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I have a Cinelli Experience 2016 road bike with rim brakes that allows up to 28c tyres as per Cinelli's specifications. Somehow, Cinelli keeps mentioning it's fit for gravel as well.

I'm looking forward to gaining more tyre clearance by swapping the current 700c wheels with 650b or even 26 inch wheel. Having taken in consideration already the fact that I may need long reach calipers and even choosing an appropriate rim width to not bulge the tyre that much, I have run into the issue of finding actual wheels, given the fact that I need 650b rim brake 11s wheels in 2021.

Building my own wheels could be one option, but my first option is buying professionally made wheels. Most of the semi-compatible wheels have only 7s to 10s cassettes. My current Shimano 105 groupset is 11s and therefore, my questions are:

  • Can a 7s-10s wheel be converted to 11s by changing the cassette body?

  • Can a 11s groupset handle an 10s casette without much trouble?

  • Is there another option of fitting gravel/cx-like wheels on a road bike with rim brakes?

  • Having solved the vertical clearance, theoretically at least, what should be the minimum horizontal clearance from the sidewall of the tyre to the frame I should keep?

Buying a gravel/cx is out of the question for now. I'm perfectly happy with this particular bike, I just want tyres wider than 30c for riding in Eastern European citites with poor infrastructure and taking gravel paths in weekends.

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  • What are you going to do about the brakes and brake clearance? As far as I’m aware modern caliper road brakes only have clearance for 28 or 30mm wide tires. Have you tried running 28mm tires at low pressure (like 4.5bar or less)? Should be sufficient for good gravel or bumpy tarmac. With wide rims a 28mm tire usually has an actual width of 30mm.
    – Michael
    Jan 29 at 12:39
  • "Somehow, Cinelli keeps mentioning it's fit for gravel as well." - Somehow? Back before "gravel bikes" were a thing, I'd ride my cross-check with 25s on all the gravel paths. What do you think people have been riding the past 30 years on the rails-to-trails conversions? Have you ridden your bike on gravel already? What didn't you like about it? Jan 29 at 21:27
  • @whatsisname Is this satire?
    – dvsn
    Jan 31 at 17:16
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  • "Gravel" means different things to different people. Yes, you could ride 28-mm tires on most hike-and-bike trails paved in gravel, but you could ride narrower tires than that too; there are other gravel roads that would require more like 43-mm tires. I think Cinelli is being a bit self-serving here.
  • There are a few places where you would need to look out for clearance: under the fork crown in front, between the chainstays and under the seatstay bridge in back. There can also be interference between the rear tire and front derailleur: I put 32-mm tires on a bike rated for 30 mm and the cable attachment point barely clears the rear tire.
  • There's a reason you don't see rim brakes on fat-tire bikes: they're not good. I've used those Tektro 559 that Weiwen Ng mentions and had to do "Flintstone stops" more than once, even with upgraded pads. Those long brake arms flex a lot.
  • If you've got indexed shifting, an 11-speed setup will not index correctly with a 10-speed cassette. You would need to use a JTek Shiftmate to compensate for the cable-pull ratio.
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    The Tiagra 4700 or GRX 400 cassette would be compatible, no? If I remember correctly, they use the same cable pull ratio as 11 speed.
    – MaplePanda
    Jan 29 at 19:13
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    Hmm, I think you're right about that.
    – Adam Rice
    Jan 29 at 19:27
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I'm looking forward to gaining more tyre clearance by swapping the current 700c wheels with 650b or even 26 inch wheel.

Even if you mounted a pair of long reach calipers (probably something like the Tektro 559, which has a reach of 55-73mm, but I'm not sure if they're still made), you would probably not have enough room to fit big tires. The chain stays, seat stays, and fork blades won't have enough clearance for gravel width tires. That's the main determinant of how much tire you can fit. If you have calipers, try measuring how much clearance there is between the stays at the midpoint of the tire, then move the calipers down about 20mm, then see how much additional clearance you have. I suspect you have very little. Also, if you mounted 650B wheels, you would now be riding wheels with a shorter vertical distance than the bike is designed for. You risk hitting pedals on obstacles on the ground.

I don't know where Cinelli says that this frame is capable of gravel, but 28mm tires are fine for many unpaved roads without loose gravel.

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    To be fair you’d only be 7mm lower on a pair of 584mm (650B) wheels with 35mm wide/high tires compared to 622mm wheels with 23mm tires. (622+2*23 - 584+2*35) / 2 = 14/2 = 7mm. That’s barely more than going from 170mm cranks to 175mm cranks.
    – Michael
    Jan 29 at 13:23
  • Exactly my point! I don't get these fatalistic scenarios regarding conversion. I don't plan on going on tires bigger than 35C anyway. Long reach calipers are still made, and they can be found anywhere. I used to buy Saccon calipers for vintage commuter bikes which ran on standard 32c tyres and had plenty of horizontal width left. Shimano still makes long reach calipers as well. I literally mentioned I had the caliper part figured out. And Cinelli mentioned the 'gravel' part everywhere, even in the link above. But you have to read the description as well.
    – dvsn
    Jan 29 at 16:30
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    This photo mentions the 'gravel part' again. I guess they meant gravel by 28c tyres. bicicleteria.ro/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/experience105.jpg
    – dvsn
    Jan 29 at 16:37

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