Wheels are often the biggest upgrade that we make to our bikes, and here are the very best that we've reviewed on road.cc over the past year.
We’re not ranking wheelsets in order as we did for our various Bike of the Year categories but we are giving out three awards:
All of the wheelsets here scored at least an 8 out of 10 overall when we reviewed them, most scored a 9, and one wheelset even scored a 10, so you’re looking at a list of brilliant wheelsets that we’d highly recommend.
The prices quoted are as those of the various wheelsets at the time of our reviews, whether or not they have increased since. If you're interested in buying any particular set of wheels, click on the relevant heading.
Right, on with the wheels...
The Strade is the first wheelset from Parcours that has been designed fully in-house, and it's a very impressive one. The wheels handle well in all conditions and they're bang on trend by being disc brake only, tubeless-ready and optimised for 28mm tyres. For their sub-£1,000 price tag, we couldn't really have asked for much more from them over the test period.
While many carbon wheels you'll find for under a grand will use a rim profile that is widely available for any company to use and badge up as their own (known as open mould), the Strade was the result of a year-long research and development project in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, involving CFD analysis and extensive wind tunnel testing.
Out on the road, the stability was evident straight away and we were really impressed with their performance in crosswinds. We had a particularly blustery spring and summer last year, but we felt completely confident running the Strade wheels no matter what the weather was doing, not once sensing that handling was compromised.
They're also impressively stiff with little to no flex evident on our bumpy regular training routes, even out of the saddle. The 28mm tyres that blow up to around 30mm on the wide rims will help greatly of course, but the wheels offer plenty of comfort to take the edge off dodgy road surfaces too.
The Scribe Race-D wheelset proves that aluminium still has its place in cycling components. Weighing in at just 1,479g, it could easily be mistaken for a much more expensive wheelset. The wheels feature a 'modern' 19mm internal width and are tubeless-ready out the box, which also includes tubeless valves, spare spokes and all the adaptors you could ever need. Overall, it's a very impressive package from Scribe and a great set of wheels for upgrading heavy stock wheels or for year-round training.
Scribe has managed to create a seriously competitive package that provides all the durability, robustness, lightness and speed that most riders could ever wish for. This shouldn't be too surprising – the 365 Disc wheelset that we tested back in January also impressed, and now with an improved ratchet rear hub and bite guard in a slightly lighter guise, the Race-D wheelset is even better!
The Edco Maloja (now renamed the All Road with the price dropped to £649.99 since our review was published) is an excellent deep-section, 'everyday, all-weather' wheelset. It's also very competitively priced for such a good quality carbon option, and the braking performance is up there with the best we've used.
At 50mm deep they provide some aerodynamic advantage and certainly feel lively at high speeds where the gains are more noticeable. They offer a plush-feeling ride so if you are out for a long one you aren't getting battered by an overly harsh carbon layup.
The 24-spoke rear and 20-spoke front build provide plenty of lateral stiffness paired with the 21mm internal width rim. The front is laced radially and the rear two-cross on the drive side and radially on the non-drive side. The spokes are from Sapim, aero-bladed with a J-bend at the hub.
Edco's carbon blend is spot on and these are some of the best braking wheels we've ridden in both the wet and dry. In the wet you still need that wheel revolution to clear the water off like any rim, but once that's done the pads grip well and bring you to a stop quickly without feeling at all grabby.
The Just Riding Along Mahi Mahi 40 carbon disc wheels aim to be a do-it-all choice. They're very light and stiff, with a 40mm rim depth to help make them fast as well. You would expect this to come at a cost, and while the £850 price certainly doesn't make them cheap, they're more affordable than most of the competition, and offer extra customisation as well.
All Mahi Mahi wheels are handbuilt to order. The options include three different rim depths – 30mm, 40mm and 50mm – and hubs that can cater for all axle widths, cassette types and disc mounts imaginable. Sapim CX-Ray spokes are used as standard, but there is the option of brass or aluminium nipples, a choice of 11 colours and also many different decal options, with no extra lead time (currently five days for all in-stock components, which is impressive for a full custom, handbuilt wheelset).
