650B vs 700C: Which Is the Superior Tire for Your Gravel Bike?

In this article, we take a closer look at 650B vs 700C gravel bike tires: their pros and cons, main factors that influence the quality, speed and acceleration
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Last updatedLast updated: April 09, 2022
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As a cyclist, it’s not smart to turn a blind eye to the size of your gravel bike tires. The wheel size usually determines a lot of factors, including acceleration, speed, amongst others. Unsurprisingly, there have been several conversations about the differences between 650B vs 700C gravel bike wheels—the two main options in the gravel cycling world.

Although 700c-sized wheels have been dominant, 650B wheels are gaining more ground every day amongst cyclists. Expectedly, both wheel sizes have their strengths and weaknesses. Even though 650b and 700c wheels can be used interchangeably in certain circumstances, differences still exist between them.

In this article, we will explore the difference between 650b and 700c wheels based on various riding purposes and conditions. With our comprehensive comparison, you can be able to tell the difference between both wheel sizes and identify the better option for your adventures. Let’s get right to it!

Nuances of Measuring Gravel Bike Tires

650B vs 700C: Which Is the Superior Tire for Your Gravel Bike?

Before we delve into how to measure gravel bike tires, let’s discuss the different tire sizing systems. Without question, there are several systems from the past because every country manufacturing bicycles has used its own system of tire sizes at some point.

So, it’s not surprising that the same tires typically have different sizes in different countries. Of course, this can be confusing but we’ll simplify the process. There are two main parts to consider here. While the first part includes traditional tire sizing systems, the second includes the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) method.

The traditional sizing systems usually measure the tire’s width and outside diameter. While the diameter is measured in millimeters or inches, the width is represented by a second number or code. For instance, 700c can be the nominal outside diameter of a tire while its width is 25mm. The tire’s measurement is then written as 700 x 25c.

The letter “C” represents the tire width, on a scale from A to D, with A being very narrow and D being very wide. This system with letter codes was known as the French system. Sometimes, the width is expressed in decimal or even a fraction, causing many mismatches.

With so much confusion regarding the traditional systems, there came a huge need for a standardized system. This need prompted the ISO to develop a universal tire and rim sizing system. Compared to other measuring methods, ISO’s metric-based system is more reliable and accurate.

Besides, the European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO) originally developed this system. The metric-based system uses a two-digit number and a three-digit number, separated by a hyphen. While the first number shows the width in millimeters, the second number shows the rim’s bead seat diameter.

Hence, a tire with a size 20-622 in the ETRTO system is 22mm wide and has an inner diameter of 622m. This size is equivalent to 700 x 22c in the French system. Similarly, a tire with a size of 50-584 corresponds to 650 x 50b in the French system. The industry has yet to find a solution to the conflicting systems.

To make life easier for you, you should opt for the ETRTO system to measure your gravel bike tires. Below, we’ll simplify the process and help you understand how to measure gravel bike tires based on their rim to tire width.

Rim to tire width

The best way to determine the right gravel bike tire size is to measure the rim to tire width. As we suggested earlier, the ETRTO system is a reliable method to measure your gravel bike tire. The system even provides recommendations to ensure that you can determine your wheel size accurately.

According to the ETRTO, you can mount different size tires on rims with different internal widths. For example, you can mount a 55mm wide tire on any size of the rim with internal widths ranging from 19mm to 29mm. Below, we’ll provide you with a simplified table that details the ETRTO recommendations:

Inner rim width (mm) Tire width (mm)
13 18-25
15 23-32
17 25-50
19 28-57
21 35-62
23 37-64
25 44-64
27 47-64
29 54-64

That means 700c wheels, with an inner rim width of 21mm, can be paired with tires that range from 35mm to 62mm in width. 650b wheels, on the other hand, with an inner rim width of 24mm, can be paired with tires that range from around 40mm to 64mm in width.

700c Gravel Tire

650B vs 700C: Which Is the Superior Tire for Your Gravel Bike?

The 700c (or 29 inches) gravel tire boasts a lot of special features. It has a larger overall circumference compared to the 650b wheel. The bigger circumference enables the tire to roll over holes or obstacles on the road more fluidly. Also, the 700c tire often rolls faster on hardpack as well as non-technical surfaces as a result of lower rolling resistance.

