Or should I just stick with alloy?
Carbon wheels are lusted after but should you splash the cash or save your dough?
The big question: Is carbon a better material to make wheels from?
The short answer is, yes, because wheel builders get way more control over how the finished product behaves.
The Holy Grail is to make a wheel that’s very stiff in a side-to-side motion, because it makes your bike more efficient to pedal, but with some vertical movement to absorb bumps from the trail. The Stan’s Valour carbon wheel deflects as much as 10mm, it’s claimed. This is easier to do with carbon and translates into a quality ‘ride feel’. Carbon wheels are usually lighter too, which can make a bike feel more lively and dynamic.
Are all carbon wheels good? Even those £400 wheels for sale on eBay?
“Yeegads, no,” says Chris Currie from Stan’s (who makes both carbon and alloy wheels). “We all know someone who bought carbon rims from a sketchy seller and swears by them, and if they’ve stayed in one piece, great. But the notion that there’s one factory with a bunch of different decals is so amazingly incorrect as to be potentially dangerous.”
We’ve found cheap carbon wheels are not necessarily dangerous, but often they are overbuilt — heavier than good alloy rims, where the wheel builder has played it safe by adding extra material, and hard as granite, with no give and a poor ride feel.
So should we all just stick with aluminium rims?
A good alloy wheel is miles better than a bad carbon one, so our best advice is to get the best wheel you can afford — if your budget is £500 then stick with alloy, above £1,000 and carbon rules. There are other considerations though, according to Stan’s. “There’s a lot to be said for the ride quality of carbon, but plenty of riders ‘feel’ better knowing that, if they come up short on something, they won’t have to sell their car to replace a rim,” Chris says. It’s possible to smack an aluminium rim back into shape if you bend it on something, but that’s never going to work with carbon-fibre.
Are carbon wheels worth the money then?
Depends on your budget and priorities. Wheels, either carbon or alloy, are the best thing to upgrade on your bike because they make a huge difference to its speed, acceleration, ride feel and even the shape and performance of your tyres — wide rims can spread them better for more grip and comfort.
“If you’re like us, you’ve owned bicycles that were worth twice as much as your car and financial gravity tends to warp around the things we love,” Chris says.