Are Wheels The Best Upgrade You Can Make To Your Bike?

Does a better set of wheels offer the biggest gain in bike performance?
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When it comes to upgrading, most people will tell you to improve your wheelset, Generally you can expect a sizeable decrease in weight and potential aerodynamic gains. These gains come at a cost though – aside maybe investing in a power meter or changing your bike altogether, wheels will usually be the most expensive upgrade you can make.

But in terms of other upgrades like tyres, groupsets or other component, how does a shiny new set of wheels match up? Well, we took to the road to find out.

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Rob Banks says:

None of this has been proven by anyone.
A wheel is a wheel is a whell.

Hawkeye says:

I’d say a power meter over wheels

497362 says:

Disliking your bike literally consumes energy, that is better spent pushing the pedals. Because negative emotions consume real energy.

lasse borg says:

Loving how the GCN editor just casually slides in a ” Simon does not own a garage ” at 06:04
Smuck prick! haha.

Monkee Wabbitt says:

I agree totally on the aesthetics comments. Since I’m not looking to ride in the Tour, I’m willing to upgrade to a point, but I also want to like the looks of my bike.

Sean Bailey says:

I just bought an Ex-pro Movistar bike, Half price of what a new one would cost…sure its last years model but still more than enough for me.


Spoke tension is a significant factor as well. Also the heavier you are the more spokes and thicker gauge you need.

Eemeli Bergström says:

Speaking of wheel upgrades, what would be a good 700C carbon wheel set with disc brakes be? I’m struggling to find a lot of them.

Ufuk Ercan says:

get a fine bike, take care of your bike and thats it, you are the only engine when cycling unless you use e-bikes or so

rayzor491 says:

Do your own thing ride on!!

Nathan Franklin says:

Simon your advice on emotions is spot on. Keep up the vids gcn.. and stay off the roads u crazy cyclists

psychoaiko666 says:

What wasn’t mentioned though, is that aerowheels are also stiffer because of the reduced spokelength

Eagle Eye says:

I love dropping people with better bikes on my 22 pound trek on the bike path and I got shitty wheels . If I had a better wheel set or better bike I’d be gone like I stole it

suzuki06g says:

Simon, this brings up an interesting question which is, if you had say … 3k to spend would you buy a 1k bike and put 2k wheels on it or a 2k bike and put 1k wheels on it?  And what bike would be better or faster?

guesswho kk says:

Upgrade your body: Aero & riding position, body mass and clothing would significantly improves any weight & drag reduction on your already slim light bike

1953FergusonTEA20 says:

I’m sure your tiny biceps does more for you than upgrading wheels or any other parts of the bike!
Just joking, i love watching you guys… While eating junkfood.

Marc Danger says:

Gosh. Really like their videos but this accent is quite difficult for none native english speaker. Sometimes I don’t understand a single word. 😀 But I love it anyway.

patiofurnituregt says:

I just got Enves for my XC race bike and my road bike (specialized venge expert) and would say that it was a more noticeable improvement to the road bike than it was for XC. The combo of a larger tire (25c) and more aero wheel resulted in a more plush ride , were faster on the flats and they certainly look cool which is added motivation to go riding. Definitely happy with the upgrade!!

Petr Mohelnik says:

So is it better to upgrade wheels or frame?

Tom Holden says:

Are Carbon clinchers on a rim brake bike safe These days, what do you think or what is your experiencce?

frankoosjei says:

0:54 This is complete nonsense. Please explain it better next time with help from an engineer or someone who understands dynamics.

lencycler1 says:

does anyone know if Oval Concept wheels are any good?  a lot of new bikes them but my current bike has Mavics which have been indestructible for about 10 years now…thx

Bob Gardner says:

Aesthetics is what this is almost all about for amateurs because the analytics have proven that wheels like these result in very, very small incremental gains that might be meaningful to a pro. To an amateur it is farcical. No wheel will turn a Cat 5 into even a Cat 4 or a top Cat 5 if they were not one to begin with and again the analytics by guys like Damon Rinard have proven this multiple times.

mrN3w7 says:

If esthetics would matter… no one will ride on bikes wearing those outfits 😀 XD

Oliver Lane says:

Some new wheels make the bike look much nicer compared to the default wheels

Isa Amistad says:

<3 you simon.

