LAST UPDATED: November 7, 2019
Best Mountain Bike Wheels: Ride Further and Longer
Glide through trails and off-road terrain more efficiently with these top mountain bike wheels
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON November 7, 2019
If you need new mountain bike wheels or just want to upgrade your bike’s look and style, we’ve got a few you should consider. Over time, wheels can get dented, dinged, or bent on the ride, and that may weaken them and make your next ride uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. If you want your bike to ride and look better, here are some of the best mountain bike wheels on the market.
A 27-inch mountain bike wheel that is sturdy, reliable, and designed to function with disc brakes.
- Fits 27-inch tires
- Built for off-road and difficult hilly terrain
- Handles well and they are easy to install
- Will not work with rim brakes or through axles
A shiny silver colored mountain bike wheel built to handle larger tires.
- Designed with a 36h rim and a bolt-on axle
- Set at an affordable price
- Includes wide spokes.
- Bearings can be tight and difficult to undo
- There may be a slight vibration while riding
A 26-inch diameter mountain bike wheel with an easy-to-use quick-release system. The wheels are the Weinmann 519 model.
- Built with an 8/9 speed black hub, 14g black spokes, and 36 holes
- Lightweight and reasonably priced
- May require a bit of TLC
- Complaints of alignment issues
- You may have to spend more to adjust them
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Benefits of Mountain Bike Wheels
- Ride quality. Wheels are one of the elements of a mountain bike that first show the changes in terrain. They help with rolling over objects and surface imperfections with more efficiency, and therefore, ensure a better ride quality.
- Speed. Quality wheels are known to reduce weight when on tracks and enhance the overall speed. With light and quality wheels, cyclists can get up to higher speeds with less effort.
- Maneuver. Wheels also allow for smoother turning and easier handling when on tracks. They enhance the grip and give more stability during every ride, which ensures an easier maneuver and consequently leads to better performance.
- Comfort. By smoothing the ride over bumps and other surface imperfections, wheels also make it more comfortable. They give stability and more control for the rider, ensuring a better riding experience in different conditions.
Types of Mountain Bike Wheels
The original wheel type would be the one designed in the 1970s and measuring 26 inches (also called a traditional or standard type). Coming in the small size and lightweight design, it's suitable for twisty tracks and smooth surfaces. Although beneficial when it comes to speed, this type doesn't offer enough stability when riding over bumps and surface imperfections. Over the years, bigger wheels replaced the 26-inch ones, mostly because of better performance on rough terrains.
29-inch or 650b
There's also a 29-inch type, sometimes referred to as 29er or 650b. Its main benefit is the ability to roll over objects and bumps with ease. Bigger wheels allow for a smooth ride and ensure more stability and control on rough terrain. They do, however, require some effort and time to develop the speed due to the greater rotating mass and weight.
The third type emerged from the debate over the 26er and 29er. It was a 27.5-inch wheel that offered a compromise between size, weight, and speed. The 27.5-inch wheel offers better performance on rough terrain without sacrificing too much in terms of maneuverability and acceleration. It makes a somewhat natural progression from the smallest 26-inch wheel toward the heavy-duty 29er. It's a good middle ground between the two main options for those who want a smoother ride without losing speed.
Mountain Bike Wheels Pricing
- Under $100: You can find some excellent wheels at this price point, although mostly ones that measure 26 inches and prove to be light, more suitable for smooth surfaces.
- $100 and up: Expect to pay a few more bucks for wider wheels such as 27.5 and 29-inch ones. Pricier wheels are also heavier, more durable, and perform better on rough terrain.
The size is the crucial factor when it comes to wheels. It even distinguishes the main wheel types. The smallest wheel type, a 26-inch one, gives more in terms of acceleration and maneuverability, but it doesn't go well on rough terrain. The 27.5-inch one is a good option for those who need better performance on rough tracks, although not as tough as the 29-inch one. The former is the toughest, but the acceleration is less rapid.
