How to Select Bicycle Wheels for the Road

Written by rocco pendola
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How to Select Bicycle Wheels for the Road
Riding style dictates wheel choice. (bicycle wheel image by Horticulture from

A complete bicycle wheel consists of a rim, spokes, a hub (the piece in the centre where the spokes attach) and a tire and tube. For most road riders, the major consideration when selecting bicycle wheels for the road involves the size of the wheel and tire. The application you go with is usually determined by your bike, budget and style of riding.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    Determine the type of wheel that works with your bike. There are several classes of road bikes, or bikes meant to be ridden on pavement. Race-style road bikes (think Lance Armstrong) usually accept wheels that use 700x23 or 700x25 tires. These are the narrow ones with no or little tread. Hybrid bikes (think commuters) generally use wheels that comfortably accomodate 700x28 or 700x32 tires. The first number refers to the diameter. The second number indicates tire width, both in millimetres.

    How to Select Bicycle Wheels for the Road
    This guy needs narrow tires. (bike race image by jeancliclac from
  2. 2

    Think about how you ride. If you favour speed and efficiency, you should go with a race wheel and narrow 700x23 or 700x25 tires. If you want a wider tire, which, according to the late bicycle expert Sheldon Brown, will be more comfy, opt for a hybrid wheel and 700x28 or 700x32 tires. Pick something with a little tread if you don't mind being slower, but want to minimise how much you feel every bump and pothole. Norms can be broken here. Hybrid bikes can usually take a race wheel set-up and vice versa.

    How to Select Bicycle Wheels for the Road
    This guy is not concerned with performance. (bike image by Byron Moore from
  3. 3

    Go to a bike shop. Bring your bicycle and ask for advice. Of course, you can shop online or make a selection in-store without assistance. But if you are a casual rider or a novice, speak to an expert to make sure you are getting the best set-up--performance and cost-wise.

    How to Select Bicycle Wheels for the Road
    Find your way to a bike shop for help. (bike lane image by Barcabloo from
  4. 4

    Take it for a test ride. You might have to live with the wrong choice for some time, as most retailers will not take back used wheels and tires. Trial and error is OK, though. It is part of making your bike perfect for how you use it. The most common mistake: Novice cyclists are scared of narrow tires so they go wide in pursuit of extra stability. The result is a slow ride. If you can't drop 4.54 Kilogram, the next best thing is getting narrow wheels. They will handle just fine, and you won't get passed on the bike path quite as much.

Tips and warnings

  • For a good set of wheels suitable for commuting and fitness riding on the road, expect to pay £97 to £195. Tires cost from £13 to £39 each. A puncture-resistant tire is usually £22 to £32.

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