10 Reasons to Upgrade your Wheels

Road bike wheels are available in numerous different designs these days. It’s as though the only commonality between them can be found in their round shape -and even Zipp is seemingly trying to do something about that with the new Zipp 454 NSW wheelset! Few components can change the look and feel of a bike as much as a new set of wheels. Read our ten reasons why you should upgrade your wheels.

Not only does a new set of hoops give your bike a new, clean look, but they often cause your bike to ride differently (and better, hopefully) as well. We’ve made a list of 10 reasons why you should invest in a pair of nice new wheels for your pride and joy!

1: Better than the Basics

New bikes -be they in the highest price classes or the lowest- usually come with relatively inferior wheels. Manufacturers offer a great frame spec’ed with great components, but then often cut corners when it comes to fitting a set of wheels.

They do so to keep the overall costs of the bike down, enabling them to offer a sharper deal. Besides, everyone has their own tastes when it comes to wheels!

Trek Madone 2016
Lets face it: a bike like this deserves a set of deep section wheels!

Upgrading your wheels can really bring your bike to life. Swapping out the low, heavy box-section hoops for a pair of lightweight climbing wheels or a set of deep section carbon rims can completely transform your ride.

Corners which once felt fine will now feel great. Climbs which used to be a challenge will become noticeably easier. New wheels allow you to unlock the full potential of both your bike and yourself.

2: Personalise your bike and get the perfect look!

We said it before: wheels are one of those components which are largely a matter of personal taste. One might want a set of deep section full carbon clinchers to go with their aero frame, whereas the other might want a set of shallow, understated aluminium lightweight wheels to go with their climbing steed.

If you really want to stand out, you definitely need to take a look at Corima! Whatever it is you’re after, it’s your chance to really give your bike a personal touch.

corima racefiets wielen nibali giro
Bold but beautiful: Vincenzo Nibali’s bike at the start of the 2016 Giro D’Italia.

3: Weight down? Speed up!

A lighter wheelset can significantly alter your climbing- and acceleration performance. Getting yourself a lighter set of wheels can really help your time up a climb, and make it feel just that little bit better.

racefiets wielen
This is where every gram counts!

4: Aerodynamics: cut through the air

Regular wheels often have little to no aerodynamic features. A set of deep-section wheels can make a noticeable difference in a time trial, criterium, or even in the pursuit of your next KOM on your local training ride.

Mantel Carbon clincher racefiets wielen
Our 50 mm Mantel Carbon Clinchers allow you to cut through the wind!

Most deep section rims used to have a sharp V-shape, but these days manufacturers are producing a rounder, fuller U-shape instead.

Just check out the new wheelsets by Zipp, Mavic, or even our own Mantel Carbon Clinchers. The rounded design reduces turbulence, thereby also lowering aerodynamic drag.

5: Higher efficiency: more speed with the same power

Basic wheels often have a relatively high spoke count which makes them fairly robust. The spoke tension isn’t always very high however, and the materials used not the strongest or most durable. This makes the wheels a little flexible, something which you notice under power, during climbs, or while cornering.

A set of proper wheels is often stiffer, making your bike feel considerably more lively. This makes climbing or accelerating easier, and cornering feel more confident.

Deeper rims are often more rigid as well compared to their shallower counterparts. This has to do with the shorter required spoke length, meaning there’s less of the spoke to bend under power.

Fulcrum Racing Zero NITE hub mantel

Better wheels often come with better hubs. These hubs are lighter, stiffer, and often feature better bearings. This means the wheels spin more freely, and you lose less power as a result.

The seals on these hubs are also often better, meaning your smoother bearings will last longer and require less maintenance as well.

6: Comfort: you’re getting a better ride

We’re hearing you think: great, stiffer wheels… but won’t that make my bike very uncomfortable? Fortunately, not really: most standard wheels have fairly narrow rims. The current trend is leaning more towards wider tyres of 25 or even 28 mm wide.

The old-style rims are too narrow internally to properly seat those tyres, making them balloon on top of the rim. This definitely doesn’t help your bike’s handling.

