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What’s the difference between all types of road bike wheels

What’s the difference between all types of road bike wheels?

road bike wheels
One of the best ways to upgrade your road bike is to buy a new pair of road bike wheels. Many road bikes don’t come standard with high-end wheels. This is done on purpose by the manufacturer so they can lower the selling price. But actually, it’s really a shame. Because the right road bike wheels does make a difference. The characteristics of a road bike are best paired with a good road bike wheel. But which wheels do you need? Tubeless? High circle? Carbon or Aluminum? We have listed the most important focus areas for you in this article.

A road bike wheel looks nothing more than a rim, a few spokes, and a hub. However, there are many differences between road bike wheels. It’s just that the difference between carbon and aluminum is already huge. In addition, there are many other important factors to be aware of when you are shopping for a new road bike wheel…

For example, aerodynamics, materials, weight and rim width play a huge role in determining whether a road bike wheelset is right for you. The question of whether you want to ride tubeless is also important. Then comes the decision between disc brakes or rim brakes. choose, choose, choose…

The main concerns when buying a new road bike wheel

But which aspect of a road bike wheel is important to you? We’ll take a look at some of the key points and the benefits they can offer you.

Rim height
Aluminum or carbon?
Rim width
Tubeless, Tubeless ready and UST – Tubeless Riding
Rim or disc brakes

Which rim height do I need?

Road bike wheels with tall rims not only look great, they are also aerodynamic. Rim height and aerodynamics go hand in hand. Tall rims direct airflow better and therefore provide less air resistance.

But not every rim height is right for every cyclist. The higher the rim, the heavier it becomes. But we’ll tell you more about weights later. It is important to find a good rim height that is aerodynamic but relatively light.

The taller rims also became more wind sensitive. Driving around with very tall rims or even a closed rear wheel is a lot harder than what you would say when you see the pros in action.

Aerodynamics are time savers
Depending on the shape of the rim itself, the height of the rim and the technology used, a tall rim can save a lot of time.

However, this time saving is especially important for longer rides on flat or long downhills. You are a real goat, can’t you let the climb pass you? Then opting for a light wheelset would be more valuable.

For general use, perfect for the Netherlands – a relatively flat country where a rim height of 33 to 45mm is practically perfect. With this height, you already have a considerable aerodynamic advantage over low rims.

But the weight is limited and the wind sensitivity is not too bad. Are you going to the mountains in Limburg or the mountains? In this case, you don’t have to put those relatively heavy wheels up the hill.

A tall rim is logically heavier than a low rim. Fortunately, taller rims are usually made of carbon, which saves weight. But carbon fiber bike wheels are more expensive. The next decision is whether you choose carbon fiber or aluminum bike wheels.
road bike wheels 
Aluminum or carbon road bike wheels?
In addition to rim height, the choice of aluminum or carbon fiber wheels is important to many cyclists. Carbon has many advantages, but it also has a price tag.

Carbon fiber road bike wheels offer many advantages over aluminum road bike wheels. First, carbon fiber wheels are much lighter than aluminum wheels. Also, they are stiffer. Stiffer wheels provide better grip and more control.

The only real downside to carbon wheels is the brake edge, as carbon rim brakes are less effective in bad weather. In the mountains, the carbon can even get superheated on long, steep descents. But thanks to the introduction of disc brakes, this problem is no longer an issue at all.

As a result, carbon has become more profitable. The wheels themselves no longer wear out. Small parts like brake discs or bearings or damaged spokes can always be replaced relatively cheaply, but the base, your carbon fiber bike wheel, is still “always” strong and good.

So when it comes to choosing carbon fiber or aluminum wheels, you can focus entirely on whether to choose the more expensive but stiffer, lighter carbon fiber, or the cheaper but heavier, less stiff aluminum. Plus, when you choose rim brakes, you have the option to combine the best of both worlds.

Carbon fiber wheels with aluminum brake rims?

Another solution that holds the stopping power better for rim brakes is an aluminum brake rim with carbon rims. This gives you the advantages of carbon, but no disadvantages. However, the wheels did get heavier.

Aluminum wheels or carbon fiber wheels with aluminum brake rims are cheaper, but that doesn’t mean they’re a poor wheelset. You can get really good aluminum road bike wheels and really good carbon fiber road bike wheels with aluminum brake rims. The Bontrager Aeolus Comp 5 is a good example.

You do get some extra weight in the wheels when you choose aluminum wheels, but the difference isn’t that huge. However, for those who are truly underweight who think every gram on their bike is too much, carbon wheels are the best option.

Some manufacturers have even developed their own rim brake edges. Think Mavic’s Exalith brake rims, Fulcrums and Campagnolo’s Plasma Electrolytic Oxidation (PEO) process or DT Swiss’s OXiC brake rims. These braking edges provide better braking performance, which is especially noticeable in wet weather.