Plus, it features a longer and narrower contact patch between the ground and the tire, thus allowing the wheels to maintain speed longer and maintain momentum better for a fulfilled ride. Moreover, the 700c wheels are perfect for bikes that don’t require compromises in clearance or frame design.

Needless to say that the bigger 700c wheel rolls over bumps better. For gravel riders focused on efficiency and speed Trusted Source Why Biking on Gravel is So Popular - Tips, Getting Started Riding you bike on gravel lets you explore new terrain and find the outer limits of your fitness. Get started with these tips from elite rider Leo Rogers. www.menshealth.com , 700c wheels are a smart choice. While they offer enough comfort and cushion over rocky gravel roads, they do so without sacrificing momentum and speed. In terms of versatility for tackling every kind of riding condition, 700c wheels are a great choice.

If you want to know more about 700c wheels, including their advantages and major drawbacks, we’ve got you. Below, we’ll discuss, in great detail, the pros and cons of using the 700c gravel tire.

Pros

Maintains speed — 700c wheels maintain speed quite easily, thanks to their large size that ensures more mass and inertia. Once you get these wheels rolling, they don’t want to stop; they just keep going. Of course, that provides you with the vital freedom to ride at a higher average speed. Whether you’re cruising or you’re coasting, this big size doesn’t stop maintaining the speed.

Essentially, 700c wheels require less energy to maintain your bike’s speed. Also, you can be able to travel further in less time.

Rolls well — With a large diameter, 700c wheels roll over branches, rocks, potholes, and other obstacles on the road quite easily. This enables you to face technical terrain even more easily. On top of that, the large wheels glide over bumps in the road quite easily, making rides much smoother. Without question, that ensures comfortable rides too.

Plenty of tire options  As we suggested at the beginning of this article, 700c wheels are arguably the most popular in recent times. Although 650b wheels are right behind the 700c wheels, the latter’s popularity is still intact. Hence, it has more tire options than the others. Bike tire manufacturers, unsurprisingly, provide a wide range of options for 700c wheels.

Ideal for taller riders — The large size of 700c wheels fits the geometry of gravel bikes perfectly. Specifically, they look and feel more natural on large framed bikes. So, if you’re over 5’55’’, 700c wheels may be the perfect fit for you.

Great traction — There’s a popular belief among cyclists that larger wheels usually allow more of the bike tire to contact the ground, thus increasing traction. Although many cyclists still debate this point, there’s no doubt that large wheels like the 700c have great traction.

700c wheels are the standard — 700c wheels’ popularity counts for something. As a matter of fact, the spare parts of these wheels are easier to find in developed countries. Also, you can easily find a reliable wheelset on the market. According to most reviews, a perfect option must be the Superteam Carbon Wheelset 700c which features everything your gravel bike wheel needs.

With the package including a rim, rim tape, a hub, spokes, nipples, skewers, and brake pads, the wheelset comes complete for adventurous rides.

Cons

Spare parts harder to find in developing countries — If you do most of your riding in developing countries, it’s not easy to embrace 700c gravel tires. In this developing world, you’d hardly find big bike shops, leaving you with small bike shops that have limited stock.

Some countries do not even import 700c spare parts. If you find yourself in such countries, riding can be a very unpleasant experience. For instance, if you crack a rim, getting a replacement could be almost impossible, leaving you stranded.

The good thing is you can protect yourself against these headaches by carrying spare tires, tubes, and rim tape while riding through remote areas.

A bit weak — This may come as a surprise to you but 700c wheels are not the strongest. With a large diameter and long spokes, they are a bit structurally weak. Hence, there’s a limit to the number of heavy loads they can handle without breaking spokes or even bending. Consequently, 700c wheels do not last very long.

Of course, well-built wheels with high-quality and robust complements are less likely to break.

Expensive spare parts  Another drawback of using 700c wheels is their relatively expensive spare parts. On top of the low availability of spare parts in some regions, the cost of new parts is another concern.

Of course, the relatively high cost should be expected because 700c wheels, tubes, and tires use more materials for manufacturing due to their large size. Besides adding to the cost, the extra materials also add to the overall weight of the wheels which is another concern.

Don’t accelerate very quickly — As we hinted just above, 700c wheels are relatively heavy. That means they use more energy to roll, hindering their acceleration. It’s a bit hard to start from a stop and it takes a bit longer to get to speed. The heaviness also affects maneuverability because the large wheels don’t turn very fast.

