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Cycling enthusiasts want to ride the best carbon road bike wheels. I’ll tell you which are the best we’ve tested at three price tiers for different types of riding and what performance characteristics matter most when choosing between them.

TL;DR (click for more)

Related Reviews:

How Wide Wheels and Tires Can Make You Faster

Best Rim Brake Wheels

Best Gravel Wheels

How to Choose the Best Wheelset for You


The price of most carbon road bike wheels fall into one of three tiers:

* Value – US$900/£750/€900 to $1500/£1300/€1500. For recreational riders and cycling enthusiasts who want carbon wheels and prioritize price over everything else.

* Performance – US$2000/£1600/€2000 to $3000/£2300/€3000. For cycling enthusiasts and racers who want road bike wheelset performance that helps achieve their cycling goals.

* Premium – US$3000/£2300/€3000 and up. For cycling enthusiasts and racers who value distinctive product and brand attributes in addition to performance.

Of course, wheels selling within a price tier don’t all perform the same or are made from similar product materials, components, designs, and manufacturing processes.

And despite what some suppliers claim, my fellow In The Know Cycling testers and I haven’t yet found carbon wheels in the Value tier that perform on par with the better Performance tier ones. (We keep testing new ones in hopes we’ll find one.)

But, there are Premium tier wheels that perform no better than Performance ones and some Performance tier wheels that aren’t much better than Value wheels.

Those eagle-eyed among you may wonder, “What about wheels priced between the Value and Performance tiers?” While there are exceptions, most of those we’ve tested are either overpriced Value carbon wheels or outdated Performance tier road bike wheels.

Why In The Know Cycling exists: My fellow testers and I, with careers outside the cycling world, do comprehensive, comparative, and independent analyses and gear performance reviews to determine what gear is best for us and you on an ad-free, subscription-free, reader-supported platform.


Performance, not specs determines how wheels ride on the road. From our testing, these are the performance characteristics we’ve found matter most to the riding experience.

* Versatility and Specificity – How well your wheels are suited for various riding situations or dedicated to specific ones, from flat to climbing terrain, smooth to rough surfaces, and endurance rides to racing.

* Aero Drag and Sidewind Stability – How efficiently they maintain your momentum going down the road with little to no wind and with steady or gusty winds coming from a few degrees off-center to from all sides.

* Lateral Stiffness and Vertical Compliance – How stout and precise they remain as you do a hard acceleration, go up a steep pitch, or lean into a corner while being comfortable with the right set of tires and inflation pressure.

* Responsiveness and Durability – How lively and light they feel as you accelerate and handle your bike at different speeds, across varying terrain, and through various cornering situations while remaining intact after hard impacts and over their lifetime.

I list these in pairs because making wheels to optimize the performance of one criterion in the pair can compromise the performance level of the other.

For example:

  • Versatile road bike wheels that perform well across many riding situations usually aren’t the best performers in specific cycling disciplines like climbing, time trials, or criteriums.
  • Carbon wheel rim shapes optimized to reduce aero drag usually aren’t among the most stable in strong side winds and vice versa.
  • Some laterally stiff wheels can be harsh, even with wide tires at low inflation pressures.
  • Making carbon wheels exceptionally light can also make them prone to cracking while building them to endure hard impacts can make them heavier.

With Value carbon road bike wheels, you live with most of these trade-offs. Additionally, the performance level of Value carbon wheels on any of these criteria is typically not as high as those of Performance or Premium wheels.

But, you buy Value bike wheels because you care about price more than performance. And, if you are more of a recreational rider, you may not notice the performance differences in the way those who ride more often and harder will.

Performance tier wheelsets reduce these trade-offs, provide more balance, and deliver performance levels as good as they get on most criteria. You’ll ride faster with the same amount of effort or as fast with less effort than on a similar depth Value wheelset.

Premium tier road bike wheels can be marginally better for race-specific events like alpine climbs or time trials. This adds to the brand and price cache or the unique rim, hub, or spoke characteristics that attract many to wheels in this price tier.

Premium wheels may also include technologies not found in less expensive wheels. Some of these technologies deliver superior performance across one or more criteria. Others capture attention but deliver no better performance.


The bottom line right off the top:

With each new generation of wheels, incremental drag reduction and stability improvements are made.

Those advances show up first in Premium and Performance tier carbon wheels.

  • Some companies that make these upper-price tier wheels use the same rim profile with different materials or components in their Value wheels.
  • Others use different profiles in their Value wheels than in their Premium and Performance wheels.

But, rim profiles are easily copied and quickly imitated in Value wheels – often within a couple of years – by companies that don’t compete in the higher-priced tiers and don’t do much or any R&D.

A material advantage: Higher strength-to-weight carbon materials cut into more functionally-specific pieces (or “plies”) and more purposefully located, make the rims of Premium and Performance tier wheels lighter, more responsive, and more durable.

  • It’s an advantage that separates them from Value carbon wheels with similar rim profiles.

Some Premium tier wheels take the materials technology and rim manufacturing a step beyond Performance-priced ones to create even lighter and uniquely profiled rims.

Hubs are often the center of product attention:

  • Each increase in price tier typically gets some combination of a lighter hubset, more durable bearings (carbide to stainless to ceramic), better seals, and more points of engagement.

But, when it comes to improved rolling efficiency (the number of watts needed for the same speed):

  • Rim weight matters more than hub weight.
  • Bearing grade matters more than bearing material.
  • More points of engagement matter little in road cycling.

