Which Wheels Should I Have for My Road Bike? Wheels Buying Guide

Wheels are one of the best upgrades for your racing bike. Very nice, you will think, but which bike wheelset should your racing bike have? Wheel sets for the race bike vary greatly in price. From a few hundred euros for a nice decent starter set to thousands of euros for the high-end carbon bike wheelset. Read our wheel buying guide for tips and advice .


My colleague Niels described in a recent  blog post that you should pay attention to when purchasing a new wheel set. This decision aid focuses on differences between bike wheelset in the technical field. For this buying guide we choose a different approach.

Zipp 303

The Zipp 303 bike wheelset is seen as a good all-round wheelset that you can use well on both flat and hilly terrain.

Which wheel suits you best is mainly determined by what you want to do with it. We have therefore divided wheels into four categories. The four categories require wheels with certain properties, and we describe these properties in this buying guide.

Wheels as a good upgrade for standard wheels

  •        Climber wheels
  •        Aerodynamic wheels
  •        Training or winter wheels


This is only a rough layout. There is a lot of overlap between the different categories. For example, there are wheel sets that are used by one cyclist as climber wheels for the mountains, while others use them only on the dikes throughout the year.

First upgrade

Many bikes are sold with not too good wheels. Manufacturers do this in order to save costs and in this way sell the best possible bicycle for as little money as possible. The fact that this often saves on the wheels is actually very unfortunate.


The quality of the wheels is often not in proportion to the quality of the frame and the group set. And that while especially the weight and stiffness of a wheel have a lot of influence on the riding behavior of a bicycle.


The wheels of well-known brands such as Vision, Mavic, Fulcrum and DT Swiss are generally lighter and stiffer than standard wheels and therefore a good upgrade for standard wheels. With these better wheels the bike will noticeably better ride.

Which wheels are the right upgrade depends on the budget and the bike where the wheels will be placed. Generally, the better the material of which the wheels are made, the lighter and stiffer the wheel set, but also the more expensive.

Below a number of wheels that are better than most wheels that are standard in a bike and therefore a very good first upgrade.

Climber wheel

With a climber wheel, two things are very important, namely stiffness and low weight. It is important to note that not every wheel brakes equally well. The ideal climber wheel is made entirely of carbon. This is because carbon has two enormous advantages. It is lighter and stiffer than aluminum.

However, it also has disadvantages. That is in the braking edge and the danger of overheating of the rim. Carbon is a material that rubber brake pads have less grip on than on aluminum.


Many manufacturers have found a solution to this – due to different techniques on the brake rim and adapted brake pads. Despite that, the braking power of carbon wheels is still not as good with some brands as with an aluminum brake ring, especially in the rain. In addition, there is the danger of overheating.

Aerodynamic wheel

The category of high wheels is the category where wheels make the biggest difference. That has everything to do with the aerodynamic advantage you achieve with these wheels. The larger the surface of a rim, the less air resistance the wheel has and thus the more aerodynamic the wheel.

This sounds contradictory. How can a larger surface produce less air resistance? This has everything to do with checking the air flow. The higher the rim, the better the airflow can be controlled.


A higher rim therefore provides less air resistance than a low rim. This is also the reason why the aerodynamic advantage of these wheels is noticeable at a higher speed.


The advantage of high wheels is unmistakably the aerodynamic advantage at higher speeds. The disadvantage of a higher rim, however, is that it weighs more than a low rim and is much less stable in case of strong gusts of wind. Which sheet height is ideal depends very much on the use.

In hilly terrain, wheels with a rim height of about 30 – 40 mm often have the optimum ratio between weight and aerodynamic advantage. In flat terrain, where the weight is less important, a high rim of more than 60mm is ideal.


The high rim, however, makes the bike difficult to steer and unstable in a lot of wind. A wheel with a rim height of around 50 mm is therefore ideal for all-round use. These wheels are generally not too heavy, the aerodynamic advantage is noticeable and the wind sensitivity is very acceptable.