How to Choose a Mountain Bike Wheel ? (Guide For Beginner’s)

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How to choose mountain bike wheel size

You can improve your mountain bike’s performance by buying new wheels. You can climb and accelerate easier with lighter wheels. Stronger wheels allow you to ride on more difficult terrain. Wider rims provide better support for your tires. Upgrade to tubeless wheelsets will eliminate punctures.

MTB wheels come in different sizes and with different hubs. Some bikes, such as the Scott Genius, can be used with both 29-inch and 650b+ wheels. However, most bikes will only work with one size of the wheel.

It is crucial that you choose the right size wheels for your bike when choosing new wheels. For more information about MTB wheel sizing, please refer to the MTB Wheel Sizing section.

Which Features To Look For In New MTB Wheels?

There are many types of MTB tires that can be used for different mountain biking disciplines. Cross country (XC), wheels can be used for speed climbing while downhill (DH), wheels can be used for hard-charging on very difficult terrain. Trail wheels offer the best balance of strength and are lightweight, making them ideal for all types of terrain. Enduro wheels can be as strong as DH tires but are lightweight enough to allow for efficient climbing.

Rims

Because it is near the rocks and roots of the trail, the rim needs to be the most sturdy part of the wheel. The most important part of the wheel is the rim. Because the rim is the portion of the wheel furthest away from the centre, this is why it is so important. The rim is where the weight rotational effects are most evident. The wheel’s performance is affected by rim strength and weight.

Rim Materials

Aluminium alloy is used in most mountain bike rims.

Aluminium alloy rims. Alloy wheels with higher quality alloy are stronger and lighter. These wheels have welded seams that are stronger than rims made from cheaper alloys.

Carbon fiber rims can be lighter and stronger than alloy ones. The carbon layering process allows for the flexibility to adjust the rim profile to fit the intended use. Carbon fibre rims will give you the strongest and lightest wheels.

Rim Width

The tire’s performance is directly affected by the width of its rim. The importance of choosing the right rim width has never been greater, with tyres becoming wider and tubeless becoming more common. For more grip, wide rims can be used to put wider tyres on the road. Although narrower rims weigh less, they offer significant performance benefits.

A wider rim provides a stable base for your tyre, which is particularly important when cornering. Side-on pressure created by a hard turn can cause the tyre to squirm, which can be a problem for the bike. Tubeless setups are more susceptible to this problem because there is no inner tube that can provide support. You will be able to ride with lower tire pressures, which offer a better grip and less tyre noise in corners.

Tubeless

Tubeless riding reduces the risk of punctures and allows you to fully enjoy the benefits of riding with lower tire pressures. Your tyres will be more flexible to allow for smoother riding on uneven terrain and better grip in corners. You will also notice a reduction in punctures when you use tubeless sealant on your tyre.

Many high-end MTB wheels, from mid-range to high-end, are now tubeless compatible. You can choose to use inner tubes, or a tubeless setup.

You can simply fit tubeless tape, put in a tubeless valve, and then you’re ready to put on your tubeless tires. The tape and valves are included with some tubeless wheels. You can also fit the tape.

You can convert to tubeless if you want to upgrade your wheelset.

Hubs

The hub is the central part of the wheel. Hubs are fitted with axles that allow wheels to rotate freely on bearings within them. There are flanges on the hub body that attach the spokes.

Hub Materials

Mountain bike hubs are usually made of lightweight aluminium alloy. Carbon fibre composite hub bodies may be available for top-of-the-line wheels. Freehub bodies can be made of steel or aluminum. Aluminum is lighter than steel, but steel is more durable and prevents hub splines from being crushed under heavy loads. 

Bearings

Mountain bike hubs are usually made of lightweight aluminium alloy. Carbon fibre composite hub bodies may be available for top-of-the-line wheels. Freehub bodies can be made of steel or aluminum. Aluminum is lighter than steel, but steel is more durable and prevents hub splines from being crushed under heavy loads.

Freehub

The rear MTB wheels have a freehub on their drive side. This is the splined tube made of metal that the cassette sits upon and which rotates on its own set bearings. The spring-loaded pawl mechanism and ratchet engage when you pedal and release when you stop pedaling to allow you to coast. There are many options available, with different numbers and types of pawls as well as different teeth on the ratchet. You can get more power transfer with a rachet that has more pawls or teeth. However, you can also have more torque because of the smaller/bigger teeth.

Spokes

Most MTB wheels feature spokes made of stainless steel. Double-butted and butted spokes are lighter than regular ones, but they are equally strong. Mavic wheels may come with aero-bladed aluminium alloy spokes.

