The 12 Best Road Bike Wheels of 2021 (When You’re on a Freaking Budget)

 

It’s almost 2021. That means time to upgrade the factory wheelset on your bike. Why? Because just about any wheelset will offer huge perks over the existing aging wheels on your bike. Here’s what you can look forward to:

  • Improved performance and speed
  • Enjoy durability
  • Prevent problems brought on by wear and tear
  • Braking ability can improve
  • A new pair may be lighter, making for easier handling and portability if you need to carry your bike

Short on cash? Don’t worry. There are various budget wheelsets that deliver the performance you need. We list the best road bike wheels for budget riders in the 2020/2021 season.

Learn how to identify the right ones on the market for you and then pick your new set from our list of 12 impressive models below.

The 3 Best Road Bike Wheels of 2021

Aeromax Alloy Wheelset – Best of 2021

An excellent combination of features for the budget shopper. It will impress without breaking the bank.

Design: 9/10

Weight: 9/10

Price: 9/10

 

 

ICAN Carbon Road Bike Wheels – Most Innovative

A unique layered carbon design gives you a lightweight wheel that performs beyond expectations.

Design: 9/10

Weight: 8/10

Price: 9/10

Fulcrum Racing Zero –Value for Money

If you love speed, these wheels will help you enjoy your next ride. The construction allows to reduce the peripheral weight of the rim and makes the wheel extremely reactive.

Design: 9/10

Weight: 7/10

Price: 8/10

 

Things to Know When Buying Road Bike Wheels

You need to realize that this is NOT a luxury buy. The condition of your road bike’s wheels determine how safe you are on the road. And you can’t put your safety at risk, especially if you use your bike often.

So read up on these tips from experts in the field so you can easily identify a quality bike wheel and gauge which type is best for you.

Rim Width and Depth—Know Your Specs when Shopping for Road Bike Wheels

Rim Width on Road Bikes Explained

Usually, road bike tires have rim sizes of 700c. To make sure you pick the right sized wheel you need to look at the ISO/ETRTO number. This is the number system that refers to a tire’s size. It was created by the International Organisation for Standardisation. At one time it was known as the ETRTO system, referring to European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation.

Your ISO/ETRTO number will look something like this: 25-622 or 622×15.

The ‘622’ refers to the bead seat diameter and this is more or less an industry standard you’ll see marked on most road bike wheels. The other number shows you the tire width. Make sure how the manufacturer measured this detail. Some brands refer to the internal rim width and some mention the external width.

If a brand uses the internal width system, under 14mm can be seen as extremely narrow, while over 19mm is very wide.

 

Rim Width When Shopping for Road Bike Wheels

When you compare older wheels to what you see on the market today you’ll see wheels for certain niches are broader. This design became popular because you can have a more aerodynamic bike when you have a wide external width. But don’t simply buy the widest you can find; unfortunately, older frame designs can’t always accommodate modern, broader tires and wheels. So consider your frame before you start shopping.

Rim width is also essential important for performance. When your rim is wider your bike will cut through the air easier. Of course, your tire will also have a higher volume of air inside. This enables you to enjoy a more comfortable ride and still ride well, even if there’s less pressure. If comfort is important to you, opt for a wider rim width.

 

Rim Depths on Bike Wheels

If the aerodynamic aspect of your bike is important to you, also look for deeper rim depths. But aerodynamics isn’t the only thing to consider; a deep rim design won’t work for everyone. For example, deeper rims are heavier because more material is used for manufacturing. Also, more material makes it more susceptible to crosswinds.

To sum up, if you often face hilly terrain or windy conditions when commuting or during races, you won’t appreciate the extra weight of a deep rim. In that case a shallower design would be your best investment.

Types: Which Road Bike Wheels Will Work for You?

Let’s clarify a few terms you’ll often come across in bike wheel descriptions:

  • Clincher tires: A common tire type with separate inner tubes that hold air. It’s a safe tire because the design along with the pressure inside the tire ensures the tire won’t slip off the rim.
  • Tubular tires: With this type, a casing with inner tubes is glued to your bike’s rim. These aren’t that common with road bikes because repairs are trickier than others. You won’t necessarily have a quick fix next to the road if you run into a problem. They’re more common in racing scenarios.
  • Tubeless tires: You’ll have no inner tube and can be viewed as a clincher system that’s airtight. You have less rotating mass which is a benefit. These are also called two-way fit wheels.

