When looking to make upgrades to their bikes, one thing most people almost always consider is weight savings. One of the best (and easiest) places to start is with the wheels. A wheelset upgrade can not only save weight, but with less rotational weight, the bike will feel lighter when riding it. Acceleration will be faster, climbing will be more efficient, and riding over trail obstacles will be easier. With so many options out there, what’s the best way to pick the right wheel?
Features to Consider When Upgrading
- Stiffness – More stiffness means better power transfer and greater acceleration.
- Rim Depth/Aerodynamic Profile – A more aerodynamic profile usually comes with a weight increase. Often, on flat or rolling terrain, the aerodynamic benefits of an aero wheel make up for increased weight. When going uphill at slower speeds, those benefits decrease. Additionally, a benefit of a deeper profile wheel is increased stiffness.
- Material – The most noted differences between the 2 main wheel materials, carbon and alloy, is that carbon is stiffer and lighter than alloy, but it’s also more expensive. For racing and endurance rides, carbon is more rewarding and forgiving. For commuters and recreational riders, a lightweight alloy will take you far.
- Tubeless Compatibility – This is a very important point among MTB riders, and is gaining popularity in road wheels as well. Tubeless tire setups don’t get pinched flats, because they can run with lower tire pressure which also make them more compliant, comfortable, and gives them better grip. Plus, the tubeless sealant takes care of little cuts and holes.
- Rim Width – The current trend in MTB wheels is to go wider, with more and more mountain bikes accommodating wider wheel and tire options. Similar to the benefits of going tubeless, a wider tire has more air volume, which provides a smoother ride. It also has a greater contact area between the tire and the ground, providing an increase in traction.
- Hub Engagement – Because MTB riders use quick power bursts to get through technical features on trails, hub engagement is an important factor. The more points of hub engagement, the faster your pedal-to-wheel power transfer will be.
Finally, all of this includes a consideration of price. You can search sales and compare specs to price, but often you get what you pay for. To quote Keith Bontrager – “Strong, light, cheap – pick two”. In an ideal world, you could have all three wrapped up in the perfect wheelset.
To save you the search, we’ve put together a few of our favorite wheels that hit all the high notes for Road and MTB cyclists.
Road Upgrade Wheels
1495g for the set
Alloy with carbon caps
1640g for the set
1365g for the set
4D Milled Alloy
1790g for the set
MTB Upgrade Wheels
Investing in a new set of wheels can make your bike feel like a whole new ride. For the road warriors, a better set of wheels will lighten up the build, add stiffness for better control, and increase its aerodynamics. For mountain conquerors, upgrading your wheels can add durability, help shave some weight, and and increase your power transfer. While we’d all love a new bike, sometimes our bank account just says no. What we’ve often found is that a new set of wheels can be the next best thing to owning a new bike. Go ahead and give it try – you’ll be surprised at what a difference it will make.