Buying Guide

List of The Best Bike Rims In 2022

Bikes are inherently simplistic in design, but they can become complicated once you start looking at bike replacement parts and upgrades. With such a range of components, there’s tons to know before investing your money – bicycle rims, bicycle tires, handles bars (stem), pedals (clips), suspension (shock absorbers), saddles (seats) etc. Hopefully this bike mechanics guide will give you all the knowledge needed for picking out what best suits your needs!

Diameter of MTB rims

MTB wheels are made in three different sizes: 26′′, 27.5′′, and 29′′ wheels. Look at the sidewall of a replacement tire if you want to know what size it is designed for. For example, if it has 26×2.5 written on it then it’s meant for MTBs with 26-inch wheels; if there were 27×3 written on it then it would mean that the tire was designed for MTBs with 27-inch wheels; and so forth .

Smaller wheels take longer to reach top speeds but have increased traction and strength, while larger wheels take longer to pick up speed due to the size of their surface area but can traverse rougher terrain easily.

In the end, it is best to select a wheel size that corresponds with your size, height, and preferences. Taller riders are generally happier on 29 wheels while shorter riders would be more comfortable on 26 wheels.

If you’re into doing dirt jumps, it’s best to use smaller wheels than those who are racing cross country.

Many dirt jumpers like using 24 wheels (they’re perfect for kids) while many cross-country riders tend to favor 27.5 wheels. And many downhill racers prefer 29 wheels because they’re fast and stable at speed, due to the extra trail caused by these large size tires which improves control and stability.

The Best Way to Buy MTB Rims

Below is a set of things to look out for when out shopping for MTB wheels.

  • Rim diameter
  • Rim width
  • Number of spokes and lacing patterns
  • rim material

Carbon wheels with deep sections certainly make a difference

The quickest, most aerodynamic carbon hoops paired with aero tires can make you feel and look fast. When you’re going uphill, it becomes very clear how much quicker these hoops are then anything else out there. One situation where the difference is more apparent is when climbing hills; that’s when you start feeling just how speedy these hoops are in comparison to other bikes out there.

Some gearheads have even said that upgrading to high-end carbon wheels makes more of an impact than swapping out the frame.

However, if the rim profile is too deep- deeper than 50mm- riders have noticed a decrease in performance when faced with crosswinds.

So, if you’re looking for ways to spend your money and participate in competitive events such as races, sportives, or even duathlons – consider investing in aero road wheels. You’ll pay a lot upfront but you’ll also save money on gear because of their lightweight design. However, this comes at the cost of durability – so just be sure not to hit any potholes too hard!

How Can Bicycle Rims Be Divided into Types?

There are three main types of bicycle rims/wheels. These are:

  • Rims for mountain bikes
  • Rims for road bikes
  • Rims for BMX bikes

Rims for mountain bikes

Mountain Bike Rims

One reason for wider MTB rims is because tubeless tires are becoming popular. Wide mountain bike rims can offer the increased base stability needed for these types of tires to stay on during strenuous trails with sharp turns such as when you ride down a berm.

Wheel width on MTBs

Different MTB disciplines work best with different types of rims. That’s because light weight are likely more responsive than heavier ones; which will make it easier for the rider to take on each kind of terrain without feeling bogged down by a heavy bike frame or tire size.

Trail and X-cross bikes these days use a 23mm rim. That does not mean that the tires are also 23mm wide though. Most likely, there will be different ranges of tires to accommodate various sizes on this specific rim size. The most common tire width for trail and X-cross bikes with a 23mm rim is 2.1 inches or less in diameter but can vary depending on what you want.

For more difficult tasks, such as enduro and rougher all-mountain riding on rocky terrain, wider rims in the 28mm area are enough. With these types of rims, you can install tires of about 2.25” – 2.4”.

Lacing patterns and number of spokes

Spokes are rods that connect the rim to the hub. There are different types of spokes depending on what type of bike they belong to, but most MTB have j-bend spokes. The name came from the way these spokes curve around and attach to the hub at one end.

The other end of these spokes radiates out in small clusters and connects to headless cylinders which thread through the axle. These cylindrical components are referred to as spoke nipples.

Straight-pull spokes are so much better than J-bends because they’re easy to use with the wheels they were intended for. Another advantage is that these spokes allow you to tighten them up very tightly and keep a firm hold on your bike, which can be difficult due to how popular this style of spoke is.

Each of these spokes can be butted, aero/bladed, or straight-gauge. Butted spokes are those whose profile vary in lengthwise and are thicker at one end than the other.

There are three thickness options for spokes. Single- butted, double-butted, or triple-butted spokes are ranked based on their rigidity and weight ratio.

