5 Apr 2016


There are a huge selection of bicycle wheels out there so how do you choose the right one for training, racing and the hills?

The importance of wheel selection can’t be understated; there’s a saying that rotational weight is worth twice that of stack weight. Whether that’s precisely accurate, we’ll leave for the physicists to debate but it’s certainly true that there are wheels to suit your every cycling need, whether that’s training, racing the flats of Belgian or ascending the Alps. And which one you choose should come down to the following considerations…

Lukas Postberger and his Bora-Argon 18 team know the importance of the right wheels for the right conditions

Rim material
This is where the greatest differences between wheels exist, morphing a durable workhorse into an attractive thoroughbred. You’ll find that rims are either constructed from aluminum, carbon or a mix of the two.

A wheel such as the Vision Tech Team 30 features an alloy composition and is designed for training or as an entry-level race wheelset. That compares to the stealth-like Metron 81, constructed from swathes of carbon and intended for racing.

What’s the difference? Well, primarily weight. In essence, carbon is stronger than aluminum and much lighter, calculations suggesting 30% lighter for the same strength characteristics. That’s why though many riders use carbon rims in training, they’re the number one choice when it comes to racing.

You can see this difference in the case of the Team 30s and the Metron 81s, the former coming in at a still-lightweight 1,920g for the pair compared to 1,550g for the Metron 81s. And that’s despite the latter featuring much deeper rims.

A very popular choice of deep-section race wheels, the Metron 81 is lightweight, stiff, fast-rolling and available in tubular or clincher specification

Rim depth
Race any sportive and you’ll notice a plethora of different rim depths populating the peloton, but broadly speaking you can characterize rims into: shallow section, mid section and deep section.

Shallow-section rims, like the Vision Tech Trimax TC24 (as the name suggests, it features a 24mm-deep rim), provide a great strength-to-weight ratio and a very comfortable ride. They’re great for technical courses and hills as their weight is minimal – in the case of the TC24s, just 1,300g per pair.

Mid-section rims, like that featured on the Metron 55 (55mm deep), offer you a significant aerodynamic advantage but still at a light weight (1,520g). That’s why they’re so versatile, maximizing your speed on the flat but also moving swiftly on descents, climbs and accelerations. Because the rim has a greater ‘moment’ than the hub, it’s vital that the rim is lightweight when it comes to accelerations. That’s why this is often the choice for sprinters who need to hit top speed in the blink of an eye but still want an aerodynamic hit.

Finally, we have deep-section rims. Let’s go back to the Metron 81s. That 81mm-deep mould of carbon literally sails through the air, maximizing speed from the power you generate. Riding on these is an experience like no other, especially on the flats where they’re most at home. That said, a pair like the 81s can cope with mountains thanks to the technological material employed, which keeps weight down to just 1,550g.

Other factors to consider when choosing wheels include spoke configuration. A wheel like the Metron 81 employs a radial formation upfront and outback for greater strength. You’ll notice that the 21 spokes on a wheel of this quality have a 2:1 ratio on the rear wheel, meaning 14 on the driveside and seven on the non-drive side. This is because of the extra weight and force emanating from the hub. In general, shallower rims require more spokes to maintain strength so, for instance, you’ll find a 20/24 mix on the TC24s. Bladed spokes will often be used on aerodynamic, deeper-rim wheels to reduce drag even further.

Hubs are at the centre of the rear wheel and contain axle and bearings. Higher-quality hubs often feature superior bearings for more efficient rolling. In the Vision Tech range, the freehub body caters for Shimano and Campagnolo 10- or 11-speed cassettes.

Tubulars or clinchers?
Clinchers are by far the most popular wheel because they’re far more convenient to change if you puncture. That’s because the tire sits within the rim with an inner tube inside. On tubulars (or tubs), the tire is glued to the rim, dispensing for the need of a bead set, meaning the wheels are lighter – the Metron 81 tubs are 380g lighter than the clincher version. You can also inflate them higher due to that lack of bead seat, which some tests show results in a faster ride. Mind you, too high a psi and the ride can become uncomfortable. Check out our feature about Tubulars and Clinchers here. Whatever wheels you choose and wherever you go, make sure you’re prepared for fixing punctures and enjoy your ride!