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Best road bike wheels upgrades under £500

Cyclist magazine
26 May 2021

A buyer's guide to road bike wheel upgrades that’ll knock chunks out of your PBs but won’t require a second mortgage

Few upgrades pep up your bike like a better set of wheels. They are often a component that lags behind the rest of the build on many stock bikes, so even a budget set can improve the acceleration and ride quality of your bike while also cutting weight.

Around £500 is a good amount to spend on a first upgrade - the price point is pretty accessible but the wheelset quality is still high enough to get you a tangible improvement in performance.

However, after you’ve matched for the braking system on your bike, you’ll have a range of attributes to navigate. Should you go with a shallow rim for more reactive acceleration, or something deeper to provide an aerodynamic advantage on the flat?

Plus do you want other features like tubeless compatibility, durable hubs, a sturdy build quality or a wider than average rim that pairs better with bigger tyres? Each feature brings with it pros and cons, so a wheel upgrade is worth some thorough research before you make a purchase decision.

Luckily for you we’ve done the legwork already and rounded up the five best options on the market under £500 for both rim and disc brake bikes, making this page a one-stop shop to find the pair that suits you best.

The best road bike wheels under £500: Rim brakes

Tech Editor’s pick: Hunt Race Aero Wide

Buy now from Hunt for £399

Sussex-based brand Hunt has been on the scene for several years now, garnering a reputation for exceptional value for money in its wheelset range - across the board you get a lot for your money. The Hunt Race Aero Wide wheels are case in point - their 1496g weight is competitively light despite the rims being 31mm deep and 24mm wide externally.

At 31mm they are deeper than a typical aluminium rim, which may help promote aerodynamic efficiency. Hunt says the 24mm wide (19mm internal) rim should pair nicely with wider tyres. As the rim is also tubeless ready, we’d stick some 28mm tubeless tyres on the Race Aero Wide wheels to bring the best out of them.

Adding further value to the package is Hunt’s tubeless set-up option - the brand will fit tubeless tyres and add sealant for a small surcharge that we’d say is definitely worth adding on. The wheels’ £379 price comes far enough under our £500 budget that you’d have the money to do it too.

Rims aside, the wheels are well-specced elsewhere. The spokes are butted, bladed numbers from Pillar and the hubs contain high-quality EZO bearings. These extra features top off a robust, well-rounded wheelset that we’d say is tough to beat.

Buy now from Hunt for £399

Hunt’s Race Aero Wide wheels are by no means your only option. Here are four of the best alternatives.

Mavic Ksyrium S

A budget of £500 allows you to look beyond Mavic’s entry-level Aksium wheels and at the French brand’s legendary Ksyrium range.

Recently overhauled, the wheels’ overall specs have recently got a boost – their 1570g weight is respectable, 19mm internal rim width on par – but their overall build quality ensures the Ksyrium S design is as close to a fit-and-forget wheelset as you are likely to find.

The rims are made from Mavic’s ‘Maxtal’ alloy, which it says is lighter and stronger than traditional 6061 aluminium. In addition, Mavic uses ‘SUP Welding’ technology to ensure a strong and smooth joint in what is in effect a continuous rim.

The hubs are 100% machined aluminium and the bearings within are double sealed for better durability.

A key update to the wheels has been Mavic’s UST tubeless system. It is as close to a tubeless standard as we can get currently. As Mavic makes both the UST rims and tyres, tolerances are very tight meaning the system works very well – tyres tend to seat with a regular track pump.

DT Swiss PR1600 Spline 23

Buy now from Chain Reaction for £507

Admittedly these wheels may be slightly over budget but we think they aren’t ones to miss out on. DT Swiss is best known for its high-end wheelsets and beautifully constructed hubs but the PR1600 Spline 23 wheels show the Swiss brand can compete at the higher-volume end of the market too.

DT Swiss has been championing tubeless technology longer than most and all of its wheelsets come with tubeless tape pre-installed. The rims’ 18mm internal measurement isn’t the widest but should pair nicely with 25mm and 28mm tyres.

