Most of us remember riding a bike as a kid. Aside from being fun and a great way to exercise, it was also often one of our first forms of transportation other than walking. However, riding for adults can be a far different experience. While as an adult you may ride a bike for the same reasons as a child, you also have likely come to expect more from your purchases – and can afford to purchase better quality products.
This is especially relevant if you ride at an even semi-professional level. This is where carbon wheelsets can come into play. Unfortunately, carbon wheelsets can vary drastically in price and quality without clear indications of what makes one better than another.
That is why we have put together a list of the 10 best carbon wheelsets to help you find the best carbon wheelset for your riding needs. Then, we provide a helpful buyer’s guide, so you know what the different carbon wheelset qualities mean.
Best Carbon Wheelset 2017
|Queen Road Bike||1565g||55mm / 23mm||8/9/10/11|
|ICAN Racing Bike||1430g||55mm / 23mm||10/11|
|Superteam Road Bike||1565g||50mm / 23mm||8/9/10/11|
|Shimano Dura-Ace Carbon/Aluminum||1428g||24mm / 24mm||9/10/11|
|Superteam Racing Road||1630g||50mm / 23mm||8/9/10/11|
|ICAN Road Bike||1510g||50mm / 23mm||10/11|
|ICAN Wheelset 38mm||1350g||38mm / 23mm||10/11|
|Yoeleo Ghost Road PRO||1539g||50mm / 23mm||10/11|
|FASTEAM Road Bike||1530g||50mm / 23mm||8/9/10/11|
|Sunrise Road Bike||1630g||50mm / 23mm||8/9/10/11|
1. Queen Bike Carbon Fiber Road Bike Wheels 50mm Clincher Wheelset 700c Racing Bike Wheel: Best-Rated Carbon Wheelset of 2017
The Queen Bike brand of tires may not have much of a reputation, but in terms of affordable carbon fiber wheelsets, they offer something no other product on our list can: hub versatility. Basically, if you are interested in the more durable Campagnolo freehub, this is the only carbon wheelset at the budget end of the price spectrum that offers you a solution. However, that does not mean that you cannot also find a Shimano hub wheel with the Queen Bike offering.
In fact, the Queen Bike wheelset accommodates both the common 10/11 Shimano hub as well as the 8/9. Of course, you will need to get spacers for the larger hubs. Unfortunately, in terms of the actual drivetrain, the Powerway R13 is unimpressive – though serviceable. The same can be said about the thicker gauged CN 494 spokes, but they are at least durable.
2. ICAN 50mm Carbon Clincher Wheelset Racing Bike Novatec Straight Pull Hub Sapim CX Ray Spokes: Most Durable Carbon Wheelset
ICAN may not have the same name cache as more established brands, but they are quickly making a name for themselves as a manufacturer that spans the wheelset market for both professional and amateur grade products. This specific model falls somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of price, but does not sacrifice any of ICAN’s innovation.
In fact, ICAN carbon wheelsets make a number of appearances on our list specifically, because they offer a number of advanced components and manufacturing techniques one would expect only to find on a wheelset that costs anywhere from two to three times as much. That being said, this specific ICAN wheelset is one of the more expensive products we reviewed.
However, this additional cost is almost entirely due to the Novatec Shimano hubs that this model provides. Whereas the Powerway hubs were only okay, the Novatec hubs are noted for a superior performance and reliability – though this does not necessarily place them in the same category as Dura Ace or Ultegra.
3. Superteam Carbon Fiber Road Bike Wheels 700C Clincher Wheelset 50mm Matte 23 width: Best Training Carbon Wheelset
Superteam tires have a mixed reputation to say the least. There can be great value found in this brand, but it requires a bit of luck and a whole lot of research. The difference between one Superteam tire and another can be surprising – even more so considering the brand does not shift too terribly in terms of the price.
