Boyd Cycling is a family run business headed by Boyd Johnson, a high-level bicycle racer for many years. Located in South Carolina, Boyd Cycling started specializing in wheels in 2011 to meet the needs of cyclists like himself who want a quality hand-built wheel sat a reasonable price. Boyd has since put together a portfolio of wheels to cover all needs, sourcing components from around the world and assembling them in South Carolina.
Last year, Boyd Johnson upped his gravel riding, and the experiences inspired him to develop his own gravel-specific wheelset.
Johnson, however, faced a challenge when he sat down to design his new wheelset. Putting a wider and taller wheel on a bike changes its geometry, raising the bottom bracket and noticeably shifting the trail, which affects front end handling. 650b (27.5") wheels, which are increasingly popular in mountain biking, have emerged as a gravel option in recent years in part because high-volume tires on 650b wheels have the same rolling circumference as 700c road tires. Gravel bikes are also adapting to the wheel size, with bikes such as the Rocky Mountain Solo, Open U.P.P.E.R. and 3T Exploro using a dropped chainstay to provide more tire clearance.
Johnson’s own riding experiences influenced the design of his new wheelset. Like many gravel riders, he prefers geometry similar to a road bike with a longer top tube and lower bottom bracket while still having more tire clearance and a longer rear end. He wanted to use a big tire on his bike for gravel and then switch to road wheels when jumping into the road group ride.
Boyd Cycling experimented with other formats and eventually settled on a wheelset built to suit gravel riding. Out of this came the Jocassee, a 650b carbon tubeless gravel-specific wheelset. We took a first look at the Jocassee last year, and now we report back on its road and gravel worthiness after putting it to the test.
Boyd Jocassee tubeless Gravel Wheel Set
The Jocassee has a 36mm deep 650b carbon rim with an internal width of 24mm, hookless walls and a tubeless design. The rims are asymmetric with decentered spoke holes to better fit the shorter spokes.
The wheelset has 24 spokes in the front and 28 in the rear. The Sapim CX-Ray spokes have 2x lacing with external brass nipples for reliability and ease of maintenance. The rim is 36mm deep, which, according to discussions Cyclocross Magazine has had with wheel manufacturers, is a common choice for balancing weight, strength and aerodynamics for carbon rims.
The hubs on our review set are White Industries CLD (CenterLock disc) front and rear. The rear hub has a titanium freehub body, 3 pawls and 48 points of engagement. The White Industries CLD is an upgrade versus the standard Quest Hub build and costs an additional $150 front and $200 rear. Boyd offers the wheels with every axle combination, although Boost spacing requires a custom order. Our test wheelset had 15x100mm front and 12x142mm rear thru-axles.
Our test wheelset weighed 751g front and 898g rear with rim tape, Boyd valve stems and Boyd's patent-pending wingnuts. The total wheelset weight is 1,649g.
Boyd built the Jocassee wheels with 24mm internal width rims that optimally fit 47mm tires. As the "road plus" 650b x 47mm size becomes more popular, more high-volume tires and treads are on the market. The Panaracer Gravel King 27.5" x 1.9" (650b x 48mm) tires we mounted have a claimed weight of 520g but our samples each weighed over 550g and combined with 50 grams of sealant, the full setups are not necessarily light.
Perhaps the biggest consideration with running road plus sizing is having enough clearance for the mountain bike-like 47mm tires (or in our case 48mm). We mounted our Gravel King tires tubeless and inflated them to pressures in the high 20's (psi), which gave them measured widths of 48mm.
Our test team has a limited number of bikes with 15mm thru-axles, but we did locate a few and found front tire clearance was no problem for both ’cross and gravel forks. The rear frames, however, were another issue because many cyclocross and older gravel-oriented bikes do not have the chainstay clearance for the wide 48mm tires, even without side knobs. It is probably a good idea to check compatibility of the road plus sizing before you commit to the Jocassee wheelset.
