I look at the different wheels online (road bikes).

What makes a wheel faster than another wheel?

Often they have the same number of spokes, size, weight etc..

What I'm trying to get at is, how do you know which one will be faster or better?


  • 1
    Please define what you mean by “faster”, lighter wheels will be faster on a climb, while heavier aero wheels will be faster on the flats.
    – Rider_X
    Jun 6 '18 at 21:26
  • Tire pressure, tire material, and tire width. But mostly, it's the tire. Jun 6 '18 at 21:31
  • More flat than climbs - I would have assumed lighter for both, why heavier for flat, what's the difference? Jun 6 '18 at 21:31
  • When you says tire makes most difference. Can u the assume if I see wheels for £1000 and similar wheels for £600 there not going to be much difference? Jun 6 '18 at 21:34
  • It should be noted that the tire is likely a bigger factor than the wheel it's mounted on. Jun 6 '18 at 22:33

The short but not really useful answer is stiffness, aerodynamics and mass.

Light wheels will allow better acceleration and climbing, because the rider has to put energy into the increasing angular momentum and lifting the mass against gravity.

Aerodynamic deeper section but heavier wheels are faster on the flat at a constant speed. Once the wheels are spun up mass does not need energy to keep spinning, and the aerodynamic losses predominate.

Generally a 'better' wheel will be one designed for the particular conditions you want to use them for, and there is a good correlation between quality and cost.

If you want to figure out which is the better wheel from similar designs from different manufacturers at the same price point, you'd need a testing lab to distinguish the differences.

  • All you said sounds good, but is road racing only. For a commuter bike, you don't want too hard and slim tires, and you definitely want extra puncture resistance, no matter the extra weight and increased power consumption. And for cross country, you want wide tires, no matter the extra weight and power consumption. In both these applications, the rest of the wheel is pretty much irrelevant, it's really just the tire. Jun 6 '18 at 21:58
  • @cmaster all great points about practical considerations. Jun 6 '18 at 22:14
  • 2
    @cmaster The question specifies road bikes and speed, not puncture resistance or comfort. Jun 6 '18 at 23:40
  • @DavidRicherby Ah, yes, I seem to have overlooked the road bike hint. Sorry. However, my comment was actually not about comfort, but about speed: You cannot hope to ride any speed with slim road-bike tires on a cross country trail. You cannot even hope to be able to ride your bike in the first place. You must have a wide tire to get speed. Same with puncture resistance for the commuter: Without it, you will have many days that you don't even reach your goal, so your average speed will be reduced significantly. But I get your point, my comment was indeed a bit off-topic. Jun 7 '18 at 6:19

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