Gerald Prost says:

I think you are right about wheels; however, good wheels are really expensive. Gerry in Calgary

sacha beazlewitz says:

haha love the Jaws/Goodfellas dolly zoom at 3:01.

also…love the channel :) free bike?

Jarne Elst says:

HELP: I want to buy some new wheels for my Giant Tcr Advanced 1 I bought earlier this year. I do found a lot of wheels with a 10sp body but my bike has an 11sp casette. My question; Can i just replace the 10sp body on the wheels i’ll buy with an 11sp body? Or is it just not possible to fit those wheels to my 11sp casette, deraileurs, etc?

Anthony HT says:

My 5000$ bike would only be 30 seconds faster over a 40kms ride if I had Enve wheels, so I think I’m stupid to spend that much for such an unnecessary purchase, but still, I know I will do it one day.

PLAY2WIN says:

If lighter wheels make you climb faster does that also mean you will descend slower because there’s less weight when going down hill?

Lokesh Jain says:

Purely from an investment point of view, should I upgrade to carbon wheels or should I buy a set of good power meter?

Martin Hartley says:

Newer wheels are definitely a good investment on vintage bicycles – especially if you are starting out with a set of chrome steel rims, an upgrade to an aluminium alloy wheel set will make a huge difference. If you are starting out on a good set of alloy or carbon rims, there isn’t much performance to be gained with a newer wheel set.

Nhat Tran says:

Since crank arms, front rings, cassette and chain have impact on rotational weight, shouldn’t lighter weight for those components also improve performance?

Adam Parker says:

A new set of wheels can be a great upgrade, however, i personally feel that you cannot underestimate the benefits of a powermetre for increasing your performance.
A powermtre offers measurable increases in performance, and gives you the ability to set measurable goals and milestones in fitness. They also allow you to tailor a training program to suit you. Wheels cannot do this

A. Random says:

You can also carry the wheelset on to a newer bike when you ultimately buy one.

Bio Dambo says:

Have a Scott Cr1, trying to decide on what to upgrade, carbon frame was a nice start but feel like it needs more!

Scott Davidson says:

Question:. Is a 700c road bike faster than a 26 inch road bike? (Haven’t seen an article/video on this topic.)

Nachatar Dhaliwal says:

I’m a very low mileage and low frequency rider, but I love this channel.

paulikins86 says:

What is the name of the song at 1:30 in this video? Thanks.

Paul Walker says:

So, when the wheels are almost 3x the cost of the actual bike they’re demoing in this video, would it not have been better spending the money on a full carbon frame?

Juliette Rose says:

the way he talks sorta reminds me of that neckbeard on alaskan bush people

John Kim says:

I think Eddy Merckx said it best…”don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades.”

Alonso Martii says:

Granny crankset onboard.

Len Baird says:

Simon is definitely the best GCN presenter when it comes to heartfelt speeches about nice looking wheels.

Bike!Bike! says:

Yes wheels are the best upgrade. You do not have to go carbon. I upgraded to a pair of dt swiss 20s. 1500g for 400$ and they are phenomenal!!

bon voyage says:

cycle components are a rip off, especially wheels!!. Look above reynolds wheels 1300 quid, you must be fuckin joking, I paid less than that for my car. Those wheels are made in china for about 20 Quid a pair I suspect. Dont give me that crap about the cost of R&D etc etc. Carbon is now cheap as chips, Its just a round object, nothing special, If the chinese dont know how to make bikes/wheels then nobody does, after all…there are 9 million bicycles in Beijing

Miles Roe says:

investing in spd’s and quality shoes will make a big difference.

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