Assuming you have a decent frame,wheels are the most effective upgrade you can make, offering the greatest real-world gains in any chosen area, whether you want to achieve an aerodynamic advantage, climb faster, increase comfort or decrease weight.
If you’re aiming to race, commute, crack your first century or just get more from your riding, there’s sure to be something here to suit your needs. From bespoke handbuilt beauties to big-name factory offerings, they’ve all been put through their paces.
The majority have aerodynamic features, with a variety of rim depths, aero spokes and wind-cheating hubs, and alongside these generally narrow wheels are some wider rim designs, claiming to offer increased stability, comfort and durability. Spoke patterns also vary, from minimal to artistic, with different levels of comfort and functionality.
How we tested
Before using them, pls checked all the wheels for trueness (side-to-side movement when spinning) and roundness. A rating of ‘perfect’ indicates less than 0.25mm total error from exactly true or round. A wheel with less than 0.5mm error was rated ‘excellent’; less than 0.75mm error ‘good’ and less than 1.0mm ‘fair’.
You also rated the hubs for how much adjustment they needed when new, and measured the spoke tension before use. ‘Perfect’ indicates appropriately high tension that’s very even round the wheel; ‘good’ means high tension with some unevenness. A rating of ‘fair’ or less would have us reaching for the spoke key. After putting in the same distance riding each pair we took all the measurements again.
Flexible wheels can rob you of speed and cause the rim to rub on the brake blocks under power. To test for acceleration you can carried out a series of ‘lamppost sprints’ – a test involving sprinting from one lamppost to another (the clue’s in the name!), starting at 15mph, to see which set of wheels felt quickest and easiest to wind up to speed.
You can performed the tests with equally fully inflated tyres for all the wheels, because tyres can effectively shrink the overall diameter of the wheel, which results in the reduction of spoke tension.
Despite meting out a sound thrashing, we didn’t suffer a single puncture, and the Black Chili rubber compound proved tenaciously grippy. When testing was complete, the wheels were again checked by our mechanic to see how they had fared throughout the process.