The weight is another important factor to consider when buying wheels. The lighter ones speed up and slow down faster. They are easier to maneuver, as you can change direction quickly and climb easier. Heavier wheels have the benefit of comfort. They roll smoothly over the obstacles, but they require more effort during rides due to greater rotating mass.
These days, rims tend to go wider. The standard ones used to measure 19mm, which slowly advanced into 21 to 25mm. Some of them can even measure 30mm or more. The main reason for this progression is stability. Wider rims accommodate larger tires that enhance rolling efficiency, traction, and control. Large tires increase the grip and have bigger volume, which results in better performance on technical terrain.
The hub is a crucial part of the wheel. It gives an anchor point for the spokes and allows for the wheel to spin. When it comes to design, wider hubs are more popular these days because they offer more strength and durability. Traditional axles measure 135mm, while modern ones go up to 142 or 148mm. Downhill hubs even range from 150mm to 157mm. It's also essential to check the quality of the bearings and the compatibility of the hub with your fork axle.
- Riding Style. It's important to consider the riding style when buying mountain bike wheels. Not all wheels are the same and suitable for every riding type. XC racers need lightweight ones, focusing on speed rather than strength. Trail riders and downhill racers, on the other hand, need stronger and more durable wheels rather than ones that can speed up quickly.
- Tubeless Option. Tubeless tires are very popular these days. They don't require an inner tube but rather rely on air pressure to create an airtight seal. The main benefits of these are comfort, better grip, and higher resistance to punctures. When upgrading your wheels, you can opt for ones with tubeless rims to accommodate tubeless tires.
- Extra Spokes. You might want to consider getting a wheel with extra spokes. They add strength to the wheel and improve its durability. The main drawback is the weight and aero drag, although it's almost negligible. Extra spokes allow for spreading the load from the rim on more points and relieving stress from it.
Best Mountain Bike Wheels Reviews & Recommendations 2020
With a 27-inch diameter, these mountain bike wheels are large, sturdy, and built for tough off-road terrain. The wheels are specifically designed to work with disc brakes and fit with 27-inch tires. The wheels are built with quality and precision in mind. They provide a more aggressive design and look for your bike as well. Plus, they’re not bad on pavement riding either. And the best part is they are easy to install and don’t require any extra work or tools. Once they arrive, you can attach them directly to the bike, and you’re ready to go. They are even reasonably priced.
If you have rim brakes, you will unfortunately be out of luck with these wheels as they are not compatible. They also will not work with through axles, but they do work great with skewer axles.
Built out of high-quality aluminum, these wheels are a perfect fit for larger tires. They are also designed for both expert riders and those just starting out off the beaten path. These versatile wheels feature wide spokes for increased weight distribution and performance. They are also relatively durable, which any mountain bike needs to be, as they’re built to handle rugged terrain. It features a single wall 36h rim as well as a bolt-on axle.
The wheel may come with extra tight bearings; to loosen them, you will need a cone wrench. It isn’t ideal to get a new wheel and work on it, but it does happen from time to time. You may also notice a slight vibration when riding, and that may be due to the stiffer nuts and bearings.
These wheels feature a sleek and modern design built with a 26x1.50 quick-release system. They feature a black machine sidewall alloy rim that enhances its overall style and design. One of the best aspects of the wheels is their alloy cassette 8/9 speed black hub. They also come with elegant looking 14g black spokes and 36 holes. They're a perfect wheel to pair with large 26-inch mud or all-terrain tires. Another great feature is their weight; lightweight wheels make all the difference when you have to carry your bike or stow it at the end of a long ride.
You may have to do a little bit of TLC on these wheels once they arrive. There have been complaints that you will have to align the wheel after it is mounted. This also means you will spend more to have it installed and properly allocated to your bike.