The low overall weight of the Mahi Mahi wheelset is achieved without sacrificing performance: 24 Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes are laced two-cross front and rear, and a Shimano freehub with 'anti-bite' steel splines prevents cassette wear from teeth digging in, which can be an issue on alloy cassette bodies. Multiple freehub options are available when building, including Shimano, SRAM XD, XD-R and Campagnolo.
Overall, these are impressively lightweight and extremely responsive carbon wheels with on and off-road capability. Installing tubeless tyres is easy, and they're a competitive price.
Roval's Alpinist CLX wheels are light, stiff and perfect for the climbers. The low rim height still offers good rolling speed on the flat and the profile of the rim mates well to 26mm tyres. The lack of tubeless compatibility will be a massive issue for some.
When it works, tubeless is great, but testing so many wheels and tubeless-ready tyres does show up how many combinations simply don't work very well. Setting these up with tubes and Maxxis' High Road SL clincher-only tyres was a breeze, and we’re certainly fans of simplicity.
If you too haven't given up on clinchers just yet then we can get down to how these wheels ride. As you might suspect, this 33mm-deep carbon wheelset is light, tipping our scales at a scant 1,250g with the rim tape installed. We used the Alpinist CLX on an S-Works Venge and the Merida Reacto that was in for testing. Both times, the bikes were noticeably faster to accelerate, and the Merida, in particular, became a great climber.
Climbing is where the wheels really excel and we have loved using them on local climbs. The wheels are stiff enough to transfer the power when you really want to kick on the steeper pitches, and we found them perfect for these high-powered efforts, with no discernible flex.
They don't do too badly on the flats either, though they're no match for deeper wheels when the speeds head north of 40kph. But riding those flat roads before you hit the hills isn't a slow experience. We were happy to sit at the 30kph mark and follow the wheels of mates when the pace lifted a little. The low depth also means hassle-free handling, and we never felt the wind pushing us around.
Overall, the Roval Alpinist CLX wheelset is a fabulous option for the climbers and those looking for a low-profile design. They aren't tubeless compatible, which will no doubt annoy some, but the rim profile is great and the wheels perform excellently.
Prime has created a tough yet lightweight package with its Kanza 650B Carbon Gravel wheels. The wide rims make fitting larger tyres a breeze and they stand up to a lot of abuse on the trails. At under 1,600g they are responsive too, and you certainly can't complain about the price.
A lot of gravel bikes are coming with the smaller diameter 650B wheels these days, over the more standard 700C, or at least have framesets designed to work with them, and if you are looking for an upgrade then these Kanza wheels are a great place to start.
Wider tyres fit easily with the wheels' 32mm-wide rims (24.5mm internal), sitting with a nice rounded profile once installed.
At speed on our local gravel tracks we had a few 'moments' and whacked a couple of potholes which, because of the colour of the stones and the angles when descending, are near-impossible to see at times. The noises weren't good but the Kanzas took it all in their stride and it didn't affect their trueness either.
Overall, when it comes to performance and build quality, it's hard to fault the Kanzas for the money.
The Campagnolo Bora WTO 60 Disc wheels are superfast, superb to ride and superbly expensive! Despite the rim depth, they handle very well and are behave in windy conditions. This is an exceptionally good race wheelset.
If you've got two grand to spend on fancy deep-section wheels then these are well worth considering. They're as fast as they look, have Campagnolo's excellent 2-way fit technology, keep the weight down and are predictable in testing conditions.
The WTO 60s accelerate brilliantly and are perfectly happy to sit at high speeds. Racing is currently off, so the hardest that we've ridden them has been on some socially-distanced group rides and when chasing KOMs, where they have been excellent. We’re confident that when racing starts again they'll be perfect for some flat circuits.
Not all of our riding is done on the flat, and when we’ve taken the WTO 60s into the Mendip Hills we’ve been impressed at how well such a deep wheel climbs, especially on the steeper stuff. They're quick to spin up should you feel the need to stamp on the pedals, and are excellent on long drags.
If you're shelling out this kind of money then you'll be wanting an excellent set of wheels and, thankfully, that is what you're getting here. The Bora WTO 60 Disc wheels are really stiff, fast on the flats and they climb well too. Crosswind stability is good and the weight isn't too bad either.