For instance, in terms of this model, you need to understand that this product should not truly be used for professional uses. In fact, the road conditions themselves should be nearly ideal for these wheels or else you may find yourself running into issues. Specifically, these tires are noted to have some durability issues.
These durability issues will generally show themselves after extended use or at higher speeds. As such, these wheels are better suited for training purposes where you may or may not necessarily intend to stress test them.
4. Shimano Dura-Ace 24mm Carbon/Aluminum Clincher Wheel: Best Carbon Wheels for Climbing
While Shimano may have made its name for freehub designs, the brand also offers a solid entry in the complete wheelset market. Of course, the adage of “you get what you pay for” comes to bear in full force with this wheelset as it is the most expensive product we reviewed.
However, this wheelset also offers some unique features not found on any other product on our list. First, it provides a Dura-Ace Shimano hub which is noted for being both incredibly precise as well as durable. In fact, this is arguably the best hub offered out of any wheelset on our list.
Still, it is important to note that this wheelset features a climbing wheel. Ultimately, this means that you will fare much better with shifting elevation or strong crosswinds. However, if you are flat time trial rider, this may not be the best for your needs.
5. Superteam 50mm Clincher Wheelset 700c 23mm Width Cycling Racing Road Carbon Wheel Decal: Best Cheap Carbon Wheels
Our second Superteam carbon wheelset strikes an odd comparison with the previous entry. For one, it is not noted for being as fragile as the previous model. However, this is likely due to the fact that this entry is significantly heavier than the previous model such that the components themselves are likely thicker gauged. In fact, this is actually the heaviest wheelset on our list.
This means that while you can expect the durability to hold up a bit better than the previous Superteam, you will also have to exert yourself more. Though, this may not be that big of a deal if you are in the market for a budget carbon wheelset as this is the consistently least expensive product we reviewed.
Moreover, the spokes are trued ahead of time which allows for a smooth ride – something not insignificant considering this is a deep section wheelset. Moreover, this wheelset also ties for the largest maximum rider weight which allows larger and heavier riders to use them without worry of damage.
6. ICAN 50mm 700C Carbon Wheelset Road Bike Clincher Rim Shimano or Sram 10/11 Speed 1510g: Best Classic Carbon Wheelset
Our second ICAN fits within a specific niche that may not appeal to all riders but still squarely fills a definite need depending. Specifically, this wheelset offers the quality build of the ICAN brand at a significantly reduced cost compared to the brand’s other entries on this list. However, it also gives up something in the process.
More accurately, you should say that this ICAN gains something with its decreased cost – weight. In fact, this is the heaviest ICAN we reviewed – though, it should be noted that this wheelset is still within the average weight range of the products we reviewed. It simply is the heaviest ICAN. Though, this ICAN also features a mediocre hub.
However, the heavier weight does allow it to accommodate a somewhat heavier rider compared to the other ICANs, though it still lags behind some of the other products in this regard. One thing that stands out is that this product comes hand-tuned for a true wheel rotation right out of the box.
7. ICAN Carbon Road Bike 700C Wheelset Clincher 38mm Rim Sapim CX-Ray Spokes Only 1350g: Lightest Carbon Wheelset with the Smoothest Ride
Outside of the Shimano Dura Ace carbon wheelset, this is arguably the best climber on our list. Unfortunately, this ICAN does not technically qualify as a true climber wheel since its rim depth is 38mm – just 8mm too large for the category. However, this does make this product a prime candidate for the best mid-section carbon wheelset.
This designation is made even easier by the wit of this ICAN’s weight which is a surprisingly svelte 1350g making it on par with the Shimano – especially considering that wheelsets generally vary anywhere from 20 to 50g either way. However, the rider must also conform to the wheel’s light weight as this product also features the lowest maximum rider weight limit making it unsuitable for some of the larger riders.
Still, as a well crafted mid-section wheelset, the lack of crosswind turbulence combined with a somewhat quicker straight line speed should entice many riders who fall within the weight limit. Of course, this quality comes at a somewhat higher price than many of the other products on our list, though it is still within a reasonable limit.