Spoke material (steel, aluminum, composite), shape (round or bladed), thickness, butting (two or more distinct diameters/thicknesses), and lacing (how spokes are crossed) can get more refined with each jump in carbon wheelset price tier. Aero drag, stiffness, compliance, responsiveness, and durability can be affected.

But the performance benefits of spokes more advanced than those used in Value-priced carbon wheels are relatively small to insignificant.

  • Spoke differences may provide more marketing benefits than performance gains. Some, like higher-priced carbon spokes, may improve stiffness but reduce comfort.

Finishes and graphics vary between wheels, but it’s hard to see a direct correlation to price tier. However, riders motivated to ride faster by the look of their wheels may achieve higher performance levels than those who aren’t. 🙂

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My interviews for this post with companies making wheels at each price level affirmed some common truths about prices and revealed realities about costs.

The big picture: As with most products in the cycling industry and commercial markets, carbon road bike wheel prices are set by what customers are willing to pay, not by a product’s cost.

Wheel suppliers start with a price target and work backward through their cost structure to engineer, source, make, sell, and service the product to give them the returns they and their partners need to make.

It’s not what you may have thought: In carbon wheels, rim materials are the biggest cost component. Labor is the next largest cost. This relationship holds regardless of price tier or where the wheels are made.

  • Premium and Performance tier wheels require considerably more labor to lay up their rims and use far more carbon plies that require more manufacturing precision than those of Value carbon wheels.
  • Yet, the carbon material costs that go into those higher-priced wheels are still higher than the added labor cost to make them.

Hubs, spokes, finishes, labels, warranty, tool amortization, and other direct costs are far less than rim materials and labor. The gap between the rim and other component costs is even greater with higher-price tier wheels.

At the companies I spoke with, engineering and other indirect costs are not assigned to individual product lines even though the bulk of R&D goes into Premium and Performance tier wheels but may be used in Value tier products in the future by the same company.

Companies that make OE (original equipment) wheels for new bikes benefit from the added volume to reduce the costs of their after-market wheels.

The origin story and new reality: The direct-to-consumer sales model that bypasses distributors and retailers and their mark-ups allowed new brands and overseas manufacturers to create a market for Value priced carbon road bike wheels to serve the previously unmet need of a segment of cyclists.

  • However, the added requirements of warehousing, marketing, sales, and service these new brands require to compete with established ones who make wheels at higher volume levels, and the added tariffs and shipping fees on manufacturers selling from overseas factories have significantly increased their costs.
  • At the same time, larger, established brands are now competing in the Value price tier and leveraging high-volume materials and manufacturing techniques along with established rim designs to reduce their costs greatly. Their distributors and retailers take on the inventory, sales, and service costs that direct-to-consumer brands also incur.
  • Today, competition between direct-to-consumer brands and established ones using a distribution model happens mainly in the Value segment at prices usually US$300/£150/€300 or less apart for similarly speced carbon wheelsets. It’s not an insignificant amount for the Value tier customer but far less than the price difference cyclists faced between established and newer brands in the past.
  • Multichannel distribution – selling both direct and through distributors and retailers – is increasingly being used by the larger, established wheelset brands to serve customers where they want to be met while attempting to support their retail channel.

I didn’t forget: Regional brands, or those that design, make, and sell their wheels principally within the US, UK, Europe, or Australia, compete with road bike wheels mostly at Performance and Premium price tier levels.

Their higher costs from lower production volumes, either with a direct-to-consumer or distribution model, often push their prices into those tiers rather than their wheelsets’ competitive or superior performance or product designs.

In The Know Cycling is ad-free, subscription-free, and reader-supported. If you want to help keep it rolling without any added cost to you, buy your gear and kit after clicking the store links on the site. When you do, we may earn an affiliate commission that will help me cover the expenses to create and publish our independent, comprehensive, and comparative reviews. Thank you, Steve. Learn more.


Below are summaries of our reviews of the best all-around, aero, and climbing carbon road disc wheels at different price levels, along with links to detailed reviews of those wheelsets and others we’ve rated them against.

Best All-Around Road Bike Wheels

The latest generation of all-around carbon road disc wheels are faster, more comfortable, and do more things well on a broader range of terrain than the best rim brake wheels and many of the earlier disc brake ones ever did.


Zipp 454 NSW carbon road bike wheels

If you don’t want to pick between wheels that would be fast on flats vs. on rolling hills vs. on climbs or in a training ride, group ride, road race, or crit, I recommend the latest Zipp 454 NSW Tubeless Disc-brake wheelset. It will be fast in all those situations and the fastest in many of them.

At US$4220/£3376/3798, it better be. But if top performance in a single wheelset in nearly every situation and against nearly every criterion is essential to you, it just may be worth it.

It’s a stiff, deep (54.5 to 58.5mm), and light (1378 grams) wheelset. Those three attributes and the 454 NSW’s quick engaging rear hub make it so responsive that it redefines the term “snappy” and is an ideal breakaway partner from flats to all but the steepest of slopes.

Combine all of that with a very smooth rolling hubset, an almost silent and fast engaging freehub, and its varying depth rims, and you’ve got a unique riding and looking set of wheels.

You can buy the Zipp 454 NSW using these links to Competitive Cyclist, BTD (BikeTiresDirect), and Tweeks Cycles, stores I recommended and rate highly for their prices, customer satisfaction, and support. You can also find it and compare prices using this link to Know’s Shop, which shows all the stores I recommend that carry this product.

