Halo’s 27.5” gravel-oriented Vapour GXC wheelset is a versatile and durable setup with a 21mm internal width rim and a rapid freehub pickup. During our time testing, they’ve proven themselves to be capable performers suited to most conditions and coming in at a relatively reasonable price.
The piece de resistance here is Halo’s 120-point engagement Supadrive hub, which not only provides you with bragging rights but also provides nigh-on instant engagement when pedalling. The thru-axle hubs use Centrelock disc mounts and are laced to 27.5-inch, 21 mm internal width rims with 28 spokes at the front and 32 at the rear.
First impressions out of the box are very good, with the subtle graphics accentuating the gloss black rims nicely. That’s accentuated nicely by the red anodised freehub body. Of course, it’ll be hidden in use, but you’ll still know it’s there. It’s also nice to see the steel inserts on the freehub body, meant to prevent the cassette from biting into the freehub which can be a problem with some softer alloy freehub bodies.
As you’d expect, the wheels are tubeless compatible and come pre-taped, leaving you to provide the tubeless tyres and sealant. I found both the tyres I used (a set of WTB Horizon and a set of WTB Nano tyres) seated very easily without having to use an inflator or any other paraphernalia.
The 21 mm rim bed is wide for an alloy rim and gives the high-volume tyres you’ll be running a nicely rounded profile. It works well with the 2.1” width of the WTB Nano tyres, though I wouldn’t recommend going much larger (nor would I think that your gravel bike is likely to fit significantly bigger tyres).
However, despite all that rubber cushioning the rim, the finish on the rim has been surprisingly susceptible to dings and scratches. I have ridden on some admittedly loose and rocky tracks with the occasionally audible clunk of stone against metal which has caused some marks in the paint. It is only a cosmetic issue but one worth noting nonetheless as this gloss finish seems to be particularly susceptible.
Of more concern was that I had some creaking develop in the freehub after just a few weeks using the wheels. I contacted Halo, who say they have never encountered this before as well as offering to replace the freehub body. Instead, a strip down, clean and regrease solved the issue. On close inspection, I found some very light surface rust on the pawls. Wiping this off and reassembling solved all my issues.
It’s difficult to comment on what might have caused this, so in this case, it may just be best to mark it up to bad luck. The sealing of the hub seems adequate given that the grease inside was clean and fresh, so I’m assuming this was an isolated incident. In the unlikely that you did have problems, Halo has assured me that this would be covered under warranty.
Incidentally, whilst I quite enjoy the frenetic buzzing bees of the 120 point engagement, I also found that packing a little more grease in the freehub helped damp it down considerably.
Despite and since that hiccup, the hub has performed flawlessly, providing the solid and instant engagement you would expect. However, whether you actually need such a small engagement angle is a matter of where you’re going to be using these wheels.
For steady state efforts on smoother surfaces i.e. in a 'Road Plus' configuration, I feel it makes little odds as you’re pedalling most of the time anyway. On more technical stop/start terrain that instant engagement does make a noticeable difference and lets you get in those quick pedal strokes to put down the power where you can.
For a gravel wheelset, they’re definitely not the lightest, with my set weighing in at 1,744g. The front wheel came in bang-on the claimed weight of 760g, with the rear a little higher than claimed at 984g. That weight doesn’t really impact handling too much but does slow everything a little bit.
The extra material means the strength and durability means these wheels are also advertised as suitable for cross-country and light trail use. That expands the range of usage scenarios and also puts the weight in context. Compare it to similar cross-country and mountain bike wheels and the weight looks a lot more acceptable.
However, if that’s a deal breaker for you then there are a range of options available at similar prices which may be more dedicated to and specialised for gravel riding.
The Halo Vapour wheelset retails for £410. That’s £150 for the front and £ 260 for the rear. An XD freehub costs an additional £10.
All in all, I’ll be sad to see these go. Even if I don’t need it, the Supadrive hub makes a gratifying amount of noise when rolling fast, but, more importantly, apart from the initial hiccup with the freehub, the wheels have been trouble free and reliable to live with. They still roll just as true as when I got them and provide a dependable wheelset you can trust for any gravel riding you may need, even if they are a bit hefty.
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