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I have a commuting/touring bike and my riding is a good bit of commuting mixed with weekend rides of up to 50 miles.

In my lame knowledge, I'll assume that lighter wheels can be had when you spend more money, but what are other things to look for or avoid when choosing wheels for a non-racing bike?

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Keep in mind that tires affect ride even more than wheels. Also bigger tires take pressure off the wheel making even weaker wheel last longer. For commuting I recommend at least 32-35c width tires. –  Ville M Oct 11 '10 at 21:13
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5 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

If you're doing mostly commuting I'd look for strength above light. Go for something with more spokes and with a 3 cross lacing pattern. You want something that is reliable. Of course you weight is a consideration so there is always a trade off between that and durability.

Going with something with radial (straight) lacing up front can save weight and you're less likely to break a spoke on the front wheel so there is less chance that durability will be a factor.

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Sheldon Brown's article on spoke lacing explains spoke differences: sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html#different –  Drew Stephens Sep 10 '10 at 20:33
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Amongst the other good advice I would recommend non-radial wheels - it doesn't save that much weight generally and is stronger; with 28 or 24 spokes you can go cross 2.

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Build quality is more important than brand or cost of the rims, spokes, or hub.

In response to an earlier post, you don't want to change your wheelsize. And 28" and 29" both refer to 700c wheels (and hence are the same size).

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  • Larger wheels are more comfortable, so 28" instead of 26", or even 29" but they need to fit your frame (you should check).
  • More narrow wheels will reduce rolling resistance.
  • Less profile in your tires will reduce rolling resistance.
  • higher pressure in your innertube will reduce rolling resistance.
  • for commuting a puncture resistant tire such as this one is very nice.

In googling this question I came across this article which shows that there is quite a difference between different tire types, also, whatever the tire type, increasing the pressure will reduce resistance (probably at the expense of some durability)

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There was once a resistance test on BikeBoard magazine. The results were: rolling resistance is lower for wider road tyres, however the air resistance counterbalanced the effect for time-trials. –  dhill Sep 19 '10 at 15:30
    
@dhill: Interesting. Do you have a link for that? It directly contradicts what I have always thought was the case. –  jilles de wit Sep 20 '10 at 8:41
    
    
Basically, narrow tires have more rolling resistance but less mass and less wind resistance. Higher pressure tires have less rolling resistance. Also, tread adds to rolling resistance quite a bit (and often narrow tires have none or little). It's possible that a high pressure narrow tire would have the same (or lower or higher) rolling resistance as a wider lower pressure tire. However, the larger tire would have more mass, and mass in the tire affects acceleration slightly more than mass anywhere else. –  freiheit Oct 6 '10 at 23:26
    
nope this was paper edition. It's probably that wider tire doesn't bend so much under the same pressure. These were all very narrow racing tires, so it's not like the big cruiser is going to have lower rolling resistance, but the effect is enough to use wider tires at stages and thinner at time trials (that's what the paper said). freiheit said it all already. –  dhill Oct 7 '10 at 11:19
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I'd avoid anything with deep (aerodynamic) rims as the wheel will be stiffer and less comfortable.

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