding on the road with big tyres, a carbon rim has enough of a benefit over alloy to justify the inevitable price difference. It'll depend on what you're planning. If your riding takes you to genuinely technical terrain, or you're riding a loaded bike, or both, the extra stiffness and impact resistance of a carbon rim will be useful. If you're looking for more comfort on the road then the performance is great, but the price hike less justified.
These Fast Forward F4R FCC Tubeless Ready wheels are seriously good for their price tag. They're stable in strong winds, quick to spin up to speed and also quick to stop. What's more, you get great hubs and high-end pads. It's a great package.
This full carbon wheelset comes in at a very respectable 1,450g. The rims are 26mm wide externally, laced to the brilliant DT Swiss 350 hubs with DT Aerolite spokes.
Those hubs are pretty bombproof. While these wheels were used in mostly dry conditions, we've had these hubs on wheels that have seen some horrendous weather; they're solid and don't require much attention. While we're on reliability, we had zero spoke tension issues even after a few big hits in races.
At 45mm deep, these strike a great balance between speed, quick acceleration and handling. They don't pick up strong winds which is probably down to the blunt profile at the leading and trailing edges.
One of the attractions of this set of wheels is what you get for your money. They come in a well-padded double wheel bag with a zippered storage compartment containing brake pads and skewers. You also get a set of tubeless valves.
The Giant SLR 0 42mm wheels are an ideal all-round go-faster set of hoops. The rims are wide, feel fast and handle well. The hubs are simple to service, quiet and robust. They performed excellently during testing in my mix of hilly races, flat criteriums and general riding with good braking and stability in crosswinds.
The 42mm-deep full-carbon rims are tubeless ready and the spokes are DT Aerolites – straight-pull with internal nipples. This gives a very clean build, although one that isn't so easy for maintenance. Not that it will matter, for a while at least, as the wheels were perfectly straight out of the box and remained that way.
The hubs are Giant branded, with DT Swiss 240 internals. This is a great balance between performance and reliability with easy maintenance.
We didn't find these wheels hard to handle in windy conditions. In fact, they felt very stable. The wheels also feel zippy when climbing thanks to the respectable weight: 629g front and 791g rear, giving a total of 1,420g. Weight isn't everything, though. We were also impressed with the lateral stiffness.
Overall, we were impressed with these Giant wheels because they're a great option if you want one wheelset for racing and general riding.
The DT Swiss PRC 1400 Spline clincher wheels have deep section 65mm rims for aerodynamic efficiency, they're well made and come with excellent internals.
The rim is a NACA shape with a fairly blunt profile, although the PRCs are in no way bulbous like Zipps, for example. The PRCs can be a little hard to handle on some gusty, blustery days, but this is rare – and not much different from any other wheels of a similar depth.
The PRC wheels use DT Swiss's well-respected 240 hubs. The freehub features a ratchet system (rather than standard pawls). Springs push two 36-tooth star ratchets together to engage when you pedal, all of the teeth engaging at the same time in just 10 degrees. This system works really well and durability is excellent.
The wheels feel stiff in use, so you can set your brake pads very close to the rim without danger of rubbing when you corner hard or ride out of the saddle.
Braking in dry conditions is good – progressive without any grabbing – and braking in the wet, although not exceptional, is sure and confident.
You get tubeless tape and tubeless valves as part of the package (along with RWS Steel quick releases and SwissStop Black Prince brake pads). Setting them up tubeless is easy enough.
You are getting some seriously good wheels for your money here. Granted, these don't offer quite the aero performance of DT Swiss's ARC 1100 Dicut wheels but the PRCs feature excellent components, they're stiff, braking is good and, for their depth, they feel pretty stable in most conditions. This is a reliable high-performance wheelset that puts in a great performance in a variety of conditions.
Fast, light and wide, these tubeless carbon disc brake wheels offer excellent performance.
The aim for the new Roval CLX 50 was to marry the aero performance of the deeper section CLX 64 with the lightness of the shallower CLX 32. At 1,415g with a 50mm-deep rim and disc brake hubs, they appear to have achieved that objective. This is a very attractive weight in a hugely competitive wheel market.
It's a full carbon fibre construction, tubeless ready and available in disc or rim brake versions, with a wide and bulbous profile rim. Internal rim width is 20.7mm, external is 29.4mm, ensuring wider tyres are happily accommodated; between 22 and 47mm can be used.
The clincher rims are tubeless-ready, using a hookless bead design that is favoured by a few other wheel brands, and claimed to provide a stronger rim with less weight.
At the centre of the wheels are new hubs designed to minimise drag. That accounts for the smooth shape. Inside the hubs are DT Swiss 240 internals with upgraded CeramicSpeed bearings. DT Swiss also supplies the Aerolite spokes.
These wheels are superbly fast in a straight line and maintain excellent momentum when you're really pushing hard on the pedals. They're also tough and dependable. They easily shrug off bad road surfaces; we've smashed into potholes and ridden them along gravel tracks and they've taken all the punishment with no sign of loose spokes or going out of true.
They're smooth and comfortable for a deep-section wheelset, something you really appreciate when riding along a washboard or chattery surface, where the rapid vibrations can easily unsettle an otherwise smooth ride, and especially if you head off onto gravel or dirt roads.
The Rovals handle winds superbly. The rounded rim profile provides exceptionally good stability with little sign of buffeting even in the strongest gusts.
