Wheelsets - the basics?!

by budget mamil   December 15, 2013  

I'm coming from a position of complete ignorance here, so please be patient...

About a year ago I bought a Btwin Road 3 from Decathlon and I have had a wonderful time using it (when family commitments have allowed). I hadn't owned a 'proper' bike for about 20 years so I'm very much behind with the technological developments and was amazed at how much better a ride it was than the old 531 machine my cousin helped me build as a teenager. When I first bought it various people-in-the-know said it was a great value bike but that I'd want new wheels for it. So I'm looking into that now...

The problem is, I have no idea how the current wheels are letting me down or what to look for in new ones - I simply have no experiences of other wheels/bikes to compare them to! I obviously don't want to spend lots of money on such a cheap bike, but I believe a good pair of wheels would enhance the ride.

Please can you give me some advice on good low budget wheelsets, but also explain what sort of improvements I might expect from upgrading?

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First off if you are happy with them why change them? Just because the general view is that wheel upgrades are the first thing to do don't jump in unless you have a reason to want to change. If you are convince you want to change then the next thing to decide is why you want to change them. Are they too heavy? too flexible? not aero enough? won't take the right tires, or even the wrong colour then you might want to look for an alternative. Lots of factors will influence what wheel best suits you. If you are a light weight guy vs a heavy guy a different wheel will suit. If you are a climber, sprinter, tourer, TT specialist, all will point to a different ideal wheel. Of course most of us are more generalists so an all round (no pun intended) wheel will be a good choice. It's really not as simple as someone saying this is a great wheel for me as it might be a terrible wheel for you.
The final consideration is that at the very low cost end you generally get what you pay for but at the top end you get very diminishing returns. There is a whole spectrum opt choice in the mid range and might just come down to how well they match your paint job in the end if you can't narrow down why you want to change the wheels.

posted by paulrbarnard [98 posts]
15th December 2013 - 10:28

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Perhaps if cost is limited just get one at a time. That's what I did.

I got a front wheel built for me, the difference was significant with just a new front wheel and it's the the cheapest one to replace too.

posted by GREGJONES [111 posts]
15th December 2013 - 11:35

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I would get a better frame/bike before considering buying new wheels. It's pointless buying more expensive parts when the frame they are going on might not be the best. in terms of wheels and costs I think the 5/700 price mark is a good range which is based on my own experiences and you can get a very good set of Fulcrum wheels for around 500. I run Mavic Crossmax ST's on the mtb which have been fantastic (great feed back, no flexing under hard corning, fast rolling, strong, very light 1590gm's per pair and UST) and one of the best big purchases I have done.

On the road I still use my standard Mavic Aksium's, I have tried a set of Fulcrum 3's but they did not roll any better than what I have and I would go as far to say they don't even roll as quick as my mtb wheels, considering the tyres is pretty poor. So when I do change my wheels next year I will go for the same price range as my mtb wheels and go for Mavics or Fulcrum 1's.

A work colleague upgraded and only spent a couple of hundred and he doesn't feel he got any noticeable improvement.
Obviously as already stated, you need to know what it is you want them for.

posted by Shep73 [137 posts]
15th December 2013 - 11:48

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Thanks for the wise advice guys. My problem is that without any base for comparison, I've no idea whether they're too heavy, too flexible, not aero enough etc., nor what the difference would feel like to the ride! I'm not particularly bothered about what they look like.

At the moment, I just use my bike for short (a couple of hours - all the time I can snatch) solo rides up and down the Cornish hills. So nothing 'serious' - I'm just trying to keep fit and enjoy the experience.

I guess I'm asking if anyone knows about the wheels the Triban Road 3 comes with, and what are their shortfalls?

It seems the ideal would be to join a club and get some advice from people who ride with me. If only I could make it to my local club's runs! Sad

posted by budget mamil [5 posts]
15th December 2013 - 11:55

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I wouldn't worry about aero unless you are doing TT's or racing at a high level, I know many road cyclists who have sold aero wheels because they feel they don't get on with them, especially in crosswinds. The key points are weight, build quality and what they roll like.

Reading magazines will help you gain knowledge.

posted by Shep73 [137 posts]
15th December 2013 - 12:05

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I suspect the Triban 3 came with generic wheels which are almost certainly very heavy (> 2kg). Given the use (fairly light) and total value of the bike I'd say something like a Fulcrum 5 would be an OK upgrade (probably 300g lighter and pretty good over all for the price).