These 27.5-Inch Mavic/Shimano Mountain Bike Wheels are an excellent choice for your bike. It’s a premium wheel backed by premium company names. The wheels are created with a dual combination of boxed alloy and beam pinned alloy, increasing their functionality and look. Built to handle more robust and beefy tires, the wheels are an excellent fit for 27-inch tires. They are also functional with Presta valves and clincher rims. Another great aspect is they work well with disc brakes.
Although these wheels provide a stable and secure ride, larger wheels can be a pain to ride on, especially for newer or shorter riders. You will also notice the price is relatively high, and you only get a single wheel for that much cash. However, you do get both the wheel and tires in the bundle.
These wheels are larger and more rounded, giving you more ground clearance and increasing your overall ride height. Once you add on beefy 29-inch tires, you’ll be soaring over stones and tree stumps. The wheels are designed to fit on bikes with disc brakes only. They look excellent once installed and are simple to put on as well. They are a great addition to any mountain bike and rider who prefers to do hill climbs, off-road races, or a leisure stroll through the woods. They’re aggressive, sophisticated, and built for power.
However, larger wheels make it more challenging to mount the bike for shorter riders, as we mentioned earlier. They can also be harder to mount in general and may not be as comfortable for new riders.
The iMeshBean MTB Bike Magnesium Wheels are uniquely designed with some of the most interesting spokes we have ever seen. These wheels feature three massive spokes, which completely change how the weight is distributed between the wheel and the tire, and it isn’t a bad thing. They are built for one purpose: speed. However, they also are built for increased handling and control. That three-spoke design enhances everything about them and makes them look even better once installed on the bike with some large tires.
One downside is that the wheels are only compatible with disc brakes. There have also been reports of improper shipping—the box the wheels come in may ship damaged or bent. Potential buyers may choose to pass on these wheels because of their high price point.
The ZUUKA Bike Wheelset is another stylized pair of mountain bike wheels. They feature 10 large spokes to ensure correct and stable weight is distributed between the rim and the tire. The spokes are also quite amazing looking—they are a blend of a red and black magnesium alloy that is a combination of other strong and durable materials. The wheels are available in either a 26-, 27.5-, or 29-inch diameter. They are designed for 7- to 10-speed bikes as well. Plus, they are simple to install and can be done as soon as you open the box.
You may find the wheels are on the heavier side, making it more difficult to carry the bike or the wheels. The color of the wheels may also be closer to orange than red.
- You can tell a wheel is built for a mountain bike by its size. Wheels will generally start at around 24 inches and can run all the way up to 32 inches.
- You know you need to upgrade your rims if you examine the design. Many wheels have a hole or groove that slowly vanishes when they wear down. If they do not have this, you can look at the surface of the rim to see if it has a concave depression.
- The wheel can fit on two types of axles. You can tell them apart by the way they attach to the wheel. A quick-release skewer slides through the axle and uses a switch to clamp the wheel into place. A thru-axle uses a threaded hole to tighten down the wheel.
Q: How can I tell if a tire will fit my bike?
Measure the clearance from the frame and fork, and compare it to the width of the rim. You can eyeball it, but using a ruler will help if you don’t have a wheel to work with. Also, check with the manufacturer to see if they have a sizing chart.
Q: Can I remove a bike’s wheels by myself?
Yes, you should be able to easily remove the wheels by undoing the clasps in the front and rear. Also, the tire should be simple to take off by deflating it first and then using a tire lever to remove the rubber.
Q: Do bike wheels have to be put in a certain way?
When mounting the wheels, make sure they are facing the correct way. While the front wheel can face either way, the rear wheel needs to face a certain way in order to function properly. You can find the correct way by noting which side of the wheel the drivetrain is on.
For a great set of mountain bike wheels that are built for precision and tough terrain, consider the Wheel Master Alloy Mountain Disc Double Wall Wheel. Or you can check out the Sta Tru Silver Rear Mountain Bike Wheel, which is lightweight and features wide spokes for increased weight distribution.