See my full review and ratings of the Zipp 454 NSW.



The ENVE SES excels on nearly as many performance criteria as the Zipp 454 NSW, but at US$2850/£2850 costs a good amount less, especially if you are paying in US Dollars.

It’s also a better bet if you want one wheelset for paved roads and those long flat, and rolling dirt or gravel ones. It feels as fast or faster on flat, rolling, and descending terrain, as comfortable on good roads, and more comfortable on rough roads and unpaved paths than any other carbon disc wheelset I’ve evaluated.

You can order it using these links to recommended stores Competitive CyclistBTD (BikeTiresDirect), and Merlin.

See my full review and ratings of the ENVE SES 4.5.



Bontrager Aeolus Pro 37 carbon road bike wheels

The Bontrager Aeolus Pro 37 is a wheelset that seems as if it was designed for the value-carbon road disc rider from the get-go. It is a capable performer in all the key areas I look for in an all-around road disc wheelset.

“Capable performer” may read like a backhanded compliment. I don’t intend it to be. It’s just that nearly all the wheelsets in the value-carbon category have one or more major performance weaknesses that limit what you can do with them, and this Bontrager doesn’t.

It also has hooked rims that allow you to use conventional clincher tires with tubes or tubeless ones, whichever you prefer. If you prefer to go tubeless, tape the rims rather than using the plastic rim strips that come with the wheels, as it will save you 120 grams.

While the Aeolus Pro 37 doesn’t perform at the level of US$,£,€2000 and up carbon road disc wheelsets, its ride gave me equal or better performance across my evaluation criteria compared to other wheelsets I’ve tested within hailing distance of the Aeolus Pro 37’s US$1500/£1250/€1800 price.

It’s available directly from Bontrager.

See my full review of the Pro 37 TLR and other value carbon wheels.



Zipp 303 S carbon road bike wheels

If the Zipp 303 S Tubeless Disc-Brake wheelset didn’t have the Zipp logo on the side of its rims, I wouldn’t have guessed it was from Zipp. Its price is very un-Zipp-like, and the combination of better-than-average lateral stiffness and average vertical compliance (aka comfort) is the opposite of almost every set of Zipp wheels I’ve ever ridden that tend to be super comfortable but not as stiff as the rest.

The high lateral stiffness is certainly welcome and translates to good handling in these wheels and effective climbing for a wheelset of its weight.

Less than Zipp-like comfort in the 303 S isn’t a knock, and it’s certainly not an issue. These are more like the comfort of the average mid-depth carbon wheelset. I did many 50-mile rides on them without any compliance-induced fatigue. It’s just that I had just gotten used to Zipp wheels being supremely comfortable.

These wheels have hookless rims that require you to use tubeless tires. Most of the better tubeless tires are hookless compatible, and even 200lb/90kg riders needn’t inflate 28mm tires above the recommended 72.5 psi/5 bar maximum inflation pressure.

Listing for US$1400, £1090, €1320 but often selling for less, you can order it using these links to Competitive Cyclist, BTD (BikeTiresDirect), Merlin, and Tweeks.

See my full review of the Zipp 303S and other value carbon wheels.



Elitewheels Drive 50D

While all wheelsets perform differently, the Elitewheels Drive 50D wheelset stands out as the only serious climber among the all-around value carbon wheels we’ve tested.

Its combination of stiffness and low weight really comes through riding up steep pitches and across rolling terrain.

While it’s not on par with lighter, more expensive, dedicated climbing wheels, these Elitewheels are notably better on this kind of variable-grade terrain than anything else we’ve tested in the value carbon wheelset price range.

As an all-arounder, and compared to other value carbon wheels, it performs on par with most in this price range and among the best in some ways.

The Drive 50D is one of the most responsive value carbon wheelsets we’ve tested. It accelerates almost as if reading your mind; there’s no hesitation once you put your foot down. In a large group ride, when the pace can vary continuously, this performance characteristic can reduce the spikey power surges and cadence drags that might otherwise create more fatigue than you bargained for.

The wheelset is competitively priced at US$1189, £1015, €1170 and available using this link to Elitewheels. Using the code ITKCycling will give you a 15% discount, effectively reducing the price to US$1011, £863, €995.

See my full review of the Elitewheels Drive 50D and other value carbon wheels.

Best Aero Road Bike Wheels

Aero bike wheels look fast, ride fast, and race fast. At 55mm to 65mm deep, they are the wheels of choice for most flat and rolling terrain for those who ride at average speeds well above 20mph/32kph. They are well suited for road races and crits, and can also work as time trial and triathlon wheels.


The Bontrager Aeolus RSL 62 operates best in the aero lane and does it with stability in side winds and comfort across all paved surfaces better than most we’ve reviewed in this category.

Their stiffness, responsiveness, and ability to maintain momentum are on par with other aero wheelsets, while their wider rims handle a 28mm tire without compromising aero performance.

Selling for US$2700/£2100/€2500, you can order the RSL 62 directly from the Bontrager.

Read my full review of the Bontrager Aeolus RSL 62 and comparisons to other aero wheels.



If TTs and triathlons are your jam or you just like to ride fast where it’s mostly flat, somewhat windy, and on less-than-perfect roads, the SES 6.7 is going to be one of the faster aero and lower rolling resistance wheelset choices and one of two overall best performers in the aero wheelset category available to you.

On more variable terrain, ones with short, punchy climbs, or in situations where quick accelerations are key to closing or opening gaps, the SES 6.7 would take much more work than riders around you on shallower, more responsive wheels.