To determine which one is ideal for you, consider what you’ll be doing with your bike. In most cases a tubular tyre is more appropriate for professional applications. This is because you’ll get good performance and you have this to look forward to:

  • A lightweight design
  • Good rolling resistance
  • Impressive cornering

All of that simply because of the right wheel!

But riders have different priorities. So, if you’re shopping on a tight budget, or if you need a wheel that’s easy to repair anywhere, a clincher wheel is more than sufficient and the better option. As long as you buy from reputable brands you can still enjoy many miles on them.

Braking and Bike Wheels: What to Consider

There are also various braking options you can pick from. The traditional braking method has been to use rim brakes but thanks to new innovations you can now also get disc brake road wheels.

When shopping for bike wheels you need to consider every aspect of each component, especially how much the parts weigh. One benefit of the newer technology is that the wheels can often be lighter. But remember: in order to enjoy the benefits, your bike’s fork and the frame should be compatible with disc brakes. And if your current bike has disc brakes the same type will have to be on your new wheels.

Disc brakes are impressive and help you come to a stop easier. They’re also dependable on almost any terrain. So, if you use your road bike on gravel or other dangerous surfaces you may enjoy the feeling of staying in control. You can do that by investing in disc brakes.

Handy tip: If you do prefer rim brakes, your wheel’s sidewall must have a flat rim.

Review of the 12 Best Road Bike Wheels of 2021

Any wheel is a good wheel, right? Not really!

I thought wheels didn’t matter that much until the first time I wasted almost an entire Saturday morning hunting down the right wheels and fitting them onto my bike. This happened because the lower quality ones I purchased simply couldn’t handle a little rough handling. And since I can’t always predict the condition of the road I’m on I realized I need to do everything I can to prevent future mishaps. Having quality wheels plays a huge part in this.

I know we can’t all afford the price tags on high end wheels. But there’s such a large market for these products these days and trusted brands also cater to those looking for a bargain. So, try one of these to enjoy impressive performance without breaking the bank.

 

Best of 2021

#1 Review of Aeromax Alloy Wheelset

Aeromax Alloy Wheelset – Impressive in All Categories

First on our list we have an excellent combination of quality and decent pricing. Compared to some other models mentioned later, these should suit almost any rider’s pocket. And that doesn’t mean you’re getting a low-quality product. These wheels work!

 

Design: 9/10

Weight: 9/10

Price: 9/10

 

Features

  • Hand built
  • Impressive testing of each wheel
  • Affordable
  • Good customer service

 

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

If you wish there’s an easy, affordable way to upgrade a low budget bike, you’re looking at it. These aren’t expensive but they’ll immediately change what you’re getting from your bike rides at the moment.

In part, the reason they perform so well is that the brand puts effort into the manufacturing process: there are hand built parts and the spokes as well as each wheel as a whole will be tested before it leaves the factory. Thanks to tension testing the spokes will last you many miles.

The wheels also look impressive thanks to a satin finish, so your upgrade will work AND look good.

 

 

This set is a wise investment if you’re shopping on a budget. They provide great performance for the price and if you have any problems you can count on their customer service team to help you fast. No risk in buying these guys!

 

Most Innovative

#2 Review of ICAN Carbon Road Bike Wheels

ICAN Carbon Road Bike Wheels – 21st Century Innovation

This is a crowd favorite thanks to the excellent climbing ability you’ll have. This is combined with an aerodynamic design and your bike will stay stable even in cross winds. All of this ensures an enjoyable ride.

 

Design: 9/10

Weight: 8/10

Price: 9/10

 

Features

  • Carbon layered design ensures durability and lightness
  • Innovative spokes
  • Spins up fast
  • Good price

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

The brand gives you a longer warranty on these wheels than on many others on the market, so they’re worth the buy.

The exceptional quality is thanks to aerospace grade carbon fibers. They’re layered on top of each other: 69 layers in total. The unique arrangement is what makes these wheels strong as well. The result is a stronger, but 5% lighter, wheel.

The spokes are also impressive: cold forged components that are strong. Thanks to their aerodynamic design they add to how fast you’ll go when fitted with these wheels. You may prefer some other models that provide faster braking, but I was impressed enough with this set to rate it high on my list.

 

 

Many riders prefer this to some alloy type wheels on the market. As a bonus, the company offers quality customer service. If you do have a problem you’re bound to get it sorted quick.