Riding 48mm wide road plus tires provided a different experience than 700c wheels. On the road, the big tire had a different resonance and some springiness depending on the tire pressure (I chose 40 psi for most of my road riding, which reduced the springiness).
The ride of the Jocassee wheels on the road was very smooth, and the tires provided cornering grip for days. The high tire volume provided a suspension-like feel, and the large contact patches provided increased cornering confidence. I noticed the wheel weight when accelerating out of turns, although the downside was somewhat mitigated because I could carry more speed through them. During my test riding, the combination of the wheel and tire weight was palpable, and it made acceleration feel sluggish and climbing relatively burdensome compared to a lighter setup.
I ran a more typical 25-30 psi when testing the Jocassee wheels on mixed terrain. With the high volume of the tires, I also rode at pressures less than 25 psi off-road, but more on that in a moment.
During mixed terrain rides, I enjoyed the volume, but since I ride 33mm tires most of the time, I did not feel the extra volume was entirely necessary, and the ride felt a bit bouncy. I lowered my tire pressure to 20-22 psi, and the ride improved immensely, taking any small irregularities out of the surface. On the gravel, hard pack and fire roads with buried rocks, I could sit in the saddle and power away in the drops without the rough surfaces stopping my forward momentum.
The increased volume of the road plus Gravel Kings encouraged me to take them on terrain I would not normally tackle. The side walls were stiff enough to prevent the tires from folding over during cornering, but I definitely cornered more cautiously when the surface was loose. Your mileage with the road plus tires will vary, but I definitely left the trail wanting an option with treads for my off-road riding.
As far as build and reliability, the Boyd Jocassee wheels were excellent during my time reviewing the wheelset. I did not experience any changes in spoke tension, trueness or roundness. I hit some buried rocks pretty hard, but the strikes did not bottom out the rim as might have happened with 700c tires. The extra volume provided confidence for me to push harder, even despite the traction limitations.
Road plus 650b x 47mm tires offer potential advantages for gravel grinding. The smaller wheel/higher volume combination allows you to easily switch between normal road wheels for pure road events and wide rubber tires for long gravel events without experiencing much change in geometry. During my time riding the high-volume 650b Boyd Jocassee wheelset, there was no question the extra volume was an advantage at high speeds on rough surfaces, lending support for their gravel worthiness.
The 650b Boyd Jocassee wheels were purpose-built to provide a quality high-volume gravel ride while maintaining a bike’s road-like geometry. The Jocassee combines everything you might want in a road plus wheelset: reliability during tubeless setup, durability and serviceability. The price tag of $2,000 is a lot for a wheelset, but for riders looking for a top-end carbon wheelset, the cost is in line with what it provides compared to other high-end models.
The biggest consideration with the 650b Jocassee wheelset is your bike frame's clearance for the 47mm+ wide tires. A second consideration with the Jocassee wheelset—and other similar designs—is wheel weight. That is to say, the weight of the wheel when mounted with high-volume tires. I weigh 155 pounds, and I felt I could get away with running a lighter wheelset for my gravel riding. I cannot really place my finger on how to make the stout Jocassee wheelset lighter except maybe using lighter—and likely less durable—rims or alloy nipples.
Boyd Jocassee Tubeless Gravel Wheel Set Specifications
Price (as tested): $925 front, $1,075 rear with White Industries CLD hubs
Weight: Front: 751g, rear: 898g, total: 1,649; with rim tape and 55mm valve stems with wing nuts
Rim: Carbon, tubeless-ready; 36mm deep, 24mm inner width; front 24 hole, rear 28 hole, asymmetric spokes
Spokes: Sapim CX-Ray, laced 2x front and rear
Hubs: White Industries CLD, titanium freehub body, 3 pawls, 48 point engagement
Tires (tested): Panaracer Gravel King 27.5" x 1.9" (650b x 48mm)
More info: boydcycling.com