You can order the ENVE SES 6.7 at stores I recommend for US$2850, £3300, €4000 by using these links to Competitive Cyclist, BTD (BikeTiresDirect), and Merlin.

Read my full review of the ENVE SES 6.7 wheelset.



Zipp 404 Firecrest carbon road bike wheels

While you can find better-performing aero wheels and lower-priced ones than the Zipp 404 Firecrest Tubeless Disc Brake, the performance-price combination makes this wheelset the best value in the aero Performance wheelset category.

It’s fast on the flats like its 404 predecessors, as you would expect any wheelset with its 58mm rim depth should be.

But, it also climbs and rides across rolling terrain better than most wheelsets 60-65mm deep and as good as some 10mm to 15mm shallower. Add to that its ability to hold its line well in crosswinds, a welcome performance characteristic whether going all out on an exposed flat road or a fast downhill after a good mountain climb.

You can order the Zipp 404 Firecrest wheelset for US$2000, £1700, €1900 using these links to Competitive Cyclist, BTD (BikeTiresDirect), and Merlin.

See my full review of the Zipp 404 Firecrest.

Best Climbing Road Bike Wheels

Climbing wheels are for long rides centered on climbing up and down average gradients of 7% and steeper pitches that go on for kilometers or miles at a time.

The best climbing wheels are stiff, aerodynamic, comfortable, and light. Those characteristics will help you convert your power and hard work as efficiently as possible going up while confidently handling the high speeds and frequent cornering coming down.


While the Roval Terra CLX II is a versatile road and gravel wheelset, it’s the best road climbing wheelset we’ve tested and the least expensive in US dollars among the top performers in this category. Roval also makes the Alpinist, its designated climbing wheelset, but the Terra (1278g on my scale with an HG freehub) is just as light and has wider rims, allowing you to run wider tires for more comfort without any aero loss.

Yet, despite their weight and relatively low profile (33.0mm measured), they are also great all-around road and racing wheels. With 28mm Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR tires inflated in the low 50psi range (25.3mm internal width, 68kg rider weight), you’ve got a race-ready setup.

Stiff, responsive, and compliant, they handle better than most riding switchbacks or just freewheeling downhill at high speed. The DT Swiss 180 EXP hub is also a smooth, quiet partner.

At US$2500, £2500, or €2850 retail price, while not cheap, you can order the Roval Terra CLX II through these links to Performance BikeTredz (10% off with code ITKTDZ10), and Cyclestore, each an online store I’ve vetted and recommend for their competitive prices, selection, customer satisfaction, and reader support.

See my full review and ratings of the Roval Terra CLX II and other climbing wheels.


Yes, many wheels from Zipp, ENVE, Roval, and Bontrager are on this “best” list. While we’ve tested wheels from over 20 other well-known and lesser-known brands, you may be wondering why those from these four and only one from a little-known manufacturer like Elitewheels made the list.

Fair question. I’ll explain the process and why current models from other brands aren’t on the best list.

While wheelset evaluations are, by their nature, subjective, we use a process that makes each wheelset earn its position based on its merits.

  • Several of us ride and rate every wheelset and write up private notes. I then compile the notes, reconcile the ratings, and write the reviews.
  • We use the performance criteria I described earlier and compare wheels against each other rather than opine on them in isolation.
  • Specs, looks, origin stories, and other things that wheelmakers use to market wheels and play prominently in others’ reviews don’t enter into our ratings.

The cycling industry doesn’t support us. We don’t run advertisements, don’t publish content sponsored or written by or for bike companies, don’t go to cycling industry trade shows or product introduction trips, don’t work in bike shops or any cycling industry job, or ever have. We eliminate those things that could create a conflict of interest or make us feel obligated to “do a solid” for a brand or people we know connected to one.

I buy and sell or demo and return the wheels and other gear we test. We’re fully reader-supported by the commissions that come when you click on and buy your gear using one of the links to stores you see on the site. If you don’t trust our reviews or the stores we’ve recommended for their prices, selection, and customer satisfaction, you won’t and shouldn’t support us.

To paraphrase a line from one of my favorite public radio stations: I don’t publish reviews as an excuse to make money from ads and subscriptions; I raise money through store links and memberships so we can afford to buy, review and recommend the best gear for you.

So, how is it that wheels from so few companies make the best list?

Looking across wheels we’ve tested or considered testing in the past couple of years, here’s my take on brands whose wheels didn’t make the list:

Roval updated their current generation of top road wheels from clinchers to tubeless-ready a few months after we first published this article. We are catching up with reviews of their new tubeless wheelsets and selected the Roval Terra CLX II as the best climbing wheelset (see above). We also reviewed the Roval Rapide CLX II in the fall of 2022, and while a good wheelset, it isn’t one of the best.

Shimano introduced a new line of top-end carbon road bike wheels for the first time in half a dozen years. They have been hard to find in the US, where we test wheels. When we get an opportunity to test them, we will update this review if they are among the best.

DT Swiss also introduced new lines of enthusiast-level carbon aero, endurance, and climbing road wheels during the height of the pandemic. While that was quite remarkable in and of itself, they’ve not been widely distributed outside Europe yet. We’ve recently finished reviewing the ERC 1400 DICUT 45, their all-around depth endurance wheelset. We look forward to reviewing others.

It’s a somewhat similar story with Vision/FSA and Mavic; new wheels were announced during the pandemic years, but the product isn’t widely available, certainly not in the US where I get wheels, and I think elsewhere as well.

