Praxis Works isn't perhaps the first name that leaps to mind when you're listing possible wheel upgrades, but the company better known for chainsets has decided to expand its product range, and its first road-focused wheelset is a gem.
The RC21 wheels are designed for everything from gravel to road riding. They're aimed at the latest breed of disc brake-equipped endurance bikes with space for wide tyres, as well as the increasing popularity of adventure and gravel bikes where big volume tyres are mandatory.
They feature a carbon fibre rim with a wide and shallow profile – 27mm externally, 21mm internally and 30mm deep – that works brilliantly with tyre widths from 25 to 40mm. The rims are disc brake-specific – there's no brake track – so Praxis has been able to optimise the profile and carbon layup to take advantage. To ensure they work well with wide tyres, Praxis has given the rims 'broad shoulders' to better support wide tyres at lower pressures.
They're also tubeless-ready. Praxis has used a hookless rim design which is claimed to provide a stronger rim with a lower weight compared to the hooked rim design that some wheel manufacturers use on their tubeless wheels.
Going tubeless couldn't be an easier. The rims are taped and valves installed, all you need to do is fit your favoured tyres and employ a decent track pump to get the tyre beads to pop up into the rim and lock into place.
I managed to use a regular track pump with some careful holding of the tyre around the rim but had an easier time using the new Lezyne Digital Pressure Over Drive tubeless pump, which delivers a quick burst of air from the pressurised chamber. I've had no issues with air loss during testing.
To ensure the wheels are strong and robust, Praxis has sensibly drilled the rims for 32 spokes front and rear, and used external alloy nipples so it's easy to true the wheels. The spokes are offset by 3mm which, Praxis says, creates a more stable wheel.
Hubs are a combination of the company's own aluminium hub shells and DT Swiss 350 internals. The hubs have tall flanges and accommodate J-bend spokes, and the rear hub features a 36 Star Ratchet freehub body with Shimano or SRAM XD Driver compatible versions.
On the scales, the wheels weigh 1,557g (711g front, 846g rear), which is light for this sort of wheel.
As with regular DT hubs, the end caps can be easily removed without tools, to adapt the hubs to quick release or thru-axle setup. Instead of the increasingly common CenterLock system for attaching the disc rotor to the hub, Praxis has used the 6-bolt standard. I ran 160mm rotors and a 15mm front and 142x12mm rear thru-axle.
The hubs run smoothly during testing. The DT Swiss internals are well proven – we've tested many wheels with DT hubs and they've never caused any concern. Spares are also easy to come by as well if they ever need servicing. Freehub engagement is quick and the freehub runs quietly when freewheeling.
I've been battering these new Praxis RC21 wheels on and off the road for the past couple of months and they've been brilliant. They've gone about their business with absolutely no fuss, the hubs are durable and the rims have fended off the biggest impacts and battles with rocky roads.
I mainly used the wheels on an OPEN UP frameset and started off with 28mm slick tyres to test the road performance, where they proved to be light enough to inject pace on the climbs, with good aerodynamics on the flat roads.
Then I fitted a pair of the new Hutchinson Overide 38mm gravel tyres and tested them on all my local byways, the tank tracks of Salisbury Plain, and eight hours of tackling the Kielder Forest terrain in the recent Dirty Reiver 200km gravel ride. On a gravel bike with a wide tyre, they have been very impressive.
The wheels remained true throughout the testing, with no spoke key needed to tighten any loose spokes at all. The decision to build the wheels up with 32 spokes has proven to be a smart one, helping to ensure the wheels are solid, dependable and tough enough for the hardest off-road abuse.
Carbon wheels on a gravel bike might seem a luxury, but carbon means a wider rim for no extra weight over an aluminium rival, and the stiffness of the wheels is a highlight. There's a high level of lateral stiffness, no doubt helped by the high spoke count, which gives the bike a really responsive and precise feeling whenever you're pushing hard.
The radial stiffness is also impressive. Some carbon wheels can feel harsh and overly aggressive, but that wasn't the case with the Praxis RC21s. They offered a smooth ride on even the roughest gravel terrain I encountered and certainly didn't add to the punishment on the 200km Dirty Reiver.
Are these wheels right for you? If you want to go carbon, because of the weight, stiffness or looks, and want a wheelset that is going to be super-tough and works well with wide tubeless tyres, and is suitable for a range of wide tyres for road or gravel use, these are a really good choice.
They're not the cheapest carbon wheelset but you can certainly pay a lot more, and Praxis gets the details just right, from the shape of the rim to the quality hub internals with easy servicing, and the high spoke count.
Plus you get the aftersales service from Upgrade Bikes, the Praxis UK distributor, which you certainly don't get with cheap eBay wheels. It's an impressive debut by Praxis Works into a very crowded market.
Tough carbon fibre wheels with wide tubeless rim ideal for gravel and road riding
road.cc test report
Make and model: Praxis RC21 wheels
Size tested: 700C
Tell us what the wheel is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Praxis Works says: "Praxis wheels come from decades of experience riding, racing, & wrenching on two wheels, along with our daily riding in Santa Cruz, California. We wanted a wheel which offered the benefits of modern materials and design, while using time tested technology. Like our other innovative drivetrain elements, Praxis wheels let your bike do the work, and let you have the fun."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
CX / Gravel / Road
CARBON RIM | 21mm Int. Width | 27mm Ext. Width
Praxis by DTSwiss 350 Front and Rear 32H / DT Swiss 36 Star Ratchet
Front 15mm Thru Axle | Rear 142/12mm Thru Axle
Tubeless ready with bead lock
Easy to mount tubeless tires with floor pump
J-Bend spokes / External Alloy nipples for easy service
Rim strip, valve core, and spare service spokes included.
Very high quality construction, as you'd hope for this sort of money.
Top notch performance on and off the road, stiff and light and durable.
I've battered the wheels off-road, including over eight hours of the Dirty Reiver, and they've been faultless.
They're light for this sort of wheel and you notice that when you fit them to the bike.
You pay a hefty premium for carbon wheels over aluminium rivals but there are performance advantages that might, for you, justify the extra expense.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Yes they stayed true; no spoke tension issues.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Tubeless was easy with just a track pump.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Worked perfectly whether fitted with road slicks or fat gravel tyres.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Wide profile rim is ideal for fat gravel tyres; the high spoke count and solid DT Swiss hub internals.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
There wasn't anything I could find to dislike.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
I really liked the Praxis Works RC21 wheels. They perform brilliantly on and off-road, but it's with wide gravel tyres on punishing terrain that they worked really well; they're light, solid and dependable – a very good choice.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.