Not ideal for shorter riders — While 700c wheels are perfect for tall riders, we can’t say the same for shorter riders. The large 700c wheels don’t fit the geometry of short-framed bikes as anyone will like. Hence, these wheels are too much for short-framed bikes.

So, if you’re below 5’55” and you ride a short framed bike, you should look beyond the 700c wheels; they won’t just look or feel right.

650b Gravel Tire

650B vs 700C: Which Is the Superior Tire for Your Gravel Bike?

Like the 700c wheels, 650b (or 27.5 inches) gravel tires have also got some special qualities that you’ll want to know about. Due to their smaller diameter, they allow you to use wider tires. Plus, they can run at lower pressures. Also, 650b wheels provide better traction on dirt, loose climbs, or descents. Furthermore, they soak up the bumps and lumps better over the technical terrains.

Additionally, 650b tires make you feel like you’ve got extra climbing gear when using the same gearing and frame, due to the smaller circumference. If you prefer riding around on mountain bike trails to hitting the open roads, you’ll appreciate the strength of 650b wheels. Also, they’re a great choice for bikepacking and touring rigs.

Moreover, the smaller wheel diameter results in smaller gear ratios, providing easier climbing gear for loaded bikes. On top of that, 650b wheels can roll over obstacles easily and they boast a large contact patch for more traction. Plus, there’s more rotational inertia for maintaining momentum.

Lastly, 650b (27.5-inch) wheels strike a good balance between 26-inch and 29-inch wheels. The 650b (27.5-inch) wheels are approximately the midway point between the 26-inch and the 29-inch standards. They carry some of the goods of both standards, with a smoother ride than a 26-inch wheel and more durability than a 29-inch wheel.

Pros

Rollover — Even though 650b wheels are not as large as their 700c counterparts, they still boast a big size that allows them to roll over obstacles easily. The large wheels have a shallow angle of attack when they approach an obstacle, thus providing a smooth ride.

Rotational Inertia — The large 650b wheels provide rotational inertia as most of their weight is farther from the hub. That helps them to maintain their speed quite well.

Traction — 650b wheels have a large contact patch with the ground, thanks to their large size. That effectively means more traction than usual. Also, low tire pressures and wide tires are combined for the same reason of increasing the size of the contact patch. With the impressive contact patch of the 650b wheels, you can expect great traction when riding with them.

Quick acceleration — 650b wheels provide quick acceleration when riding with them. That means they use less energy to roll. Thanks to the quick acceleration, you can quickly start from a stop and get to speed. Surely, that’s a massive advantage to have a cyclist.

Ideal for smaller riders — While 700c wheels are not great for smaller riders, 650b wheels work great for this group of cyclists. Due to the smaller diameter of 650b tires, they look and feel ideal for short framed bikes, making them suitable for small riders too.

Due to the smaller diameter of 650b tires, they look and feel ideal for short framed bikes, making them suitable for small riders too. Gravel bikes designed for women or teens usually feature a smaller frame so 650b tires fit them ideally, in most cases.

Ideal compromise between 26-inch and 29-inch wheels — Another advantage of 650b (27.5-inch) wheels is that they strike a good balance between 26-inch and 29-inch (700c) wheels. If you’re thinking about a great compromise between 26-inch and 29-inch wheels, you’ve got the right guy in 650b wheels.

Allows riders to run high-volume tires — In case you didn’t know, 650 wheels are associated with high-volume tires. These high-volume tires allow the wheels to run at lower pressures. Also, the 650b wheels allow cyclists to run high-volume tires without adversely impacting a frame’s handling or geometry.

Cons

No standout strength — It’s always a good thing to offer a compromise but things can quickly turn sour if there’s no unique strength. That’s the case with the 650b wheels. While they offer a compromise between 26-inch and 29-inch wheels, they hardly stand out.

For example, 650b wheels don’t smooth out trail undulations as 29-inch wheels do or provide. Neither do they provide as much traction. Also, they are slower to accelerate than 26-inch wheels and they’re not as agile at slow speeds. Essentially, you can say these wheels are a jack-of-all-trades; a master of none.

That’s not a good thing at all, especially if you want a standout feature that trumps other wheel sizes.