It’s frustrating to read a review for a product that’s been out of stock for a few months. But I don’t want to spend the time testing and writing a review for a product that I know won’t be available to most of our readers due to a company’s manufacturing capacity or distribution strategy.

We’ve tested two Bora WTO Campagnolo wheelsets now. They’re good but not one of the best in their categories.

We reviewed Reynolds Value and Performance price tier wheels in the all-around and aero categories that were introduced many years ago. They have strengths but don’t perform as well as the top-rated wheels.

Easton and HED haven’t introduced any new road wheels in several years. I’ve tested wheels from both in the past, but they didn’t perform as well as the current generation of wheelsets we rate higher.

We’ve tested and reviewed Value tier carbon road bike wheels from Light Bicycle, Yoleo, Hunt, Scribe, Shimano, ENVE, and others. Our reviews explain how they compare and why they aren’t on the best list. The Elitewheels Drive 50D did make the list because it’s one of the best.

We continue to test new Value wheels in search of ones that perform at the next level and search out new brands in all categories and price levels that might outperform the best.


*      *      *      *     *


Thank you for reading.  Please let me know what you think of anything I’ve written or ask any questions you might have in the comments section below.

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Thanks, and enjoy your rides safely! Cheers, Steve


  • Hi Steve

    Winspace Hyper 50mm offer an amazing ride & are cost effective
    Never riden a laterally stiffer wheel & I’m 90kg

    Supply might not work within your business plan thiugh

    • Winspace overHyped more like. Aggressive marketing and shoddy aftercare from my experience if anything goes wrong

  • You say you are testing from Scribe now. Which ones? I am about to buy Scribe shortly. Any initial thoughts on the wheels?

  • What are the best wheels for rim brakes?

  • Princeton Carbon ? I see them sold in many places and all over the road here in the New York City area…

    • Stephen, Yes, I’m waiting for their recently introduced Dual 5550 to be available. This looks to be more versatile than their other wheelsets. Steve

  • I would really like to see you review Campy WTO 60 or 45.

  • Hello

    I have tested Enve AR45 but ended up getting Campag Shamal’s Disc . For the money , these are impressive wheels and I would also say , they are as good as the AR45 . I have put Bontrager R3 32s and they combo is super comfortable .

    on a different topic . . Be interested to see you test the Bora Ultra 60s as Campag claim they are as Aero as Swiss Side who probably have the best Aero wheels and would probably beat Enve 5.6 ! 🙂

  • Another excellent article, Steve. Maybe you can address my particular problem.

    Are good all-around carbon road wheels available [rim brakes and clincher tires only] that will fit my 2011 Parlee Z-5 frame?

    Because the space where the seat stays meet the bottom bracket on the Parlee Z-5 is quite narrow, in order to fit the outer rim width of the wheels has to be not more than 25 mm absolute maximum.

    I love the Parlee Z-5 frame and the SRAM Red grupo, and want to keep riding them, but would like to save a bit of weight over the Zipp 101’s that I’m riding now.

    • Hugo, while I don’t know that bike specifically, on most bikes the tire width is more important than the rim width since the width of most seat stays will increase as you go from the BB to the drop outs. The rims will therefore spin inbound of the tire where the stays should be wider.

      That said, if you’ve got enough width for a 25mm tire, take a look at my review of the Best Rim Brake Upgrade Wheels for my recommendations. If you’ve truly got width for only a 25mm rim or even only 25mm of room for the tire, I don’t have a suggestion for you. You need 3-5mm of room on either side of the rim or tire for lateral deflection so you need to subtract 6-10mm off your 25mm “absolute maximum” width which puts you down to a sub 20mm wide rim or tire. Steve

  • Really enjoy your articles. I bought a set of Bontrager XXX 4 wheels 1 year ago based on your recommendation. I assume they were discontinued due to the recent update and does Bontrager no longer make wheels for rim brakes? I think the XXX 4 helps a little …but is there any data suggesting that for small riders ((I only weigh 110 pounds) with a low FTP (175) and can only average 22 mph for 26 miles) may not see the benefit compared to a rider with an ftp of 200 to 400 riding that can sustain an average over 25 mph? (But the wheels are relatively light, so I like them, as me and my bike together weigh a total of 125 pounds so we we pass everyone on the hills (much to my riding buddies dismay ? )

    • Mike, I researched the topic of how many watts of aero reduction you get with each next generation of wheels at the same depth vs. with added depth of the same generation at different speeds in my article

      Bontrager replaced the XXX series wheels with the RSL which only come in disc brake versions.

      Watt/kg is what matters in most situations. Your 3.5 w/kg combined with what I’d expect is a relatively low drag coefficient because of your small size/frontal area should give you the ability to improve beyond your average speed especially if you position your body right

      Heavier riders will be able to maintain their momentum easier and put out more absolute power in a sprint but should be no more efficient than a lighter rider at the same w/kg. Train better to improve your speed/efficiency in different power zones as well as your FTP!
      Cheers, Steve

      • Thank you!!