The Hunt 4050 Carbon Aero Disc is a great all-round performance wheelset. The wheels deliver a bit of an aerodynamic boost, they're low weight and durable, all for what is a very good price. Their width also makes them compatible with a wide range of tyres.
The 4050 wheelset is based around a 40mm-deep front wheel and a 50mm rear. If your main goal is speed then going deeper gives you better aerodynamics, but the down side can be added weight and twitchy handling in blustery winds. This wheelset provides more of a balance across a load of disciplines. When tyres are fitted, even the 40mm front does enough to cheat the air, but riding past a farm gateway won't see the handlebar snatched out of your hands on windy days.
The weight of just 1,472g (including the tubeless tape that they come fitted with straight out of the box) means they are very sprightly when it comes to climbing and acceleration too.
Scrubbing too many grams can cause issues, especially if you are a larger or stronger rider. We’ve ridden plenty of sub-1,500g wheelsets that flex a noticeable amount when riding out of the saddle, but the Hunts aren't among them. Hammering up climbs or away from the lights, these give away nothing whatsoever. They offer a comfortable and smooth ride too.
Durability hasn't been sacrificed to create such a lightweight set of wheels, either. We used these for about six weeks on various test bikes, clocking up a few hundred road miles along with lightweight gravel riding and blasts along canal paths. They've stood up to it all absolutely fine.
Overall, Hunt has delivered a wheelset that works for pretty much every road discipline, but especially for those rides where you want a blend of speed and also a lack of weight for the hills. The build quality is top-notch, and with all of these things taken into account, we recommend them highly.
The Vision SC 40 wheelset is for those who want carbon without the gigantic cost. They meet this goal comprehensively, with only a few compromises to help them meet a sub-£1,000 price. They're stiff, stable and – in this rim-brake form – offer reliable, if unspectacular, braking in the rain.
The SC 40s come in disc versions too, or with 55mm depth for a more aero focus if that's your thing. But 40mm is a great option for a combination of aero and climbing performance.
They're up to date with a 19mm internal rim width – 25mm outer – allowing 25mm tyres to expand to maximum width, and 28mm tyres to fit smoothly too.
The SC 40s are great all-round performers for the price. The 40mm rim produces good wind-cheating ability, while the rounded edge profile makes them admirably stable in crosswinds too. It's an easy-handling wheelset to get into carbon with, and one of the most stable we've come across.
They accelerate rapidly and easily hold a good tempo, and help make short work of steady headwinds too.
The new Scribe Aero Wide+ 50-D Carbon Disc wheelset offers pretty much everything you could require from a fast road wheelset: impressive aerodynamics, low weight, lots of stiffness and plenty of durability, all while coming in way under the £1,000 mark.
At 1,463g (803g rear, 660g front) including tubeless rim tape which comes factory fitted, they're so light that it made us wonder where sacrifices had been made to achieve that. It's certainly not durability: we fitted a set of 42mm gravel tyres to them and with about 100 miles of tough gravel sections under the Scribes they are still as true and creak-free as they were when we received them.
Scribe backs up its wheels with a three-year warranty against material or workmanship defects should you have any issues. Plus, if you are unfortunate enough to damage them while riding, there is a lifetime crash replacement scheme on all carbon models for the original purchaser.
It looks weird to see the rim poking out each side of the tyre when you are riding, but the results are impressive. Both Hunt and Specialized have wheels in their ranges that do similar, and we've seen a noticeable difference in how much less effort you need to put in to keep the bike moving at faster speeds.
This Pacenti Picco 46mm Disc Clincher wheelset doesn't just focus on weight or aerodynamics – it delivers on those, but without sacrificing stiffness and, above all else, durability. These are proper all-rounders, quick on the flat, no slouch on the hills, and should you find yourself off the beaten track they'll take plenty of abuse.
The 46mm-deep rounded profile rim has been optimised to work with 28mm road tyres, thanks to its 24mm internal width and the fact that it is 29.6mm at its widest external point – which is about a third of the way down the rim for better aerodynamics.