At the heart of the wheelset are DT Swiss’s well-regarded 350 hubs. They feature the same innovative and durable ratchet freehub system (instead of a more basic, common pawl system) as DT’s premium 240 and 180 hubs, but the hub body hasn’t been so aggressively machined so they are just a bit heavier.

They feature tool-free disassembly, so servicing a DT hub is particularly easy. Not that you’ll need to do that often due to the high-quality sealed bearings the brand uses.

DT Swiss’s own Aero Comp bladed spokes, made in-house at the brand's Biel HQ in Switzerland, round out a sturdily built wheelset that should prove to be more than the sum of its parts.

Buy now from Chain Reaction for £507

Bontrager Paradigm Comp TLR

Buy now from Trek for £500

Bontrager may be Trek’s in-house components brand but the quality of products like its Paradigm Comp TLR wheels is such that they deserve to be considered as an upgrade for any bike, not just a Trek.

With ‘TLR’ in the name, unsurprisingly the Paradigm Comp wheels are geared around tubeless performance. The wheels ship with Bontrager’s brilliant rim strip - a plastic cover that snaps smartly into place over the rim bed, making the rims tubeless compatible far more easily than going through the labour of applying tape.

Bontrager uses what it calls ‘stacked lacing’ in the Paradigm Comp TLRs, to create a better spoke bracing angle in an attempt at promoting wheel stiffness.

The rim’s diameter (25mm outer, 19.5mm inner) is wider than most, meaning the wheels will support wider tyres particularly well. The rim is particularly shallow, meaning aerodynamic efficiency doesn’t feature highly but that does mean they are light, weighing just 1585g.

Buy now from Trek for £500

Cero AR24 Evo Alloy Wheelset


Buy now CycleDivision for £229

Light, low-profile and tubeless compatible, these hoops have all the hallmarks of a very practical wheelset. Their medium width rims suit higher volume tyres like 25-28c models, lending them a gently rounded, stable curvature and reducing the chance of pinch flats should you choose to run them tubed.

With 20/24 spokes front and back, they’re light at a touch under 1,500 grams a pair, helped in part by Sapim D-Light butted spokes. Arriving with tubeless rim tape pre-installed, the Cero branded quick-releases are also very light at 110g a set.

Despite being quite remarkably cheap, they nevertheless include high quality sealed bearings throughout along with a fast engaging aluminium freehub body.

Buy now CycleDivision for £229

The best road bike wheels under £500: Disc brakes

Tech Editor’s pick: DT Swiss G 1800 Spline 25

Buy now from Chain Reaction for £380

Gravel riding is big business now and DT Swiss was quick to capitalise on market demand by producing its G series wheelsets, all of which are designed to meet the demands of the emerging discipline.

By happy coincidence though their features also suit road use rather well too. The G 1800 wheels come with tubeless tape already installed, and feature a whopping 24mm internal rim width meaning 30mm road tyres and above will match perfectly, adding heaps of comfort to your bike while reducing rolling resistance to boot.

What’s more, the wheels are built to handle the rough and tumble of gravel tracks so despite being a little chunky at 1895g, they should last ages, being built around DT’s Swiss solid 370 hubs using the brand’s own Aerocomp spokes.

If you are after a budget wheelset that has provisions for the latest trends in rim technology and riding requirements built in, the DT Swiss G 1800 25 should be worthy of serious consideration. With the right tyres fitted, there shouldn’t be any terrain you’ll have trouble riding over.

Buy now from Chain Reaction for £380

After something more traditionally road-going? Check out four of the best other options

 

Hunt 34 Aero Wide

Buy now from Hunt for £499

Aerodynamic performance in aluminium rims is often thought to be inherently inferior to carbon but in its 34 Aero Wide wheels, Hunt has proven that doesn’t have to be the case.