Most spokes attach to the hub’s flange and then screw into the eyelets of the rim using spoke nipples. The tension can be adjusted by tightening the spokes to the desired level. The most popular type of spoke is the J-bend, but straight-pull ones are more common.

There may be a variation in the number of spokes from one wheel to another. Different wheel lacing patterns can also be used and have different properties. Cross-lacing wheels tend to be more durable, while straight-lacing wheels can save weight.

MTB Wheel Sizing

Mountain bike wheels must be compatible with your bike when you purchase a new set and for this, you should always consider the mountain bike size chart for wheels that have the same diameter rim, the same hub width, and the same axle diameter as the existing wheels on your bike are required.

Rim Sizes

Rim Diameter

Here are four diameters for the mountain bikes that correspond to the main wheel sizes. You will need to upgrade your wheels if you want them to be the same size as the originals. Bikes that can be used with both 29-inch and 27.5″ Plus sized wheels are an exception.

Rim Width

The rim width can be measured either from the inside or outside of the rim. However, it is the measurement at the inner rim that is most important. Wider tyres will suit wider rims. Bikes with Boost hub spacing allow for wider tyres. All rim widths will fit your bike, but tyres might not.

  • 29″ –  This is the largest MTB wheel size found on 29ers
  • 27.5″ –  Also called 650b, it is the most popular MTB wheel size. The 27.5″+ (plus) wheels are the same size as regular 27.5″ tires, but with wider rims.
  • 26″  –  This is the traditional MTB size. It can be found only on dirt jump bikes and small adult bikes.
  • 24″ –  found on dirt jump bikes and junior MTBs.

Hub Sizes

Axle Diameter

Traditional Quick Release (QR), axles have a 9mm front axle diameter and a 10mm rear axle diameter. These axles can be used with standard dropouts, similar to those on road bikes. For improved handling, many mountain bikes use thru axles (TA).

The most popular front axle diameter is 15mm. These are used on cross-country, trail, and enduro MTBs. Downhill bikes have 20mm thru axles. Many forks come with a quick release thru axle, so they may also be called 15QR and 20QR. On MTBs with rigid forks or hardtails, you will find traditional 9mm QR axles.

The most popular thru axle size is 12mm. QR axles of 10mm are available on hardtail and full sus MTBs. Older bikes can have 10mm thru axles or 10mm bolt-on axles. These are compatible with standard dropouts.

Hub Width

Front Hubs – There are two widths for front MTB hubs. The standard width is 100mm. High-end mountain bikes use the 110mm Boost axle standard. Downhill hubs that have 20mm axles used 110mm spacing for their hub spacing. The new Boost downhill hubs have the same hub width as the axle diameter, but the hub flanges on the hubs are wider to allow for a brake rotor to be in a different place. 

Front Wheel
Hub Width Axle diameter Type Common Use
100mm 9mm Released quickly An entry-level hardtail MTB’s traditional design
100mm 15mm 15mm thru axle Suitable for older trail MTBs
110mm 15mm 15mm Boost thru axle Single-crown forks compatible with Boost
110mm 20mm 20mm thru axle Forks used for downhill skiing
110mm 20mm 20mm Boost thru axle Downhill forks compatible with Boost

 

Rear hubs – The rear axles are more complex. Traditional MTB rear axle widths are 135mm, but thru axles have a more common 135mm. The Boost standard rear hub width is 148mm. Downhill bikes have wider hubs. Common DH hub width is 150mm, but some Downhill bikes have the Super Boost standard of 157mm.

Rear Wheel
Hub Width Axle diameter Type Common Use
135mm 10mm Quick Release or Bolt On Beginner’s MTBs and Dirt Jump bikes
142mm 12mm 12mm thru axle A traditional mountain bike with thru axles
148mm 12mm 12mm Boost thru axle Compatible with XC, trail, ands
150mm 12mm 12mm thru axle Downhill bikes
157mm 12mm 12mm Super Boost thru axle Bikes with Super Boost compatibility

Brake Compatibility

It is important to choose wheels that match the brakes of your bike.

Rim Brakes

Non-disc wheels that have a brake surface on the rim are required if you have rim brakes. Non-disc wheels cannot be used with disc brakes.

Disc brakes

For the best mountain bikes with disc brakes, you will need disc-compatible tires. There are two options for mounting discs on your wheel. You can use existing disc rotors by using the same mounting system on a wheel.

Rear hubs – The rear axles are more complex. Traditional MTB rear axle widths are 135mm, but thru axles have a more common width of 142mm. The Boost standard rear hub width is 148mm. Downhill bikes have wider hubs. 150mm is the most common DH hub width, but you can also find the Super Boost standard of 157mm on some Downhill bikes.

Also Read: Benefits of Having an Electric Bike

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