The consumer-direct model used by Elitewheels allows them to manufacture high-quality wheelsets in their own factories and sell them for astoundingly-low prices. This summer, I’ve been testing their new Elite Drive G45 Gravel Wheelset and boy are they light and fast, but that’s not the end-all-be-all for a set of carbon wheels. The elusive sweet spot between low weight and ride quality is a knife’s edge that only a few can tiptoe, so has Elite been able to walk that fine line?
Elitewheels Drive G45 CS Gravel Wheelset Features:
- Proprietary UNI carbon fiber layup
- Passed rigorous rough surface tests
- NBK ceramic bearings
- 24mm inner width for 30-50c road or gravel tires
- U-shaped rim with 45mm rim depth and 31mm outer width
- Tubeless-ready (valves included)
- Extra replacement carbon spokes included
- Available with Shimano or XDR freehubs
- 3-year warranty with crash replacement
- 285 lb. rider weight limit
- Weight: 750 grams (rear) and 645 grams (front) — 1395 grams total with tape and valves
- MSRP: $1269
Setup and install
Elite targets gravel riding with the Drive G45’s, but honestly, the profile and shape are on par with the top road wheelsets on the market today from ENVE, Zipp, Bontrager, Roval and others. Their U-shaped design and a wider 24mm internal width pairs well with the mid-depth 45mm rim and 31mm outer rim width. What’s astounding with these wheels are both the carbon-bladed spokes and ceramic bearings that are included. Elite has chosen to include a shiny clear coat to finish them off, which makes them stand out from the matte finish that’s typical with most of today’s carbon rims.
With any tubeless-ready wheelset, the proof comes when installing and seating tires with a standard floor pump. My trusty old floor pump has seen 15 years of inflation duties and the best tubeless rims and tires can always be installed with a brisk few pumps. I’m happy to report that with both the Goodyear Eagle F1 30c road tires and the Zipp Tangente Course G40 gravel tires, I was able to install and uninstall them without tools and also inflate and seat them using a simple floor pump. One caveat… I did use the Reserve Fillmore Tubeless Valves for increased airflow, but I would surmise that the included valves should perform similarly. I used WTB TCS Tubeless Sealant for both tires for a solid seal.
Initially installed on the aero Fezzari Veyo SL for road testing, I wrapped things up on the Open WIDE for all-terrain adventures. On the bike stand, I was floored at just how long the wheels would spin — and with a nice-sounding freehub. The first test would be out on the road.
Elite Drive G45 on the road
With a comparable shape to most of the top road wheelsets on the market, even though Elite markets these as gravel wheels, they are absolutely suitable for road use. They recommend at least a 28c tire, but at 24mm internal, my personal minimum is 30c. With that, I installed 30c Goodyear tires, which filled out to a nicely-shaped 32mm. Most modern road bikes can clear that tire width and the Fezzari Veyo SL swallows it with room to spare. For my 173 lb. weight, I inflated them to 55/60 psi. front/rear.
While some still remain reluctant to go with a road tubeless setup, I’m sold and have long been sold on it for better rolling resistance, comfort and grip — not to mention flat-free performance. Again, one of my favorite benefits is the added comfort that comes with lower tire pressures. However, these are a bit of an anomaly.
After years of testing lightweight wheels with alloy spokes, these are the first carbon-spoked wheels I’ve tested. And, while carbon spokes do reduce weight and add durability, they make for an ultra-stiff ride. I’m not kidding when I say the ride feels like a low-slung, suspension-free go-cart. There’s no way around it — my aging body felt every bump in the road and it was amplified in my lower back. On the heels of the Zipp 353 NSW Wheelset review and side-by-side with the new Bontrager Aeolus Pro 37V, that harsh ride was amplified compared to the smoothness of those other wheelsets.
On the plus side, their ultralight weight and fast-rolling hubs make for lightning-fast performance. On long climbs, they spin with ease and going from 15-25 mph. happens in the blink of an eye. Lateral stiffness and responsiveness is on point as well with excellent handling. When pushed hard on curvy descents, the added stiffness can be a touch unforgiving. But, the rim shape does shed crosswinds really well. Overall, on the road, the Elite Drive G45’s are blazingly-fast, but have a very stiff ride.
Onto the gravels with the G45
I was particularly interested in the combination of ceramic bearings, shiny rim finish and carbon spokes for off-road use. As with any gravel-capable wheelsets, I pushed these on road approaches, smooth gravel and challenging singletrack. I didn’t shy away from mountain bike terrain and I have come away pleased with how they have responded.
Tops on that list is their light weight as my Open WIDE feels downright feathery compared to the 650b setup I had been rolling. With pedals, cages, Garmin Edge 540 and Bontrager lights, the complete bike tips the scales at 18.6 lbs. Let me remind you that weight reduction with wheels and tires will have the most dramatic impact on any bike. Lowering that weight can immediately be felt and I noticed it on that first pedal stroke.
Heading from road to gravel, the wider tires and lower pressures improved the comfort that was lacking with the road setup above. That being said, the Drive G45’s are noticeably firmer than other gravel wheelsets. At 35/38 psi. with 40c tires, I was actually looking to swap them out for a pair of 45-50c tires to get a little more comfort. Alas, the only wider tires I had available are the 50c WTB Venture tires don’t fit on the Open WIDE. I’m splitting hairs, but unless you have comparable wheelsets like I do, you honestly won’t notice the nominally rougher ride.
In my opinion, gravel wheels need to be 23mm wide internally, at a minimum and the G45’s check that box. With that added with, tires are rounder and fuller and you’ll really notice it on demanding gravel terrain. Importantly, you’ll get improved sidewall support and traction while turning on loose dirt. The whole wheel and tire combo for gravel riding has been superb from a performance and ride feel.
When it comes to snaking through tight singletrack, there’s no question how well these wheels track. I do notice a little slower engagement compared to the best hubs, but it’s not anything problematic. The overall package is smooth and fast, so I’ll take a touch slower engagement as a trade-off.
As I have plowed through rough singletrack and loose gravel, I’ve had the utmost confidence in these wheels. They have taken serious abuse and have proven to be reliable and capable. Both wheels remain straight and true after hundreds of abusive miles.
- Incredibly lightweight package
- Carbon spokes and ceramic bearings at this price point is crazy
- Roll extremely-fast
- Killer climbing wheels
- Stable in crosswinds
- Modern shape and width is comparable with the best wheelsets
- Easy tubeless setup
- Harsh ride with 30c road tires and narrow gravel tires
- Shiny finish does show nicks and scratches
The Bottom Line: Elitewheels Drive G45 CS Wheelset
I challenge you to find another wheelset with the specs of the G45’s anywhere close to their $1269 price tag. These wheels can dance their way uphill in a way that feels almost like cheating. They remain stiff and responsive on both road and gravel roads. And, they can rock challenging singletrack with panache. However, all that lightweight carbon and stiff, carbon spokes deliver a rough road ride, which also remains taut on the gravel (but is mostly offset by wider tires at lower pressures).
Buy Now: Visit Elite-Wheels.com
Elite Wheels offers a huge bang-for-the-buck across their entire lineup. Built with their UNI carbon layup, the Drive G45 CS Gravel Wheelset comes in under 1400 grams and sports carbon spokes and ceramic bearings. No question, these wheels are fast and responsive, but do offer a rough ride -- especially with road tires.
- Lateral Stiffness
- Ride Quality
- Rolling Efficiency
- Tubeless Setup