The best upgrade any cyclist can make to their machine is with the wheels. Even wheels fitted as standard can be upgraded, while, with more expensive models, riders may have the chance to select their own wheels when ordering.
Offering the only direct point of contact with the riding surface, wheels can make a significant difference in a number of areas, including:
- Overall machine weight reduction
- More rapid climbing
- A more comfortable ride
Of course, cyclists also have the option to build their own aluminium wheels from scratch if they can’t find the perfect model to suit their machine and what they need. All the parts can be bought on an auction website like eBay to create an individual’s perfect set of aluminium wheels.
Different Parts of Wheels
- Hubs: This is a bike wheel’s middle component, made up of bearings, an axle and a hub shell.
- Rim: Most often, this is a metal extrusion turned in on it and making a hoop. Traditionally, these were built from wood, but on modern machines some an aerodynamic carbon hoop is attached to an aluminium rim. These are sometimes strengthened using either double or single eyelets to spread out the stress of the spokes more evenly.
- Spokes: These link the hub to the rim and are loaded in tension.
How to Choose Aluminium Wheels
Choosing their wheels is one of the most important decisions any cyclist has to make, and there are several things any rider should look out for, including:
- Trueness (this refers to any sideways movement noted when the wheel turns). The ideal wheel doesn’t deviate further than 0.25mm from precise roundness. However, any deviation up to 1mm can still be rated as reasonable.
- How much adjustment is needed on the hubs.
- Spoke tension – Look for an evenly high level of good tension across the whole wheel, so that no spoke key adjustments are required.
- Speed - It should be possible to accelerate without causing the rim to rub against the brake blocks.
- Wheel and frame style should be suited.
- Decide on the number of spokes required. Wheels will be tuned more easily if they have more spokes, but the downside is that extra weight can be added, which may be a concern for road bikers in particular. If there are fewer spokes in a wheel, that could eventually mean a shorter lifetime of the wheel, although smaller numbers of spokes often means that they are bigger, and so stronger. Most mountain bikes have higher number of spokes.
- The cyclist should bear in mind that getting replacement wheels for older models of cycle can involve also investing in new brakes to fit the new size of rim.
- Size – Road bikes have s standard 700c size, mountain bike wheels may be a standard 26 inches or 29 inches. The latter are generally better for very uneven terrain, while the bigger size will suit those who ride on bumpy tracks and smooth roads.
- Hubs – There are two varieties cyclists need to make their selection from – those with enclosed cartridge bearings and loose ball bearings. The key difference between the two is financial. The balls bearings are not protected from the weather and anything else a rider may come across when they’re out on their bike. (However, they are rather easier to work on, even if they are likelier to need attention.) Cartridge bearings, however, while costing more, may be less prone to damage, due to the bearings being sealed up within a cartridge out of the way of water and so on.
Benefits of Aluminium Wheels
Traditionally, steel has been the metal of choice in most bicycle wheels, extending to the wheel hubs. For the majority of riders, wheels made from aluminium will provide the robustness and dependability required for day-to-day cycling, at an affordable price.
But aluminium cycle wheels also offer a number of other advantages, including:
- Weight - Steel will invariably mean a heavier wheel rim, while aluminium has a lower density and is therefore lighter. This can make a real difference over distance, or for riders for whom speed is an important factor. One measure of weight is known as specific gravity. This means how much weight is in a given volume of a material. For steel, the figure is 490, for aluminium, specific gravity is 168.5.
- Corrosion – Steel can be more prone to corrosion, which is why many rims come with chrome anti-rust plates. This can make braking on rim brakes more erratic in wetter conditions, especially if the brake pads are of poor quality, because the shoes of rim brakes do not grip effectively. (This is not true of disc brakes, however.) Cyclists who often need to stop quickly and efficiently in all weathers will prefer aluminium wheels, since it will feel very similar to braking on a dry road. But the biggest benefit of steel is that it’s all but indestructible, which is a massive advantage for cyclists who enjoy the sort of riding that can mean their machine take a lot of knocks.
- Flexibility & Strength – While, pound for pound, steel is stronger than aluminium, it is heavier. However, it is also more flexible. Particularly in wheel rims, flexibility is considered a less important quality than flexibility, and so aluminium alloy is more commonly found than steel.
- Durability – Metal wheels like aluminium ones are more robust than composites such as carbon fibre. A small dent in an aluminium wheel will not damage the entire wheel, but that can be the case with the carbon fibre equivalents. This robustness will be especially important for off-road bikers, although carbon fibres are usually good at withstanding urban riding wear and tear.
- Price – The cost of aluminium wheels is attractive to most riders. While they may cost more than the steel equivalents, aluminium wheels are certainly more affordable than composite versions such as carbon fibre wheels, especially when shopping somewhere like eBay. Although it’s true that composite wheels can offer riders a modest advantage in terms of speed, only serious racers are likely to really consider that that benefit warrants the additional expense.
Cleaning Aluminium Wheels
- Because aluminium doesn’t rust, another benefit of these bicycle wheels is that only gentle cleaners are required, and cleaning is quick and easy.
- There’s no need for protective gloves, and all cleaning products can be non-toxic – the only other things needed are water and a sponge.
- Monthly cleaning is a good idea, and the machine will last longer as well as performing better.
- For bikes with steel spokes and aluminium rims, use steel wool or wire brushes to remove corrosion.
Cleaning Rims and Spokes
- Place wheels flat on the ground, and spray degreaser on the side of the rim which is facing upwards. Scrub away using the sponge after a couple of minutes, rinsing it frequently. Dry and repeat on the other side.
- Use a similar process to clean the spokes.
- For the sprockets, clean off rust with a wire brush and degreaser. The aluminium is strong enough not to be damaged if pressure is applied.
- Degreaser should be sprayed on each sprocket, as well as between each one. A screwdriver can be used to clear especially stubborn layers of grease and dirt by inserting it between the sprockets. Finally, use a rag in between each set of sprockets.
Buying Bikes on eBay
For any level of cyclist looking for their next set of aluminium wheels, and whatever their level of experience, eBay can help.
Visit eBay.co.uk for an extensive selection of aluminium wheels at attractive prices from a wide range of producers, all shown in the cycling area of the sporting goods section. You’ll also find it highly convenient to shop at a time and in a place that best suits you, under one virtual roof.
If you can’t find the wheels you require, try using keyword searching to quickly refine your search. Just input the words related to what you need in the search box and instantly see listings that match your specific requirements. There are more tips and hints on eBay’s search tips page, or go to eBay stores.
Many sellers are willing not to charge for shipping, and offer excellent money back and refund policies, while a local seller may well be able to get your wheels to you more quickly. At the same time, don’t be afraid to ask any potential eBay seller as many questions as you need to before committing.
You can search for your wheels by:
Finally, thanks to eBay’s payment partner PayPal, purchases can be made with total peace of mind and security.
Whatever kind of riding they do, and however often they are out on their bike, any cyclist will experience a more enjoyable ride if their wheels suit their machine. Ideally, a rider will fit their bike with the best quality wheels their budget will allow.
For the majority of bikers, aluminium wheels offer the perfect balance of strength, flexibility and lack of weight, along with resistance to rust, at the best price.