      • Hi Mike and Steve,

        First I just wanted to say I just discovered this site an it is awesome!
        I am an endurance cyclist with a similar weight profile to Mike and am looking to upgrade the DT Swiss carbon stock wheels on my 2019 Cervelo r5 Disc. I find they lack in comfort, stability in cross winds, could be a bit more responsive. Climbing is my forte. I spend 1/2 the year in upstate NY and 1/2 in Italy on super hilly terrain with occasional stints in the mountains. What first struck me about your comments Mike is that you bought such deep rims. I have been advised given my weight and constant struggles with crosswinds to not go below 40 rim depth, so basically no aero. Is this a flawed assumption? Or should I get climbing wheels? Even tho I’m a climber I’m not in alpine situations a ton so based on Steve’s post “How to Choose the Best for You” they might not be necessary. This leaves a me with a mid depth all around but does that provide much marginal benefit above my stock wheels? I kind of feel boxed in with my options.

        • Elizabeth, the blanket concern about lighter riders being more affected in crosswinds on deeper wheels was certainly the case years ago but is far less so today on wheels with the right rim profile. Crosswind management is one of the criteria we test for in our comparative wheelset reviews.

          A good set of all-around wheels will almost always be better than most stock wheels as they’ll usually be lighter, stiffer, more comfortable, better in crosswinds, etc.

          As to what wheel depth is best for you, it will depend on how you answer the rider profile questions in the post you referred to. Your goals, budget, and specifics like how steep and long the hills are, how fast you ride, what wheels you are riding now, etc., etc., will tell a lot about what category of wheels you should go with. I’d suggest you work through that profile and then dig into the comparative review for the category of wheels that it suggests are best for you. Steve

  • I have a Domane SL6 Etap. I’m 6’2” 215 lbs. I’m just under a year into biking but because of my strength and cardiovascular level from working out and sports I’ve been able to hold about a 18-19 AMS. I can only assume the more time and miles I put in I will get to that 20+ AMS to keep up with the A/B group rides. I bike in MD/DC so we mostly have rolling hills with the occasional steep inclines if you go searching for them. I don’t have any plans of racing but as I get more flexible and in bike shape I will probably buy a more aero bike in the future. My question is if I’m able to procure Zipp wheels that put the 303 firecast and 404 firecast into the “value” price range and the 353 and 454 NSW into the “performance” price range which way would you go?

    I appreciate your insight. Hopefully I provided enough information.

    • Chris, congrats on joining in the fun. You’re still in the early days with lots of things that will become clearer as you ride more. My best suggestion would be to get a better fix on your goals, rider profile, and budget as you get further in to help you make the right choice. This post can help you do that If you’re still not sure, there’s a way described in that post for me to give you a personalized recommendation. Best, Steve

  • Hi, I cannot find any review for the synchros capital 1.0 35. I am a big guy with 105 kg and I do a lot of climbing. Do you try synchros Carbon Wheel ?


    • Mat, I’ve not tested that wheelset. Synchros makes a lot of road and mountain bike cockpit components (bars, stems, seatposts), and over 20 mountain bike wheels but the Synchros Capital 1.0 35 is the only aftermarket road bike wheelset they make. It’s also rather heavy for a climbing wheelset. See my review of climbing wheels and value-carbon wheels for options. Most should be able to support your weight. Steve

  • Hi Steve, thank you very much for all you work and testing, it’s very informative, well researched and balanced. I recently purchased a Cervelo R-Series (R3) and am looking for wheels. I currently have Bontrager Aeolus Pro 37s but am thinking of the Parcours Strade 49/54 or Hunt Hunt Limitless 48 F/R. Based on your recommendations, the Bontrager Pro 51s are not on the list and I can’t swing the RSL 51s. I’d like to keep a hooked rim for tire compatibility. I fully understand (I think) the benefits of hookless rims but until the tire tech is there I’m reluctant to drop serious coin on hookless rims.

    I ride my Tuesday Night Worlds, a few local races, the occasional gran fondo and weekend solo jaunts. I’m ‘5″10, 210 pounds (at this weight I’m certainly not winning any races but I’m having fun).

    • Good morning Steve, any chance you or your team have reviewed either the Parcours Strade 49/54 or Hunt Limitless or the Hunt Aerodynamicist?

      • Chris, We haven’t tested those. We have tested other Hunt wheels (Hunt 50 Carbon Aero Disc, Hunt 35 Carbon Gravel Disc X-Wide), Scribe and others in what I call the Value Carbon category of wheels. I like the price but haven’t found any yet where performance is on par with Performance Carbon wheels as I described in the opening sections of this post. Of course, I don’t know that would be true with the models you asked about but judging from the experience we’ve had with Hunt, Scribe and others who follow similar approaches to developing and making their wheels, I would expect the performance to be similar to those we’ve reviewed. Steve

  • Hi Steve!
    Thanks so much for you comment. I tried to reply to it directly but couldn’t. I’m stuck deciding between wheels that tend to be more climbing like the enve 3.4 and bontrager aeolus rsl 37, or something that leans more aero like the enve 4.5 (looked at zipp but at that point might as well buy a new bike!). On the climbing side, that’s where I spend more of my quality cycling time in Italy, 80% paved/20% gravel. My body type, ability and mentality is more climber. I’m light (115 lbs) so weight is not a factor but stability and compliance on the descents is. On the aero side, I get to your speeds (20-32 mph) and ride in the drops as much as I can. I do events but more for fun so don’t care about getting aero for that. I do cycle with a team in Italy and and any marginal gain I can get against their uber fancy bikes on the flats and rollers would be great. The stock DT swiss 1450 spline carbon (35 rim depth) on my cervelo which I ride on 28 conti tubes are pretty good. It’s my first serious bike so I only know what I know. I feel floaty in my sweet spot at 8-10% long ascents. But stiffness at higher pitches and stability on descents could be better. I feel the wheels are explosive on ascents but it’s harder maintaining momentum on flats, knowing that could also just be me. Are the bontragers too close to what I already have? Are the enves good even w/o Chris King hubs? I am thinking of going tubeless, is that a factor? Ultimately this sentence in your review had me leaning to the 3.4 “But, if you spend most of your time riding on paved roads and at aero speeds and your mental and perhaps, physical frames are more biased to aero performance than climbing, the SES 4.5 would be a better choice.” even though you seem a bit ambivalent about them.

