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How to Upgrade Your Road Wheels

Purchasing a new set of road wheels can breathe new life into an older bicycle and greatly improve the feel of your ride. The first step in upgrading your wheels is to identify what you currently have. This means,

  • Identify the brand of components you have.
  • Identify the rim size you need.
  • Count the number of cogs on your rear wheel. Road wheels can have anywhere from 6 to 10 cogs. 8 cogs or more are all freehub/cassette style wheels. If you have less than 8 cogs contact our technical support department

Next, select new wheels with the above specs in mind:

For Shimano drive train components:

  • Shimano components require Shimano-compatible wheels.
  • Shimano 8, 9, and 10 speed cassettes all fit on the same rear wheels.
  • Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed FH-7800 equipped rear wheels will only accept 10 speed cassettes.

For Campagnolo drive train components:

  • Campagnolo components need Campagnolo compatible wheels.
  • Campagnolo 10 speed cassettes fit on Campagnolo 9 and 10 speed compatible hubs and select wheels from 3rd party manufacturers (Mavic, Easton and so on)

For SRAM drive train components:

  • Sram wheels are compatible with SRAM 9 & 10-spd cassettes, and 8, 9 & 10-spd Shimano cassettes.

Rim Sizes
Most standard road bikes are 700c wheels. There are some Women's Specific road bikes that have 650c sized wheels. Older touring and sport road bikes may be 27" wheels. If you have 27" wheels please contact our technical support department for options.

Choosing the Right Wheel
Once you have done your research and narrowed down the available choices of wheels that will work with your bike, you still have some decisions to make. Consider how you intend to ride the wheels. Are you a very small and light or a very large and heavy rider? Do you break a lot of spokes? Are your old wheels damaged from impacts? Did you simply put your old wheels out to pasture? Do you want to race or do fast club rides on them. How about the roads--are they smooth and easy or rough with broken pavement?

Today's low spoke count wheels with deep profile rims are much more durable than their predecessors. Advances in materials and building technologies have improved the strength of wheels without adding weight.

Spoke Count

This chart will tell you how many spokes you will need for wheels for different riding styles and road conditions. The count is the number per single wheel:

Light Riders (under 130 lbs)

Gravel and Rough Roads Moderate Roads Smooth Roads
Loaded Touring 32 or more 32 or more 32
Touring / Sport Riding 32 or more 24 to 32 20 to 28
Club Riding / Centuries 24 to 32 20 to 28 any
Club Racing / Racing 20 to 28 any any

Average Weight Riders (130 to 190 lbs)

Gravel and Rough Roads Moderate Roads Smooth Roads
Loaded Touring 36 or more 32 or more 32
Touring / Sportriding 32 32 28 to 32
Club Riding / Centuries 28 to 32 24 to 32 20 to 28
Club Racing / Racing 24 to 28 20 to 28 any

Heavy Riders (190 lbs +)

Gravel and Rough Roads Moderate Roads Smooth Roads
Loaded Touring More than 36 36 or more 36
Touring / Sportriding 36 32 to 36 32 to 36
Club Riding / Centuries 32 32 32
Club Racing / Racing 32 24 to 32 24 to 32

Notes on wheel selection:

  • If you need a wheel that is more durable be more conservative with the number of spokes.
  • If you like wheels that last and last stick with more spokes.
  • Very skilled riders can get by with a less durable wheel as they are generally less hard on equipment.
  • New or beginning riders may be best served by staying with a very durable or very repairable wheel.
  • There are some manufactured wheels such as Mavic Ksyriums, the Rolf line of products and some of the offerings from Cane Creek that are the exception to the chart above.

If you are going to set up your new wheels as an additional set to your existing wheels, you will need the following:

If you would like to switch your new wheels out for your old set, you will need the following:

Find Road Wheels

Related Articles:

Road Bike Tire Basics
How to Change a Bicycle Tire