Fewer options for gravel riders — When it comes to 650b wheels, options are limited for riders. This is not surprising because these wheels are relatively new to gravel riding. Unlike the much more traditional 700c wheels for gravel bikes, 650b wheels don’t have a wide range of options.

However, there’s a positive in the situation. The range of options has continued to grow in recent times. For example, the MAXXIS Rambler 650b is available on the market and offers a great option. It is made with a dual-compound, durable rubber, and a race-ready 120 TPI. Also, this bike boasts gravel-specific tread and tightly-packed knobs, and wider-spaced side knobs that enhance speed, grip, and dependability.

Not ideal for tall riders — When it comes to riders’ height, 650b wheels do not have it both ways. That is to say, these wheels don’t feel tall riders as they do short cyclists. The implication is that riders taller than 5’55” won’t enjoy riding with 650b wheels.

Difference Between 650b and 700c

When it comes to 700 vs 650 wheels, there’s a lot to unpack. Although we’ve dissected both wheel sizes to a great extent, there’s still a lot more to talk about. Below, we’ll explore the 650b tires vs 700c size comparison and help you know the differences between both wheel sizes based on several important factors:

650b 700c
Wheelset weight 3.1 lbs 2.9 lbs
Wheelset Across gravel-carbon-wheelset Across all-road-disc-carbon- wheelset
Inner rim width 24 mm 21 mm
Tire diameter 678 mm 708 mm
Rim diameter 584 mm 622 mm
Tire width at 1 bar or 15 psi            46 mm 41 mm
Tire width at 2 bar or 29 psi            47 mm 41.5 mm
Tire width at 3 bar or 44 psi            48 mm 42 mm

Bike geometry influence

Bike geometry is a very important part of cycling. In other words, frame geometry directly impacts the way you ride. According to a 2019 study Trusted Source The Influence of Bicycle Geometry on Time-Trial Positioning Kinematics and Markers of Performance Studies have previously documented how changes in cycling body kinematics are related to submaximal energetics and power output, as well as cycling performance, but few have focused specifically on how body kinematics will vary with changes in bicycle geometry. ijpefs.org , bike geometry even affects body kinematics. Besides, a properly fitted bike handles better and looks better.

While examining the important role of bike geometry, you should also know that it’s influenced by wheel sizes. Specifically, the wrong wheel size can mess up the bike geometry. For example, the wheel can affect the way that the bike handles, whether up a hill, in a corner, on the ground, or even in the air. Not only does the handling impact safety, but it also affects performance.

So, in the case of 650b and 700c, how do they influence bike geometry? We have the right answers for you. With a smaller diameter wheelset, 650b wheels impact the bike geometry.

As we mentioned earlier, 650b wheels are shorter than 700c wheels. That shorter size is an advantage when it comes to bike geometry. Typically, a lower bike works with a lower center of gravity and that has a positive impact on handling through corners.

However, you run a higher risk of clipping your pedals on the ground if you spend considerable time off-road when cycling with 650b wheels. With these wheels, you can find yourself struggling to pedal through corners you would ordinarily pass with 700c wheels without trouble.

Even so, gravel riding is about more than cycling through rough mountain bike trails. Gravel bike cyclists spend more of their time on gravel, meadow paths, forest, and paved roads. So, if we were you, we wouldn’t read too much into the off-road capability of both wheel sizes.

There are more important considerations when it comes to bike geometry. Fork offset and trail value are prominent among those considerations. The fork offset refers to the perpendicular distance between the steering axis and the front wheel axle. In case you’re in the dark here, the steering axis represents the imaginary line that goes through the center of your head tube.

650B vs 700C: Which Is the Superior Tire for Your Gravel Bike?

Meanwhile, the trail value is the horizontal distance between the point where the bike tire touches the ground and the steering axis intersects. Besides, the shorter the trail, the greater the offset. On the other hand, the shorter the offset, the longer the trail. Also, the higher the front wheel axle and the larger the wheel, the larger the trail.

Therefore, using 650b wheels lead to a shorter trail. Conversely, using 700c wheels results in a longer trail. A shorter trail often makes the bike’s handling more playful and agile. You can also interpret these situations as difficult to control and nervous in extreme cases. A longer trail, on the other hand, results in increased stability and composure, or sluggish steering in extreme situations.

Clearance

Clearance refers to the amount of space between the bike tire and any part of the vehicle. That can include the distance between the tire and the mudguard/fender. It can also be the distance from the top of the tire to the nearest point on the fork.

