Most people will not have heard of them, but we’ve been riding and testing Just Riding Along's hand-built wheels for years. The Yorkshire company's latest Monitor wheelset is super versatile, custom configurable, ultra-reliable, fat tire compatible set up for light XC/Gravel use. They’re also insanely light and proof that the best hand-built wheels can still beat the big brands on performance and price.
Jon at JRA has been tracking down what he sees as the best wheel building options for a couple of decades now and then hand-building them into a complete range of wheels, covering every category from heavy-duty MTB to aero road wheels. For the Monitor wheelset, he’s paired a 397g, 25mm deep, 25mm internal width (31mm external width) 700c/29er carbon rim with Sapim D-Light spokes, anodized alloy nipples and anodized Bitex hubs. The hubs are offered in black, tangerine or blue, there’s a choice of eight tubeless valve colors (that’s an £11 add-on) and there are 20 different rim decal color options. You can also choose the number of spokes (we went for 24 front and rear, but you can have up to 28), straight pull (our choice) or traditional J-bend, and most types of axel end cap (QR-15mm front, QR to 12x148mm rear). They can be supplied with SRAM XD, XD-R, Campagnolo or the Shimano/SRAM standard we went for, which includes steel reinforcing inserts on the splines.
While you can create a sturdier bikepacking version for bigger loads or heavier riders, we went with the lightest configuration possible, which came in at a featherweight 1350g complete with tubeless valves. To put it into context, that’s 100g lighter than a Zipp Firecrest and over 200g lighter than anything else we’ve tested this year with a comparable rim width. While you always need to be careful when mounting tires on a taped rim bed, we had no issues fitting and inflating 40mm gravel tires or 32 and 28mm road tires with just a track pump. JRA rightly doesn’t recommend going narrower, though, or you’ll get really weird handling from the sidewall shaping.
It’s probably no shock that the low weight of the wheels gives any bike you fit them to an instant and very noticeable acceleration boost. The six-pawl, 48-click freehub will never take more than 7.5 degrees to engage, so responsiveness through the pedals is good too. While it’s not so much a thing on the road, they’re a joy to hop and pop around off-road, and we had no issues with burping or wheel warping even when we landed them awkwardly.
Once we’d established the effervescent ride character, it was just a case of seeing how tough they were. Despite several months of running them down to rim bumping pressures off-road, clattering them across cobbles and a constant cycle of drowning them in mud and grit, we’ve had absolutely zero issues. That lines up with our experience of previous JRA wheels, which we’ve even used on tandems without killing the hubs or unwinding Jon’s meticulous building work.
If you do have an issue, the components are backed up by a two-year warranty, with a five-year hub shell cover and a reduced-price crash replacement program if you do crack a hoop. That’s not as generous as some lifetime ‘no questions asked’ warranties, but it’s useful peace of mind for the price. If you’re unsure about longevity, then have a chat with Jon about other alternatives in the JRA line or just a tweak on the standard Monitor menu.
The Monitor is a super light, custom-built gravel/XC wheelset that delivers an instant acceleration and agility boost to your bike. It's a surprisingly robust and versatile wheel option for an excellent price. Add in custom color and configuration options for a truly personalized wheelset, and the only significant issue might be waiting to have your set built if this review causes a queue.
The Monitor wheelset, along with Just Riding Along's other mountain bike and road wheelsets, are available direct from Justridingalong.com.
Tech Specs: Just Riding Along Monitor wheelset
- Price: £861 (700c with tubeless valves)
- Weight: 610g front + 740g rear = 1350g
- Hub engagement: 7.5-degrees