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Aera has delivered a decent all-round package with its GR36 650B Gravel wheelset. They offer plenty of stiffness, will take a fair amount of abuse and aren't over the top when it comes to weight.
Sitting alongside the All Road (AR) 700C models in Aera's product line-up, this GR model is aimed at the gravel market. It's only available in this 36mm deep, 650B size and has a robust and durable build to stand up to the rigours of riding over rocks and rough trails.
There are plenty of configuration options on Aera's website, but the wheelset we have here is based around Hope RS4 hubs, 28 Sapim CX-Ray spokes front and rear, and a Shimano/SRAM freehub. Weight is a decent enough 1,660g.
After having issues with lateral flex when testing the 700C rim-brake version of Aera's AR55 wheels, I was interested to see how these 650B disc brake versions fared. Thankfully, things felt much better.
With no brake pads next to the rim, lateral flex is less of an issue when running discs, but these wheels felt tighter than their non-disc counterparts, especially when powering hard out of corners or hauling up steep hills.
Having a bit of a 'do it all' attitude, the GR36s are ideally suited to a gravel or adventure bike where your ride takes in a range of tarmac and rough tracks or trails. I ran the wheels tubeless with Vittoria Terreno Zero tyres in a 47mm width and it was a decent pairing considering the wheels are best suited to a size range of 28mm to 50mm rubber.
The tyres fitted easily to the 22mm internal rim width (29mm external) and sealed quickly with the help of a decent pump.
The wheels were running true straight out of the box and even after plenty of miles on gravel tracks there have been no issues with durability, even after taking some big knocks.
The tail-end of the test period has seen plenty of long, hot sunny days with lots of dust but it's had little effect on the smooth running of the Hope hubs, making them a good choice if you spend a lot of time riding off-road in the wet or dry.
Freehub engagement is quick and precise, which makes the wheels fun to hammer away from a standing start at the lights while track standing. Off-road you spend a lot more time going from freewheeling to pedalling, especially over technical terrain, so a rapid lock in of the pawls is great when switching from a steep descent to a sharp climb.
Price-wise, this configuration will set you back £1,600, for which you are getting some quality components and very good build quality.
However, although it looks pretty good value compared with the £1,850 Roval CLX 32 Disc 650B wheelset, the Rovals are also over 300g lighter without sacrificing durability.
Also, I keep banging on about the JRA Gecko wheels and was massively impressed when I tested the 700C version, and JRA also does a 650B offering built around its own hubs. A similar build to the Aeras will cost you just £850 and they have a claimed weight of 1,332g! That is some competition.
Overall, the Aera GR36 wheels are a decent setup, offering plenty of durability for hard rides on punishing trails while rolling well on the tarmac – if you are willing to pay for it.
Solid and dependable wheels for gravel and adventure use, although they aren't the lightest or cheapest
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road.cc test report
Make and model: AERA GR36 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?
The GR36 is a new gravel wheel from Aera based around a wide, 36mm deep carbon fibre rim.
They offer a comfortable ride and plenty of durability for the type of riding they are designed for.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Rim - GR36, 36mm deep
Hubs - Hope RS4, 28 hole F&R
Spokes - Sapim CX-Ray
All hubs are specified with a Center Lock rotor system for quick and easy rotor installation.
Front hubs are 100x12mm and rear hubs 142x12 suitable for 12mm thru axles, unless otherwise specified.
Stiffness wasn't an issue thanks to a solid build.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Yes, they stayed true throughout testing.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
No issues with fitting or removing tyres at all.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Stand up well to the abuse of gravel tracks.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Solid, quality build.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Nothing to massively dislike anywhere really, but they're not the best value.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are a lot of wheels of this kind around this price point, but there are some really decent competitors at lower prices.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Possibly, especially if they were discounted a bit.
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
If you want a durable set of wheels for a bit of adventure riding then these wheels are a good choice – but you'd be paying a bit extra over some decent competition.
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!