 

Value for Money

#3 Fulcrum Racing Zero

Fulcrum Racing Zero–Light AND Fast

 

Fulcrum’s Racing Zero wheels are one of the best sets available right now for race bikes. The prices vary for the wheel titles under this brand, and some, like the C17, can be purchased relatively cheap, but know that these wheels are worth every penny you pay.

 

Design: 9/10

Weight: 7/10

Price: 8/10

 

Features

  • Value for money
  • More rim depth
  • Improves speed
  • Can use them on different terrains
  • Smooth bearings

 

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

Racing Zero wheels are incredibly light and are designed with aero spokes to offer the maximum performance to reach top speeds. Thanks to added rim depth, accelerating and maintaining speeds are very easy as well.

You’ll find the USB bearing smoother than traditional Fulcrum bearings; as much as 50% difference.

 

 

The wheels also adapt well to different terrain. Overall, you can increase a race bike’s performance significantly with these wheels.

 

#4 Review of Zipp 404

Zipp 404 – Tough AND Fast

Zipp 404 wheels are the ultimate aerodynamic wheels you can buy this year. These wheels are keenly designed to accelerate to top speeds on flat terrain.

Don’t be surprised to see Zipp 404 wheels on pro bikes. You can practically use these wheels to convert your bike into a mighty racer.

 

Design: 8/10

Weight: 6/10

Price: 7/10

 

Features

  • Enjoy top speeds
  • Aerodynamic
  • Design reduces instability
  • Control on rough surfaces

 

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

The design has been widely praised as superb by many professional reviewers. The ability of these wheels to perform against crosswind is well noted. Beginners may require some time to get used to these classic wheels. But once you do, nothing will beat you on the aerodynamic field.

 

This bike can give you a smooth ride whether you’re after speed or performance on some rough terrain. When you ride over unknown terrain with your road bike these are the tires you want.

 

#5 Review of Campagnolo Sirocco

Campagnolo Sirocco – An Alloy that Works

Campagnolo is known for making expensive wheelsets. The Scirocco wheels are surprisingly affordable as they are shockingly lightweight.

 

Design: 7/10

Weight: 8/10

Price: 6/10

 

Features

  • Lightweight
  • Performance increases thanks to anti-rotation
  • Impressive acceleration

 

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

This alloy wheelset uses special aluminum pins on hubs that keep the overall weight down. The wheels have stainless steel aero spokes and an anti-rotation system to increase aero performance as well. More importantly, these wheels pick up speed real fast. Acceleration is quick and pain-free.

The wheelset can transfer power smoothly thanks to its unique design, which delivers excellent performance perks to the rider.

 

 

These wheels are great for training and also for long cycling trips. You can expect great value for your money in terms of durability as well.

 

#6 Review of Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon Wheelset

Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon Wheelset

Fulcrum Racing Quattro may not be one of the bestselling wheelsets in the world, but they deliver truly top-notch performance that deserves recognition. The wheelset is very affordable and comes with decent specs that casual cyclists will appreciate.

 

Design: 7/10

Weight: 7/10

Price: 7/10

 

Features

  • Impressive braking performance
  • Excellent workmanship
  • Good for downhill rides

 

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

This wheelset is not exactly lightweight, but it’s not too heavy either for picking up speed. What’s really outstanding about the Quattro wheelset is its stiffness. The design with a deep rim makes these wheels stiffer than most wheels you find on the market. These wheels are great for downhill riding as a result.

 

The brand uses diamond-tipped tools for precision workmanship. This should give you peace of mind that you’re buying a quality product and you’ll see the result in braking performance.

 

#7 Review of Mavic Cosmic

Mavic Cosmic – Consistent Performance Guaranteed

Mavic Cosmic is one of the best-designed aero wheels out there. It’s known for delivering consistent performance.

 

Design: 8/10

Weight: 6/10

Price: 6/10

 

Features

  • Can use for racing
  • You don’t experience drag
  • Durable tires
  • Quick-release on front axle

 

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

You can expect these wheels to be lightweight and stiff as well. Some brands under the Cosmic title, such as Pro and Carbon SL, are incredibly lightweight. Cosmic wheels overall offer faster speeds and quicker acceleration rates. It is definitely as expected of a top-notch aero wheelset.

 

Riding is very smooth, and there’s little to no drag on any terrain. The wheels are great for racing against the crosswind. The wheels are also highly resilient and can withstand most wear and tear.

 

#8 Review of Shimano C35

Shimano C35 – A Reliable Pair

Shimano C35 is a Dura Ace model wheelset. These wheels are defined by their bigger than average rims and a balanced spokes ratio. The result is that cyclists get a wheelset they can particularly rely on.