8. Yoeleo 700C Carbon Wheels SAT C50 Ghost Clincher Road PRO Carbon Road Bike Wheelset for Shimano 11S: Best Performing Deep Section Carbon Wheelset
The Yoeleo brand arguably has one of the best reputations for wheelset manufacturers on our list – excepting maybe Shimano, though as mentioned prior, they are known more for their hubs than they are for their wheelsets. Still, this product offers numerous architectural advantages that other products on our list lack.
One of the best qualities of the Yoeleo is their use of ceramic with a few of the wheelset’s components. First, this wheelset is the only one on our list to use ceramic brakes. This provides excellent braking quality without the risk of overheating or warping the rim that carbon fiber brakes pose. Moreover, the Yoeleo is the only wheelset on our list to use ceramic bearings as well.
This provides the bearings both less weight, which is negligible in the first place, as well as less friction – the true draw of ceramic bearings. The decreased friction will not only extend the life of the hub and gearset, it allows the hub to roll more smoothly compared to steel bearings.
9. FASTEAM Carbon Fiber Road Bike Wheels 700C Clincher Wheelset 50mm Matte 23 width 20/24h For Shimano: Best Road Versatile Carbon Wheelset
FASTEAM is another brand that will not register on too many people’s register, but this carbon wheelset definitely offers a distinct advantage when it comes to deep section wheelsets: versatility. However, this is not the same kind of versatility as the other products reviewed. This wheelset can be used on more surfaces and with more riders than others.
This has to do with the fact that this is one of the few wheelsets on our list that advertise its use to be within a range. Keep in mind, this still requires the user to know what tire pressure is best suited for the different situations, but this means you can conceivably take this tire on any road and with pressure adjustments have a superior ride.
However, since this tire is a jack-of-all-trades kind of setup, you should not expect it to provide maximum performance at any of those points. Moreover, the pressure is not the only adjustment you will need to make as the spokes are best served with a pre-ride truing after installation.
10. Sunrise Bike Carbon Road Wheels 700C 50mm Clincher Wheelset 3k Matte Finish with Decal: Best All Around Value Deep Carbon Wheelset
The overwhelming majority of the carbon wheelsets on our list are deep section. As such, figuring out which one is the best will often come down to identifying your specific needs an budget. However, if you are looking for a dependable wheelset at a solid price point, you will be hard pressed to find one better than the Sunrise.
Keep in mind, there are some issues with this product in terms of maximum performance. Specifically, this wheelset is tied for the heaviest product on our list. This means that you will have to work harder to pedal and will ultimately see you maximum speed decreased. As such, this may be better suited as an amateur or training wheel.
Still, the heavy weight combined with larger gauged components provides the benefit of also being able to support larger riders as the Sunrise also offers the largest maximum weight limit. Still, this is mostly a good, not great, wheelset that finds its value with durability and a low price point.
What is the Best Carbon Wheelset – Buyer’s Guide
Type of Wheel
Depending on how and where you intend to ride, different wheels are better suited for different tasks. It is important you select the proper wheel, or else you may end up making your ride more difficult and less effective than it otherwise could be.
Climbing – These are the lightest and the most shallow wheels. They should weigh around 1,300g or less. Moreover, the rim depth should be less than 30mm. The low weight and small profile provide a smooth ride and easier climbing but are not as durable or fast.
Mid-Section – This is becoming an increasingly popular wheel type due to the fact that it provides some of the benefits of both the climbing and deep wheels. They are less standard in terms of weight, but their rim depth will be between 30mm to 50mm. They are smoother than deep rims and quicker than climbing rims.
Deep Section – These wheels are generally the heaviest wheel sets and have rims that are 50mm and larger. The deeper rims provide a more aerodynamic ride which increases speed. However, the ride can often be bumpier, and cross-winds will cause more turbulence.
