Bikewagon's own Cole Chandler is back with another Maintenance Monday. This week, he teaches us how to remove a rear bike wheel and re-install it. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Wheels & Tires
In the last few years, tubeless tire setups have become the wheel systems and tires of choice for mountain bikers. While still not nearly as popular as in the MTB world, road and cyclocross setups have also started taking hold in the last year or so.
If you've heard your friends talking about their tubeless setups but haven't yet made the effort to switch, we've put together a few videos to help you understand the process.
Part 1: An overview of tubeless tires
Do you feel a bit of wobbling in your bike, do your brakes rub at one spot on your wheel, or are you having trouble tracking straight while you ride? Your wheel may be out of true. This tutorial will explain the basic procedure to true a wheel yourself using a minimum of tools.
- Spoked wheel
- Spoke wrench to match your spokes
- Your bike
- Rag to clean wheel
Step 1: Flip your bike upside down, and balance it on its handlebars and seat (use a soft surface like grass or carpet to avoid damaging your bike). This will give you easy access to the wheels. Give your wheel a quick wipe down with a damp rag to remove grease and dirt.
Step 2: Sight along the wheel so you only see a thin slice of it. Begin to spin the wheel gently with your hand, and observe the wheel. Watch for side-to-side wobbling. If you see none, switch to the other wheel and repeat.
Step 3: Make sure that the wheel is well-seated in the fork dropouts. This could be the cause of any wobbling, so release your quick releases or unscrew any bolts that hold your wheels in place. Make sure they are seated correctly, and re-tighten them.
Wheels are perhaps the most important part of the whole bicycle. Because wheels provide the link between the bicycle and the road, problems with the wheels can make a bike ride unpleasant or even dangerous -- and high quality wheels can make a ride feel smooth and fast.
Different wheels are designed for different purposes. The first major difference is between road and mountain wheels. Road wheels are lightweight and designed for speed and light weight. Mountain wheels are designed to be beefier, made for stiffness and strength when faced with jumps, rocks, and drops.
Other specialty designs include super-aerodynamic models designed for triathlon and time-trial use. These are the strange looking wheels you may have seen that have only three or four thick “spokes.”
Most wheels are a more normal style called wire wheels, which use wire spokes to tension wheels and keep them straight. This style has been produced for over 100 years and provides a strong, stable and easily repairable ride.
The quality of your ride largely depends on the wheels that you use, so it is important to choose a wheel that is matched with your riding style. The process of choosing a wheel is actually quite easy.
The weight of the wheel is more important than the weight of other components on your bike, because the wheels spin. This rotation throws the weight of the wheels around and around, which means that heavier wheels take more pedaling effort to get moving. This effect is not as noticeable on flats, where heavier wheels may actually help a rider retain their speed. But in the mountains, weighty wheels will slow a rider down.
If you’re heading to the hills, pick up the lightest set of wheels you can afford.
The number of spokes on a wheel determines its strength: more spokes lead to a stronger (but heavier) wheel. Bigger folks or people who will be touring with pannier bags, carrying loads of groceries, or riding over and off of obstacles should get wheels with more spokes. Racers and folks who ride more casually or are smaller can get by with fewer spokes.
Most wheel descriptions include a maximum recommend weight and a description of the riding style they are best suited to. This information can help you in your purchasing decisions.
All wheels sold at bike shops include hubs, which are the enclosed system of bearings around which the wheel rotates. Modern wheels from reputable sources will have solid hubs that will give you many years of service. Rear wheels (for bikes with more than one speed) are built differently than forward wheels to include a mounting point for the rear set of gears (the “cassette”).
More expensive wheels typically include higher quality hubs with better ball bearings that provide a more efficient ride and more durability.
Rims are another factor that determine which wheels will be the best fit for you. Thicker, beefier rims are stronger and more rigid, which makes them more efficient and suited for racing, while thinner rims provide a more comfortable ride with a bit of flex. The rim material also effects braking power: steel rims, once common, are now out of favor because they are slippery when wet. Modern wheels use aluminum or carbon fiber for better stopping power.
If you get carbon fiber wheels or want to mount disc brakes on your bicycle, you may have to use special wheel-brake combinations -- consult a mechanic or bike shop employee before making a final purchase on these styles.
To tube or not to tube?
Some modern tire designs have eliminated the need for a separate inner tube, which is required on standard bike wheels. These “tubeless” designs match with a special tire and a wheel that is designed to create an airtight seal around the rim. These are most common on mountain bikes, because tubeless designs can be run at low pressures to get maximum traction, but without the danger of pinch flats.
Another option for racers are tubular wheels -- the lightest and fastest models on the market. These require specially designed round tires with built-in inner tubes which are glued in place on the wheel. While tubular tires will increase your speed and reduce the weight of your bicycle, these tires are much more difficult to change and are almost exclusively designed for races.
Choosing the correct size of wheel is an easy process; just look at the current tires on your bicycle and note the diameter (something like 700C or 26 inches) and the width (usually 18mm or wider). In general, wider tires give more traction while narrower tires are more efficient and faster.
Make sure your new tire does not exceed the diameter and width that can safely be used with your bike -- the size of your frame and fork, as well as your brake setup, determines these limits. Sizing tires to fit a wheel properly can be confusing, so consult an expert to make sure you get the right fit for your wheels.
Prices for bicycle wheels range from less than $150 for a pair to over $2000 for a high-end wheel set. As with all bicycle parts, you get what you pay for. Higher priced wheels are typically more durable and will provide a stable ride for many years and even decades. It also costs more for lightweight, high-tech materials like titanium spokes, carbon fiber rims and ceramic bearings, instead of the standard aluminum and steel.
With proper maintenance, a good set of wheels will keep you safe and riding for thousands of miles. Lucky for us, there are many choices on the market today, and if you stick to reputable brands, you can’t go wrong.