That said, I'd ride your current wheels to death before I bought anything else. The Triban 3 is a great bike for the money but I wouldn't put £400 wheels on it.

posted by racingcondor [109 posts]
15th December 2013 - 22:55

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Thanks guys, this is very helpful.

posted by budget mamil [5 posts]
16th December 2013 - 8:11

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I have the Triban 3, and unlike most other people, still have the original wheels on. They are not that heavy in comparison to other wheels in the same price bracket, but it did find they needed a bit of love to get them rolling properly as the cones were to tight, and there was basically no grease in them from new.

If your handy with tools, this is really easy to sort out, if not take them to a LBS and have them serviced.

There is a triban forum http://triban3owners.freeforums.net/ that is full of useful advice, but for some reason everyone seems to have changed there wheels to RS10 or RS30's which is fine if you have the money to spend, but in my opinion, as I have said, there is nothing wrong with the stock wheels once they are dialed in properly.

As far as weight is concerned, as I remember they are just a tad over 2kg, and to get any real significant savings on weight you will be spending more that the cost of your bike...for each wheel, and you may save 300-400gm, so about the same as 1/2 a bottle of water.

posted by jason.timothy.jones [289 posts]
16th December 2013 - 9:54

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I've upgraded the oe wheels in a couple of my bikes (road and mtb) and not regretted it - usually you'll get a weight saving and better reliability, and weight saved on wheels is normally something you'd notice.

If you're riding hilly terrain then the logical thing would be to save weight. When I worked in a bike shop we used M-Part wheels from Madison a fair bit - shimano hubs, mavic or DT rims and a good standard of build all for a good price. Worth a look.

I guess the first thing to do is assess what you have on your bike - you could weigh the wheels (the front one anyway as you'd not need to mess about removing cogs) and see what the hubs feel like - are they a recognised brand, do the bearings feel smooth? Are the rims ok on your wheels, can you feel a bump where the rim is joined?

You'd not need to spend megabucks to get an improvement on basic oe wheels and obviously if you do end up getting a better bike in the future you may be able to use them on that too.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
16th December 2013 - 9:59

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Bear in mind you will need to take your cassette off your current wheels and swap it to your new ones, and fit the appropriate spacer if needed. You could take old and new wheel to a lbs and ask them to sort it for you for some cash would be the easiest way. You may have to fiddle with the rear dérailleur to get the gear changes spot on (YouTube will help).

A secondhand set of aksium wheels from eBay or gumtree or wherever would be a decent upgrade, most likely £100 or there abouts. do a quick search on aksiums and your weight to make sure they are ok for your weight. Or a set of wheels built around open pro rims from eBay.

Tyres are also a good upgrade, but then you start upgrading everything!

posted by Charles_Hunter [72 posts]
16th December 2013 - 11:12

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+1 for tyres - cheapest effective upgrade you can make.

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posted by joemmo [774 posts]
16th December 2013 - 13:52

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You guys are really helpful (especially jason.timothy.jones - I'll get on that forum asap)!

I've got a new set of tyres coming for Christmas (4 seasons - I got fed up of falling off going up hill because of my back wheel spinning!) so I'll see how I do with them. And there's a LBS 5 min walk from my house so I'll get them to take a look at my wheels too.

Thanks! Smile

posted by budget mamil [5 posts]
16th December 2013 - 15:23

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i also bought a triban 3 and used it lots until it was nicked. i upgraded my wheels to mavic open pros on tiagra hubs. around £150. bought on the basis of a really good chat with my LBS. i don't think it has to be those specific wheels, but something reliable in that price range. basically it made me realise the bearings are fairly rubbish on the stock triban 3 wheels. it made a lot of difference. so it's not just aero and weight. but with wheels, as the bike is cheap i would recommend it is the best bang for your buck. the rest of the kit on that bike will sustain you for a long time. just my personal experience.

posted by roly [43 posts]
16th December 2013 - 17:30

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Shep73 wrote:
Reading magazines will help you spend more than you need to.

FTFY Wink Most magazines serve their advertisers' needs better than they do that of their readers.