Continental Grand Prix 4-season.
32 mm isn’t uncommon these days during the winter months!

The latest generation of rims have a wider internal size of between 17 and 20 mm, making wider tyres fall onto the rim better. A wider tyre has the same rolling resistance at a lower pressure as a skinny tyre would at a higher pressure.

The lower tyre pressure means more imperfections in the road surfaced are filtered out, reducing fatigue and improving your comfort.

7: New year, new gear!

We can come up with excuses all days long, but ultimately most of us ride their bikes because they love doing so. There’s nothing wrong with spending a little money on something you love.

Our bikes are one of our most prized possessions, and a pair of new hoops can be a huge boost to morale. Not only are you getting yourself the latest tech, but your bike looks even faster as well!

Be honest: when have you ever shrugged your shoulders indifferently at a new bike, wheels, groupset, or even something as simple as a couple of brightly coloured bolts or sleek bottle cages?

Right. We all enjoy personalising our rides and upgrading them to our idea of perfection. That in and of itself is a great reason to just go for it!

8: Spare parts: components to keep your wheels going strong

Most of the basic wheelsets that come with a bike have little to no spare parts available. Has the body worn out? Broken spoke? Bearings need replacing? Don’t just expect a replacement part to be available! Better wheels often come with more spare parts available after purchase.

Hopefully you won’t go through quite as many!

A new body, a couple of spokes to fix your wheel after a crash, or a new rim should you really need it; you can still do a lot to try and save a wheel!

9: Maximum rider weight: the strongest and biggest riders can have at it!

This one works from the same premisse as our point on efficiency. Virtually all wheels come with a maximum recommended rider weight. Basic wheels aren’t always suitable for the power of the biggest and strongest riders.

An upgrade could then allow you to enjoy your bike without having to worry about your wheels. Tear up the road, rather than your spokes!

Dream of sprinting like Cavendish or Greipel?

Different brands use different weight restrictions. The DT Swiss R32 Spline wheels can handle riders up to 130 kg for instance. Most FFWD wheels can take either 100 or 120 kg, depending on the model.

A large number of Mavic wheels are suitable for cyclists up to 120 kg. Whichever brand you prefer, make sure you check the maximum rider weight to see whether the wheels are up to the job.

10: Tubeless: a steady trend in cycling

Granted, this doesn’t apply to all available wheelsets, but it’s too interesting to not at least mention it. We used to have two options as roadies: the expensive and hard to replace tubulars, or the classic clincher with its inner tube.

The current generation of tyres and latex inner tubes gets pretty close to tubulars when it comes to performance, and they allow most of us to race around on them quickly and happily. Most of the pros use regular clinchers for training as well, as they’re easier to repair on the side of the road than a tubular tyre. After all, you can’t have a mechanics car behind you all the time!

Mountain biking has brought over a new system however: tubeless tyres. These are airtight clinchers which don’t need an inner tube and are filled with a little liquid latex designed to plug any leaks should you nick or cut your tyre. The rolling resistance is supposed to be lower as well, as there’s no inner tube to deform any more.

upgrade your wheels

Though not all rims are suitable for tubeless tyres, we do see more and more manufacturers are starting to offer tubeless-compatible wheels. Brands such as Zipp, Fulcrum, and DT Swiss have started to produce tubeless versions of their most popular wheelsets.

This allows you to try out some new tech without having to buy a completely new bike. If you want to give disc brakes a chance for instance, you’ll have to buy an entirely different bike suitable for disc brakes.

Tubeless wheels don’t demand any changes to your bike other than the tyres. This makes relatively new systems such as this one available to the masses more easily.

More information on converting to run tubeless tyres can be found in this blog.

More suggestions?

That’s it! Our 10 reasons to upgrade your wheels. Have we forgotten something, or do you have more great reasons to change your wheels? Let us know in the comments below.

Bart van Es

Bart van Es

My heart stilll lies with my boat, though it's forever being tugged at by the bike. I spend most of my time on or around the water, either as a rower or a coach. However, I'm always up for a blast around the countryside after work with my colleagues! Proud owner of a Giant TCR Composite, and addicted to upgrading it...

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