    • Elizabeth, much as I’d enjoy it, I can’t make the time needed to get into the back and forth of helping readers pick the right wheelset for their individual profiles for all the readers that would (and have) asked for personal recommendations and still do the reviews and other things I do on the site. That’s why I wrote the post I referred you to in my earlier response to help you make a decision. Alternatively, for those who sign up to become Know’s Club Leader members, I do provide personalized recommendations on wheels and other gear. Steve

  • Any review or experience with Caden wheels?

  • Hi Steve,

    I’m a bit confused. What’s the difference between BEST ALL-AROUND PREMIUM WHEELSET vs BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE WHEELSET?

    And if you are going to choose between the Zipp 454 NSW and ENVE SES 4.5 which one would you choose?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Kirk, If you scroll up near the post, I try to explain the difference between Value, Performance, and Premium tier wheels. In brief, Performance tier wheels give you performance levels as good as it gets on most criteria. Premium tier ones can be marginally better for race-specific events or have some unique technologies or brand cache that gives the manufacturer some justification for charging more.

      In the case of the two wheels you mentioned, the Zipp has the scalloped edges and, for a wheelset its size is quite light. That, and its price is what makes it a Premium tier wheelset. The performance and versatility of the Zipp and ENVE are quite similar so if those premium features of the Zipp don’t matter to you, I’d suggest you save some money and go with the ENVE. Steve

  • I was considering the ZIPP 454 NSW for my bike but now I am considering the Princeton Carbonworks Grit 4540 with the TUNE hubs. I know that SRAM are locked in a legal battle with PC but it’s highly unlikely SRAM will win . Steve, any chance you will be looking at PC wheels ?

  • Hi Steve

    When do you intend to release the reciew of the Roval CLX Rapide II?

    I have seen you had them a while and numerous posts in the past asking for Roval’s even when only Gen I was available

    Thank you

    • Eric, Yes, that review is in demand! I’ve been riding them for a couple of months and finishing up the review soon. Will notify Know’s Club members next week and everyone else the week after. Steve

  • Hi Steve,
    Did you have any chance to ride the Cadex family of wheels? Cadex 65 and AR 35 specifically?
    Would love to hear your thoughts on those.


    • Stjepan, I haven’t. It’s a relatively new line of wheels, just in its second generation now so I’m also interested in testing them out. On my wish list. Steve

  • Hi Steve

    Can you also recommend the Bontrager Pro 37 for the following profile:
    – Rider weight 100 kg (with clothing, helmet, shoes)
    – Clincher Conti 5000 28mm
    – Preferred air pressure up to 7.5 bar (are these wheels specified for such high pressures ?)

    In comparison, how do you rate the Bontrager RSL 37 ?

    • Daniel, I put a call for you into support line at Trek, the parent of Bontrager. They told all of their road bike wheels, including the Pro and RSL 37 are tested and approved for total weight up to 275 lbs or 125kg. The Continental Grand Prix 5000 clincher in 28mm would work well with that wheelset. While Bontrager tests and approves their wheels well above the max tire pressure list on the tire (I believe 8.25bar/120psi), you really want to inflate 28mm tires on the Pro 37 or RSL 37 more than 5 bar. The SRAM/Zipp tire pressure calculator recommends 5 bar/75psi for the rear wheel pressure, slightly less for the front. Above that pressure, your ride will be less comfortable and slower from the added rolling resistance that comes from the wheels bouncing or vibrating off the road more than they should.

      As to the Pro 37 vs. the RSL 37, the major difference is going to be weight. The RSL 37 is super light and ideally suited for riders that are going to spend a lot of time climbing mountains. The Pro 37 isn’t heavy like a stock wheel often is but is more of a low cost, all around wheelset.

      Hope that helps. Steve

      • Wow, what a service, thank you very very much!

        Regarding air pressure I mistakenly went from my old wheels with 17mm inner width and 23mm tires on the old bike resp. 25mm on the newer bike. Depending on the source, up to 7.5 bar is recommended for those configurations.

        With the new wheels, the goal is of course more comfort and less rolling resistance and therefore wider tires and less presure.

        • William, You’re welcome. If it works for you and you’d like to see us keep the reviews and comment responses coming, you can order your wheels through the link at the bottom of the review. We may receive a commission that will help reduce the site’s rolling resistance. 🙂 Cheers, Steve

  • Hi Steve, I’ve been spending a LOT of time on your website. I’ve seen the sales that Zipp is offering, and plan to purchase through your Competitive Cyclist link. It feels like a very good opportunity to buy this weekend—particularly the Firecrest 303, or even the 303 S which are a steal.

    However, I have zero interest in going tubeless for riding on my roads, where I haven’t gotten a flat in 4000 miles+. I also ride wide tires at 30mm, so the wheels that have a wider internal/external width have been of interest to me.

    I’m new to the idea of hookless. Reading your reviews, I’m left still unsure as to which wheels work for someone like me riding tubes. Except for the Aeolus, all of these appear to be hookless, and tubeless only? For those of us who plan on staying with tubes for the foreseeable future, if not forever—which of these wheels that you’ve reviewed would you suggest for us traditionalists?