 

Design: 7/10

Weight: 8/10

Price: 6/10

 

Features

  • Lower rotational weight
  • Aerodynamic
  • Excellent acceleration

 

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

The design of these wheels favors aerodynamic performance. The rotational weight on wheels is less that what’s normal for many bikes. So you can expect a truly superior aerodynamic performance. These wheels can accelerate quicker than most as well.

 

 

The wheels have improved torsional strength and lateral rigidity thanks to super-wide flanges. The laminate carbon body is handmade. Considering the price range, it’s practically a steal.

 

#9 Review of NOVATEC JETFLY

NOVATEC JETFLY – Responsiveness Guaranteed

This is a highly cost-effective and lightweight wheelset best suited for track cyclists. The wheels sport all the defining features and attention to detail the Novatec brand is known for.

 

Design: 6/10

Weight: 7/10

Price: 7/10

 

Features

  • Well priced
  • Lightweight design
  • Responsive even when you accelerate
  • Flexibility increases control
  • 1-year warranty

 

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

Some wheels are priced mid-ranged, not budget, but are still worth the value. You can expect the Jetfly wheels to weigh under 1,500g. So, if you’re looking for something lightweight, then these wheels will serve you well.

The wheels also have partial aero capabilities. You can accelerate easily without a hassle. The wheel design is rigid, which results in improved responsiveness. The front wheel is very flexible so controlling the ride is made easier.

 

 

It’s an all-round winning combination: you enjoy control of your bike while the purchase suits your budget.

 

#10 Review of Campagnolo Vento

Campagnolo Vento – Balance and Stability All the Way

As with other wheels offered by the brand, Vento wheelsets are very light. They also come packed with many pro-aero features. There is no drag with these wheels, similar to higher-priced Campag wheels

 

Design: 6/10

Weight: 7/10

Price: 7/10

 

Features

  • Balanced set
  • Spoke design increases stability
  • Aluminum axle ensures a lightweight design
  • Quick releases

 

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

Vento wheelsets are well balanced and there is a good amount of rigidity to support the frame. Also, the braking system is really superior. The downside is, though, Vento wheels are not as durable or resilient as the other Campagnolo wheels.

 

These wheels provide excellent performance and as long as you look after your bike they’ll serve you well. Thanks to the innovative counter balance system you’ll enjoy full control when on your bike.

 

#11 Review of Mavic Aksium Disc INT Road Wheelset

Mavic Aksium – Advanced French Engineering

Mavic’s Aksium is a classic wheelset upgrade that practically every cyclist has gone through in their career. These wheels are well known for balance and responsiveness on gravelly terrain.

 

Design: 8/10

Weight: 5/10

Price: 6/10

 

Features

  • Impressive French engineering
  • Works on various tracks and terrains
  • Out of the box installation
  • Powerful disk brakes

 

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

The lightweight wheelset supports light tires, so you can enjoy a speedy ride on almost any track. The wheelset also sports wider than average rims to support wider tires. You can definitely rely on these French engineered wheels on rather rough tracks.

 

This is a versatile set of wheels you can use in many scenarios. No adjustments are needed—simply fit them and enjoy the ride.

 

#12 Review of Campagnolo Neutron

Campagnolo Neutron – A Wheel for Newbies AND Pros

Both pros and beginners can love this alloy wheelset.

 

Design: 6/10

Weight: 6/10

Price: 7/10

 

Features

  • Trusted brand
  • Low price
  • Not heavy
  • Grade 10 stainless steel used

 

Why You’ll Love These Wheels

Neutron has highly wallet-friendly offerings for cash-strapped cyclists. Neutron wheels are lightweight despite the low price tag.

The design favors lateral rigidity based on the finite method. So you can enjoy a rather reliable set of wheels suitable for everyday cycling as well as some racing.

 

 

From a world-renowned brand you get a pair of wheels you can use for various applications. As a multi-purpose option, this can help save you money by not purchasing another set for different conditions or certain terrains. Use this for all your rides.

 

Final Thoughts

Now you know exactly what to look out for to upgrade your bicycle for the 2021 season.

Your bike can be the key to add more exercise to your weekly schedule and if you’ve ever considered biking to the office, now is the time: minimize your carbon footprint for your own sake AND to benefit the environment.

Prepare now so you’re ready to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle in the coming months. Which one of the above wheelsets do you hope to buy in 2021?

If you have any tips for other riders, please leave your thoughts in our comments section.

 

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