A fundamental part of your bike, different road wheel types can significantly change the feel of your ride. Whether you are looking to increase your speed and acceleration or want more comfort on longer endurance rides, a wheelset upgrade can make vast improvements to your time in the saddle. 

Benefits of Upgrading Your Road Bike Wheels

Most new road bikes come with a standard set of wheels which are perfectly fine to get you started, but new wheels can be a very cost effective way of improving your ride so they are one of the first things riders will look to upgrade as they improve and want to make more gains. 


If you want to get up the hills faster, lighter road bike wheels will give you more speed with less effort - it’s a win, win! 


Make a breakaway or accelerate from the traffic lights quicker with wheels that are lighter and stiffer. With lighter rims, spokes and hubs and a more solid construction overall you’ll need less energy to get up to speed and gain momentum.


Investing in better quality hub bearings will help to reduce the amount of friction and make turning the wheel easier. 


Investing in better quality hub bearings will help to reduce the amount of friction and make turning the wheel easier. 

Clincher, Tubular or Tubeless Wheels - which are best?


Clincher wheels are the most popular and common type of wheelset. The wheel rim is shaped with an edge that holds a beaded tyre in place and an inner tube is inflated between the rim and the tyre. Clincher rims are easy to fit and quick to change in the event of a puncture, but they can be a bit heavier than Tubular and Tubeless wheels. 


Tubular wheels are the choice of road cycling professionals and racing teams. The system works by sewing the tube into the tyre itself and then gluing it to the rim of the wheel. This creates a much lighter wheel that has good acceleration and momentum. However, getting a puncture with a tubular wheel can mean a long walk home as they are not easy to fix or replace, unless of course you are lucky enough to have a support vehicle with new tubular wheels to hand!


Tubeless wheels are similar to a clincher wheel but instead of using an inner tube, the tyre creates a seal around the rim and air is pumped directly into the crevasse, along with a special sealant that will self heal any puncture holes as they happen. Tubeless wheels are a good choice if punctures or pinch flats are a problem for you and as more product development emerges on the market these wheels are improving all of the time. However, tubeless wheels can be a bit difficult to fit and they sometimes carry a bit more weight on the rim. 

Things to Consider When Upgrading Your Bike Wheels


The rim is the circular frame of a wheel that is usually made out of aluminum or lightweight carbon. Depending on the type of wheel (clincher, tubeless or tubular) the rim will be shaped to support a particular type of tyre.


Deep section rims can slice through the air and reduce drag, offering the best aerodynamic performance. However, reaching as much as 82mm in depth, really deep rims can be a bit heavier and harder to control in cross winds so are better suited to time trial riding rather than long and hilly endurance rides.


Carbon rims are the way to go if you really want to reduce the weight of your bike and with huge advances in carbon wheel construction in recent years they are stronger and stiffer than ever before meaning more control and durability.


The hub sits at the centre of the wheel and consists of an axle with bearings to allow the wheel to rotate. High quality hubs usually have better bearings which are lighter and create less friction.


If you have cup and cone bearings, a sealed cartridge bearing system is also a good upgrade to help protect the moving parts from dirt and debris and keep maintenance to a minimum. Look out for ceramic bearings too as these offer a super smooth ride.


The rear freehub will need to be compatible with your rear cassette and if you want really responsive wheel rotation opt for a rear hub with a higher number of pawls.


The spokes provide structural support between the hub and the rim of the wheel and the number of spokes can significantly affect the wheel’s weight and performance.


A higher spoke count with a criss-cross spoke lacing pattern will mean a stiffer, stronger wheel which is robust and reliable; great if you are riding long distances or regularly travelling on poor quality roads. However, more spokes also equals more weight and cross spokes aren’t very aerodynamic so if speed is important to you, you might want to consider a wheel with fewer spokes and without the stiff cross lacing. Some wheels are also starting to use blade spokes to reduce drag and so improve the aerodynamic performance of the wheel even more.

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