Elitewheels Drive G45 CS carbon wheels review – stiff, very light, and fast gravel wheels

From a name new to many, but with a high-quality finish, low weight, and high stiffness, these wheels tick many boxes but really excel on smoother terrain

Bike wheel on bike with woods backdrop
(Image: © Neal Hunt)

Bike Perfect Verdict

The low weight and stiffness make for snappy accelerations and a responsive ride but at the loss of comfort and control on chunkier trails.


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    High-quality construction

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    Lightning-quick acceleration

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    Low weight

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    Work well on the road and off

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    Fast engaging hubs with very smooth bearings


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    High stiffness can be uncomfortable on rougher trails

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    Rim a touch narrow for wider rubber

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    Crash replacement setup is not as simple as other brands

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Elitewheels has been making carbon wheels since 2013 and is part of a larger Chinese manufacturer producing up to 100,000 wheels annually. Its direct-to-consumer model means it can offer wheels at a lower price than those sold via traditional retail methods, but that means you miss out on the benefits of purchasing via a bike shop. The specs on the Drive G45 CS gravel wheels seem too good to be true, especially when you look at the price, so how did they compare to the best gravel wheels out there?

Closeup of spokes on bike wheel

The carbon spokes are unusual, and unheard of at this price (Image credit: Neal Hunt)

Design and specifications

Elitewheels' range consists of road, triathlon, mountain bike, and gravel carbon wheels. The gravel range is made up of four models, including a crazy-looking six spoke model. The Drive G45 CSs are top-of-the-line traditional-style wheels packed with the kind of high-end features usually found on the most boutique road wheels.

The rim is made from a mix of Toray T800 and T1000 fibers and is 45mm deep with a high gloss finish showing off the marbled carbon texture below. The internal width is a reasonable 24mm with an external measurement of 31mm, which works well with tires from 30-50mm wide. I used them with 30mm Schwalbe G-One Speed on the road, 40mm wide Schwalbe G-One Bites, Ultrabites, and a pair of 40mm Zipp Tangente tires during testing.

Toray is one of the leading providers of carbon fiber and is used by many top brands, such as Giant and Pinarello, so seeing it in use here is reassuring. It is a one-piece molded design, which is harder to manufacture than a cheaper three-piece mold, and is said by Elitewheels to be seven percent stiffer. They also use a custom high-pressure air bladder in production, which allows for tighter internal tolerances and less material build-up around the spoke holes. A consistent weight around the spoke bed will help the wheels' balance, especially at high speeds.

It's easy to turn your nose up at a budget Chinese carbon wheel and assume it is just a copy of something else, but that's not the case here. The attention to detail is apparent, from the offset spoke drilling in the rim bed to equalize tensions and help with the build process, to the exceptionally well-finished rim hook that has been designed to help tubeless tires seat and seal more easily.

The Drive G45 CS differs from its lower-cost sibling, the G45 SS, by using unidirectional carbon fiber spokes, which are lighter, stiffer, and won't stretch like a traditional steel spoke. That sounds great, but it's worth bearing in mind that the natural flex and stretch of steel spokes plays a large part in the deflection and movement of a wheel and, therefore, its inherent comfort. Carbon spokes are rare but not unique to Elitewheels, with the likes of Hunt using them on high-end road wheels, but I've never seen them on a gravel-specific product, and certainly not at this price point.

Bike wheel hub on paving slab ground

Elitewheels' own hubs are available with three different freehubs, and are very well made (Image credit: Neal Hunt)

Unusually, Elitewheels produces its own hubs in-house. Typically, you find an unbranded Novatec or Formula hub on lower-cost carbon wheels, which work fine but are often less refined. Again, much like the rims, the hubs are very well made and even come with hybrid ceramic bearings (a ceramic ball bearing is harder than steel and, depending on quality and build, can be smoother and harder wearing than a traditional set). The gravel hubs are different from the road-going versions, with smooth hub flanges designed to be easier to clean and not hide dirt as easily.

SRAM XDR, Shimano Micro Spline, and HG freehubs are available. The XDR version uses a six-pawl design with 72 points of engagement or 5 degrees, and the Shimano HG has a four-pawl variant with 36 and 10 degrees. Changing freehubs is straightforward – simply loosen the drive-side end cap and pull off. Spoke counts are low to save weight, with 20 radially mounted in the front and 20 double-crossed in the rear.

These are very light hoops, with my pair coming in at 1,320g with valves and rim tape fitted, which is 50g lighter than listed, and are amongst the lightest gravel wheels out there – even more impressive when you consider how robust they appear to be and the fact that at 45mm they are deeper than most off-road options. For reference, the Reynolds ATRx, a light wheelset, comes in at 1,541g, over 200g more.

