Once you’ve got a quality frame, a set of the best road bike wheels is arguably the best upgrade you can give your steed.
As the means to keeping you rolling, wheels must offer smooth and dependable hubs for drive; high stiffness for accurate tracking; be able to hold a tyre at great pressure; provide a surface for consistent braking if your wheel is rim braked; support ever-wider tyres; and achieve all of this while still being as lightweight and aerodynamically efficient as possible.
Improvements can include improved ride quality, faster average speeds or just a lower weight – something that helps with both acceleration and deceleration.
Furthermore, the switch to tubeless tyres and disc brakes has also shaken up the market substantially, with new designs pushing the boundaries of what was previously possible on road bikes. Wider rims support wide road bike tyres and gravel tyres a lot better and improve aerodynamics by smoothing the interface between the tyre and the rim.
But with hundreds of bike wheel brands offering thousands of options, buying new wheels can be a confusing task. Fortunately, our expert testers put dozens of wheels through their paces every year so you don’t have to.
If you’re weighing up aero vs climbing wheels, this list contains both types.
For road and gravel, we’re generally talking about 700c wheelsets and to make things easier, we’ve split them up into disc brake and rim brake options. However, take a look at our round-up of the best gravel wheels for some 650b options.
And while there are some phenomenally expensive wheels in this list, we’ve also included a few top-rated cheaper options.
Best road bike wheels in 2023
Below, you can find the best road bike wheels in 2023, as rated and reviewed by our expert testers. While disc brakes are becoming increasingly common on road bikes, further down the list we have the best rim brake road bike wheels.
Below the best list is our extensive buyer’s guide to road wheels, too. It will help you with what to look for in wheels, understanding the various features and what some commonly used terms mean.
Best disc brake road bike wheels
Bontrager Aeolus Elite 50
- £849/€1,029/$1,128/AU$1,533 as tested
- Noticeably comfortable
- High performance for a keen price
The Bontrager Aeolus Elite 50 wheelset will appeal to riders who value performance across road racing, triathlon and even gravel racing.
The 50mm-deep rims are 28mm at their widest points with an internal width of 19.1mm. This shows the wheels are at the leading edge of aerodynamics and ensures the tyre will form part of the aero profile.
Despite the depth of the carbon rims, the wheelset has plenty of vertical compliance, making it comfortable to ride. This might lead you to think the wheelset would feel less than optimal when heading into turns, but in testing we found ourselves cornering with greater confidence.
The wheels were true out of the box and come with Bontrager’s TLR Rim Strip so you can set them up tubeless.
Zipp 303 Firecrest wheelset
- £1,600/€1,900/$1,939/AU$2,921 as tested
- Great ride quality from redesigned hookless rims
- Wide, fast and lightweight
The 303 Firecrests are a premium choice for gravel and cyclocross as well as a good 40mm-deep option for road riding, with a 25mm internal hookless rim that’s easy to set up tubeless with just a track pump. This latest version weighs just 1,409g with valves, tape and disc brake rotor lockrings.
We really rated the ride quality, which is firm without flex, and the 66 engagement points on the freehub. Zipp’s price has come down too and you now get a lifetime warranty, while Zipp publishes a list of tyres it’s tested for compatibility.
Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V TLR
- £1,200/€2,200/$1,300 as tested
- Modern, wide design
- Great price for carbon wheels, relative to the competition
Measuring 37mm deep, 25.2mm wide internally and a whopping 32.6mm wide externally, Bontrager’s Aeolus Pro 3V TLR wheels are right on the cutting edge of road bike wheel design.
Naturally, then, they’re also tubeless-ready, with Bontrager supplying tubeless rim strips and valves with the wheels.
All you’ll need are tubeless tyres and some sealant, and our tester found it easy to set them up with Continental’s popular GP5000 TL tubeless tyres.
They’re not cheap wheels by any means, but you can find plenty on the market at double the price that don’t offer this kind of spec or performance.
DT Swiss ERC 1100 DiCut 45
- £2,300/€2,387.80/$3,239.8/AU$3,999 as tested
- High build quality and versatile design
- The 1400 version of the wheelset offers better value
DT Swiss updated its ERC wheels in 2022 and this version tops the new range.
The wheels are suitable for riding on rough roads and light gravel and can be set up tubeless.
The carbon rim is significantly wider than the previous version, internally and externally. DT Swiss says the wheels are more stable in crosswinds than before and, anecdotally, they feel faster than other wheels in this depth.
The wheels have a high build quality. They are accurately machined and the bearings are well sealed but easily serviceable.
DT Swiss specs the wheels with hybrid ceramic bearings, meaning ceramic balls in metal races. These are claimed to improve performance but some will question whether they are worth it.
These ERC 1100 wheels are £500 more than the ERC 1400 wheels, with the main difference being the ceramic bearings. So if the advantages of these bearings are equivocal we reckon most riders will be just as having with the marginally heavier 1400s.
