Wheels Buying guide
Choosing a wheel to suit your bike can be quite a complicated task. With so much choice, so many price differences between wheels and so many options, how do you choose?
Wheels can come is a massive range of sizes and technical aspects to help get the most out of your bike. Wheels for mountain bikes can come in three different sizes, 26” 27.5” and 29” or 700c, which road wheels are commonly known as. This is to accommodate rider preference, rider size, and discipline. 20” and 24" wheels are mainly used on children’s bikes or BMX bikes. 26” wheels bike are still used in downhill and enduro riding. However, 27.5” (or 650b as sometimes referred to) and 29” are also used in XC, enduro and downhill too. 27.5” and 29” are mostly used in XC and downhill riding but there is obviously the exception, depending on personal preference.
Disc brake or calliper brake
All off-road wheels are built to accommodate disc brakes mainly because the rider requires more stable and controlled braking when riding off-road at high speeds. In addition to this, the disc brake allows more clearance on the frame for mud and dirt to freely move and not clog up the wheel, restricting the spinning of the wheel. Calliper brakes are mostly used on the road, time trial and cyclocross bikes, However, disc brakes are more common in cyclocross with disc brakes also now being used on the road too. This is a personal preference. When choosing your wheel and brake choice you also need to ensure your frame is compatible with your choice as all frames vary.
Tubeless, tubular, tubed. Wheels come in a variety of options such as tubeless ready, tubed and tubular versions. Some tubed wheels can be converted to tubeless and vise versa. However tubular wheels cannot be altered and require tubular tyres to be glued onto them. Tubular wheels are used for road, track and cyclocross racing mainly. Tubeless wheels and tyres are a popular choice with tubed wheels and tyres still commonly used daily.
Road wheels, aero wheels and wider rim road wheels are often used on road bikes, TT bikes and gravel bikes. These wheels can come in different aero specifications to ensure the bike and rider are as aero as they can be whilst still being in control. Some deep section wheels can be difficult to use in side winds or twisty courses, so a shallower profile is often a prefered choice in these conditions. Road wheels are normally low profile and vary in build strength depending on the uses. Road wheel can come in a disc brake version and a calliper brake version and can be purchased in tubed, tubeless and tubular versions to suit the terrain.
For racing, road wheels are light and responsive with top end race wheels being made from carbon to suit the needs of hill climbers and road racing. Again these can come in disc brake version and calliper version and can come in tubed and tubeless set ups.
For touring the rider may want to choose a wheel with a lot of spokes for increased strength when carrying extra weight on the bike. Many wheels have a weight limit so if you are choosing a wheel to carry weight always read the description.
Gravel and cyclocross wheels are normally a little wider at the rim to accommodate the wider more nobbly tyres. Frames on cyclocross and gravel bike are built to accommodate the wider rims. These can be lightweight and sturdy to suit both off-road riding and the demands of racing. Generally, these are built with disc brake set up and the option to build with tubes or tubeless.
Timetrial wheels or disc wheels are mostly used for track racing and TT’s. These wheels are the most aerodynamic and are completely solid to maximise the aerodynamic’s over the bike. They are almost never used in outdoor training unless a rider is trying to practice for a race.
TimeTrial and track wheels – Normally aerodynamic carbon deep section or disc wheels to maximise aerodynamics. Normally built up with a tubular setup. This is where a sewn up tyre is glued onto the rim to help eliminate punctures, tyres rolling off rims and increase rolling resistance.
When purchasing your wheels you need to identify what speed you are running on your bike and to make sure the wheels you choose are compatible with your 10, 11 or 12 speed set up. If you are buying wheels to use on the track then you will be looking for a single speed fixed hub set up.
- MTB Wheels – Disc brakes, lightweight and sturdy. Comes in three main size choices. 26" 27.5” and 29”
- Road Wheels – Lightweight and sturdy, disc or calliper versions with a number of rim choices to suit tyre width and tyre set up. Size 700c
- Road Race wheels – Lightweight and responsive, a number of rim and profile choices to suit tyre width and tyre set up and race conditions.
- Gravel and Cyclocross – Lightweight and sturdy, mainly disc brakes and wide rims to accommodate wider tyres.
- TimeTrial and Track - Stiff, deep section or solid aerodynamic wheels. Solid wheels only used on the track or in a time trial.