The Best Road Cycling Wheelset for the Money

The Best Road Cycling Wheelset for the Money

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Carbon fiber wheels have a deeper rim than alloy wheels because carbon allows for unique shaping.

Rich Lam/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Upgrading your bicycle's wheelset is one of the best investments you can make in terms of weight reduction, aerodynamics, rolling resistance, braking, and durability on most bicycles. A good wheelset often feels like getting a new bike, since the improvement to your ride quality is so significant. If you're looking to get the best wheelset for your money, getting the newest developments in carbon fiber rims, spokes, and hubs are a good start.

Rim Materials

The two primary rim materials are Carbon Fiber and Aluminum. Carbon fiber is made from interwoven carbon strands, which have an exceptional strength to weight ratio. These fibers are pressed into a ply with glue, and multiple plies together form the body of the rims. Carbon fiber rims need special brake pads on traditional road caliper brakes to prevent damage to the rim. Carbon fiber's value lies in the lower weight, which provides a reduction in weight and, often, an increase in aerodynamics since the material can be shaped in very unique ways compared to aluminum rims. Despite being heavier and less aerodynamic, aluminum rims start at a much lower price. Since aluminum is easier to manufacture than carbon fiber, it often costs hundreds of dollars less while adding only a few ounces per rim to the overall weight of the bike.

Rim Characteristics

Carbon fiber rims often feature a deep-section design, with rims as tall as 90mm allowing greater aerodynamics with a wing-like shape. These rims are also much stiffer than rims with a shallower section, and this structural rigidity transfers more power from the rider to the road, at the cost of some comfort. On smooth road surfaces, deep section rims allow you to cut an aerodynamic line through the pack, and the rigidity makes your sprint as efficient as possible. Aluminum rims aren't usually manufactured with a deep-section design, since they would be too heavy if so much material was used. Aluminum rims usually feature a rounded inside edge, and both materials can be manufactured a few millimeters wider for a more comfortable ride.


Spoke counts determine the number of spokes used to maintain tension in the wheel. Despite how they appear, the spokes of rims do not push out on the rim. Instead, spokes provide tension on all sides at an equal ratio, giving the wheel incredible strength considering its weight. Carbon spokes are often manufactured as flattened, since this helps aerodynamics when biking at high speed. Generally, the weight of spokes is often negligible, and it's better to go with a bit more stiffness and durability with a spoke count like 20/24. Some riders who want the absolute most out of their bicycles will reduce the spoke count to 16/20. Generally, spokes vary little in price. Cutting down a few ounces will only cost you a few cents per spoke.


The hub of your wheel is an important place to decide on the trade-offs between durability and performance. For a training bike, a very strong hub with good seals on the bearings or a good cartridge will perform longer because road grit won't require cleaning or repacking as often. For the highest levels of performance, however, saving some weight with materials like carbon fiber and thinner spoke flanges can be worth the reduction in overall strength. When your bike is spoked, the spokes need to be dished for the imbalance in forces at the rear cassettes. Road bikes with disc brakes need additional dishing on the front and rear wheels to make sure there's no failure at the hub when the torsional effect of braking affects the spokes.

Resources (3)