Unfortunately, there's no lifetime warranty as you find on the likes of Reserve. Instead, there is a three-year non-transferable warranty, and a crash replacement scheme should the unfortunate happen. Price-wise, these are very competitive at $1,269 which is £1,003 using the current exchange rate of 0.79, making them significantly cheaper than similar light and stiff options from Hunt at $1,649 / £1,299 / €1,649 and Reynolds at  $1,699 / £1,500 / €1,710, and well under half the price of anything else with carbon spokes. They do not have pricing for the rest of the world listed, but the dollar price is converted to your local currency at the point of purchase, and they offer free shipping worldwide.

Closeup of part of bike wheel on leafy ground

The graphics are fairly subtle, and available in black or silver (Image credit: Neal Hunt)


The hooked rim and smooth edges made for a straightforward setup, with the Zipp Tangente and Schwalbe G-One Bites and Ultrabites going on and sealing easily. They arrived pre-taped, and I suffered no leakages or problems with burping through testing.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of mass; these really are incredibly light, though there's no hiding from the fact that deep rims and carbon spokes make for a stiff wheel. The carbon spokes may be lighter and less likely to stretch over time, but they lack the flex and twang of a steel spoke, which makes a surprising difference to ride quality and a wheel's ability to smooth out the terrain. For example, back in the day, ten-time world DH champion Nico Vouilloz used to famously run his wheels with as low a spoke tension as possible, as it not only increased comfort when suspension performance wasn't great but also improved grip. A very stiff wheel sounds great on paper, and for other applications like certain road races or track scenarios it can be a benefit, but in general, I'm not a massive fan of overly rigid components, especially off-road.

This stiffness, coupled with their low weight, makes a big difference to acceleration, either from a standing start or when changing pace on a climb. I mainly rode these on a Ribble Gravel Ti Pro, and they gave the bike a more poised, immediate feeling, with much sharper responses to any effort I put in. My local trails feature plenty of climbing, and the reduced mass, when paired with fast rubber, made a noticeable difference to the bike's vertical performance.

Much like the Reynolds ATRx I recently reviewed, this stiffness and relatively narrow rim comes at the expense of off-road stability and grip. Unlike other pure gravel carbon wheel options like the Zipp 101 XPLR or Ere Research Tenaci GA40, these wheels are all about speed without much concession to comfort, which sometimes makes them harder to control. They aren't scary to ride, but on rough chattery sections you have to use more energy getting the front wheel to hold a line.

Closeup of bike wheel on bike with wood backdrop

Elitewheels says the G45 CS is good for up to 50mm tire sizes but I found 40mm to be the sweet spot (Image credit: Neal Hunt)

Elitewheels specs the G45 CS with ceramic bearings in keeping with their speedy intentions, though they spec a hybrid variant, which means they use ceramic ball bearings that run on steel surfaces, so longevity claims are marginal over a top-quality steel version. In an unscientific spinning of the wheels in a bike stand test, they do spin very well with little resistance, though this isn't that noticeable on the trail, and if I'm honest, I'd rather see a high spec, better-sealed steel bearing, given these are meant to be used off-road.

Although Elitewheels says these are good for tires up to 50mm wide, with only a 24mm inner width, I opted to mainly run 40mm wide versions as I felt they were a better fit, and slightly faster, narrower rubber felt more in keeping with how they perform. I found that they worked much better on smoother gravel and worked very well as an all-road style of wheel running a large volume road tire of 30mm or more, so they are ideal for those who like to dabble in some Tarmac cruising from time to time.

Closeup of rear bike wheel on bike

The high gloss finish over the naked marbled carbon finish looks great (Image credit: Neal Hunt)


The Elitewheels Drive G45 CS wheels were a bit of an unknown quantity to me, having never seen anything from the brand before, but they are more than just a fancy spec list of parts. They are well made, look great, and have worked perfectly through testing with no issues and an impressive performance.

They are stiff and super light, and if that is what you are after in a wheel, then these are hard to ignore with their low cost, though there are other options out there better suited to really rough gravel riding with more comprehensive warranty and backup solutions.

Tech specs: Elitewheels Drive G45 CS carbon wheels 

  • Price: $1,269 (pricing elsewhere confirmed when ordering)
  • Inner Rim Width: 24mm
  • Outer Rim Width: 31mm
  • Rim Depth: 45mm
  • Diameter: 700C
  • Spokes: Front 20, Rear 20
  • Weight: 1,320g (including tape and valves)
  • Hub: Front Elite | Rear Elite
  • Engagement: 4 pawl HG 10°/ 6 pawl HDr 5°
  • Pawls: 4 Shimano HG/ 6 SRAM XDR
Neal Hunt
Freelance Writer

Neal has been riding bikes of all persuasions for over 20 years and has had a go at racing most of them to a pretty average level across the board. From town center criteriums to the Megavalanche and pretty much everything in between. Neal has worked in the bicycle industry his entire working life, from starting out as a Saturday lad at the local bike shop to working for global brands in a variety of roles; he has built an in-depth knowledge and love of all things tech. Based in Sheffield, UK, he can be found riding the incredible local trails on a wide variety of bikes whenever he can