Buyers Guide to Road Bike Wheels

Post by:
Christian Moss

Owning and perfecting a road bike can be an expensive endeavour. You could spend thousands of pounds on an amazing frame for your bike, but if you’re really looking to make substantial upgrades to your bike’s performance, you’ll need to look at investing in new wheels.

Whether you’re a commuter, a recreational cyclist, or competing in races and triathlons, you need to make sure you have the right wheels. With the correct wheelset you can increase performance and make your ride much more enjoyable.

Lighter wheel rims can shave seconds of your speed in the hills and make your bike feel more responsive. Deeper section aero wheels, while being heavier can also improve your speed but the benefit will only be felt at higher speeds.road wheelsets

So what do you need to consider when purchasing new wheels for your road bike? Let’s take a look at the essential components below.

Weight

When it comes to the overall mass of your ride, if you’ve already invested in a lightweight frame then your wheels will be the main source of excess bulk for you bike. Wheels with fewer spokes and minimalist hubs will help boost acceleration, but in reality it’s the rim which actually has the biggest effect on your riding experience.

Generally speaking a lighter wheel rim is better, both in terms of speed and mobility, although there are a few exceptions. For touring or commuting heavier, more durable set of wheels is often better for reliability.

Deep section rims will also give you an aerodynamic advantage whilst being heavier. Many of the lighter wheels on the market are designed with racing in mind, if you are a heavier rider it may be worth choosing a heavier more durable set. A small amount of extra weight in the rim often helps riders maintain their momentum.

That slight-extra weight adds a level of stability that featherweight wheels simply can’t offer. It’s best to test them out for yourself; if you find a featherweight rim to be too nimble then try switching to something with slightly more mass.

Tyre Compatibility

The type of tyre you choose all depends on how serious you are about riding. There are two main types of bike tyre: tubular and clincher.

Clincher rims consist of a tyre and an inner tube. They are the most common and popular choice with everyday cyclists, as they are easily fitted and quick to change if you practise at it; plus and there’s such a wide range of stock to choice from.

Whereas as clincher rims have a lip which supports their tyre, tubular (or sprint) rims have no lip, meaning the tyre assembly needs be glued to the rim. This makes changing a tyre a tedious and time-consuming practice; however, due to the fact that they can support more weight, tubular tyres tend to be used by elite riders when competing in competition.

Tubular tyres are also generally lighter than their clincher counterparts and roll better on the road, giving you that much-needed competitive edge.

That being said, clincher tyres are much more practical, and generally the less expensive option. Unless you are competing on a pro level, or you’re a cycling purist, you’re probably going to want to invest in clincher rims and tyres.

Stiffness

Unless you’re a seasoned pro you’re not going to notice a huge difference between lightweight wheels of different stiffness, although some softer wheels with less spokes do tend to flex and brush the brake blocks when riding out of saddle or under a bigger, heavier rider. This can be reduced by picking a frame that mirrors your wheel, or picking out stiffer wheels.

Whilst stiffer wheels handle well, they can make rides slightly less comfortable. Alloy wheels are known to be more forgiving on rougher road surfaces and while carbon wheels tend to have fantastic acceleration and handling, they can be quite stiff. It’s important to try and test several wheels for yourself and find a perfect balance.

Safety

Although lighter wheels are generally more desirable, if a wheel is too light-weight for the intended usage then hazards such as pot holes could result in spokes breaking, or much worse.

Wheels need to be checked every few rides to make sure they are still running true, there are no loose spokes and that the hubs are turning smoothly with no play in the bearings. Tyres and tubulars need to be fitted correctly and also checked for wear, cuts and damage.

The Ideal Choice

It’s important to pick a wheel that’s best suited to you. The perfect wheel is lightweight yet durable; it’s able to support the rider without flexing or shaking loose. Unless you’re thinking of competing in serious competitions, it’s advisable you invest in clincher rims and tyres. They will be the easiest to source, fit and replace.

Don’t skimp out on the price, and be sure to consider all your cycling needs before making a purchase. If you’ve got a heavy frame, then it’s almost a wasted investment to buy lightweight tyres. However, if you’ve already upgraded your frame to a lightweight option, then be on the look-out for lightweight tyres with a reasonable level of stiffness.

For more information, visit the wheel section of our store and browse our collection for yourself? Also, let us know your thoughts. What’s the best wheel for you and your needs? Perhaps you’re looking for the right wheel yourself? Leave us a comment and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

4 Comments

  1. Paul Says:

    Hi
    just after some advice, could you please point me in the right direction
    looking to change my road bike wheel’s (upgrade) I have a specialised
    secteur elite can’t afford a new bike at the moment so looking to improve
    components
    cheers
    Paul

    • admin Says:

      Hi,

      Wheels are one of the best upgrades to make if you are looking to improve your ride, a lighter better quality wheel can make a noticeable difference. As a general rule, the more money you spend the lighter the wheel and/or better the bearings, the wheels on your bike are likely to be quite heavy so most of our wheels will be worth your while. It all depends on your budget but one of our popular recommendations are Fulcrums as they are all handmade and we have many satisfied customers using them. They start at under £100 and go up to £749, all our range can be seen here, hope that helps – Thanks http://www.merlincycles.com/factory-road-wheels-44123/?sorting=price_lowHigh

  2. Dawn Says:

    Hi – my hub is worn on my front wheel and Ive been recommended to replace it. do I need to replace both wheels or can I replace just one?

    • admin Says:

      Hi, Its fine to just replace one, Thanks!

Leave a Reply