How to Select & Buy Road Bicycle Wheels

How to Select & Buy Road Bicycle Wheels
Bicycle wheels can be confusing pieces of equipment for new riders and seasoned racers alike. The sheer vastness of choices and continuously changing technology makes choosing wheels difficult. But there's no need to cache in your 1976 Raleigh for a bus ticket. With a little knowledge, choosing wheels can be a rewarding experience.


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Determine the appropriate wheel design and materials for your bike. If you ride a full-suspension mountain bike, you'll probably want to look into beefy aluminum wheels. Racers, on the other hand, can find ultralight carbon fiber and butter-slick aerodynamic designs to get that extra edge over the pack, but bike-path cyclists may find these wheels too finicky and fragile for their tastes. If your riding style is more laid-back, you'll be able to find simple, cost-effective aluminum wheels that require minimum maintenance.
Step 2
Choose the right size wheel for your bike. Most full-size road and mountain bikes use wheels 700mm in diameter with widths starting at 23mm. These measurements are noted as 700x23c and are most commonly seen on racing road bikes. Some time-trial bikes use wheels 650mm in diameter, or 650x23c. Many casual road rides can accommodate wheels 700x25c. Check your owner's documentation to determine the correct wheel size for your bike.
Step 3
Familiarize yourself with every feature of a wheel before you buy it. Aside from design specifics such as aero spokes, carbon fiber rims and the like, you'll find many wheels offer features that can only be described as personal preference. For example, many racing road wheels only accept tubular or sewn tires--a feature that requires extra tire repair skills to manage flats and tire changes. Or you may happen on a mountain wheel that is designed for tubeless tires. By all means buy these designs if you prefer them, but be sure your wheel meets your expectations.
Step 4
Factor cost into your final determination. Nice features such as tubular rims, aerodynamic designs and low spoke counts can be great advantages to a racer, but they are generally too costly to bother adding to a casual riding setup. Determine if the extra cost of a particular feature is worth the few seconds it may take off your time-trial time. And of course, if you don't care about time trials, choose a simple wheel that will give you years of trouble-free riding at minimal expense.

Tips & Warnings

Your bike's documentation may specify a wheel size in inches. If you have trouble finding the correct size in the metric-strewn cycling world, ask for help at your local qualified cycle shop.

Article Written By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson earned his Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from The Ohio University. He has been a professional writer since 2008, specializing in outdoors content and instruction. Johnson's poetry has appeared in such publications as "Sphere" and "17 1/2 Magazine."

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