A few weeks ago I got the chance to upgrade my gravel wheels. I debated between rims for quite a while, as the Nox Citico, Falkor 36, and Skyline all would have worked for this setup. In the end I decided to go with the Skyline because it is the lightest of the three at 345g per rim.
The Skyline rims are actually Nox’s top of the line mountain bike rim. Like a lot of MTB rims, they are hookless, which means you can’t set them up with road tires. I think the minimum tire size would be 32mm. I knew I’m only going to use these rims for gravel, so I chose to get the absolute best tool for the job, at the expense of some versatility. If I was going to use the wheels on the road as well, I would pick the Falkors because those have the bead hooks to hold on a high pressure road tire.
I immediately noticed the lighter weight of the wheels made them accelerate much faster. With the Industry 9 hubs, Sapim spokes, and alloy nipples, the wheels totaled 1306g, which is lighter than most road tubular wheels. Gravel riding around TN is generally straight up or straight down, so the light weight trumps the aerodynamic advantage of deeper rims. Also, downhill speed on gravel is limited by the corners a lot more than air resistance, so I’m not losing anything descending. I don’t have hard numbers on any of this, just my personal experience, but I’m confident in this theory.
One thing I didn’t expect to notice was how much better the handling was with the wider rim. I had to drop the tire pressure I was running by a few psi to get the same relative feel as my old wheels because the tires have more volume. My WTB tire got a few mm wider, the Specialized tire stayed the same width.
All this leads to more confidence descending, thanks to a wider contact patch. I run a 44mm front tire with a 42 rear, at about 30-33 psi respectively. I’m a big fan of big tires, they’re definitely a bit heavier but the ride is so much smoother and faster overall.
Overall, these wheels are super good at going fast on gravel. I’d call them the ultimate gravel wheels without hesitation.
Nox Composites Skyline 29 rims
Industry 9 Torch Road Disc Hubs (24 hole)
Sapim CX ray Spokes
DT Swiss Alloy Nipples