Besides, ample clearance is one of the most important features of gravel bikes. More clearance increases a bike’s versatility and enables cyclists to embark on rigorous adventure riding. The extra clearance also allows smooth rides on muddy surfaces, helping to prevent mud from sticking between the wheels and frame, which would usually affect the bike’s mobility.

Moreover, gravel bikes with big tire clearance typically provide the opportunity to use both 650b and 700c wheels with the same frame. This is possible because the clearance gives enough space for the wheels to fit in.

By now, you know that both wheel sizes offer different benefits and experiences. For example, 700c wheels have larger diameter rims and are ideal for most gravel riding while 650b wheels feature smaller diameter rims that are usually paired with higher-volume tires for added traction and compliance.

As you might have guessed, 650b wheels with smaller diameter rims offer more tire clearance than 700c wheels with larger-diameter rims. So, you’ll have to determine whether you want more tire clearance in 650b wheels or smoother gravel riding with 700c wheels. Regardless of your choice, you should know that 650b wheels will provide you with more clearance than 700c wheels.

Diameter

Another important factor in determining the right bike size is the diameter. You simply can’t ignore the diameter of your bike’s wheels because it influences how your vehicle feels and handles when riding it on gravel.

We guess it’s a good time to explore 650b vs 700c diameter. While a 28mm to 30mm tire mounted on a 700c wheel has virtually the same outside diameter as a 42mm to 47mm tire fixed on a 650b wheel, riding with the various tires can quickly show you the difference.

650B vs 700C: Which Is the Superior Tire for Your Gravel Bike?

For instance, a 400mm tire on a 700c gravel wheel raises the diameter of the wheel compared to the earlier example, leading to more trail. More trail typically leads to a ride that feels more stable with calmer and slower handling. Less trail, on the other hand, leads to more responsive handling which can feel a bit nervous too. However, it lends itself to technical riding.

With a tire diameter of 678mm, 650b wheels mean lesser trail and more responsive handling while 700c wheels with a tire diameter of 708mm have more trail and calmer handling. Ultimately, you’ll have to choose the one that works for you, whether more responsive handling or slower and calmer handling.

Acceleration

Acceleration of a gravel bike tire is a very important aspect that needs due consideration. A bike’s inner rim diameter directly impacts acceleration. From the table above, you can see that 650b wheels have an inner rim diameter of 584mm while 700c wheels have an inner rim diameter of 622mm. That means 650b wheels are smaller than 700c wheels.

Common sense and basic physics tell us that a small wheel accelerates more easily than a big one. So, it’s easy to conclude that 650b gravel tires accelerate faster and are more agile than 700c wheels.

Despite the seemingly clear fact that 650b wheels nick it in terms of acceleration, there’s more to discuss here. Even though it’s tempting to conclude that 650b wheels are lighter than 700c wheels, we can’t ignore the fact that they have a wider rim which can result in a heavier tire.

However, a 650b wheel with the same hub, spokes, and rim & tire width would be a bit lighter compared to the 700c wheel. Notwithstanding, this wouldn’t give you much of an advantage when riding in the real world, rendering the supposed edge almost pointless.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that real-world tests have hardly found 650b wheels to accelerate faster than 700c wheels. Of course, there’s a difference between both wheels as we’ve established before but the difference is marginal and is hardly felt.

For example, if you ride on a muddy surface and mud sticks to your tires, the difference in acceleration between 650b wheels and 700c wheels will hardly be noticed, if at all.
Moreover, 650b wheels have a big advantage in terms of maximum grip and traction. These two factors can help you accelerate faster with these wheels.

650b wheels usually require less pressure due to their design. The combination of the less pressure and their increased width provides them with a larger contact patch. The tire’s traction increases with the size of the contact patch and that can lead to better power transmission on damp, rough, or other challenging terrains.

As you might have guessed, the better the power transmission, the quicker the acceleration. Ultimately, one can safely conclude that smaller 650b wheels get up to speed a bit faster than the bigger 700c wheels.

Besides, the laws of rotational mass can explain part of this phenomenon. You can spin a lighter wheel more easily than a heavier one. Eventually, you’ll have to choose between the two wheel sizes by determining whether you care about the slight edge in acceleration or it’s negligible to you.

