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Best cheap bike wheels

Cyclist magazine
23 Jan 2021

Seven of the best cheap bike wheels for use with calliper brakes

Looking to replace your worn-out wheels, upgrade the basic hoops on your bike, or save your posh rims from taking a beating this winter? Priced under or around £300, these moderately priced non-disc wheels are happy to be all things to all riders.

With a huge effect on the performance of your bike, a phenomenal amount of research and design is poured into top-end wheels. Happily, plenty of this has now trickled down to more attainable price points.

This means features riders on a budget would have had to forgo just a few years back are now commonplace. These include weights as low as 1,500g per pair, tubeless compatibility, sealed cartridge bearings, and even wide, aerodynamic rims. 

Here are seven of the best cheap bike wheels...

Best cheap bike wheels

1. Hunt Race Aero Wheelset

Buy now from Hunt for £359

A moderately cheap alloy wheelset that should possess more than modest climbing capabilities. Weighing in at an uncommonly light 1,479g, Hunt’s Race Aero Wheelset nevertheless manages to include wide rims to support broad tyres. At the same time, the rims’ 27mm deep profile means they probably still offer some aerodynamic benefit versus shallower alternatives.

Either way, with 18 straight-pull spokes at the front and 24 on the rear, these combine with a four-pawl hub in an attempt to offer quick engagement and good acceleration.

Arriving with spare spokes, along with Hunt’s excellent alloy and brass cam-plate actuated quick-release levers, the whole package is backed by solid customer service from the Sussex-based firm.

There’s also the option to have your wheels pre-fitted with a choice of tubeless tyres to take the hassle out of setting them up yourself. 

Claimed Weight: 1,479g. Tubeless compatible: yes. Spoke count: 18f/24r. Extras: tubeless tape pre-installed, tubeless valves, 4x spare spokes and nipples, alloy/brass quick-release levers

Buy now from Hunt for £359

2. Fulcrum Racing 6 Wheelset

Buy now from Tweeks Cycles for £209

Not super light but not super heavy, the Fulcrums invest their mass wisely. For one, their broad rims fit with modern aero trends and lend tyres a pleasingly bulbous profile, which should increase grip and comfort. They have an asymmetric rear rim that’s designed to increase lateral and torsional rigidity, and they’re also great looking.

Giving away a few grams compared to some pricier wheels, the Fulcrum Racing 6 wheelset is nevertheless unlikely to cause trouble down the line when it comes to servicing.

Well-thought-out, these wheels easily outperform their budget pricepoint and are a good bet for long-term durability – assuming you’re happy to do without any form of tubeless compatibility.  

Claimed Weight: 1,760g. Tubeless compatible: no. Spoke count: 18f/20r. Extras: quick-release leavers, rim tape

Buy now from Tweeks Cycles for £209

3. Scribe 365 Wheelset 

Buy now from Scribe for £280

Designed for year-round use in British conditions, Scribe’s 365 wheelset aims to balance durability with racy performance. To achieve this it employs high-fatigue alloy rims which should resist being eaten up by your brake pads.

At 26mm deep, these rims also possess a 19mm internal width meaning they’re happy being paired with wider tyres. Despite the emphasis on durability, weight is decent at 1,574g. This is thanks partly to a moderate spoke count of 24 front and 28 back. These Sapim-made parts are then held in place by corrosion-resistant brass nipples.

Keeping the weather out of the wheel’s internal parts, the hubs’ contact sealed bearings are filled with uprated grease for longer service life. Arriving pre-taped and with a full spares kit, Scribe also offers a complimentary tyre-fitting service for stress-free tubeless set-up. 

Claimed Weight: 1,574g. Tubeless compatible: yes. Spoke count: 24f/28r. Extras: tubeless tape pre-installed, tubeless valves, 4x spare spokes and nipples, quick-release levers 

Buy now from Scribe for £280

4. Bontrager Paradigm TLR Wheelset

Buy now from Trek for £300

Bontrager makes a ton of low-fuss yet high-quality components; these wheels are no exception. Getting on with their job without shouting about it, they strike a good balance between performance and durability.

An early adopter of tubeless technology, they come with all the gubbins necessary to ditch your tubes. As wide as you’ll need at 19.5mm, the rims readily accept broad tyres of all types.

Cleverly, the offset spoke bed on the rear rim reduces the dish necessary, allowing for a stronger build. This means that despite a low spoke count and medium weight of 1,750g, they manage without a stated maximum rider weight limit.

Fairly shallow, the Paradigm wheels might not be much to look at, but they’re feature-rich, not too heavy and very tough. 

Claimed Weight: 1,750g. Tubeless compatible: yes. Spoke count: 18f/24r. Extras: TLR rim strips, valve stems, internal cam quick-release levers

Buy now from Trek for £300

5. Mavic Aksium Elite Evo UST Wheelset

Mavic is the most established wheelmaker in the world. And despite plenty of up-start brands nipping at its heels, there remain lots of reasons to recommend its budget hoops.

First up, they’re utterly bombproof. This quality is present across all areas of the wheel; from long rim life to remaining straight and true, or the serviceability of the freehub – they’ll outlast almost anything.

Of course, you can’t have it all. What you don’t get is ultra-low weight. Although at 1,790g, in reality, they’re not too portly and should respond well on the bike.

Claimed Weight: 1,790g. Tubeless compatible: yes. Spoke count: 20f/20r. Extras: tubeless valves supplied

6. Prime Baroudeur Wheelset

These Prime Baroudeur wheels smash it on the headline specs. Weight a touch over 1,500g for the pair, pre-taped for easy tubeless set-up, and a broad 19mm internal rim to pair nicely with wider tyres; there’s not a lot missing.

Built using quality components like Pillar Spokes and DT Swiss Pro-Lock nipples they’re deceptively simple-looking, yet should provide a long service life. They look to be reactive enough to inject some pizzaz into all but the fastest of bikes, they roll on easy-to-replace sealed cartridge bearings.

Arriving with four spare spokes and nipples, tubeless valves and a 10-speed spacer, they should prove a long-running and top value addition to almost any bike. 

Claimed Weight: 1,516g. Tubeless compatible: yes. Spoke count: 20f/24r. Extras: tubeless tape pre-installed, tubeless valves, 4x spare spokes and nipples, quick-release levers

7. Vision Team 35 Comp SL Wheelset

With 35 mm deep rims, these Vision wheels trade a little weight for a likely aerodynamic boost. Yet at 1,780g they remain far from chunky. Built radially at the front and with an asymmetric 2:1 lacing pattern at the back, both ends use aero bladed spokes.

The result should be a nippy wheelset that holds speed well on the flats, never feels too harsh and won’t struggle uphill either. With a recently improved rim width of 19mm, they’ll also support modern sized tyres. That said, you’ll be limited to using conventional clinchers, as they’re not yet tubeless compatible.

Anodised black all over, their initial looks are very stealthy. However, expect to slowly wear into the surface which will leave them looking less neat. A decent bet if you fancy doing with a bit of depth and don’t mind forgoing tubeless compatibility. 

Claimed Weight: 1,780g. Tubeless compatible: no. Spoke count: 16f/20r. Extras: quick-release levers, rim tape

See our list of the best disc brake wheels and whether you should go for aero or lightweight wheels

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