Cycling enthusiasts and professional riders are always on the lookout for ways to improve their performance and enhance their riding experience. One of the most critical components of a road bike that can significantly impact its performance is the wheelset.
There are various types of road bike wheels available in the market, each with its unique features, benefits, and drawbacks. In this article, we will discuss the differences between tubular, clincher, tubeless ready, and hookless road bike wheels, and help you make an informed decision when choosing the right wheelset for your bike.
Clincher wheels were the most common type of road bike wheel and were found on the majority of bikes until recently. These wheels use a separate tire and inner tube, with the tire’s bead hooking onto the rim to hold it in place. Clincher wheels are compatible with a wide range of tire options, making them a versatile choice for many riders.
Benefits of Clincher Wheels
Easy to Install and Repair:
Clincher tires are relatively easy to install and remove, making it simple to replace a flat tire or swap out tires for different riding conditions. This can be a significant advantage for riders who want to minimize downtime during a ride or race.
Wide Range of Tire Options:
Clincher wheels are compatible with a vast array of tire options, allowing riders to choose the perfect tire for their riding style and conditions. This can be especially beneficial for riders who frequently switch between road, gravel, and cyclocross riding.
Clincher wheels and tires are generally more affordable than tubular and tubeless options, making them an attractive choice for budget-conscious riders.
Drawbacks of Clincher Wheels
Clincher wheels are typically heavier than tubular wheels due to the additional weight of the separate tire and inner tube. This can lead to reduced acceleration and climbing performance.
Clincher tires are more susceptible to pinch flats, as the inner tube can get pinched between the tire and rim during a hard impact. This can be a significant disadvantage for riders who frequently ride on rough roads or in races where punctures are common.
When it comes to clincher wheels, there is a large selection available. Most modern wheels are both clincher and Tubeless ready. Important things to look after when choosing a wheel are the depth, the material used, the hub, and the spokes among other things.
While alloy wheels had been the popular choice for decades, carbon wheels have gained a lot of traction due to their performance benefits as well as due to the fact that carbon manufacture has advanced to the point that wheels are consistently of high quality. The following wheels are all suitable for clincher and tubeless ready tires.
Elitewheels Drive 40D:
The Drive 40D is a superlight disc brake climbing wheel that comes in at only 1260 grams for the pair. This is made possible due to UNI carbon fiber, a specific blend of genuine Japanese Toray carbon fiber and Elitewheels own resin. It features replaceable carbon spokes and is currently being raced by multiple UCI Continental teams. It is the perfect choice when choosing a climbing wheel. Hubs feature low rolling resistance ceramic bearings. The Drive 40D as well as all other Drive road wheels are UCI certified.
Elitewheels Drive 50V:
The Drive 50V is a similar rim to the 40D with a few small differences. It is a rim brake wheel that packs all of the same cycling tech. Coming in at 1315 grams, it is an excellent all around wheel for the flats, hills, and climbs. It features a grooved brake track and 250 degree high temperature resin making allowing for effective braking on steep descents as well as in wet conditions.
Elitewheels Velo TT Disc Brake Bundle:
Velo TT is a triathlon and time trial wheelset designed to offer marginal gains where it matters most. No stone was left unturned when making the wheels. The rear disc wheel features advanced high density PMI allowing for the wheel to not only be lightweight but also stiff, allowing for excellent power transfer. The PMI also allows the wheel to be made exceptionally strong. The front wheel uses aero Sapim CX-Ray spokes. It is 82mm deep making it ideal for most time trial and triathlon courses.
Continental Grand Prix 5000:
The Continental GP 5000 clincher tires are a favorite among road cyclists, including professional racers. Renowned for their outstanding performance, these tires offer an unbeatable combination of durability, low rolling resistance, and precise handling. Whether you’re tackling long-distance rides or intense races, the GP 5000 provides a smooth and reliable ride, allowing you to push your limits with confidence.
Schwalbe Pro One:
For riders seeking top-tier performance, the Schwalbe Pro One tires are a go-to choice. These tires boast excellent grip on both wet and dry surfaces, providing superior cornering confidence. Additionally, the Pro One’s low rolling resistance ensures efficient power transfer, making them ideal for speed enthusiasts and serious racers alike. Not to mention, these tires come with good puncture protection, reducing the chances of unexpected flats on the road.
