Need advice on buying wheels for a roadbike.

What should I concerned with other than they need to be round?

I am a recreational ride. The bike frame is steel.

First thing to do is check the rim size. Most road bikes are 622mm; this size is also called 700c. Some smaller road bikes may be 571mm (650c), and older bikes may have other oddball sizes.

Next important thing is the width. Most modern road bikes come with 700x23 (i.e. 700c rim, 23mm wide tire) or possibly 700x21. Depending on the frame and fork clearance, you may be able to fit wider tires. Wider tires are more comfortable (better shock absorption), but have more air resistance. Difference in rolling resistance is debatable; narrow tires with high pressure rolls better on a perfectly smooth road, but wider tires may roll better on rougher roads.

I guess the next most obvious parameter is wire bead vs. “folding” tires. The “bead” is edge of the tire that fits into the rim; folding tires have kevlar bead, and are lighter. If you don’t care too much about weight, and don’t need to carry the tire as a spare, save your money and get a wire bead tire.

Some tires have Kevlar or similar protective layer under the rubber. They do seem to offer some protection from flats.

Tread pattern is important for cars, but it doesn’t matter at all on a road bike. That’s because a bicycle tire has a round cross-section, so it cuts through water rather than riding on top of it (hydroplaning). The only useful function of tread pattern is as a wear indicator (i.e. if the tire is perfectly smooth to begin with, it’s hard to tell if the tire is worn down or not.)

Regarding hydroplaning, I think that’s more a function of speed than of tire shape. Motorcycle tires have a round cross section, and yet they will hydroplane.

depends what you’re looking for, the higher end wheels would be the 700c, older steel commuter bikes are 27inch… mountain bikes 26inch

go for aluminium over steel rims if you can.

Spoke count, spoke composition, braking surface?

Front wheels can be radially laced, saving weight. Back wheel may be 3-cross on both sides or 2-cross on the non-drive-in side.

Spokes can be butted (thinner in the center, thicker toward the hub and rum). That makes for a smoother ride.

What type of casette you’re running on the back wheel/what rear derailleur. If you’re a Campignolo dude, your choices may be limited. The number of speeds, epecially for an older bike with fewer speeds, may mean different spacing between the dropouts.

You may see ceramic-coated rims. They make for a great braking surface, but they’re more expensive and the ceramic coating can wear with time or heavy use.

If you are under 200 lbs, then there are lots of choices for wheels, some of them very exotic and expensive (light, lower air drag) If you are heavier than that (Known as a Clydesdale or Athena, depending on plumbing configuration) then you might be better served by traditional wheels, which are the economical choice in any case.

Good wheels are “hand built” meaning mostly that a skilled worker tensions, trues the wheel, and stress relieves the spokes. In some cases an initial rough truing will be done by machine, and the wheel touched up by a human. This is fine, and an economical way to do it.

The cheapest wheels will be machine built. The spokes are usually installed by cheap hand labor, and the truing is done on a machine. The older/cheaper truing machines do not tension the spokes sufficiently. The spokes tend to loosen and/or break with use, and the wheels don’t remain very true.

A decent bike mechanic can tension and stress relieve such a wheel in 10-20 minutes when new and unridden and make a decent wheel out of it. Note that underlined bit. Once the wheel has been ridden a while with inadequate tension, fatigue cracks will have started at the spoke elbows, and it will never be a decent wheel.

In any case you want aluminum rims for decent wet weather braking, and light weight. There are lots of options, and mostly it is about trading off strength vs. weight. Decent hubs do not cost a lot more than the cheap garbage, but you can spend a ton of money if you want the newest, lightest thing. The various manufacturers make several lines, and the second or third “best” line is often the most bang for the buck IME.


Hydroplaning is a function of tire pressure. At 27 psi, a car tire will just hydroplane at around 60 mph. A 80psi road bicycle tire will never hydroplane in any foreseeable circumstance.cite

Tires CAN slide on wet smooth surface such as street car rails, or even lane markings or crosswalk stripes. That is a different thing than hydroplaning.

I just went through this and got another pair of Mavic Kysrium Elites. I talked to a lot of people, and this seems to be a great wheel for the price. And my previous ones served my very well. My guess is that Mavic’s line beneath the Elite would be an equally good value. Once you get above that into racing wheels, all bets are off.

For recreational rider you’re not likely to notice any difference between wheels. What you want is something durable that will stay true. I would ask at your Local Bike Shop.

In addition to the great advice already here, make sure your existing brakes can reach the rims and engage properly. A buddy of mine recently replaced his wheelset; he was able to adjust the front pads OK, but in back he needed to replace the whole brake with something of a longer reach (the pads were rubbing his tire).

Thanks for the tire info. I didn’t know any of that at all.

What can you tell me about the wheel/rim? The part with the spokes, hub and such?

Probably weight…type of spokes (i think there are blade spokes which seem aerodynamic).

What else should i worry about?

Re: bladed spokes (and dished rims, for that matter) if you ridea lot in a windy area, you will not appreciate how a crosswind affects your stability. I think they are more expensive as well, and not sure you will notice the difference.

What is your price range?

If I were looking for a set of road wheels for general recreational riding, I’d consider something likethis. Good quality hubs, good rims, standard 3 cross lacing pattern. These will last for years.

When I upgraded the wheels on my Cannondale it made a huge difference particularly on high sipped descents.

Not to hijack the thread, but hydroplaning is a function of several factors, not just tire pressure. Regarding the cite, this statement is incorrect: “Commercial aircraft, and especially motorcycles, demonstrate that a round cross section tire, like the bicycle tire, has an ideal shape to prevent hydroplaning.” (Emphasis mine)

While the rounded cross-section may reduce hydroplaning, it does not prevent it. I ride motorcycles with rounded tires, and I have hydroplaned on them. That is a fact.

It’s simply not an issue on a bicycle.