Spotlight review: Parcours Alta gravel wheelset gets wider, tougher

The new version of Parcours' value-heavy carbon gravel wheelset has a contemporary rim shape and impact-resistant resin.

by Iain Treloar

photography by Iain Treloar

Over the last eight years, British wheel brand Parcours has forged a path in a competitive market with its reasonably priced, high-performing carbon wheelsets. The Parcours range currently comprises 13 models across the road and gravel spectrum, everything from tough 650B wheelsets all the way to disc rear wheels for time trials. The Alta is Parcours’ gravel model, available in 650B or 700C. 

If that model name sounds familiar, it’s because I put the previous version of it to the test for 12 months, publishing my review mid-last year. I liked a lot of what I saw, but there were a few niggling issues. My major gripe was their conservative rim width (21.5 mm internal/29 mm external in 700C), which meant they felt a bit dated in a market that’s embracing increasingly wider tyres. 

Parcours seems to have taken that feedback on board, announcing a revamped second generation of the 700C Alta wheelset earlier this year.

A lot has stayed the same. There are the same fuss-free hubs, which are Parcours-branded but made by OEM giant Novatec – not a super flashy brand, but a dependable choice, with up-specced seals on the Alta and rolling on Japanese-made Ezo bearings. There are also the Sapim CX-Ray spokes sensibly laced in a two-cross fashion, 28 of them at each end, with two spoke lengths across the wheelset for ease of spares and servicing. In that sense, many of my comments from the first review apply again. The big change is at the rim. 

First things first: the dimensions have been brought up to date. The internal width is now 24 mm; the external width has grown to 33 mm. The shaping of the rim borrows some aerodynamic cues from Parcours’ wind-tunnel-tested road offerings, with a 36 mm depth. All those dimensions place the Alta in the same territory as Roval, Bontrager, and Hunt’s equivalent gravel wheelsets – to my eye, its most relevant rivals.

Parcours says that the new Alta is best for gravel tyres between 38 and 50 mm in width, but could go down as low as a 28 mm road tyre. 

To give you some visual of the external rim width, the pictured tyre is 38 mm across.

The other big change is a move to a hookless rim profile. This format is becoming increasingly common, but when the original (hooked) Alta was released in 2019 it was less pervasive, limiting tyre compatibility as a result. Now – especially in gravel – most tyres are hookless-compatible, making it a safer choice. 

In the case of the new Alta, the use of a hookless profile comes with an upside. On this model, Parcours and its manufacturing partner have worked to implement an impact resistant resin technology that they’re calling ‘IMPACT+’. “The change in resin properties wouldn’t be compatible with a hooked rim,” Parcours founder Dov Tate explained.

This gives the rim surface a bit more flexibility at the point of impact, reducing its susceptibility to cracking in scenarios like a tyre bottoming out. On a wheelset that’s likely to cop some abuse, that sounds promising. They’re also backed by a lifetime warranty on manufacturing and workmanship defects, with a “substantial discount” on replacement rims in the case of crash damage.

As with the prior iteration, there’s a drainage hole near the valve.

A few months in, I’ve been pretty impressed. The wheels have stayed resolutely true in the rooty forests of Norway, and on the rocky fireroads of Melbourne. They’ve played nicely both tubed and tubeless with tyres from Panaracer and Continental – both tubeless variants, because of the hookless rim – and have seated quickly and easily with a floor pump. That extra width in the rim also makes for more confident cornering, something that gave me a more positive impression of the 38 mm Panaracer Gravel King SS tyres that I’d previously tested (and found a bit so-so) on the previous version of the Alta.

There’s a minor weight increase compared to the first iteration, bringing them up to 1,500 g for the wheelset (with the included tubeless tape and valves), but given the touted increase in rim durability that feels like a worthwhile trade-off. 

What I liked about the original Parcours Alta was that they were a bit of a Goldilocks wheelset – not too heavy, not too expensive, not too fussy – that competed against bigger brands on weight, price, or both. With that winning combination and a more contemporary rim shape, it’s hard to find too much to complain about.

Price: £899 / €1,169 / US$1,199 (inclusive of shipping to most destinations globally)

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