A new set of wheels improves cycling performance and the visual appeal of a bike. When you upgrade from factory-installed wheels, you will typically reduce the weight of the wheels, enable better handling, function more aerodynamically, and the wheels will be stronger. Before upgrading, examine your needs, desires and budget.
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Decide what improvements you want. If you want to race, you need light, aerodynamic wheels. If the old wheels are unattractive, shop for low spoke wheels with coloured rims. If the wheels give a harsh ride, steel and carbon, instead of aluminium, may enhance the ride.
Decide what tire size to put on new wheels. Wheels fit only a certain range of tire widths, so ensure that wheel and tire are a match.
Calculate your budget. Wheels range from less than £32 to more than £650. Price increases as wheels get lighter, materials improve and durability increases. When upgrading a bike, wheels should get the majority of the budget because they make the greatest improvement in the ride.
Read online reviews for the brands and models of different wheels. The big names in wheels are Mavic, Bontrager, Neuvation, Ritchey, Campagnolo and Easton. Read user reviews that match your riding style. For example, if you race, don't bother with the reviews from the commuters.
Read professional reviews. These reviews test very specific aspects of wheel performance and durability and provide insights into brand reputation. "Bicycling Magazine" has an annual review issue as well as wheel reviews throughout the year.
Visit your local bike shop. The mechanics and salespeople will help you with your final choice. Check the bike shop's return policy. Many reputable shops will give you 30 days to test a purchase and return if you don't like them.
Tips and warnings
- Ask friends, local racing teams and cycling clubs what wheels they like and dislike.
- Campagnolo wheels will only fit Campagnolo components and bikes. Exceptions are rare.
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