But if a spoke only has one type of profile – no matter how tall or short – then it’s uniform throughout its length.

Patterns for spoke lace

Spoke Lace Patterns

There are many different types of spoke lace patterns for spokes to travel through before reaching the rim. Each type has its own pros and cons when it comes to ride quality, but regardless of which pattern you pick, you’ll never go wrong.

Most MTB wheels are laced with either two-cross or three-cross patterns. With a three-cross pattern, every spoke crosses over 3 other spokes between the hub and rim.

A two-cross lace pattern has each spoke intersecting two others. The most common usage of this type of lace is in premium or handmade hoops where they are usually put in a two-cross style. This type of cross can also be seen on straight pull spokes which are only found at 24 – 28 spokes per wheel.

Mountain bikes are mainly made with 2-cross or 3-cross patterning, which means they use this type of lacing in order to counteract the intense rotational forces coming from disc brakes.

But do spokes make a difference? Yes, the length of the spoke and where it connects affects what kind of ride these wheels can give you. They’re not something we think about every day, but there are plenty of ways that they could change how your bike feels when you go for a bike ride. 

Material of the rims

Mountain bike wheels come in many different styles, depending on what type of rider you are. Every riding style has a wheel, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced rider.

Carbon mountain bike rims are also available, and they offer particular benefits when it comes to efficiency during uphill rides. But these would cost a pretty penny.

Rims for road bikes

Road Bike Rims

These are performance-oriented rims. With them, you need to be looking for less weight, more rigidity and strength, so that they can complement all of the other aerodynamic features from head to toe. They have a streamlined wheel design with strong air flow going in the same direction as every other aero-optimized feature.

These tyres cut down on rotational weight, so you won’t have to work as hard when pedaling up hills. They also improve downhill maneuverability and offer an easier time accelerating from a standstill.

Road Bike Rims: How to Choose Them

  • Weight, design, and material of road rims
  • Diameter, depth, and depth of road rims
  • Spokes on a road wheel

Weight, design, and material of the rim

If you are used to racing events, then you are familiar with the importance of having a sleek and aerodynamic wheel design. For competitive races, it is necessary to have lighter yet just as sturdy wheels for increased speed.

For professionals competing in bicycle time-trialing, cyclocross, the Tour de France, and so on, wheel weight is taken very seriously. High-end super stiff deep section wheels are preferred for their ability to handle like a dream when speeding along at an incredible rate of speed.

More recreational riders can use aluminum road bike wheels. However, when it comes to weight, beginner and casual riders don’t care much about weight at all because they’re more concerned with having fun than anything else.

Diameter and width of the rim

700c Road Rims are the most common wheel size for adult road bikes, but this might not be what you want if you’re a female; or small-framed person; or buying for a child; or competing in serious events such as Time Trials, Triathlons, etc. In these cases, 650c Road Wheels may be of interest to you. They are similar to the 26 Mountain Bike Wheel Size.

Many companies these days are using the ISO wheel sizing standard, so it’s important to know what those numbers mean. Wheel size 650c typically converts to an ISO size of 571.

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Usually, road bike rims are narrower than mountain bike rims. Higher performance wheels have smaller widths compared to commuter or touring bikes. Gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes also have wider widths than other types of bicycles for both paved roads and dirt paths.

If an option is labeled 700c x 23mm or just 622-23, it means it’s a 700c wheel/29′′ wheel with a 23mm width. Notably, 700cx23mm is the most popular road bike size.

As mentioned before, top of the line bikes usually have deep rims. However, these rims shouldn’t be overly deep. If the rims are too deep, it will hinder your riding experience in windy conditions.

MTB Rim Types

  • MTB rims with clinchers
  • MTB rims that are tubeless compatible
  • Tubeless-ready MTB rims
  • The UST (Universal Standard Tubeless) rim

MTB clincher rims
Clincher rims are generally less expensive and easier to install than the other styles, yet they can be difficult to maintain due to their susceptibility to air leaks. These tires sit inside the rim with an air-filled rubber tube pushing up against the bead of the wheel and tire. Clinchers are not recommended for use with sealants, but there is no need for such a product when it comes to these tires.

With clincher-type rims, it’s guaranteed that you’ll experience a pinch flat every now and then. However, for most riders it’s both easy and quick to fix them.

MTB Rims – Universal Tubeless/UST (No Sealant Needed)
In 1999, after years of tireless research and development, Mavic partnered with Hutchinson and Michelin to create the UST rim/tire system. Having a wide range of technological expertise to draw from, Mavic were able to design a shape for their rims that would complement perfectly with what Michelins and Hutchinsons produced.

