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Racing Bicycle Wheels

No single part of equipment effects your performance on the bike as much as your wheels. A high quality racing wheelset is the most important upgrade you can make to your bicycle. While the sky is the limit as to what you can spend on a high performance wheelset, WesternBikeworks.com is dedicated to providing quality wheels at affordable prices.

Clincher or Tubular?

The first step in buying a wheelset is determining if you will ride tubulars or clinchers. Tubulars are the traditional favorites of racers. Tubular wheels utilize a tire with a tube sewn into the casing; this tire is then glued or taped to the rim. Tubulars offer great ride quality and the lowest possible weight.

Clinchers are the most common type of wheels, utilizing a tire that hooks into the rim with a tube underneath. Recently, the manufacturers of clincher tires have dramatically closed the performance gap between clinchers and tubulars. Clincher wheelsets do incur a slight weight penalty due to the addition of the hooked section of rim. They typically weigh about 200 grams per pair more than equivalent quality tubular wheelsets.

Most performance wheelsets are available as clinchers or tubulars.

Carbon or Aluminum?

The second major choice in buying a wheelset is that of material. Tubular wheels with full carbon rims are what the pros ride. However, high-performance carbon clincher wheelsets are also a big force on the market. These wheels deliver the ride of carbon with the convenience of clinchers.

Aluminum wheels are still very competitive, offerings light weight, durable construction, and more realistic pricing than their carbon counterparts. A durable, lightweight aluminum wheelset fits into most budgets, and will not be out of place on race day.

Tubeless Road

Tubeless MTB systems have been around for several years, but a similar technology for road bikes has taken a bit more time to develop. Shimano and Hutchinson were the first manufacturers to commit to a road tubeless system. Their technology has been well received and we are seeing more manufacturers ride the tubeless wave. Shimano Tubeless and 2-Way Fit wheels by Campagnolo and Fulcrum all accommodate tubeless technology.

Tubeless road wheelsets supposedly offer lower rolling resistance, increased puncture protection and a slight weight savings. The primary drawback is limited availability of tubeless road tires. Rumor has it, though, that more manufacturers will be introducing tubeless tires, so stay tuned.

So what do we ride?

While many of us racers here at WesternBikeworks.com have several wheelsets laying around that get thrown on a bike from time to time, most of us rely on two primary wheelsets: a reliable training wheelset and a pair of race wheels.

For training, reliability is key. It's best to stay on durable, reliable wheels that can keep rolling through rainy winter base miles and all through summer when the BIG rides happen. Look for wheels that can handle the worst roads you can ride over, and can be easily repaired if misfortune does come your way. Ideally, your training wheels will be plenty fast to serve as race wheels in crits and "Roubaix" style races over iffy pavement.

Riders with only one wheelset will enjoy mid-range wheels that may not be the lightest, but add durability. These wheels should stand up to daily use, but not hold you back on race day.

Race wheels generally see action on race day only, and many times only in good conditions. Tubular wheels are still quite common for racing. Look for ultra-lightweight wheels for climbs, with aerodynamic features for extra speed and efficiency on the flats.

At WesternBikeworks.com we realize that not everyone is in the market for a $2,000 pair of race wheels. We are here to help you find a wheelset that suits your needs at the best price possible. Feel free to contact us at 1-800-651-4050 or [email protected] with any questions regarding your next wheelset.