The Scribe Gravel Wide++ 40 CD wheelset is designed for cyclists who want to boost their speed while also benefiting from potential aero gains. The carbon rims are 40mm deep and exceptionally stiff, and when combined with the quick hub ratchet engagement, they create a race-ready wheelset. However, while they may aid in drag reduction, they may go too far in other areas, with rigidity impacting general riding and comfort.
- Best gravel wheelsets 2023 - fast and furious off-road wheels
- Gravel bike racing – everything you need to know
- Gravel bike suspension and dropper posts - do you need them?
Scribe is not the first company to promote aerodynamic components for gravel bikes, but with racing becoming a key component of the sport, and the UCI promoting a World Series and World Championship, there is a significant rise in the options available. The Scribe Gravel Wide++ 40 CD wheelset shares certain features with the Gravel Wide++ we previously reviewed. The naming system chosen by Scribe may be confusing; the simplest way to distinguish is that the newest aerodynamic wheels have the number 40 in the title, signifying the rim depth.
Scribe Gravel Wide++ 40 CD Carbon wheelset - Technical details
The carbon rim, which is unique within the Scribe line and not just a re-branded road version, will be a big temptation for racers. The 40mm deep rim has an internal width of 24mm, which isn't as wide as other new wheels on the market, but it will suit most tyre width options and has a recommended range of 32-50mm. The rim is comprised of a full unidirectional Toray T700/T800 tubeless-ready carbon laminate and has 28 spokes in a 1:1 lacing pattern. Tubeless valves are included, and the rims are tubeless-ready.
Scribe claims a wheelset weight of 1,429g, although our wheels on test weighed 1,490g (670g front, 820g rear), which is 61g more than the stated weight. The weight is still competitive, especially considering its rim depth. In comparison, the shallower Carbon Wide++ were 1,360g and among the lightest dirt wheels we had tested at the time.
The hubs are identical to those found on several Scribe wheels, and you can pick between a regular 36-tooth ratchet or an upgraded 54-tooth ratchet for an extra £50. Shimano HG, SRAM XDR, and Campagnolo N3W freehubs all cost the same, however, there is no Shimano Microspline option for those who want to use a Shimano-based hybrid drivetrain. Scribe uses a leaf-sprung ratchet rather than a pawl system, which has the potential for greater reliability with fewer moving parts while maintaining smooth, rapid engagement.
The hubs are available in QR, 12mm, and 15mm front axle sizes, as well as QR or 12mm rear axles, making them fit almost any gravel bike. As if that isn't enough to choose from already, Scribe even offers different bearing choices, with either "Endurance" sealed bearings, or non-contact "Race" bearings for the same price, or for an extra £200 you can have them fitted with AITA ceramic bearings - it may be worth reading our "Are ceramic bearings faster?" article first, if you are considering the upgrade.
The combined weight limit of the wheels is 115kg, which is calculated as the bike weight + rider weight + luggage. This is less than some comparable wheelsets, such as the FFWD Drift wheels, which have a limit of 120kg - with no mention of bike/luggage weight.
Scribe Gravel Wide++ 40 CD Carbon wheelset - Performance
Installing tyres was simple, starting with a set of Hutchinson Tundra 45mm and then to a pair of Vittoria Mezcal 45mm. Given that both were fitted with Tubolight EVO tyre inserts, the ease of installation was very welcome.
The wheels are stiff; very stiff, as you'd expect from a deep section carbon wheelset, with minimal flex notable and this is the first characteristic you notice when riding, along with the noisy freehub. The freehub noise is something that is shared with other Scribe wheelsets, but if you prefer to have a quieter freehub, Scribe has ratchet grease, and while testing the Wide++ alloy wheelset they suggested using a small amount of ratchet grease to quieten this a little, and that worked well.
Riding off-road routes reveals the true characteristics and performance of the wheels, and as I discovered, not everything is perfect. On a typical forest road surface, the level of vibration feedback to the handlebars is significant, and more than on other gravel-oriented wheelsets I've tested. The vibrations made the bike more stressful to ride, and I found myself using the bar tops instead of the hoods to use the thicker area of bar tape.
Riding some of the more demanding descents felt like being bounced around inside a pinball machine at times, and even while trying to follow the smoothest of lines, the wheels would ping off rocks and push me off the line, and I am sure they slowed me down.
Things do improve and start to work when the terrain works and your main aim is to ride fast. The stiffness allows fast direction changes which help in carving through turns on either smoother twisty, flowing downhills or full-throttle climbs. Concentration is required to find and maintain cleaner lines, but as a result, I found myself enjoying things more and wanting to push harder. Another area where they excel is in the quick ratchet speed; on technical terrain where some on/off pedalling are needed, it adds up to a fast ride.
Scribe makes no claims regarding wattage or drag efficiency, and there is no way to evaluate aerodynamics. They certainly feel quick, and while this could be due to confirmation bias when other controlled testing on deep-section road wheels has been done, there is likely to be some performance gains. Deeper wheels are more susceptible to wind, and the greater height of the tyres has an effect when compared to road tyres. I could feel the effect of crosswinds at times, but not to the level that it affected performance.
The dramatic change from harsh and uncomfortable, to fast and responsive makes me wonder whether racers could opt for a second set of race wheels. It is common in other cycling disciplines for riders to keep a second set solely for events when speed and performance are crucial. Traditionally, this was done for durability reasons, especially for road riding, where a pair of lightweight race wheels may be fairly fragile, and rim wear was also factored in.
The spoke tension on both wheels was measured, and the delta between the disc brake side and the non-brake side was significant. Scribe does not give recommended spoke tensions, and we are waiting on a response to the figures. When it comes to comfort, if there is some leeway in spoke tension, it may be feasible to reduce tension, which may boost comfort. It can help in control in certain situations by allowing the wheel to move and absorb more hits when descending. While it might seem contradictory, it is often used by downhill mountain bike mechanics.
Scribe Gravel Wide++ 40 CD Carbon wheelset - Value and verdict
The Scribe Gravel Wide++ 40 CD is £799 with the standard freehub and £849 with the 54t freehub, which is the same price as the lighter, lower-depth model.
The FFWD Drift wheels we reviewed a few years ago, with a rim depth of 36mm and an internal diameter of 24mm, were ahead of the curve. They are built on DT 240 EXP hubs and have a reported weight of 1,515g, placing them behind in weight. The FFWD wheels performed well, but for £1,500, you could buy two sets of Scribe wheels or upgrade the bearings and ratchet and still have £450 saved.
If you want a performance carbon wheelset that is better for general riding rather than pure speed and you have a larger budget, the Reynolds Black Label G700 Pro are the best wheels I have recently ridden and tested. Aaron recently tried the Parcours Alta, which has a similar weight and slightly shallower 36mm rim, but he praised the compliance and comfort.
Wheelset comfort and control are areas I value, and the stiff, harsh feedback made normal rides harder to enjoy with these wheels - especially considering that I was riding a bike with 45mm tyres and a Lauf suspension fork. When you want to push a little harder and prioritise speed, then the Scribe Wide++ 40 CD delivers what racers will be looking for. Is this enough to make them a worthwhile purchase? Maybe not for the average rider, and even for the occasional racer or speed merchant. But for times when every second matters, these wheels are great.