These rims had bead hooks that were specifically sized for them and was different from traditional rims which have round edges. Mavic’s wheels come with their own rim standards that are stricter than normal such as the width, diameter, and height of the edges on the rim where it curves up towards where it meets the tire.

The tires featured airtight casings and beads that easily attached to the square-shaped Mavic rims. The tire/rim lock system worked similarly to those found on motorcycles and cars, but are heavier than other two types of MTB wheels.

Fast-forward to today – Mavic is the only cycle company that continues to make UST rims. However, there are also many bicycle tire manufactures who create TST compatible tires. The problem with the TST standard is that it has not been keeping up with the recent advancements of wider MTB wheels. Not surprising considering how few MTBers use an UST rim.

By the way, UST rims do not require a sealant to hold air. This is because UST tires feature an impermeable rubber membrane that can restrain pumped-in air without having to use sealant.

(Sealant is required) Tubeless-ready MTB wheels
Unlike when it comes to UST rims, tire/rim compatibility varies across brands with tubeless-ready and tubeless-compatible rims. There is no engineering standard for determining these measurements so always make sure that you are compatible before investing in this product.

Tubeless-ready Mountain Bike Wheels are among the most common types of wheel in MTB. Similar to UST Rims, they also have bead locks. However, the shape and cross section of each brand varies from other brands.

Wheel makers use tape to seal spokes when installing wheels on bikes, because unlike tubeless-ready tires which do not contain sealed casings like UST tires do, they need a substance such as sealant to keep air from escaping. While Tubeless-ready tires are lighter than UST models due to the lack of an impermeable rubber layer found in the latter’s design, this will also require more tire tubes for repairs.

MTB rims compatible with tubeless
Tubeless-ready rims, also known as tubeless compatible rims, differ from their competitors in the way that they do not require taping of the rim bed. It is important to note this distinction between them because while both types of wheels are essentially identical, some manufacturers and individuals refer to them differently due to this key difference.

Rims for BMX bikes

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Unlike MTB and road bicycle hoops, BMX wheels are much smaller. If you race, get slimmer, lighter rims with a lower number of spokes. What if you’re more of a flatland BMXer and sometimes do stunts and street cycling? Buy wide, sturdy rims with more spokes so that they won’t bend outwards when you go off jumps or drops – even though it might be heavier to carry around because it’s bigger.

What to Look for When Buying BMX Rims

  • Diameter and width of the rim
  • Pattern and number of spokes
  • Structure of the internal walls

Diameter and width of the rim

In terms of rim size, BMX (Bicycle Motor Cross) bikes usually come in the 18′′-24′′ range. That said, 24′′ is far less popular than either 18′′ or 20′′ options. Cruiser style BMX bicycles tend to use the 24 inch size.

Professional BMX racers will do best on narrow wheels which measure around 30mm in diameter. This size also works well for smaller riders, or those of us who are just looking for replacement BMX hoops with slimmer rims. Narrower frames allow one to attach thinner and lighter performance-focused tires onto the rim.

But if you’re looking for good overall performance, get all-arounder BMX wheels. Get 32mm options along with 2 – 2.3 BMX tires.

And for people who love doing tricks on BMX bikes, wide rims are a great option. These larger wheels let you use wider tires that offer more traction while sacrificing some speed.

Pattern and number of BMX spokes

A wheel with many spokes will feel sturdier than one with fewer spokes. A heavy bike needs a sturdy wheel so it can handle doing tricks or having to jump over large obstacles; whereas a light bike only needs a lighter wheel because it does not need to move as much weight around. If someone were to use an aggressive BMX bike (which requires lots of jumping) on a lightweight wheel, it would most likely bend under pressure.

Performance-oriented BMX wheels generally come in the 28-32 rim hole range (28-32 spokes). But if you’re looking for a wheel that can handle big terrains while also being able to do some air tricks here and there, go with the most rugged ones you can find.

I am talking about an extremely heavy and wide bike; one with up to 48 spokes. Remember, the more the rim holes, the heavier and slower the bicycle will be. If you want a BMX riding experience that offers a little of both worlds, consider fitting in 36-spoke rims.

Structure of internal walls

Not all BMX wheel types are the same when it comes to rim wall thickness. There are single-skin/single-walled wheels and then there are multi-wall choices that either have two or three layers of material.

More walls generally mean a stronger and more durable hoop because of the added structural integrity. Not only do these additional walls provide better support, but they also lengthen the lifespan of the hoop. However, this comes at a cost – weight.

If you’re a BMX racer, it’s best to opt for single-walled rims. If you are considerably heavy, go for the heaviest options possible. However, if you seek an all-rounder type of BMX wheel – then go for the so-called double walled or dual walled ones.

Internal Wall Structure

Techniques for constructing BMX wheels

When wheel builders make BMX wheels, they can choose from two different techniques.

