Charge Plug Ti Part 3: 650B wheelset

Continuing from Part 2...
Part of the reason I bought a new frame was also to increase tyre clearance, the Bish Bash Bosh could only fit 700x40 or about 584x42 (650B) tyres.  My aim was to be able to fit 2.0" MTB tyres on the bike, normally the tightest spot on a frame is the bit between the chainstays as this is where a lot of stuff is happening, namely the BB and crankset.  The fork and seatstays are rarely a problem in this regard, the frame builder can really make these as voluminous as they want as long as they don't interfere with the use of the bike.  The Charge Plug Ti measured at 54mm clear at the widest point between the chainstays, I did read however a lot of 2.0" MTB tyres come up undersize.  So I decided to make the plunge and build up a 650B wheelset just to see if it would work.

The build

The choice of components was similar to the 700c wheelset I built before,  BOR-XMD366 rims with Novatec rear hub and SP Dynamo front joined together with Sapim D-Light butted spokes.

Again the BOR rims came in at an honest 360g, some of the lightest alloy rims out there, particularly ones with eyelets.  These built up really nicely last time and their quality was great which is why I decided to go it again.

One trick I have when assembling wheels is using a toothpick to insert and initially screw on the nipples.  The size is just right so it fits tightly in the nipple hole.  The Sapim nipples I used were the Secure Lock versions which lock on to the thread, these were quite good, however as I found with the previous wheelbuild, the consistency in sizing of the nipples isn't as good as DT Swiss; as I used my spoke key to tighten each nipple, each nipple felt a little bit different, some were a bit loose some were a bit too tight at the spoke key/nipple interface.  The DT Swiss nipples I had used before always were consistent in their fit.  Not an obstacle to building a good wheelset, but just an observation.

First Ride

Initially I fitted some 650b x 2.0" tyres which just cleared the chainstays, these were Maxxis Beavers which are more of a wet weather mud tyre and thus have some relatively widely spaced knobs.  They were setup tubeless and measured at 47mm wide which gives about 3-4mm clearance each side at the chainstays which is quite tight!  

Out on the trail though and it's apparent how grippy these buggers were, in thick slippery mud they refused to let go, off camber ruts were not an issue, and the extra volume helped roll over many obstacles which would have thrown off the 700x40mm Maxxis Ramblers I was also running.  On the tarmac however they were pretty slow, particularly as they are more of a mud tyre so this was to be expected.

Time for rock'n'road

Sadly however, the tyres grew over the course of a week and eventually measured at a true 50mm and I found that they had started to rub a bit on the inside of the chainstays.  So I went ahead and ordered another pair of tyres, this time they were 650x43mm Bruce Gordon Rock'n'road tyres.  These are a classic design that has been around for a while, developing a bit of a cult following along the way.  Legend has it that they were based on an old Finnish tyre design originally in 700x47mm size, the Nokian Hakkapellita.  These were originally made for riding over snow and general crap conditions, so really I guess these were a precursor to the 29er craze that hit the MTB world not long ago.  The 650b version was released recently and are made by Panaracer in Japan, also tubeless compatible and skinwall!

It turns out that the 43mm width is nominal, and after a week they grew out to 44.5mm @ 30psi/2.0bar or thereabouts which is about as wide as I think you could realistically go on this frame.

The first ride on these was pretty impressive, they have the suppleness of a much larger tyre, not too different from the 2.0" Maxxis Beavers I had before.  They tend to roll quite well even on tarmac with only a bit of buzz, on hardpack and gravel they grip quite well, considerably better than the Ramblers.  Off-camber sections, tree roots aren't a problem, however don't be fooled, these are not MTB tyres.

I was disappointed that the 2.0" tyres didn't really fit in the end, the Rock'n'Road tyres aren't all that much bigger than the largest 700c tyres I could fit in there either.  However the plus side to this is that I do actually prefer the nippyness of the smaller wheels, the toe overlap is virtually eliminated and the steering feels more lively with the lower trail figure given by them.  There are some negatives as well, the BB clearance is noticeably less, a still respectable 290mm from the ground to BB axle, however I was finding I would strike rocks more with the 650b wheels.  I still intend to run the 700c wheelset for more road related duties and have these at hand for off-road jaunts.  

Anyway, that's all for now, thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for the next part of the build


  1. Beautiful build. Just ordered a Grater Ti in the Black Friday sales which I intent to build up as a drop bar bike (pretty sure the frame is exactly the same). Good to know the 650b wheels are an option!

    1. Hey could you tell me how you managed to get the front derailleur to work when you had the campagne group on? Cheers

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