Road Cycling Accessories

Ask the Expert: Will Upgrading the Wheels on my Road Bike Make a Difference?

After the frame, your wheels should be the next more important consideration

Q: I having been cycling over the past few years and have been looking at ways to improve my performance and the performance of my bike. I have read that upgrading your wheels would make a huge difference. Can you explain the basics of wheels and where to start?

To answer this question, we enlisted the help of Mark Greshon, Senior Shimano Brand Manager at Madison. There is absolutely nothing this guy does not know about bicycle wheels!

“Upgrading wheels can make a significant difference but how big a difference depends on the level, quality and spec of the existing wheels and also the new ones. If you look at the Shimano range of road wheels, there are options at all price levels depending on the performance you are looking for, based on the type of riding you do. At the top end of the range (Dura-Ace/ RS81) we split the range into two sub categories called ‘Acceleration’ and ‘Blade’.

Wheels in the Acceleration category are designed to be lightweight and accelerate quickly. They will usually have a shallow rim profile and fewer spokes to help reduce weight. These type of wheels are ideal for mixed terrain riding, especially climbing.

Wheels in the Blade category are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible and hold speed. They will usually have a deeper rim profile and either more spokes, or a different spoke pattern to increase stiffness and improve aerodynamics. These types of wheel are ideal for flatter terrain and also racing where more speed is required.

What to look for:

When looking to buy new wheels, the main things to look at are intended use, rider statistics and budget. Obviously going from a pair of standard OEM wheels to a pair of Dura-Ace C24 clinchers will feel massively different. The bike will climb much better, accelerate off the line quicker and generally feel more lively. However at £799.00 they may be out of some people’s budget in which case, the RS81 C24 clinchers at £499.00 and less than 150 grams heavier, will feel quite similar and will certainly provide a noticeable improvement in performance.

Shimano also offer the RS610 wheelset at £249.99. To be honest, this is as probably as low as you would want to go if you want to see a noticeable difference in performance.”

Need more information on what wheels to buy? Check out our comprehensive buying guide for road wheels.

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