Tire and rim width

650B vs 700C: Which Is the Superior Tire for Your Gravel Bike?

Tire and rim width are two important aspects of bike wheel sizes. As the table shows, 650b wheels have wider tires and rims than 700c wheels. The inner rim width of 650b wheels stays at 24mm while the 700c wheels hover around 21mm. Wider tires are known to increase acceleration. With wider tires than 700c wheels, 650b wheels have another edge in this area.

Besides, tire width and rim width of 650b wheels help to enhance traction in specific conditions or exercises such as off-roading, rock crawling, or racetrack use. These wheels do these things better than the narrower 700c wheels.

In terms of their width, 650b wheels also provide more grip on hard braking. This is mostly because there’s a larger contact surface which ensures that wide tires can grip dry and rough surfaces better than narrower ones.

Despite the many advantages the wider 650b wheels have over the 700c wheels, there are some drawbacks too. For example, the wider wheels can make it easier for you to lose control on loose or slippery surfaces like gravel. No doubt, this raises genuine safety concern that’s reduced with the narrower 700c wheels.

Another issue with the wider 650b wheels is that they can cause your turning radius to dramatically reduce because wider tires typically contact the bump stops sooner. So, you’ll have to choose whether the wider wheels work for you or the narrower wheels do.

Off-road use

Now, let’s discuss how 650b and 700c wheels fare with off-road use. Hypothetically, larger 700c wheels roll over obstacles more easily, making them better for off-road use. But, is that all, or there’s more to that hypothesis? There’s definitely more to it and we’ll unpack it.

In the mountain biking world, 29” (700c) wheels have taken over the market from 26” wheels.
Why? It’s simple. Big wheels are believed to roll over small obstacles such as roots and rocks more easily and lose less momentum. Of course, the smart thing to do when riding off-road is to opt for bigger wheels that are better suited to tackle obstacles.

Moreover, 700c wheels smack into obstacles while 650b wheels are better able to deform around them and conserve forward momentum. Even though it’s easier to pick 700c wheels over 650b wheels on paper when it comes to off-road use, the reality is different.

A wider and lower pressure tire can better absorb vibrations and consequently keep you relaxed and fresh for longer. The 650b wheels provide more “travel”, even when riding off-road. Since a tire with lower pressure is better at conforming to the terrain, it smoothly floats over obstacles and does not sink into soft ground.

Such a tire will create less resistance for you and your bike compared to a hard tire that is slowed down by having to move around obstacles. While 700c wheels seem to roll over obstacles more easily, they don’t offer as much comfort as 650b wheels that move more smoothly. You’ll have to figure out how to strike the right balance between rolling resistance and comfort.

Tire pressure

650B vs 700C: Which Is the Superior Tire for Your Gravel Bike?

When talking about gravel bike wheels, you can’t avoid talking about tire pressure. While higher tire pressures make traction harder to come by, lower tire pressures are known to provide better traction and more comfort. As you now know, 650b wheels are wider than their 700c counterparts, which means lower pressures. The wider the tire, the lower pressure it at safely.

As we hinted earlier, 650b wheels offer better traction and more comfort thanks to their lower tire pressures compared to 700c wheels. So, when it comes to tire pressure, 650b wheels are the clear winners because they’re just right for the job.

Weight

We’ve made quite many allusions to weight in this article. The general understanding is that weight affects speed and acceleration but is that so? Maybe. Bringing the 650b and 700c wheels into the picture, they’re clearly not of the same weight.

With a smaller rim and shorter spokes, you can argue that 650b wheels are lighter than 700c wheels but that won’t be correct because wider tires are often heavier than narrower ones. Since 650b wheels are wider than 700c wheels, it’s logical to conclude that they’re heavier.

To make life easier for you, the table above shows that 650b wheels have a wheelset weight of 3.1 lbs while 700c wheels weigh 2.9 lbs. That’s a difference of 0.2 lbs, which is a bit significant in terms of speed and acceleration.

Although the extra weight of the 650b wheels may not have a huge impact on the overall performance due to some other factors in play, there’s no doubt that the weight reduces speed and acceleration, albeit lightly.

Durability and protection

It’s hard to talk about gravel bike wheels and not touch the durability subject. No one wants a bike tire that won’t last them for a reasonable period. That’s expected because people naturally want a fruitful investment that keeps delivering for a long time. Since different manufacturers make 650b and 700c wheels, it’s difficult to say which is more durable but we can still make some inferences.

