Parcours' Alta wheels are very attractively priced for a tubeless-ready carbon wheelset, with a 21.5mm wide, 35mm deep rim shaped for aero efficiency. Performance on road and gravel is zingy and never harsh, but there’s a question mark over reliability with the freehub failing during the test period.
The Alta wheels use the company’s own disc-specific 35mm aero-profile rim, with a generously wide 21.5mm internal width and 29mm external width. That’s ideal for mounting the sort of wide tyres the wheels are intended for.
It’s a tubeless-ready design with rim strips and valves fitted out of the box, so all you need to do is add your fave tyres, a dollop of sealant and away you go.
Installation of tubeless tyres (for reference, I tested a 28mm slick road tyre and a 38mm gravel tyre) is breezy-easy, with a regular track pump all that was required.
Gravel riding demands strong wheels, so Parcours has sensibly used 28 spokes per hoop, up from the 24 of its road wheels, in a two-cross pattern. Those spokes are laced to aluminium hubs with EZO cartridge bearings, Centrelock disc mounts and endcap adapters to fit the various axle standards. I used them with the 12mm setup that's commonplace on modern gravel bikes.
There’s the option of a SON delux 12 dynamo hub for an extra £200 if you’re eyeing up a long bikepacking adventure in the future.
Weight on the scales is 1,494g (687g front; 807g rear) which is very respectable given that rim profile and the price. To go much lighter would involve handing over a lot more cash, but even disregarding cost, these wheels perform very impressively.
On the road, with slick tyres, they're silky fast with good stability in blustery conditions, and good stiffness when shoving up a steep climb. Send them onto the gravel and they're fast when smashing smoother tracks, strong enough for big impacts and landings, yet not so stiff they lead to a harsh ride.
As a versatile wheelset that can do service on the road and gravel bike with just a change of tyres, the Parcours Alta wheels impress.
There’s a but coming. Towards the end of the test, as I was about to submit this review, the freehub stopped working. It didn’t happen during a ride, but when I pulled the bike from the garage for a final test. Jumping on, I discovered the freehub spinning in both directions.
Disappointed and with ride plans duly changed, I left the wheels a few days in the hope the freehub might 'automagically' fix itself, but there was no change. I was left with no choice but to send them back to Parcours for Dov to examine. Here’s what he had to say:
“As I suspected, the freehub pawls were stuck, so weren’t springing out to engage with the ratchet ring. Looking at the freehub, it was in perfect condition, so wonder whether the grease had become a bit too viscous in colder temperatures (either in a garage or outside?).
"One of the pawls was then wedged in slightly, which may have happened if the reviewer/rider had tried to nudge the freehub back into place. Either that or it could have just been knocked out of place by a heavy impact. This prevented it from springing out even if warmed up and rotated.
“Good news is I just had to remove the freehub and the pawls all sprung back into action. So the wheel is perfectly fine to ride.”
So it seems my garage was the cause. I should note that all my bikes, both personal and on test, are kept in this garage. Yes, it gets pretty frisky in there at times, but this is the first time it’s ever caused a freehub to fail.
Still, Parcours was lovely to deal with and quick at finding the problem, which bodes well for aftersales support. All wheels have a two-year warranty that covers manufacturing or workmanship defects, and if customers encounter issues, Parcours "will arrange shipping ... individual parts will be replaced or repaired as required.” As is normal, crash damage isn't covered, though they do offer a “substantial discount on any replacement rims.”
A Google search reveals no further hub-related issues. Perhaps we can write it down as an unfortunate one-off.
Sticky freehub issues aside, the performance impresses for the money with a strong, stiff (but not too stiff) carbon rim that's usefully aero (but not too aero for sidewinds). They go tubeless easily and overall weight is low – the Altas represent a considerable upgrade over most stock wheels for an immediate boost in speed and handling. They also look good with their understated decals, which is always important...
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