Type of Tire
Your preference in terms of tire type will likely hinge more on whether you are a professional rider or not. Professionals will often opt for tubular tires, though clinchers and tubeless tires offer distinct advantages outside of pure performance.
Clincher – This is the most common type of tire for the amateur level of riding. These tires are not quite as durable, nor do they sport quite as good of performance as tubular tires, but they are much cheaper and far easier to replace. These can serve as effective training tires for professionals.
Tubular – If you are professional rider looking for peak performance, you will almost certainly require tubular tires. The tube is not hooked to the rim but is instead glued to it. This reduces weight and allows you to inflate the tires more providing a superior rolling resistance and cornering grip.
Tubeless – This tire type is more common for mountain biking where the rough, uneven riding surfaces can quickly wear out an inflated tire. However, road bikes have started to adopt the technology for their own use. The tubeless road tires provide better rolling resistance than clinchers and are often less expensive than tubulars.
For anyone who is invested in riding – whether professionally or otherwise – the hub is one of the most important parts of the bike. The design of the hub will ultimately control a number of factors regarding how the bike rides. However, when buying wheelsets, it is important to ensure that the wheels match the hub you intend to use.
Shimano – Shimano is arguably the most popular type of hub used for road biking today. They combine the best features of economic and performance return to provide arguably the best value available. These hubs are noted for some of the most precise shifting which translates to immediate power. Shimano hubs are also easier to find replacement parts for, though they will wear out quicker than Campagnolos.
Campagnolo – This brand of hub is a legacy product that invented a number of the modern biking standards, but they have fallen behind in terms of innovation in recent years. Campagnolo generally hangs its hat on a cassette which is more resistant to notching and a hood design which fits most riders’ hands more comfortably.
SRAM – This hub brand made its name in mountain biking, but much like tubeless tires, is starting to migrate to the road biking market. These hubs are noted for being considerably lighter than their competitors. Moreover, the SRAM shifting allows for shifting multiple gears at once–up to three. Finally, SRAM has a solid track record of innovation–for one, most SRAM hubs are also Shimano compatible.
Spokes are likely less important if you are not a professional rider. While the shape and number of the spokes can definitively affect your speed and wind resistance, amateurs are less likely to notice a significant difference–unless they bike in windy conditions or engage in personal time/speed trials.
Number – The number of spokes does not have a clear winner. Instead, this is a bit of a give and take category. The more spokes you have, the more stable the wheel and smoother the ride. However, more spokes also increase the weight of the wheel.
Shape – The shape of the spokes are generally divided into aero, or aerodynamic, designs and round ones. Aero spokes are generally seen as superior, but again, this will play a much larger impact depending on how you intend to ride your bike.
When it comes to a wheelset’s weight, generally lighter is seen as better. Keep in mind, this perception holds true regardless of whether you are a professional or amateur rider–though each group may hold different reasons for this preference.
For professional riders, a lighter wheel allows them to ride faster. Whether the professional rides tracks, roads, or time trials, speed is always of the essence. Granted, there may be instances when a difference of a couple hundred grams may help one type of competition or another, but that still dictates a relatively light wheel regardless.
For amateur riders, the preference for a lighter wheel is generally based on the ease of the ride. Assuming the manufacturer can still provide a quality riding experience and a durable wheel, a lighter tire simply makes riding the bike easier, requiring less energy to pedal.
In the end, the best carbon wheelset will hinge on what kind of riding you need the wheels to do. If you are looking for budget wheels best used for training purposes, the Superteam or Sunrise should offer a solid product at a low price –
just be sure to keep an eye on them and do not stress test them too far.
However, if you are looking for a wheel that you could conceivably race with, you will likely prefer the ICAN with 38mm rim depth and a surprising 1350g weight. Likewise, if you ride in races with sharp inclines, you will want to look at the Shimano Dura Ultra with its shallow rim.