How to choose your MTB wheels
Your wheels are damaged and you want to change them? Or do you want to upgrade your MTB with new wheels?
Before you start looking at the different models of wheels, you need to determine your budget and to which practice your wheels will be dedicated to. Indeed, prices vary widely between entry-level and high-end models: they can reach up to several thousand euros. And wheels won' be the same for cross-country, downhill or enduro. Several criteria must be taken into account.
Your challenge is to find the best compromise between lightness and rigidity depending on your MTB use. Especially on a complete bike, changing the pair of wheels that equips it can often save weight, but be careful not to sacrifice comfort and strength on the altar of weight reduction. Follow our tips to choose your mountain bike wheels.
Which size of MTB wheel to choose?
As of today, 3 standards exist on the market:
It was the standard size, and still is today for free ride, downhill and Dirt, especially because these practices require manoeuvrability. The 26" wheels are often stiffer, lighter, more responsive and therefore easier to relaunch after a turn, for example.
This is the intermediate size between 26 and 29 inches. The 27.5 wheels are very present on Enduro and DH bikes because they offer manoeuvrability, nervousness and precision. The standard 27,5 can handle obstacles as well as rolling parts and the displacement can be up to 200 mm.
There are many models of semi-rigid (or hardtrail) equipped with 29" wheels because they provide good pedaling efficiency, comfort and stability all at once. The 29" wheels better absorb shock and provide good grip/adhesion because the tyre surface is wider. Moreover, the center of gravity is higher so it will be easier to pass the obstacles.
What type of rim?
The rim is the element that will condition comfort and rigidity and thus the manoeuvrability of the MTB. The rims are either in aluminium or carbon . The latter will be lighter and stiffer but also more expensive. The practice and terrain you are used to driving on will have an impact on your choice. In DH, you will prefer wide and robust rims to be able to mount wider tyres with relatively low pressures. On the contrary, in cross-country or on rolling paths, narrower rims will be ideal to lighten your bike.
The choice of the rim also has an impact on the type and size of the tyres you'll be able to put on. Some rims are called Tubeless Ready and are ready to accept tubeless tyres provided they are waterproof. On one hand, Tubeless makes it possible to gain in weight without the tube and reduces the risks of puncture by pinching while cycling with little pressure. On the other hand, Tubetype rims (with inner tube) offer comfort and easy repair.
What type of hub?
Take into account the dimensions of the fixation axle for your front and rear hubs so that the new wheels fit your MTB correctly.
Today, apart from a few entry-level models equipped with V-Brake brakes, most MTBs are equipped with disc brakes. Two fastening systems exist: first, the 6 holes IS (International Standard), and secondly, the Centerlock.
What type of spokes?
The spokes condition the stiffness and comfort of the wheel. Again, your practice will be decisive in your choice and several elements must be taken into account:
- Material: steel provides rigidity, strength and durability, titanium provides flexibility, aluminium offers rigidity, comfort and weight, carbon is very resistant.
- The length will depend on your wheel and hub size, but also on the number of spokes on the wheel.
- The number of spokes on a MTB varies between 28 and 36 knowing that the more spokes there are, the heavier is the wheel, but the latter is also more solid and stable.
- The interlacing: highly crossed spokes allow flexibility and comfort, whereas non-crossed spokes which are perpendicular to the hub give lightness and rigidity to the wheel.
It's up to you to find the right compromise according to your practice and your build. You now have all the information needed to choose your MTB wheels!