- Tested: “The Gravel Wheel”
- From: Sharp Precision Wheels
- Price: £640
It’s an age old question when it comes to wheels: factory or hand built? And even then, not all hand built wheels are the same. They are only as good as the components and builder that threads them together. More often than not, we end up riding off-the-shelf wheels here – either stock build on test bikes, or wheelsets from brands.
Is there still room for custom hand-built wheels in 2019?
Sharp Precision Wheels
It’s now been nearly four months since we received this wheelset from Sharp Precision Wheels. We did an extensive First Look at the time that I won’t repeat again, but here are the basic details:
- Sharp’s recommended “gravel wheel”
- DT Swiss 350 centerlock hubs – 18t ratchet
- 28 spokes, Sapim CX Ray
- DT Swiss RR481 DB rims – 22mm internal width
- Alpina alloy nipples with ABS plastic locking insert and built using anti-corrosion wax
- 1700g with tape and valves
The intended use:
This is a wheel firmly aimed at gravel and rough surface riding, which can also be run on tarmac at road pressures with a 28-32c tyre. According to Ben Sharp – his company is a one-man band – the gravel wheel is “designed to be an all-round gravel wheel which delivers high performance across the board, rather than just focussing on specific trait. It’s an upgrade for people who spent £1000-2500 on their bike and want a quality conscious wheel which is reliable and as wide as possible. To that end, it isn’t the lightest wheel at this price point, but it will “feel” light to ride.”
I commented on the level of service from Sharp, but it is worth reiterating. I was hugely impressed with how the wheels arrived. There’s the small touches like the rims being ready taped, with valves fitted, but also the “birth certificate” that Sharp provides with each wheelset, giving the tolerances it was built too. It’s also a very small point, but I liked that the company has gone to the lengths of getting custom stickers for the hubs with a subtle logo – a nice reminder that you a riding something beyond a stock wheelset.
I mounted a few tyres to the wheelset during the test period. Each popped on to the DT Swiss RR481 DB rims with a track pump and minimal effort. A quick note on the 22mm internal width – I think it is about perfect for gravel tyres. I ran everything from 35c up to 45c and would be happy to go a little wider. The rim profile helps you to run slightly lower pressures, and in general seemed to nicely square off tyres, giving the edges good bite.
If you haven’t used centerlock brakes before, they use a splined interface to hold the disc, rather than six holts, and a lock ring to hold the disc on to the splines. Fear not if you have a set of six-bolt discs that you want to mount though. Adapters are readily available (including from Sharp).
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