Moreover, 700c wheels have a larger diameter and longer spokes than 650b wheels. That would make 700c wheels a bit structurally weaker than their 650b counterparts. So, the 650b wheels have the edge in terms of durability regardless of their brands.

Furthermore, 700c wheels seem more protected than 650b wheels. The more voluminous 650b wheels need more sealant for the same level of puncture protection as 700c wheels. Essentially, it’s harder to protect 650b wheels than 700c, which isn’t a good thing if you’re counting on the wheels lasting for a long time.

Road contact

650B vs 700C: Which Is the Superior Tire for Your Gravel Bike?

Your wheels’ contact with the road matters and you have to consider that factor. Road contact involves the bike wheel’s ability to make good contact with the terrain and rollover at a good speed and acceleration. As we’ve mentioned a couple of times in this article, 700c wheels can roll over big obstacles better than 650b wheels because of their size.

You would expect a bigger wheel to have better road contact than a smaller wheel. Generally, 700c wheels glide over bigger stones and rougher terrains more easily. But gravel is not always rough, so you can’t just discount 650b wheels. When it comes to providing smoother rides on gravel, 650b wheels are better than 700c wheels.

If you ride through rough roads frequently, a 700c wheel is ideal for you and can make life easier for you.

However, if you would like to switch between rough and smooth, a 650b wheel is your guy. Although it doesn’t do rough like 700c, it strikes a better balance between smooth and rough terrain.
Your choice will end up being about your preference and need.

Speed

There has been a lot of talks regarding speed when it comes to 650b and 700c wheels. Although 650b wheels tend to be lighter due to the less material used to construct them, in reality, they are a bit heavier than 700c wheels. Of course, the weight affects speed. Due to their lighter wheelset and bigger frame, 700c wheels roll a bit faster than 650b wheels.

Also, the narrower the tire, the shallower the tread, and the lower the rolling resistance. With a lower rolling resistance, a 700c wheel is in a better place to move faster than a 650b wheel. 650b wheels typically boast more tread and that increases their rolling resistance, and consequently reduces their speed.

While trying to choose the faster wheel, you’ll want to have the best pedal for gravel bikes too. Even if you have the right wheel, the wrong pedal can slow you down. However, with a high-quality pedal, there’s no restriction to your movement and you can easily deal with potholes, roots, rocks, and other obstacles.

Overall, 700c wheels promise more speed than 650b wheels. If you’re all about speed only, a 700c wheel can make it worth your while. That doesn’t mean you can’t get great speed from 650b wheels too. A 650b wheel can be a great choice if you want speed, traction, and excellent grip. Ultimately, you’ll have to choose based on what suits you most.

Which Should You Choose?

With both gravel bike tires considered, there are specifics that make them act better in different conditions. 650b can be well-used by beginners and experienced riders alike, it gives better control over the tougher terrain, yet loosing in overall speed. It is also a better option for female bikes, being more reliable and easier to handle.

700c gravel bike tires will be perfect for those, who love speed, it overruns obstacles with a better response. This tire can give you the feel of a road bike, increasing speed on gravel. This tire has a better setting for taller people

Final Thoughts

When it comes to gravel and adventure riding, 700c and 650b wheels are competing on the better choice. Both wheels outwit one another based on different factors. For example, 650b wheels accelerate faster than 700c wheels but the latter boasts more speed than the former. Also, the 650b wheels are more durable but the 700c wheels offer better protection.

As this comprehensive guide has revealed, both wheels are not in shortage of positives but they also have their negatives. Overall, as the 650b vs 700c battle has shown, there’s a lot that separates these two wheels. Using the positives and your demands as a rider, you can choose between the 650b and 700c wheels.

References

1.
Why Biking on Gravel is So Popular - Tips, Getting Started
Riding you bike on gravel lets you explore new terrain and find the outer limits of your fitness. Get started with these tips from elite rider Leo Rogers.
2.
The Influence of Bicycle Geometry on Time-Trial Positioning Kinematics and Markers of Performance
Studies have previously documented how changes in cycling body kinematics are related to submaximal energetics and power output, as well as cycling performance, but few have focused specifically on how body kinematics will vary with changes in bicycle geometry.
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