- Bike Checks
Wheelsets are the whole package: a front hub, rear hub, spokes and rims designed to be used together in one harmonious hoop. Purchasing a wheelset takes the guesswork out of upgrading or replacing wheels and is an excellent way to enhance a bike's performance and looks. Furthermore, manufacturers offer them in special colors to differentiate them and add some more flair to a bike's appearance.
As with most components, wheelsets are classified according to the type of riding they were designed for. Downhill and freeride specific models are the strongest offerings. With heavy-duty, disc-specific rims, strong hubs and large diameter axles, they are also the heaviest wheelsets. Cross-country models combine lightweight components to create efficient and fast-rolling wheels. All-mountain wheelsets are essentially paired-down versions of the downhill and freeride offerings. All three categories are available in tubeless versions and are often disc brake specific.
Wheelset sizing depends on front and rear hub sizes and wheel diameter. Front hubs are available in 20mm, 15mm and 9mm diameters. Rear hubs come in 165x12, 157x12, 150x12, 142x12, 135x10, and 135x5mm sizes. There are only three mountain bike wheel diameters: 26 inch, 650b, and 29 inch.
Wheelsets are a combination of spokes, hubs and rims, each of which use different materials in their construction. Spokes are generally made of steel, but some wheelsets come equipped with aluminum spokes for increased stiffness and reduced weight. Hub bodies and freewheel bodies are also made from aluminum. Some hubs use carbon fiber middle sections to save weight. Axles come in steel, aluminum or titanium. Bearings are available in steel or ceramic options. Rims are made from aluminum.
Manufacturers tend to design the wheels for a specific style of riding, so gravity, cross-country, and all-mountain riders all have their own models to choose from. The first step towards guaranteeing compatibility is verifying axle dimensions and the wheel diameter your bike requires. Next, determine how abusive your riding style is and choose a wheelset that is up to the task - typically a wheel with more spokes will be stronger. If you run tubeless tires, a tubeless-specific design is probably the way to go. Finally, find a model that suits your budget and the overall appearance of your ride.
Mountain bike wheelsets range in price from about $200 to $3500.
Models in the $200-$500 range are available for both cross country and all-mountain bikes in either tubeless or non-tubeless versions. They use both loose and sealed bearings, depending on the manufacturer and use dependable hubs in both 6 bolt and centerlock rotor standards.
Moving up to wheelsets in the $500-$1000 range, models become available for downhill and freeride applications, in all hub sizes and rotor standards. This price range begins to offer wheels in special colors, with higher performance hubs, butted spokes and more sophisticated rim designs.
Wheelsets costing between $1000 and $1500 are high performance products, intended for competition riding and enthusiasts in all disciplines. Weight is reduced and performance increased thanks to superior machining techniques and unconventional spoke patterns and designs.
Wheelsets in the $1500-$3000 price range combine the best hubs, rims and spokes into an incredibly high-performance package. The use of carbon fiber rims, aluminum spokes and top of the line hubs are common in these offerings.
Before buying, be sure to do your research and read product reviews. Reviews are a great way to find out specifics about a particular model, user impressions, and things to watch out for. After you've purchased a product and had enough time to thoroughly test it, we encourage you to leave a review for other people to see when they are researching bikes and parts on the web.
We hope you've found this information to be helpful. If you have a question that isn't answered in this guide, our mountain bike forums are a great place to get advice from knowledgeable riders. Your local bike shop is also a great resource.
1-4 of 4 Products
Hello Vital MTB Visitor,
We’re conducting a survey and would appreciate your input. Your answers will help Vital and the MTB industry better understand what riders like you want. Survey results will be used to recognize top brands. Make your voice heard!
Five lucky people will be selected at random to win a Vital MTB t-shirt.
Thanks in advance,
The Vital MTB Crew