How to choose new wheels for your bike?
Wheels are measured according to their diameter and width. If you’re shopping for wheels, you might see a number like 700C x 19. The first number is the diameter of the wheel in millimeters; the second is the width.
Sometimes manufacturers uses the English-American standard and list the numbers in inches (for example, 26 x 1.9). In other cases, manufacturers write one number in inches and the other in millimeters (for example, 26 x 19).
Knowing the size of a wheel is important because not all wheels will fit a bike and not all tires will fit a wheel. The diameter determines what wheel will work with your bike. The forks on a bike are designed to use wheels of a certain size. If the diameter is too large, the wheel won’t fit on the bike. If the diameter is too small, the brakes won’t align properly with the rim.
The width impacts the tires you can use. Wider rims are usually found on mountain bikes, which use thick tires with heavier tread. Narrower rims are found on road bikes, which use thin tires.
Another consideration when buying wheels for your bike is the width of the hubs â the distance as measured between the two locknuts. It should match up with the distance between the dropouts in the forks and the rear frame dropouts.
Many quick-release hubs are thicker than their nutted, solid-axle counterparts. If your bike is designed with traditional hub nuts, be sure to test new wheels if they use a quick-release axle â otherwise, you may find that they don’t fit.
Other than size, another consideration when purchasing a wheel is whether it supports a clincher tire or tubular tire:
Clincher tires are what you find on most bikes today. A clincher combines a tire (which is secured on the rim by two beads, or outer edges, that tuck or clinch inside the rim) and an inner tube (which is enclosed by the tire). To protect the tube from the spoke holes, rim tape or some sort of material is used to line the inside of the rim next to the tube.
Tubular tires are found mostly on racing bikes. They consist of a tire material that is sewn together and then attached to the rim with adhesive. If you have a flat, changing a tubular tire is more work, but tubular tires are safer than clinchers if your flat occurs when you’re riding at a high speed, because they’re less likely to come off the rim while you’re riding.
Some downhill mountain bikes are starting to use a new style of rim and tire combination that doesn’t use tubes. These are more durable and hold up better to the extreme conditions of mountain biking, but they aren’t ideal for every rider because they’re very expensive and hard to work with.
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