Out on the road there are some noticeable aero benefits – for wheels that aren't massively deep they still fly along at higher speeds. Being a touch shallower than some, the Piccos aren't affected by crosswinds or that turbulent air when you are being overtaken by an HGV or slipstreaming one.
Each set is completely handbuilt, and the spoke tension is bang on. Stiffness levels are high, and that has been achieved without creating a harsh feeling, even on rough road surfaces.
From the sheer quality and solid feel of the Pacentis you can tell that this really is a top-notch wheelset, where no corners have been cut. They aren't going to let you down – definitely a long-term investment for all types of rider and riding styles.
Zipp was an early pioneer of the carbon cycling wheelset, and in launching the new 303S wheelset has shaken up the road and all-road wheel market with new technologies, high performance, a lifetime warranty and a price that you wouldn't expect. This the first carbon wheelset from Zipp to retail under the £1,000 point price.
Under hard accelerations and sprints there is no noticeable flex laterally – something that was easy to verify, given that there was barely a millimetre of frame clearance on the test bike we used! Overall, the feeling is of a very responsive wheelset.
Another noticeable feature is how stable they feel in real-world, changeable winds. Throughout testing and in a range of weather conditions, even with sudden gusts and those unexpected sidewinds from a gateway, the 303S remained easy to control with no sudden movements. We would be quite happy to use these wheels all year round, however windy the conditions, such is the stability and confidence in how they ride.
Although we were initially sceptical of running low tyre pressures – the maximum recommended is just 72psi – the feeling was positive when we went down to 51/57psi. If you were to jump straight down from a 25mm tyre at 100psi it will no doubt feel quite different, but to us the tyres didn't feet soft or squirmy even under hard cornering.
Comfort and grip will depend on the exact tyre used, but any rubber at this pressure will feel comfortable compared to a tubed 25mm tyre. Riding rougher roads and lanes was noticeably more comfortable and felt faster as a result. The combination of lower recommended pressures and the straight-sided design might make some people worry that it isn't safe, but after more than 2,000km with the wheels, at no point during riding did we have any 'burp' or feeling that the tyre moved off the rim.
The 303S is an extremely impressive and versatile wheelset, offering reasonable weight with on and off-road capabilities. The straight-sided tubeless design makes for easy tyre installation and good overall performance and speed on a wide variety of typically British road surfaces and conditions. For riders who have already embraced the benefits of tubeless, or are ready to start, these wheels are impressive.
Prime's Baroudeur Road Disc wheels provide exceptional value, a great performance, and a solid build quality, making them a brilliant everyday option. They're easy to set up tubeless, come with everything to get you going, and can be used for road, cyclo-cross, and gravel riding. They're a great upgrade from cheap stock wheels.
The Baroudeur Discs might not look like anything special but they're absolutely brilliant. The branding is subtle, and at such a low price you might pass them up, thinking they're poor quality. But this aluminium disc wheelset punches well above its price point.
The rim is disc brake-specific with an internal width of 19mm, an external width of 22mm, and a 30mm depth. It's a rounded profile that provides a nice balance of low weight for climbing, stability in windy conditions and a bit of aero performance to help you hold onto speed on the flats.
We used them for general riding and found them very capable, easily able to hold onto speed on flat and rolling roads, while still quite quick uphill too.
We also had them set up with a pair of 33mm cyclocross tyres and they again performed without issue, taking the abuse of off-road riding while spinning up quickly out of corners.
For gravel riders, the 19mm internal rim width means you'd be pushing it with tyres over 40mm. Above this and we’d be looking at gravel-specific wheels with a wider rim, but for mixing road, gravel and cyclo-cross, these are brilliant.
With very good performance for a wide range of riding, and a competitive weight at an exceptional price, the Prime Baroudeur Disc wheels are well worth the money, especially if you're looking for an inexpensive upgrade from stock wheels.
Why are they our best budget option? At this price, you really can’t fault them. They’re a brilliant upgrade over cheap stock wheels and with spares easily available, they’ll be a doddle to refresh if required after you’ve subjected them to the long, hard miles.