    • Hey Paul, thanks for your feedback and sorry to take up all your time :). Appreciate the support of the site.

      Hookless doesn’t prevent you from putting a tube in a tubeless tire. Hooks or hookless is about the relationship between the tire and the rim whereas tubes or sealant is about how a tire responds to flats.

      So, you can use tubes (or sealant) in tubeless tires on a hookless or hooked rim. If you want to use a tube inside a clincher tire, you cannot use a hookless rim.

      Hope that makes sense. Steve

  • Thanks Steve, this just makes way too much sense, but I somehow missed that important fact. Hookless here we come, Firecrest 303. Do you have a tire you recommend with these?

  • Hi Steve
    Are there any plans to test the new Shimano wheels soon?

  • Hi Steve,
    would be interested to see a review of farsports wheels. Hambini and Peak Torque both claimed that their wheels are good value for money for the quality that they present.

    • Rem, respectfully, those reviewers judge wheels more on the basis of design and engineering rather than how they perform on the road. While I’ve not tested Farsports wheels per see, I’ve reviewed many other “value carbon wheels.” That review gives you some options. Steve

  • Great reviews. Any chance you’ll be reviewing the Reserve 52/63 soon? What’s your take on a Bontrager RSL 51 (front) and RSL 62 (rear) combo? I’m currently riding Bontrager 37 Pro but looking for something deeper and will be sticking with hooked rims.

    • Edit: Rims will be used for road only with 28mm tires under a 200 MAMIL who rides 3K annually. I “race” my Tuesday Night Worlds and am aiming for 5 hour centuries this season. I’ll switch the Bontrager 37 pros to my gravel bike. The 37s are great but I’m trying to replicate the feeling of my ENVE 4.5 (rim brake) which were on my previous bike hence the question about the RSL 51/62 combo and Reserve 52/63.

  • Hello Steve

    Currently I still drive the Dura Ace C35 from 2016 with rim brake. Although it was an excellent wheelset for those times, it has not completely convinced me because the wheels are very floppy, at least at a system weight of 110 kg.

    Do you expect the new Dura Ace C50 (TL with hook) are much stiffer?

    What do you generally recommend for very heavy riders in the range up to Euro 2000 (whole wheelset)?


    • Daniel, I haven’t tested the new Dura-Ace wheels so can’t comment on their stiffness. As you likely know, the new line is only available in disc brake tubeless and tubular or rim brake tubular. I hope to test the disc brake tubeless ones this spring. The C50 disc brake tubeless wheels have been very hard to find in the US where I ride.

      If you look at my review of the best value-carbon wheels, you can see which we recommend in that price range and my comments on their stiffness, other performance criteria, and have hooked rims. For a bit above your price range, there are more to choose from in my review of all-around wheels. At a system weight >100kg, you’re best off with both a stiff wheelset. And if you go with one that has a 23mm or wider internal rim width, you’ll be able to lower the pressure with a 28mm to 32mm tires below where hooks are necessary even at that system weight and give yourself a more comfortable and better handling ride .

      We don’t test rim brake wheels anymore as fewer and fewer companies are developing new models and even selling ones based on older designs. While I really liked the C35 in its day, I remember it more for being light and having a great hubset than for its stiffness. That said, I don’t remember them being floppy. If you haven’t already, you might want to check the spoke tension on those wheels if you intend to keep using them. You might be able to stiffen them up a bit if the tension is below standard. Steve

  • I can’t thank you enough for this article. I broke my Kestrel bike frame in December. Absolute freak accident on a relaxed ride. Must have hit a bad spot in the road while I had a hand off the bars and entered a death wobble. I don’t know how I righted myself, but in the process, my thigh smacked 90 degrees into the top tube and put a cross fracture into it. I had just refit all the components but frame and Bora One 50s and had it nearly perfect, except it was rim brakes. I’m in Japan surrounded by mountains, and it’s been terrifying coming down with rim brakes on carbon wheels. I took this as the opportunity to rebuild with disc brakes. I researched the frame heavily and went with the S-Works Aethos, 40g lighter than the Kestrel with a similar geometry. For wheels I picked the 19mm inner rim width Bora WTO ultra 45s thinking they would be top tier. Unfortunately, or as it turns out fortunately, those would take months for the next batch to arrive. Thanks, covid and war in Europe! My frame is being assembled as parts arrive domestically, so I’m in panic mode without a ride when I start researching what can I actually get this month, and why are they all 23mm+ inner rim width? That seemed counterintuitive to my dream Bora wheels’ slim 19. I don’t want to sacrifice speed and efficiency. Then I found your article and started learning about the new findings in aerodynamics. I can move up from 25s to 28 tires, get the added comfort on the bumpy roads here and still get a comparable even improved contact pattern? Mind blown.

    I’m now waiting for my 25mm inner rim Enve 4.5s to arrive on special, expedited import order hopefully by the end of the month in time for the completion of the Aethos. I have this article locked on a tab of my browser, so I can stare at the pic of the Enves gleaming on the bench as I try to find tires in stock somewhere. GP5000 S TR 28s are lighter than Enve 27s (optimized manu. rec), but they’re hard to find. Both ridiculously expensive. Just paid $300 to have GP5000 S TR 25s delivered from Europe (only to end up not getting the right wheels). Any thoughts on tires for the Enve 4.5?

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