We generally only upgrade our MTB wheels when our current wheelset has come to the end of its natural life. That said, fresh bearings, properly true rims and fancier wheels can really reinvigorate your ride.
When buying a new set of wheels, rather getting straight like-for-like replacements, it’s a good idea to check the current market trends, particularly if your current set is a few years old, as there will likely be suitable upgrade options.
Along with wider tyres, wider rims are all the rage at the minute. A wider rim will help prevent tyre roll and improve stability – particularly if you’re running wider (2.3in and up) tyres. The flipside is that they tend to be heavier and roll slightly slower than narrower rims. 25mm internal width is a good size to aim for, though you can go as up to 30mm for some proper trail bulldozing before you start getting into the realm of plus tyres.
As well as knowing whether your wheels are 26in, 27.5in, 29in, or plus sized, you’ll also need to check whether your current wheels have quick release (QR) skewers to hold them in place, bolt-through axles (15mm front, 12mm rear), or a combination of the two.
Your new set will also need to have the same width hubs as your old wheels. As well as standard width hubs (100mm front, 142mm rear), there’s also wider Boost width hubs (110mm front, 148mm rear).
All these standards can get confusing, so get your local bike shop to check if you’re unsure.
While you can spend a fortune on the latest super stiff, ultra light carbon hoops, here’s our top five MTB trail wheels that won’t melt your wallet…
Raleigh Pro-Build Enduro
These wide-ish rimmed (25mm internal) wheels are a proper bargain. They come pre-taped should you decide to run them tubeless (you should!), but are fairly weighty at just over 2kg for the pair.
Halo Vapour 35
Less than 2kg for a wide rimmed (29.5mm internal), 32 spoked wheel is pretty good going, particularly when they feel as good as these. The wide rims give surefooted security and the build feels confidently predictable.
Superstar Alpine Trail
As well as these flagship wheels, Superstar have tons of wheel options at hard to beat prices. The Alpine Trails come in two options – bombproof, wide rimmed Alpine30 and speed hungry Trail24. Both are excellent and great value for money.
Mavic Crossmax Elite
With narrower rims (22mm internal width), the Crossmax Elites come with matching 2.25in Mavic Pulse Pro tyres supplied (the tyres are best suited to summer UK conditions). These wheels are super responsive and well made.
Spank Oozy Trail 345
These wide rimmed (30mm internal) are a great combo with 2.4in and up width tyres and are reliably solid performers. Bang them on your bike for a big boost of trail hammering confidence.