Mavic's Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST wheels make tubeless technology truly nothing to fear, with all the benefits attached. These are very capable performance all-rounders.
Compared to the previous model, these wheels come with a re-engineered, deeper rim bed with an additional lip to create a secure tubeless seal, and specially designed Yksion Pro tyres to fit this new design.
The rim has an external width of 25mm rim, an internal width of 17mm and a 40mm depth, with a NACA-inspired profile. The excellent iTgMax laser brake track treatment improves the braking performance.
These wheels excel in pretty much any conditions – including gusty winds, where they stay remarkably stable. On climbs they're stiff as you like and they'll slice through valley headwinds.
Although not quite the performance-value proposition they used to be back when they were clinchers, Mavic's Cosmic Pro Carbon SL USTs are still competitive, while boasting arguably the easiest-to-install tubeless interface around.
Bontrager's Aeolus XXX 4 TLR clincher wheels are stiff, lightweight and steady in use and offer good braking in both wet and dry conditions. This is a great all-round aero wheelset that's suitable for a wide variety of conditions.
The rim shape is completely new, developed using CFD (computational fluid dynamics) software and wind tunnel testing. The external width at the brake track is 27mm while the internal width is to 21mm, offering plenty of support for the 25mm tyres for which these wheels are optimised. Bontrager says that the Aeolus XXX 4 has lower drag than the Zipp 303 NSW at all yaw angles from 0-17.5°, with the Zipp slightly lower at 20°.
The wheelset is lightweight considering the rim depth, ours coming in at 1,420g for the pair. The focus here is more on aerodynamics, but you're never going to turn down a saving.
The Aeolus XXX 4 TLRs are stiff and stable. Crosswinds do have an effect, but it's not massive considering the 47mm rim depth and there's none of that twitchiness that you get with some aero rims. The Aeolus XXX 4 TLRs have behaved well on super-windy rides recently. Crosswinds do have an effect, of course, but it's not massive considering the 47mm rim depth and, even more important to my mind, the wheels behave predictably. There's none of that twitchiness that you get with some.
Bontrager has introduced a new feature to the rim brake versions of its Aeolus XXX wheels called a Laser Control Track. Automated laser machining 'roughens the brake track to an optimised level that maximises braking performance when used with SwissStop Black Prince pads (which come as part of the package). Braking performance is noticeably better than before, especially in wet conditions.
All of Bontrager's XXX models are tubeless-ready, coming with the necessary rim strips, valve stems and sealant refill kit.
The Knight 35 wheels are fast; they are also stiff, reliable and stable.
The 35s come with DT Swiss 240 hubs, which are brilliant. With cartridge bearings and easy servicing, they should last for ages.
Spokes are Sapim's CX Rays. One thing that slightly annoyed our reviewer was the use of internal nipples. Yes, it looks clean but should you ping these out of true thanks to a pothole, it's more of a hassle to get them straight again.
Although the wheelset isn't superlight – ours came in at 1,590g with rim tape and skewers installed – the weight is still pretty low, and translates to a nippy feel. It's very easy to get these wheels up to speed and then increase that speed, especially when climbing.
The 35s are the shallowest section wheels that Knight offers. The rim profile is somewhere between a 'V' shape and a 'U'. This gives the rim an external width of 25mm, sitting very nicely with wider tyres.
The brake track is engineered with a 3mm brake surface for improved heat dissipation in an attempt by Knight to combat brake fade and even blow-outs on long descents. The braking is smooth and consistent. While stopping still isn't as good as aluminium rims, there is room for improvement in the form of softer brake pads; those supplied are quite hard. That does mean they'll last quite a while, but we were quick to swap in a softer pad for better power.
Overall, the Knight 35s offer a very good package for a shallow carbon clincher.
The new Edco Brocon Disc Brake wheelset pushes the boundaries when it comes to the design and use of carbon fibre pretty much throughout. The wheels are light, strong and offer a wonderful ride feel, but you do have to pay nearly three grand for them.
For the Brocons' construction, Edco has used a 10k carbon weave design rather than a uni-directional one (woven, rather than all the fibres travel in one direction), saying that the higher shield strength of the woven material increases the impact strength. It's certainly a strong set of wheels and they feel absolutely solid.
The Brocons are based around 28mm-deep, tubeless-ready carbon rims, which means they are more of an 'all-rounder' than a deeper pure race wheel, although that does keep the weight down. (Ignore the name on the rim – we were sent an early set, incorrectly labelled.)
The pair weigh just 1,500g including the supplied tubeless rim tape, which is pretty impressive for a disc brake wheelset. With an inner rim width of just 17mm, Edco recommends tyres only up to 28mm wide.
What really sets the Brocons apart from most other wheels is the use of carbon fibre for the spokes that are easily adjusted or replaced. The hubs are aluminium alloy with NBK bearings and water resistant o-rings.
The Brocons are very stiff with is absolutely no feeling of lateral flex when you are giving it everything in a sprint or on a climb. This stiffness doesn't translate to harshness, though, as the carbon fibre spokes give a plush ride taking out any road buzz.
The Edcos are solid and feel very strong, standing up to all the abuse we threw at them and remaining true throughout. The hubs feel very smooth and the freehub pawl engagement is brilliantly quick.
These are very good wheels and although the price is high because of the technology and materials, it's not necessarily excessive for what you are getting.
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Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.