The Roval Rapide CLX sets out to be the fastest wheelset in the real world and is so committed to weight and aero optimisation it forgoes tubeless compatibility. That will certainly divide opinion, but there's little doubt the result is a stupidly fast wheelset that balances the aero benefits of deep rims and the weight savings and improved handling of far shallower wheels.
Unbox these wheels and it's not the depth that draws attention, but the width. At the back, you find a 30.7mm external width, which is pretty wide and helps prevent the modern trend of 25mm and 28mm road tyres 'ballooning' on the rims. For comparison the Campagnolo Bora WTO 60 Disc wheelset measures up at 26.1mm, and that's by no means narrow!
And then there's the front rim at a whopping 35mm external width! Yep, a whole 3.5cm of rim – enough to dwarf most road tyres, and pretty radical. Even gravel rims are rarely this wide.
Why the width? Roval says that it adds to the stability of the wheels and not having to fight the wind will save a rider vital energy, making the wheels faster. That’s their theory, anyway.
The lack of mass means the Rapides accelerate quickly and climb with amazing ease – we set plenty of climbing PRs during our test, despite previous efforts being on tubular wheels designed specifically for climbing.
We put about 2,000km on them in all conditions and all was well; the sealed ceramic cartridge bearings were still smooth and fast, and despite hitting some invisible potholes at a fair whack, both wheels remained true and unscarred.
The only heavy thing about these wheels is the elephant in the room – their lack of tubeless compatibility. Roval has taken an almost Prime Ministerial U-turn on this, and the Rapides (alongside the new Alpinist wheelset) are strictly for tubes only.
Now, we never found the older CLX50s the easiest to fit tubeless tyres on, but having manufacturers bang on about it being quicker did encourage us to make the leap. We, like many, are still on the fence about them, and this move from Roval only adds to the confusion. That's not to say we’ve had a problem running tubes, but it would be nice to have the choice.
So, why is this wheelset our benchmark? In terms of performance, it’s hard to look past these wheels. They’re really fast and pretty light for their depth. The question that we now ask about race wheelsets is ‘are they faster than the Rapide CLX?’
Hunt says its 48 Limitless Aero Disc wheels are the fastest disc brake-compatible road wheels up to and including 50mm deep, thanks to its patented Limitless technology. Going wide is the key apparently, and going by the way they perform out in the real world, Hunt could really be on to something. These wheels are quick!
Hunt and many others say that having a rim that's wider than the tyre creates the most effective aerofoil shape when considering the tyre and wheel together.
After countless wind tunnel tests and interpretation of the results, Hunt settled on an external width of 34.5mm when using a 28mm tubeless tyre (Schwalbe Pro One) and a depth of 48mm. Keeping the internal rim width at just 22.5mm, though, means that you don't lose compatibility with narrower 25mm tyres, or even 23s.
Compared with a lot of 40mm to 50mm-deep wheels we’ve used, the Hunts make the bike feel like it doesn't need as much power to maintain a given speed, especially when we're talking about higher speeds.
The rounded profile of the rim doesn't get battered around by crosswinds or when being passed by large vehicles at speed. The only time we got a bit of a twitch was when passing an exposed gateway on a blustery day.
Stiffness levels are impressive too. Hard acceleration and climbing don't give any feeling of flex.
Considering their size and the amount of material used, the Hunts don't give a harsh ride either, even with the tyres pumped up firm.
The weight for the pair comes in at 1,690g including the factory fitted rim tape. That's not as light as something like the Scribe Aero Wide+ 50-D at 1,463g, but taking the aerodynamic advantage into account you'll not notice much difference on any but the steepest of hills.
The 48 Limitless wheels cost £1,289 which, while more expensive than many wheelsets in Hunt's line-up, is still very good value for money.
They are more expensive than the Scribe Wide+, a very good set of wheels that cost £870. For us, though, on out and out speed the Hunts are faster.
Our Editor’s Choice award was a close-fought battle between this wheelset and the Pacenti Picco (above). Why did we give it to the Hunt wheels? Overall, the Hunt 48 Limitless Aero Disc wheels bring a noticeable performance boost over many other deep-section wheels and they are very well made. We also find Hunt's aero claims, backed up with testing data, persuasive. These really are excellent wheels.
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.