+1 to jason.timothy.jones' post, which I'd say is the most relevant. Don't spend money when you don't need to. GP 4 Season is widely recommended as a great tyre.

I would add that, on top of cleaning and occasional bearing adjustment, decent brake pads (that don't scrub & sandpaper the rims) will extend any wheel's life.

My RS10s were an improvement on the AlexDA22s, though not by a spectacular margin. RS80s (£320) are nicer again but again not life-changing. The claims made by some people on other forums read like purchase justification to me.

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posted by Simon E [1909 posts]
16th December 2013 - 17:30

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Simon E wrote:
Shep73 wrote:
Reading magazines will help you spend more than you need to.

FTFY Wink Most magazines serve their advertisers' needs better than they do that of their readers.

+1 to jason.timothy.jones' post, which I'd say is the most relevant. Don't spend money when you don't need to. GP 4 Season is widely recommended as a great tyre.

I would add that, on top of cleaning and occasional bearing adjustment, decent brake pads (that don't scrub & sandpaper the rims) will extend any wheel's life.

My RS10s were an improvement on the AlexDA22s, though not by a spectacular margin. RS80s (£320) are nicer again but again not life-changing. The claims made by some people on other forums read like purchase justification to me.

Completely agree but it does help reading them to pick up the technology and understand more about it's effects. I didn't have a clue about road riding but reading one magazine in particular has helped along with my road cycling mates and this website.

posted by Shep73 [137 posts]
16th December 2013 - 20:27

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+1 for s/h Aksiums at £100.

I upgraded no-names to those and noticed a significant difference on my bike then went to RS80s and noticed a smaller and more expensive difference.

But before wheels sort tyres. I took nearly 400g off the weight of my bike by swapping out the original wire bead tyres for less than £50 and guess what, they still fit on the new wheels....

posted by Nixster [62 posts]
16th December 2013 - 21:28

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While we're on it, what constitutes 'wheel weight'? I'm assuming it's just rims, hubs and spokes and excludes tape, tyres, tubes, QRs, etc. Yes?

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posted by Swami Dave [48 posts]
16th December 2013 - 23:39

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Wheel weight is typically rims, hubs, spokes and nipples (i.e. excludes QR's and rim tape).

Occasionally you'll also find some manufacturer conveniently forget that the freehub should be included but that sort of thing gets spotted very quickly...

posted by racingcondor [109 posts]
16th December 2013 - 23:48

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On cheap weight savings I'd also add that light tubes are around 60g meaning you can save almost 100g for £12 and light tubes fit in small saddle bags more easily...

posted by racingcondor [109 posts]
16th December 2013 - 23:51

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Left field suggestion. Buy and run tubulars. The rims are lighter, the tyres are lighter, they roll much better, they puncture less than clinchers, and aren't any more expensive.

Most people are terrified of them because they think that changing them is difficult or impossible. I can tell you they are really not any harder to change out on the road.

You don't get snakebite punctures - there is no rim to pinch on.
Modern tubulars have very good puncture resistance - as they call it '360 degree protection'.

You can get loads of info on YouTube. It's what I run for winter and summer : I bought some second hand wheels for £60, and a pair of Vittoria Evo Paves for £70. A spare Vittoria rally for £15 as a spare to take with me. Winter wheels sorted!

posted by edster99 [148 posts]
17th December 2013 - 1:32

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edster99 wrote:
Left field suggestion. Buy and run tubulars. The rims are lighter, the tyres are lighter, they roll much better, they puncture less than clinchers, and aren't any more expensive.

Most people are terrified of them because they think that changing them is difficult or impossible. I can tell you they are really not any harder to change out on the road.

You don't get snakebite punctures - there is no rim to pinch on.
Modern tubulars have very good puncture resistance - as they call it '360 degree protection'.

You can get loads of info on YouTube. It's what I run for winter and summer : I bought some second hand wheels for £60, and a pair of Vittoria Evo Paves for £70. A spare Vittoria rally for £15 as a spare to take with me. Winter wheels sorted!


Not ran tubs but I can say running tubeless on my mtb was one of the best things i did. Surprising what weight you can save and how it effects the steering. And yes I am scared of tubs but that's all going by what others tell me. Although I had exactly the same about UST set ups.

posted by Shep73 [137 posts]
17th December 2013 - 6:05

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