Looking to create something a bit more unique, Merit Bikes has developed a new 5-spoke carbon wheelset for fast gravel riding. Designed to crossover into wide tire all-road or even the other direction to cross-country, the Merit Windmill wheels use a mid-width hookless carbon rim, industry standard hub internals with modular thru-axle compatibility, and are engineered to deliver a balance of light weight & stiffness when paired with large volume tubeless tires.
Merit Windmill 5-spoke tubeless carbon gravel bike wheels
Long a fan of the look of carbon spoked wheels, for a few years Merit owner Jiri Nykl searched for a set for mixed surface riding. While most carbon spoked wheels were designed for track & time trialing, Merit partnered with an Asian company making quality six-spoke MTB wheels, built with the same intermediate modulus fibers of Merit’s own carbon off-road frames. Together they worked to develop a durable wheelset with the same excellent power transfer carbon-spoked are know for, but lighter – aimed more at gravel and mixed-surface road riding.
The main result… they just took out a spoke, then re-engineered the Merit-exclusive wheelset with an improved carbon layup and a tubeless rim profile for nimble dirt & gravel road, CX & XC riding.
Merit Windmill gravel wheels Tech Details
While the five spokes are the most obvious feature of the wheels, the Windmill are developed specifically for off-road road riding around a 22mm internal hookless rim (27mm external) with 36.6mm deep aero profile.
Without traditional spoke holes, the rim bed is also continuous with a deep central channel and small shoulder that should make installing tubeless tires a snap. They also feature a molded-in shoulder to ensure a solid interface for the tubeless valve nut, a tiny but well-thought-out feature missing on many tubeless rims. The spokes themselves get a directional aerofoil profile and a smooth transition to the rim which Merit suggests should improve aerodynamics, but they’re the first to say that real wind tunnel proven aero gains is not what they were going for here in any case.
Beyond developing an advanced T800 carbon construction for the five-spoke wheels, Merit also chose to build the wheels with high-value 6-bolt disc hub internals and premium steel bearings. The rear wheel uses a set of DT Swiss 350s internals which means a reliable 18 tooth Star Ratchet, 12mm thru-axle (& QR backwards compatibility), and the ability to use the standard Shimano cassette body or a SRAM XD driver or even a Campagnolo body. The front wheel saves money with still reliable Novatec internals, offering 12mm or 15mm thru-axle options (& QR compatibility).
Weight wise the stiff Windmill wheels claim 1490g per set with a 110kg rider limit, and suggested use with 700 x 35-50mm tubeless tires for best comfort & control.
Merit has tested the wheels for use on & off-road both in the lab and in real riding conditions since early this year. They offer off-road durability (and a surprising capacity to chop up fallen branches on the trail) and can always be repaired much like a carbon bike frame if seriously damaged.
Just last month they’ve received back their EN/ISO certification, so now production wheels are expected to arrive in Merit’s warehouse at the start of the year. That means Merit anticipates consumer availability from late Feb/ early Mar 2019.
Windmill five-spoke gravel wheels, Pricing & Availability
The Merit Windmill gravel wheels have a retail price of 1769€ and can be bought direct from Merit or through small network of European retailers. The wheels will be available in either matte or gloss UD finishes, and will include tubeless valves.
We’re quite curious to see how they ride, so will try to get a set in for review as soon as they are available.