Trainer World

Trainer Reviews, How To Guides & Comparisons

Are Carbon Wheels Worth It?

Are Carbon Wheels Worth It?

Most bikes come with alloy wheels as standard, and only the most expensive road bikes will have carbon wheels. Having said that, they’re a very popular sort of upgrade component for most people’s bikes. But here the question arises; are these expensive carbon road wheels really worth it? The short answer is yes. They provide several benefits over aluminium wheels like increased stiffness, reduced weight, improved aerodynamics, and a smoother ride. They also make you faster.

The long answer is complicated. Carbon wheels vary hugely in price. A pair of £500 and £2,500 wheels may also look exactly the same. It is hard to tell which ones are better just by looking at a pair. So what’s the difference really? You can probably find bigger gains elsewhere but carbon wheels might be a good choice. Well, let’s put them to the test to see if it’s worth the extra £2,000 for the luxury wheelset.

The Lineup

Starting with the most affordable rims, we have the Velo-cite Hyperdrive 50 priced at just under £600, which is an excellent deal. Moving up, we have the Hunt 50 Aero Wide, priced at £700, which has won the Giro D’Italia Victory and world tour level races, making them quite impressive.

Next are the HED Vanquish RC6 Wheels, which are relatively new to the UK market. Following that, we have the Ultegra C50 wheels, priced at around £1,200, and the Hunt Limitless 60, priced at £1,499, with carbon fibre spokes, making them very fancy. The Roval Rapide Cl II, priced at £1,500, is the tubeless model, featuring the same rims as the more expensive CLX Wheels but with dt350 hubs. The Campagnolo Bora WTO 60 wheelset is priced at just over £2,000 and is very visually appealing.

Lastly, there are the Zipp 454 NSWs, which have wavy rims designed to shed vortices and reduce the impact of crosswinds and have a hefty price tag of £3,400.

The Test

For this test, we’ll ride each wheel set once on a six-kilometre loop that’s relatively flat with some rolling sections. Each wheelset will get two runs, and we’ll see if there are any differences in time. We’ll keep everything else constant, including our position, tyres, and tyre pressure.


To begin with, we concluded that spending more money does not necessarily increase the speed of the wheel or improve quality control. However, in our testing of Velo-cite wheels, we found these to be quite impressive, sitting in the mid-range of speed without being the slowest. These Velo-cite wheels cost just under £500 and are a great option for those on a budget who still want to achieve good speed without breaking the bank.

The fastest wheels in our testing were the Roval Rapide CL II, which didn’t come as a surprise based on wind tunnel data. However, the difference in speed was only about a second for me and a few seconds for my colleague. Surprisingly, the HED wheelset was the biggest standout for me. Despite not having ridden a set of HEDs in years, they were incredibly fast, comfortable, and stable in crosswinds. While they do have a good reputation for their aerodynamics, they are quite weighty, so they may not be the best choice for prolonged climbs.

Overall, our testing confirmed that aerodynamics matter more than weight when it comes to wheel sets. Even the iconic spoke pattern of some wheel sets cannot make up for a lack of aerodynamics. In terms of specific wheelsets, the Shimano Ultegra C50 were not impressive in our testing, with the latter being the slowest wheels we tested. On the other hand, the Roval Rapide CL II and Hunt 50 Aero performed quite well and are worth considering.


So, which wheelsets are you considering? In my opinion, spending more than a thousand pounds is not worth your money. While the Campagnolo Bora WTO 60 seem like the best option to me in terms of performance and appearance, I cannot justify spending over 1500 pounds, as the difference in performance is minimal based on our testing. Instead, I would opt for the Hunts or the Velo-cities, which are still within my budget.

Are Carbon Wheels Worth It?