The Spengle Adventure 650B Gravel wheels certainly turn heads, of both cyclists and non-cyclists, thanks to their three-blade design. They have some excellent qualities for off-road riding, although there are quite a few compromises when it comes to using them on a modern gravel/adventure bike.
- Pros: Excellent stiffness; impressive strength
- Cons: Compatibility issues with road cassettes; heavy for climbing
Spengle produced the 'original three-spoke wheels' back in 1988 and while they might have disappeared for a while, they've been reintroduced thanks to modern materials and manufacturing techniques to become what Spengle claims are the best on the planet.
Looking through Spengle's website you'll see three collections of wheels: MTB, Gravel and Urban, but technically they are all based around the one monocoque rim/blade construction.
Available in just a 650B (27.5in) size, the carbon fibre construction is hand-laid to create the rim and the blades as a single piece.
The hubs, which are specific to Spengle, are then plasma-bonded with the wheel's body for a seamless setup.
The finished product is very strong indeed, and when running wide gravel tyres at low pressures like 25 to 30psi to cushion the blows from gnarly rocks, the Spengles took some really hard knocks without issue. There is none of that horrible plasticky sound like when you smash a deep-section road rim through a pothole.
Stiffness is impressive too; when really smashing down on the pedals on a climb they don't flex at all.
The trade-off of all this material and strength is that they are a bit on the heavy side, especially for a carbon wheelset. That's something you do notice, especially on the long, draggy climbs I have here on my local gravel tracks.
The wheels are available with two hub options, Boost and Non-Boost. (Boost hubs are a new standard in mountain biking: the rear hub is 148mm wide instead of the 135mm or 142mm found on road and gravel bikes.) The ones we have here are Non-Boost, which are a touch lighter. The numbers on our scales are 960g for the front and 1,280g for the rear, which works out at 2,240g for the set.
Rims and tyre fitting
The rim bed is quite wide compared with a lot of wheels found on gravel bikes, with an internal width of 24mm and an external one of 32mm.
As you can see from the pictures, the rim has no hook for the bead of the tyre to locate under, so you'll need to use tubeless-specific tyres that'll work with the hookless design rather than tubeless-ready offerings that often don't.
With no spoke holes, the rim bed doesn't have any opening apart from the valve hole so there is no need to add any tubeless tape, so you'll save a few grams there.
With quite a cavernous bed, getting the tyres to seat against the rim means that you'll need a compressor or, ideally, a burst pump to force the air in quickly rather than a standard track pump.
With tyres fitted, along with the disc rotors (Centerlock as standard, but six-bolt adaptors are supplied), it's time to move on to the cassette, and this is where I ran into my first issue.
Mountain bike 11-speed cassettes have the largest sprocket overhanging the rear of the carrier (the spider that joins the four or five largest cassette sprockets together for when you slide them onto the freehub) by around a couple of millimetres, which means the cassette body will slide over that extruded ring of the hub that you can see in the photo below. However, if you are using an 11-speed road cassette from, say, Shimano's Ultegra or 105 groupset, it won't.
The large sprocket of a road cassette sits flush with the rear of the carrier, so it bumps up against the hub here, which means that the freehub isn't long enough to get all 11 sprockets on and the lockring. An 8, 9 or 10-speed cassette should work, or you can use a mountain bike cassette or Shimano's 11-34 road cassette, which is set up in the same way as the mountain bike ones.
Most gravels bikes I've tested, especially ones that I'd be thinking about fitting a £1,290 set of wheels to, are using Ultegra or 105 with 11-28 or 11-32 cassettes fitted as standard, so you'd need to swap the cassette for an 11-speed mountain bike one or the Ultegra 11-34.
There are no options for Campagnolo or SRAM XD freehubs either.
Anyway, after finding a suitable replacement cassette, the next possible stumbling block is the front thru-axle diameter. Over the last couple of years 12mm has become the unofficial standard for axle size on road and gravel bikes, but the Spengles come with a 15mm diameter opening. It's easily rectified with one of the sleeve adaptors found online, some of which I have in my shed, but it's just another thing where you can see that these wheels are very much more orientated towards the mountain bike world.
Once everything is finally fitted to the bike the ride is very good, as I mentioned earlier. They're stiff and durable, and while you will be riding wider tyres at lower pressures for more grip and comfort, the wheels aren't exactly harsh either.
Spengle also backs everything up with a lifetime warranty.
Straight out of the box the bearings in the hubs aren't the smoothest out there, and that hasn't really changed during the test period. Spinning them in your hands you can feel a bit of resistance, but you don't really notice it out on the road.
The end caps that fit over the axle are just push-fit and can fall off whenever the wheel is out of the fork, so you need to keep your eye on that if you are making trailside repairs.
One thing that isn't all that durable is the painted finish. It scratches easily and after a few months of gravel abuse they are looking quite marked from stones flicking up and the general daily abuse.
The wheels are available in five colour options but going for blue, orange, red or white adds £200 to the price tag. The black finish and orange logos here are the cheapest option at £1,290 and it seems a bit steep to charge an extra hundred quid if you want the graphics in a different colour.
Initially I was expecting the Spengles to be more expensive when you consider the materials and construction, but after riding them and taking everything into account I'd say they are probably around the right sort of money for the quality and weight.
Something like the top end Roval CLX 32 Disc 650b wheels are an eye-watering £1,850 but they are nearly 1kg lighter and that's going to be noticeable.
It's hard to compare the Spengles to standard built wheels, though, as they offer something completely different, especially when it comes to the ride feel.
On fast, technical downhill gravel sections they give loads of confidence so you don't worry quite so much about having to pick the perfect route through the mixture of potholes and large rocks. If you catch one they just smash straight through it.
Our sister site off-road.cc is testing the Boost version of these wheels, and I'm interested to see their overall findings of the Spengles, purely because I think that mountain biking is the more suitable playground for them.
With their considerable additional weight over most gravel wheels – not ideal when climbing or carrying a load of kit – and those few compatibility issues with the majority of gravel/adventure bikes, I think the Spengles just miss the mark in the transition to drop-barred shenanigans.
Strong and dependable wheels for off-road abuse but overkill for most gravel situations
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Spengle Adventure 650B Gravel 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?
Spengle says, "SPENGLE ADVENTURE 650B
"From tow-paths to crossing continents, the SPENGLE Adventure 650B is your ideal adventure companion."
They are basically the same as the mountain bike wheels, which I feel makes them a bit overbuilt for gravel use.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
27.5' wheel diameter
24mm internal rim width
Centre lock as standard – IS adapters included
15mm front thru axle, 12mm rear
UST Tubeless ready
Because of their design the wheels are very stiff.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Getting tyres onto the rim was very easy, although inflation requires a quick blast of air to get them to seat.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For gravel use they are a bit overkill.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Spengles are pretty unusual, so it's difficult to gauge their pricing.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Not really.
Would you consider buying the wheel? No
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? No, not for gravel use.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Tough wheels that'll stand up to plenty of abuse but limited setup choices mean they don't really fit in with the majority of gravel bikes and riding. They are heavy too.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!