  • BMX Rims with Pins
  • BMX Rims With Welds

Welding methods for a wheelset determine its overall strength and durability. What are Pinned BMX Wheels? Pinned wheels are made by joining two semi-circular pieces of metal together using another small piece of metal as the connector.

These are the types of rims that would typically be found on low-end BMX bikes. Entry level BMX bikes with pinned rims work just fine, but they can fall apart in certain circumstances. Once you’ve broken one or two of these pins before – it’s time to upgrade to welding your own rim instead.

Welded BMX wheels are exactly as the name suggests – welded. The manufacturer uses modern welding technology to combine and fuse the two pieces together into one seamless piece of metal, which makes them virtually indestructible. Typically, welded bicycle tires can only be found on more expensive models because they’re slightly heavier than other types of tires.

BMX bike rims are mostly made of what kind of material? For BMX bike rims, aluminum alloys are the most common material. Carbon fiber race-grade BMX bike rims are also available.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Important Are Bike Rims?

Yes, they do. Higher performing wheels can lead to better acceleration and speed due to increased stiffness and lower weight. This is one of the reasons professional cross-country racers invest so much into buying performance optimized aerodynamic carbon fiber wheels for their bikes.

But because of how much punishment they can take, bike rims are perfect for this. However, if you want to ride on more forgiving grounds (such as dirt roads), it would be wise to get narrower and less sturdy bike rims.

How Would You Feel If You Had Two Different Wheels?

It is common practice to simply buy the same set of tires again when they start to wear out and make contact with the ground unevenly. However, there really isn’t much of a significant difference between using different wheels – so long as they’re both the same size and each haven’t surpassed its counterpart in terms of quality. It’s best to try matching a carbon wheel up against an aluminum one just to see how that changes your ride experience.

How do I choose the best bike rim for my rig?

What matters most when it comes to finding the perfect set of bike rims depends on your type of biking. If you’re just leisurely cruising around town, then a more affordable set of aluminum alloy wheels would suit you fine. However, if you intend to train in any form of competitive road racing at some point down the line – make sure that they are made from premium-grade carbon fiber material.

Road Bikes Can Fit Knobby MTB Tires?

The traditional road bike frame usually doesn’t have enough head tube clearance, chainstay clearance, and brake clearance for accommodating any type of knobby tires. Plus, there’s always the issue if hub/wheel compatibility.

If your goal is to be able to use your Road Rigs both on-road and off-road, I have a suggestion for you. Instead of trying to make due with only one type of bike that would suit both needs, try using a Cyclocross Bike or Gravel Road Bike instead. Many Gravel Bikes can accommodate Wheels up to 700c x35mm – which are perfect for mountain biking purposes!

MTB frames can be used with road bike wheels?

Road wheels are designed for road bike frames but they can also work on a Mountain Bike frame. As long as the MTB rim size matches up to the Road Tire Width and there is enough room around the Frame, you definitely could.

There is almost always a possibility of fitting a 700c road bike wheel on a 29er mountain bike. This is because the rim size for both 700c tires and 29 tires are the same diameter.

However, some MTB rims might be too wide for certain road slicks. However, wider tires are becoming more common in road biking which will allow you to switch between bikes with ease.

Gravity oriented mountain biking disciplines require wide-rimmed wheels. To stabilize this, you will want to invest in a set of wheels that maintains its shape after landing drops from high elevations. Downhill, freeride, and other similar styles typically use 36mm-40mm diameter rims paired with 2.5′′ or 2.7′′ downhill tires.

A road bike wheel can be used on an MTB frame, right?

If carbon hoops had no effect on performance whatsoever, then why would world-class athletes invest their hard-earned money in them? A few things can determine whether they make a big or small difference.

Wheel design and rim/tire combo make all the difference when it comes to feeling wind resistance. You want deep-set aerodynamic carbon wheels with low-resistance tires to really feel what they’ve got.

If you have shallow carbon rims, you’ll notice a slight difference. One roadie I know said running shallow carbon wheels doesn’t make any significant change in performance or feel. He believes that the perception of better performance some riders using shallow carbon wheels are experiencing is nothing but a placebo effect.

Conclusion

If you want to find the perfect bicycle wheel, it all starts with understanding your personal needs. You are a mountain biker, a speed demon, or someone who just wants to cruise around town – no matter what type of cycling you’re doing there are specific aspects to take into consideration when shopping for wheels.

Take note of the different characteristics of your desired rim such as its shape, materials, spokes and lacing pattern. If you already have a rough idea of what you want then it would be much easier to find it. From what I’ve learned so far, there are many different types of rigging options out there but no matter which one you choose, it will work for your purposes.

About the author

Branden

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