A good set of wheels can make a big difference in your performance on race day. The challenge is finding the right wheel to suit your needs—and at the right price.
Whether you're looking for comfort, aerodynamics or a lightweight option for climbing, we've tested some of the best wheels available to make your decision a little easier.
Check out these six models that stood out from the rest.
Easton EA90 SLX1 of 13
Weight: 1,400 grams
Type: Aluminum Clincher (tubeless ready)
Carbon bikes and wheels get all the hype, but, in reality, you shouldn't overlook advances in aluminum technology. With the EA90 SLX, Easton is one of the few companies that doesn't promote aluminum as a lower-tier option for cyclists looking for a racing wheelset. The SLX utilizes the same ECHO hubs as the higher-priced wheels in Easton's carbon lineup, and they are remarkably well built and fast enough for racing.
Easton EA90 SLX (cont'd)2 of 13
We used these wheels on a cyclocross bike and a standard road bike and found them durable and comfortable on varied terrain. The double-butted, straight pull spokes are easy to service if one should break, and the standard bearings make them easy to replace if something goes wrong down the road. Many high-end wheelsets don't share this trait, which can sometimes make a repair impossible. And because these wheels are tubeless-ready (no need for rim strips), flats are almost a non-factor unless you happen to ride over a big piece of glass.
Pros: hubs, serviceability, comfort over rough surfaces
Cons: not for cyclists looking for a wheelset with aerodynamic benefits
Best uses: long-distance training or racing; cyclocross
Tune TSR 273 of 13
Weight: 1,440 grams
Type: Aluminum Clincher
The TSR 27 from Tune is an ideal choice for anyone looking to upgrade on a budget. While not the most comfortable over rough roads, the 27mm aluminum rim is sturdy and fast. The customizable color options for the decals and hubs make it stand out from the pack, but the build of the hubs are the real star of the show. The bearings are exceptional and roll with very little effort.
Tune TSR 27 (cont'd)4 of 13
Acceleration on flats and climbs was among the best we've tested. Not sure what's in the water in Southwest Germany, but these Black Forest machinists and wheel builders are some of the best on the planet. You won't find a better-tuned (pun intended) wheel anywhere—boutique builders included.
Pros: custom hand-built wheels that are durable and affordable
Cons: not the coolest looking or most comfortable over rough roads
Best uses: a solid training wheel for century rides or Gran Fondos
Profile Design 38 TwentyFour5 of 13
Weight: 1,465 grams
Type: Carbon Clincher
When you compare Profile Design's 38mm carbon clincher to others in its class, you'll likely find a healthy bunch that are indeed lighter or slightly more aerodynamic. What you won't find are a lot of options that offer both at this price. Similar options from Enve (SES 3.4, $2,900) and Zipp (Firecrest, $2,700) retail for $1,000 more; and in terms of performance, they offer little to no advantages over the 38 TwentyFour.
Profile Design 38 TwentyFour (cont'd)6 of 13
What we liked best about this model is its versatility. Whether it's climbs, flats, endurance rides or even the occasional dirt or gravel section, these wheels perform at a top-level, no matter where you take them. The wheel accelerated well on steep gradients, and the braking performance in wet conditions was by far the best we tested on any all-carbon clincher.
Pros: versatility, acceleration and performance for the price
Cons: light hubs may not be durable for the long haul
Best uses: all-around race wheel that shines on climbs and endurance cycling events
Fast Forward F4R FCC7 of 13
Weight: $1,640 grams
Type: Carbon Clincher
One of the F4R's more impressive qualities is its lateral stiffness, which makes performance in sprints and high-speed cornering on par with the best wheels available. For an aero wheel larger than 40mm, the F4R maintains its speed over rough surfaces extremely well. It also does this without making a sound, which shows this company's belief that craftsmanship trumps wind-tunnel data and weight savings in real-world conditions.
Fast Forward F4R FCC (cont'd)8 of 13
On the flats, we liken the F4R to a Cadillac—once you're up to cruising speed, it takes very little effort to maintain. And because of its excellent build, it's one of the most durable carbon wheels available, making it suitable for racing and training. However, the weight is on the heavy side, and it isn't the best option for sustained climbs or steep gradients.
Pros: durability, lateral stiffness, built by hand in the Netherlands
Cons: weight; big flashy logos won't suit everyone
Best uses: sprints, criteriums and time trials
American Classic All-Carbon 409 of 13
Weight: 1,400 grams
Type: Carbon Clincher
With a 40mm rim and an overall weight of just 1,400 grams, this model from American Classic is one of the lightest aero wheelsets you'll find for less than $2,000. We like this model best for triathlons or hilly time trials
American Classic All-Carbon 40 (cont'd)10 of 13
You won't have to worry about crosswinds because of the rim depth, and the low weight will assist you up climbs without the sluggishness of deeper-rimmed wheels. And because you're not always going to ride your time trial rig, the Carbon 40 performs just as well on a standard road bike, making it a versatile option for cyclists who participate in multiple disciplines.
Pros: price, versatility and low weight
Cons: graphics won't match with certain bikes
Best uses: hilly time trials, endurance racing and triathlons
Easton EC 90 Aero 5511 of 13
Weight: 1,580 grams
Type: Carbon Clincher (tubeless ready)
Easton's Aero 55 is an aero wheelset with just the right combination of aerodynamics, comfort and stability. The overall weight is light enough not to slow you down considerably on all but the steepest of climbs, and the 55mm rim depth is lightning fast on the flats. It's also one of the only tubeless options available for a rim at this depth, which improves comfort and reduces your chances of a flat by eliminating the need for an inner tube.
Easton EC 90 Aero 5512 of 13
One of the widest rims we've tested at 29mm, the Aero 55 is easy to handle in strong crosswinds and on long descents at high speeds—a welcome anomaly among wheels with a rim depth over 50mm. Easton's Echo hubs are a more robust version of previous models and prove to be some of the fastest we've tested. By increasing the size instead of opting for a lighter hub, this improves durability and function of the bearings, which you'll appreciated if you can't afford to buy new wheels every few years.
Pros: tubeless ready, durable hubs, aerodynamics on flats
Best uses: triathlons, time trials, criteriums and flat road races