After time in a wind tunnel, Hunt says it has shown that the 34 Aero Wide wheels are the fastest aluminium set in the world, even comparing favourably against carbon rim designs. This is thanks to the shape of the rim, which starts at 24mm wide at the bead hook, before bulging to 26mm at its widest. Hunt says this helps smooth airflow over the tyre and rim.

Despite its aero credentials, the 34 Aero Wide wheels remain lightweight, at a claimed 1548g. Hunt says this is down to the use of 6069-T6 aluminium, which is stronger than conventional alloys used in rims.

Once again, value for money is unbeatable - Pillar Wing spokes are used to further help aerodynamics, and low-friction bearings are housed within Hunt’s machined Sprint hubs. If you are after a wheelset to make you faster for less than £500, we doubt you’ll find a better option than these.

Buy now from Hunt for £499

Mavic Ksyrium S Disc

Mavic’s Ksyrium S Disc wheels are the disc-brake compatible version of the French brand’s legendary Ksyrium rim-brake wheels.

Mavic says many features have been carried over from the wheelset’s rim-brake forebear to ensure this wheelset lives up to its name – the rims have the same strength boosting 'SUP' welding applied to the rim, which is also made from Mavic’s proprietary ‘Maxtal’ alloy.

The brand claims this alloy is lighter and stiffer than the ones used in conventional rims. It creates a wheelset that is competitive in weight at this price point – the Ksyrium Disc S weigh 1670g.

Backing up the light rim are straight-pull, bladed and double-butted spokes, laced to hubs with ‘optimised bearing placement’, which Mavic says makes the wheel stiffer. The rear hub also uses the firm's Instant Drive 360 freewheel system which provides a matched 40 points of engagement.

Just like their rim-brake counterparts, the Ksyrium Disc wheels use Mavic’s UST tubeless standard, which goes a long way to ensuring the easy set-up and high performance of tubeless tyres should you choose to use them with these wheels.

Fulcrum Racing 4 DB


Much like Mavic in its Ksyrium wheel range, Fulcrum has reimagined its popular Racing 4 wheelset in a disc-brake format.

The aluminium rim keeps the same notable 35mm depth, which should help aerodynamic efficiency, although it is a little narrow with a 22mm external diameter so is unlikely to support tyres wider than 28mm optimally.

The wheels do pack in plenty of useful features though. Despite the deep rim, the wheelset’s weight isn’t particularly heavy at a claimed 1690g and the spokes use an ‘anti-rotation system’ meaning they should never lose their initial tension, so the wheel should stay true.

The rims use Fulcrum’s ‘2Way-Fit’ design, which is its way of saying they are tubeless compatible once rim-tape is installed. Fulcrum also says rear wheel stiffness gets a boost thanks to the hub’s ‘Monoblock’ design - the hub is machined from a solid block of aluminium and has oversized flanges to better anchor the spokes.

Prime Attaquer Disc

Buy now from Wiggle for £450

Prime is the in-house brand of online retailer Chain Reaction Cycles, so despite being a fairly new brand it is able to rival Hunt in its ability to offer value for money.

The Attaquer wheelset sits at the top of Prime’s alloy range. The rim is fashionably tubeless compatible and despite it being 30mm deep with a 19mm internal width, the wheelset weighs just 1470g. That makes it one of the lightest wheelsets in its category.

Prime’s own RD010 hubset promises good durability, being CNC machined from 7075 aluminium. The freehub houses an anti-bite guard too, to stop the cassette jamming on when it comes to replacing it.

Attaching the hub to the rim is a mix of high-quality DT Swiss Aerolite and Aerocomp spokes, which are bladed - Prime says this will aerodynamically support the efficiency of the rim.

Prime’s Attauqer Disc wheels are worth a look if you aren’t concerned with the cachet of a more established brand name and want a solid deal for the money you are spending.

Currently only available bundled with a pair of Hutchinson's excellent Fusion 5 Performance 11Storm TR Road Tyres (which you can find a review of here) and matching sealant, if anything this makes them an even better proposition. 

Buy now from Wiggle for £450

 

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