Strong and reasonably light, for not a huge amount of cash, these Pacenti Forza Disc Brake 650Bs get my nod if you want to sample the delights of smaller wheels for road and gravel riding and you're put off by more expensive options.
You can spend a fortune on a set of wheels, but these Pacentis show you don't have to: they're very reasonably priced, very well made with good attention to detail, and the weight isn't all that bad either – a usual trade-off at lower prices.
Pacenti has built this wheelset by combining 25mm external width rims to aluminium hubs with EZO Japan bearings and 28 Sapim D-Light spokes per wheel. On the scales they come in at 1,573g (751g front, 822g rear), weighed with tape but no skewers or tubeless valves. To put that into context, the Reynolds ATR2 650B wheelset reviewed last year weighed 1,602g and cost £1,299.
These aluminium clincher rims measure 20mm internally, providing an ample cross-section for wide tyres. There are wider rims, with many coming in at 23mm or more internally, so the Pacentis are generous but not super-progressive. The rims have an asymmetric shape and drilling pattern, which the company says builds a stronger wheel; it's something that many brands – Ritchey, for example – have been doing for a very long time. The rims are anodised black with bold white decals.
The rims are tubeless-ready but can be used with inner tubes. I tested with both, replacing the supplied rim strip with tubeless tape and valves and having no problems seating a tubeless tyre onto the rim with no tyre levers and just a regular track pump.
The wheels come with hubs ready to be bolted into a quick release frame. I've been testing a Salsa (review soon) with quick release axles so it was an easy job to fit these wheels, but if your bike has 12mm thru-axles you're going to have to buy new end caps. As most modern disc brake bikes are coming with thru-axles it's a shame they're not included in the pack, but are instead an extra cost.
The freehub body is compatible with Shimano and SRAM 11-speed cassettes. You can also buy a Campagnolo freehub, but there's no XD driver option for SRAM wide-range cassettes. There's a neat removable bite guard made from stainless steel on the freehub to prevent the cassette become too attached to the freehub.
I ran the wheels with WTB's new Sendero 47mm tyres on a Salsa Journeyman (the pink one) and installation was easy, from setting the tyres up with tubeless sealant to swapping the disc rotors and cassette over. I didn't even have to realign the brake callipers, which was a win.
On the road but mostly on the trail, the wheels shone. They're robust when bashing them down rock gullies and there's adequate stiffness when you're heaving up steep inclines.
I really battered them on some of my roughest local trails but the Pacentis weren't fazed by it at all. For riding over mixed terrain, the bigger volume provided by the 47mm wide tyres is a real bonus. You can run very low pressures with less risk of flatting, increasing both traction and comfort.
They also shaved a load of weight off the Salsa compared to the stock wheels and gave the bike a much more sprightly and energetic ride on rolling terrain with lots of sudden gradient changes. The low weight was much appreciated on some of my steeper climbs, which nudge 25 per cent.
You can pay a lot more for wheels – those Reynolds ATR2 650B wheels I mentioned earlier will cost you another £900 – but when they're this good at £400 it's easy to question why you would, unless you want the aero benefits of deep-section carbon wheels.
You can still pay a little less, though: their big rival in this price range is probably the Mason X Hunt 650B Adventure Sport Disc wheelset, priced at £319. As well as the lower price, you get a 25mm internal rim width, a SRAM XD/XDR option, and the right end-caps fitted for your bike for no extra charge. Tubeless tape and valves are also included. They are a smidgen heavier at a claimed 1,595g. We haven't tested those Hunt wheels, though, so can't comment on their performance in comparison to the Pacentis.
In all, the Pacenti wheels offer good performance with a pretty low weight for a decent price. They just get all the key details right for not a lot of money. Really, the only criticism is the lack of 12mm end caps included in the box, but they're not too expensive to add to your order. And you'll also need to factor in the price of tubeless tape, valves and sealant if you want to ditch the inner tubes.
Solid and lightweight 650B wheels that don't break the bank
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pacenti Forza Disc Brake 650B wheelset
Size tested: 650B
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?
Pacenti says, "As a complement to our 700c version the 27.5 rim is a versatile choice for those in search of gravel climbs and new roads. Without the constraints of a braking surface the 27.5 disc rim comes in a few grams lighter. The asymmetric shape and drilling pattern assists in the building of a stronger wheel allowing for more even spoke tension and better spoke bracing angle. The rim bed profile is designed for tubeless compatibility. Like all tubeless rims, it can also be used with inner tubes.
"Building on the success of our best selling Forza rim brake version we present our first disc brake wheel set. At Pacenti we have exacting standards we strive for and this wheel set is a great example of that. We have built our hub with EZO sealed bearings for quality and durability. The free hub body has a bite guard to prevent the cassette from embedding in the aluminium and damaging the free hub.
"For spokes we chose Sapim because we felt they offered the best balance of quality and weight.
"These road bike wheels we describe as an all rounder suitable for riding racing and almost all types of road cycling and Cyclo-cross With its 20mm internal width it sets up beautifully with a 25mm tire either tubeless or tubed.
"The wheelset is supplied with pair of snap fit rim tapes, tubeless conversion requires a tubeless tape and valve kit. The Hubs are supplied as QR front and rear if you require a different configuration don't forget to add the relevant hub plugs to your order.
"Designed in the USA."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
TIRE TYPE Clincher
TIRE SIZE 650b
TUBELESS READY Yes
RIM CONSTRUCTION Welded
WEIGHT 1710g +/- 15g
INTERNAL RIM WIDTH 20mm
EXTERNAL RIM WIDTH 24mm
RIM HEIGHT 25mm
MAX TIRE PRESSURE As tire recommends
FREEHUB BODY 11spd Shimano bite guard
HUB BEARINGS EZO Japan
SPOKES FRONT Sapim D-Light
SPOKES REAR Sapim D-Light
SPOKE DRILLING FRONT 28h
SPOKE DRILLING REAR 28h
LACING PATTERN FRONT 2 cross
LACING PATTERN REAR 2 cross
Very good value.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
They did not go out of true.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Tubed and tubeless installation was very easy.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
They came with QR end caps and skewers; you have to buy 12mm thru-axle end caps and a tubeless kit if you want them.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Took everything I threw at them.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Provide good all-round performance and proved strong for off-road riding.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
You have to buy different end caps and tubeless kit if you need them.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Cheaper than many bigger brands – the Reynolds ATR2 650B wheels are £1,299 – but the Pacentis don't embarrass themselves with good performance. The Mason X Hunt 650B Adventure Sport Disc wheels are cheaper (but slightly heavier) at £319.
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 overall score
Good performance, low weight, decent durability and at an agreeable price, there's a lot to like here.
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.