Refurbing an old Raleigh Arena GT and these wheels are perfect for the price. Commuting every day and no complaints yet!
Refurbing an old Raleigh Arena GT and these wheels are perfect for the price. Commuting every day and no complaints yet!Close review
Whether you are upgrading or replacing, a new set of wheels is the best way to improve the performance of your road bike. Lighter wheels will enable you to accelerate quicker and climb faster, stiffer wheels will improve cornering stability while aero wheels reduce drag, so you can slice through the air faster.
With different types of road bike wheel available, not all road bike wheels will be compatible with your bike. In this road bike wheel guide, we will look at the different wheel options to help you choose the perfect new 700c wheelset for your bike.
Wheels that are designed for rim brake are the traditional road bike wheels. These wheels are easily identified by the flat braking surface on the edge of the rim. This is usually a different colour and/or texture to the rest of the rim. Traditional rim brake wheels have a 100mm wide front hub and a 130mm wide rear hub. These wheels are all compatible with QR or quick release road bike axle skewers.
Disc brake wheels don’t need a braking track, so the rim has a continuous profile. Instead disc brake wheels have special hubs that the discs are mounted on. There are two types of mounting for disc rotors: six bolt wheel hubs have, as the name suggests, six holes that the disc bolts into, centre lock hubs have a ridged spindle that the disc slots into. While the front hub is the same width on both disc and rim brake wheels, the rear hub is wider at 135mm or 142mm for thru axle wheels.
While some disc brake wheels use traditional quick release skewers, many disc brake wheels use wider bolt-through (thru) axles. Thru axles improve the stiffness of the bike which is especially important for disc brakes as the braking forces are applied much closer to the axle. Thru axles on road bikes are usually 12mm in diameter with a rear hub width of 142mm. Quick release and thru axles are not compatible with each other, so it is important that you choose the correct type for your bike.
Most road bike wheels are clinchers. This means that the tyre grips the inside edge of the rim for a secure attachment when inflated. Traditional clinchers require an inner tube to stay inflated. Tubeless wheels are very similar to traditional clinchers but have an airtight seal over the spoke holes with a valve attached to the rim for inflating the tyre. Tubeless sealant is then added to the tyre to improve the airtight seal as well as automatically repairing punctures. Tubeless wheels can be used with regular inner tubes by simply removing the valve and sealant then fitting an inner tube. Tubular wheels are different and use special tyres that have an inner tube built in. These are the tyres that most pro riders use, but as the tyre is glued to the rim they are not practical for general cycling.
The free hub is the part of the rear wheel that holds the cassette. There are two basic types on road bikes: HG (Hyper Glide) free hubs are the most common and are compatible with both Shimano and SRAM drivetrains, Capagnolo free hubs are only compatible with Campagnolo drivetrains. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule however: some gravel bikes, with one-by drivetrains, use mountain bike style XD cassettes, and some top-of-the range groupsets may also be different.
Lightweight wheels are the best for climbing, but are still built strong enough for fast descending. Aero wheels, with deep section rims are a little heavier but slice through the air more efficiently so are best for rides that don’t have too many climbs. If you ride on rough surfaces then a more durable, endurance or cyclocross wheelset will give you a more confident feel and will last longer.
When you choose your new wheels, don't forget the extras you might need to go with them. If everything's compatible, you can of course re-use your existing QR skewers or bolt-through axles, but you might want to upgrade at the same time. Not all wheels come with rim tape to line the wheels with, so you might need to buy this as well. If you are upgrading to tubeless wheels, then you will need to buy tubeless sealant along with tubeless compatible tyres. Most tubeless wheels are supplied with valves and are ready taped.
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