How important is the weight of a road bike wheel?

Weight is an important factor for wheels. In this regard, the advantages of carbon over aluminum are obvious. Lightweight wheels are not only better for mountain biking, but also for cyclists—because lighter wheels ride faster.

With a light road bike wheel, you can accelerate significantly easier. But the steering is also more direct and precise. Also, rigid wheels always have more advantages than less rigid ones.

Also, it goes without saying that low rims are lighter than tall rims: less material needs to be used. Alpine road bike wheels will never have tall rims.

So the ideal road bike doesn’t exist, it mostly depends on what you’re buying it for. Especially the good combination between weight and stiffness plays a big role here. But less obvious aspects may also come into play, such as rim width.

What is the rim width of a road bike wheel?
In recent years, the rim width of road bicycle wheels has become wider. About 15 years ago, 13mm was the norm. This quickly went from 15mm to 17mm and now even 19mm is the unofficial standard.

Now some brands have wider rims. Also seen are road bike wheels with a width of 21mm or more. The trend towards wider wheels is also on the rise, for example, gravel bikes are becoming more and more popular.

What are the benefits of wide rims?

With road bike wheels, you will see wider and wider rims. It may seem like a crazy development, but did you know that a good wide rim and a decent tire are more aerodynamic than a thin rim and the same tire?

This aerodynamic performance is better because the tires fit better on wider aerodynamic rims. The larger internal rim width makes the road bike wider. Apart from better aerodynamics, this has many other advantages.

Similarly, wider tires have lower rolling resistance than narrow tires. Last but not least, wide tires are also more comfortable. Wide road bike tires can be ridden at lower tire pressures without sacrificing rolling resistance.
road bike wheels 

Wide tires are not suitable for all road bikes!

The only downside to wide tires and rims is that they don’t fit all road bikes. Especially older road bikes that don’t have disc brakes, there isn’t enough room in the brakes or frame for 25mm or 28mm road bike tires.

But even more modern bikes with rim brakes don’t have enough room for wide, wide road bike tires. On the rear wheel in particular, there may be too little space between the tire and the seat tube or between the tire and the rear brake. The widest rims can be found on road bikes with disc brakes.

Why Choose Tubeless Road Bike Wheels?

From mountain biking, tubeless bikes (without tubes) are all the rage. Riding tubeless has many major advantages, and the same goes for road bikes. First, your overall wheelset is a bit lighter because you no longer need tubes.

Another advantage is fewer punctures while cycling. Does it sometimes go wrong? If you have liquid latex in your tires, the holes close automatically! The particles in the latex are sucked into the piercing and hide the leak. You can even continue the cycle during sealing.

Latex can seal holes up to 3 mm in diameter. Are the punctures bigger or are you not using latex? In this case, you can install just one tube, even if you originally used latex in the tire.

Another advantage of going tubeless is the lower rolling resistance of tubeless tires. This is due to the lack of an inner tube.

Finally, you can ride tubeless tires at lower pressures than tubeless tires. Collision will no longer cause punctures. Right now, tubeless riding is mostly seen on gravel bikes, but is slowly making its way to road bikes as well. In recent years, almost all major tire manufacturers have introduced tubeless versions of their popular road bike tires.

Not all road bike wheels can be made tubeless like this. So be sure to check if your future road bike wheels will fit this. This is always mentioned in situations where bicycle wheels suitable for or can be made for tubeless riding. Note the following terms: Tubeless, Tubeless Ready, TLR or Mavic Bicycle Wheel: UST.

Rim brakes or disc brakes

This last point may be self-evident, but when shopping for a new road bike wheel, pay attention to whether you want to use rim brakes or disc brakes. Of course, you know what your road bike has now, but keep the future in mind.

Will you continue to ride with rim brakes? Or does your next road bike have disc brakes? It’s a shame to buy a wheelset for about 2000 euros now and put it away after a year.

You can also opt for a cheap set of wheels and buy a top set of wheels for your new race car with disc brakes. In short; this is an especially important financial consideration now that more and more bikes with disc brakes are available.

Road Bike Wheel Buyer’s Guide – Tips From Our Road Bike Wheel Product Specialist, Niels
To make it easier for you to choose a new set of road bike wheels, our wheel expert has listed his favorites for you.

He was always looking for the ideal combination of price, weight and performance. Still hesitating? Then take a look at all of our road bike wheels for rim brakes or road bike wheels for disc brakes.

If you are looking for a new way of commuting or want a healthier lifestyle, we are here to help you. Visit our website to learn more about electric bikes and electric scooter or please leave information to us.