Vittoria Corsa G2.0:
If you crave a smooth and responsive ride, the Vittoria Corsa G2.0 tires won’t disappoint. With their supple casing and compound, these tires deliver a luxurious feel on the road, absorbing road imperfections and enhancing comfort. Furthermore, the Corsa G2.0 offers impressive cornering grip, allowing you to confidently take on challenging turns. Widely praised for their race-worthy characteristics, these tires strike an excellent balance between speed and control.
Michelin Power Competition:
Designed explicitly for racing and high-performance riding, the Michelin Power Competition tires are engineered to deliver optimal grip, low weight, and reliable puncture resistance. These tires offer exceptional responsiveness, making them an excellent choice for aggressive riders looking to shave seconds off their personal records. With the Power Competition tires, you can push the limits and tackle demanding courses with ease.
Pirelli P Zero Race:
For cyclists seeking the ultimate blend of speed and performance, the Pirelli P Zero Race tires stand out as a top choice. These tires provide a smooth ride with excellent handling, giving you the confidence to take on fast descents and challenging terrains. Pirelli’s attention to detail ensures that the P Zero Race tires excel in both grip and durability, making them a reliable companion for your most ambitious rides.
Tubeless Ready Wheels
Tubeless ready wheels are a relatively new addition to the road bike wheel market and are designed to be used without an inner tube. These wheels use a special rim and tire combination that creates an airtight seal, allowing the tire to be inflated without the need for an inner tube. Tubeless ready wheels require the use of a liquid sealant to prevent air leaks and seal small punctures.Tubeless ready wheels can also be used with clincher tires, making them incredibly versatile.
Benefits of Tubeless Ready Wheels
Tubeless ready wheels are less prone to punctures, as the liquid sealant can quickly seal small holes and prevent air loss. This can be especially beneficial for riders who frequently ride on rough roads or in races where punctures are common.
Lower Rolling Resistance:
Tubeless ready tires can be run at lower pressures than clincher tires, which can result in lower rolling resistance and improved ride quality.
Tubeless ready wheels can be lighter than clincher wheels, as they do not require a separate inner tube. This can lead to better acceleration and climbing performance.
Drawbacks of Tubeless Ready Wheels
Installation and Maintenance:
Installing tubeless ready tires can be a more complicated process than installing clincher tires, as it requires the use of a liquid sealant and an air compressor or high-volume pump to seat the tire. Additionally, the sealant needs to be replaced periodically, which can be a hassle for some riders.
Limited Tire Options:
While the number of tubeless ready tire options is growing, it is still not as extensive as the range of clincher tires available.
When it comes to tubeless ready wheels, they have become the new standard. In fact, most modern wheels are both clincher and tubeless ready. Important things to look after when choosing a wheel are the depth, the material used, the hub, and the spokes among other things.
Understand that there is a difference between tubeless ready and tubeless rims. Tubeless rims do not have rim tape. While this does have some advantages, it can make truing wheels more complicated and time consuming. In this list, only tubeless ready wheels are recommended.
Elitewheels Drive 40V:
The Drive 40V is a superlight rim brake climbing wheel that comes in at only 1255 grams for the pair. This is made possible due to UNI carbon fiber. UNI a proprietary blend of genuine Japanese Toray carbon fiber and Elitewheels’ own resin. It is the perfect choice when choosing a climbing wheel. It features a grooved brake track and 250 degree high temperature resin making allowing for effective braking on steep descents as well as in wet conditions. Hubs use ultra low rolling resistance ceramic bearings, saving you precious watts.
Elitewheels Drive 50D:
The Drive 50D is a similar rim to the 40V with a few small differences. It is a disc brake wheel that packs all of the same cycling tech. Coming in at a featherweight grams, it is an excellent all around wheel for the flats, hills, and climbs. Wheels feature replaceable carbon spokes, and it is currently being raced by multiple UCI Continental professional cycling teams.
Elitewheels Velo TT Rim Brake Bundle:
Velo TT is a triathlon and time trial wheelset designed to offer marginal gains where it matters most. The rear disc wheel features advanced high density PMI allowing, making the wheel lightweight and stiff. The PMI also allows the wheel to be made exceptionally strong. The front wheel uses aero Sapim CX-Ray spokes. It is 82mm deep making it ideal for most time trial and triathlon courses. The rim brake version uses the same high temperature resin in the grooved brake track offering excellent performance regardless of the course and weather conditions.
Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL:
A spin-off of the highly acclaimed GP 5000 clincher version, the Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL tubeless tires maintain the same outstanding performance, low rolling resistance, and puncture protection. Embraced by both amateur and professional road cyclists, these tires are known for their reliability, making them ideal for long-distance rides and intense races alike.
Schwalbe Pro One Tubeless:
The Schwalbe Pro One Tubeless tires have earned a reputation for their exceptional grip, low rolling resistance, and reliable puncture protection. Whether you’re tackling wet roads or dry surfaces, these tires offer confidence-inspiring handling and cornering. With their high-performance characteristics, the Schwalbe Pro One Tubeless tires are a top choice for cyclists seeking an edge in any road condition.
Vittoria Corsa Speed TLR:
Designed specifically for speed and racing, the Vittoria Corsa Speed TLR tires deliver a trifecta of benefits: low weight, low rolling resistance, and a luxurious ride feel. If you’re looking to maximize your speed on smooth roads and sprint to victory, these tires are the perfect companion for achieving your performance goals.
Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance 11Storm:
The Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance 11Storm tubeless road bike tires strike an excellent balance between grip, durability, and low rolling resistance. The 11Storm compound ensures outstanding traction, allowing you to confidently ride in various weather conditions without compromising performance.
Maxxis Padrone TR:
For cyclists seeking durability and reliability without sacrificing speed, the Maxxis Padrone TR tubeless tires are an ideal choice. With their smooth and fast-rolling design, these tires provide a comfortable and efficient ride, making them perfect for long hours in the saddle or spirited group rides.
Hookless Road Bike Wheels
Hookless road bike wheels are a relatively new innovation in the cycling world, and they feature a rim design that does not have the traditional bead hook found on clincher and tubeless ready rims. Instead, the tire’s bead is held in place by the rim’s sidewalls, creating a secure and airtight seal. Hookless wheels are designed to be used with tubeless ready tires.
Benefits of Hookless Road Bike Wheels
Easy Tire Installation:
Hookless rims make it easier to install and remove tubeless ready tires, as there is no bead hook to contend with. This can be a significant advantage for riders who frequently swap out tires for different riding conditions.
Hookless rims can be lighter than traditional clincher and tubeless ready rims, as they do not require the additional material needed for the bead hook.
Drawbacks of Hookless Road Bike Wheels
Hookless rims are only compatible with tubeless ready tires, which can limit the range of tire options available to riders
As hookless road bike wheels are a relatively new innovation, not all riders may be familiar with their benefits and drawbacks, and some may be hesitant to make the switch.
Tire Pressure Limit:
Hookless road bike tires can only be inflated to roughly 70psi, making them sub-optimal for 23-28mm tires which require higher pressures for optimal rolling resistance.
Hookless road tires and wheels are not standardized, leading to compatibility issues.At the moment, only a few brands provide them.
Tubular wheels, also known as “sew-ups” or “tubies,” were the go-to choice for professional cyclists for many years. These wheels consist of a tire that is sewn around an inner tube and then glued onto a specially designed rim. The tubular tire is a single unit, which means that if you get a flat, you need to replace the entire tire.
Benefits of Tubular Wheels
Tubular wheels are usually lighter than their clincher counterparts, as they do not require a separate tire and inner tube. This reduced weight can lead to better acceleration and climbing performance.
Many cyclists prefer the ride quality of tubular wheels, as they provide a more supple and comfortable ride due to their lower tire pressure. This can help reduce road vibrations and improve handling.
Tubular tires are less prone to pinch flats, as they do not have a separate inner tube that can get pinched between the tire and rim. This can be especially beneficial for riders who frequently ride on rough roads or in races where punctures are common.
Tubular wheels are known for their superior cornering ability, as the tire’s round profile allows for better contact with the road surface. This can provide increased grip and stability when taking sharp turns at high speeds.
Limited Tire Options:
Tubular tires are not as widely available as clincher and tubeless tires, which can make it difficult to find the perfect tire for your riding needs.
Each type of road bike wheel has its unique benefits and drawbacks, and the best choice for you will depend on your riding style, preferences, and budget. Tubular wheels are favored by professional racers for their lightweight and superior ride quality, while clincher wheels offer versatility and ease of use for everyday riders.
Tubeless ready wheels provide increased puncture resistance and improved ride quality, and hookless road bike wheels offer easy tire installation and potential weight savings. By understanding the differences between these wheel types, you can make an informed decision and choose the best wheelset for your road bike.