Cadex 42 Disc
- £2,500/$3,200 as tested
- Light and stiff for great performance
- Easy tubeless setup
At 1,327g, the 42 Disc wheels from Giant’s performance Cadex brand are light for deeper section carbon wheels. There’s outstanding stiffness and a very rapid ride feel with fast acceleration and the lack of weight making for fast climbing.
The aero-tested rims are 42mm deep and the width is 23mm external/19.4mm internal. The wheels are designed to work with 25mm or 28mm tubeless tyres, and Cadex sells tyres to match.
Campagnolo Shamal C21 DB 2WF XDR Carbon
- £1,160/€1,299/$1,689 as tested
- Carbon gravel wheelset that’s tubeless-ready without taping
- Differential front and rear rim depths
Campag’s first carbon gravel wheelset, the Shamal comes with the N3W freehub body, so it will work with the Ekar groupset, and there are also Shimano/SRAM and XDR options. They’re 21mm wide internally, quick to set up tubeless and come with easy-to-service, super-smooth cup and cone bearings, which can cope with plenty of abuse.
At 1,585g, they’re reasonably lightweight and come with differential 35mm front and 40mm rear rim depths to add firepower without sacrificing steering agility.
ENVE SES 4.5
- £3,350 as tested
- Progressive rim designs and outstanding ride quality
- Massive price tag
The ENVE SES 4.5 is aimed at achieving ‘real-world speed’ and our tester found the wheelset to be quite possibly the best-performing mid-depth carbon wheelset they had ever tested.
The wheelset feels smooth and efficient. The wide rims make riding over less-than-perfect tarmac easy and consequently quicker. They also inspired confidence on descents because they help create a wider contact patch between your tyre and the ground.
The rim profile seems almost impervious to crosswinds – even with the 55mm-deep rear wheel and 49mm-deep front wheel. The rear hub with its 40t ratchet system engages quickly, which pays dividends on climbs.
Overall, the wheels are incredibly easy to ride. Unfortunately, they come at an eye-watering price.
HED Ardennes RA Pro
- £666/€792/$900/AU$1,239 as tested
- Versatile alloy wheelset that’s easy to live with
- Suitable for ‘all-road’ riding
The HED Ardennes RA Pro is a high-value alloy wheelset, suitable for less-than-perfect tarmac, cyclocross and all-road riding.
The wheelset uses HED’s own hubs. These are easy to service if you’re so inclined, and the rear hub offers positive engagement, accelerating almost intuitively.
The alloy rims mean these wheels aren’t as stiff as carbon wheelsets but they do have a sharper feeling than other alloy wheels we’ve tested recently.
The slight flex in the rim pays dividends on rougher terrain and fast descents: you are able to take on bumps with greater confidence than with rigid carbon wheels. Rapid direction changes feel smooth and composed.
Hunt 54 Aerodynamicist Carbon Disc
- £869 as tested
- Great-value and great-looking aero wheelset
- Easy tubeless setup
The Hunt 54 Aerodynamicist Carbon Disc wheelset offers looks with performance to match at a competitive price and weight.
The carbon wheels can be set up with clincher or tubeless road bike tyres and we found this to be hassle-free in testing. The rims have hooks, meaning you can use pretty much any tyre – even gravel tyres up to 50mm, according to the brand.
The wheelset feels fast and responsive out on the road. Hunt’s own-brand hubs are fairly loud, but the noise does seem to have been toned down compared to the brand’s older wheels.
At 54mm deep, you do have to be a bit more careful on windy days, should a gust catch your front wheel. However, we didn’t experience any problems with handling.
The wheels are covered by Hunt’s 60-day return policy and a free lifetime crash replacement policy for the original owner.
- £1,500/$1,699/€1,710 as tested
- Smooth all-road wheels
- High-quality construction
The Reynolds ATRx all-road wheelset offers a smooth ride, excellent handling and high-quality construction.
The wheelset sits in the middle of Reynolds’ range, with upgraded spokes and hubs over the ATR wheelset. It has 40mm-deep hooked rims.
While there are faster and lighter rims available, the ATRx is competitive and composed across different types of riding. It’s impressive when subjected to hard climbing and riding fast along the flat, with the rear hub’s 10-degree engagement angle providing sharp pickup.
The ATRx can be used for gravel riding as well as road, but the 23mm internal rim width limits the size of gravel bike tyre you’ll be able to fit.
Roval Alpinist CLX II
- £2,500/€2,500/$2,650/AU$4,400 as tested
- Low weight with quality hub internals
- Great ride quality on rough roads
Now tubeless-compatible, the Roval Alpiniste CLX II wheelset weighs just 1,265g including tape and valves. Roval has shed weight from the original Alpiniste wheels with modifications to the hub, while reinforcing the 21mm internal width rims. These remain hooked for broad tyre compatibility and can be run tubed as well as tubeless.
As well as the low weight, we were impressed with the ride quality of the Alpiniste wheels on rough Colorado roads. At 32mm deep, they’re not designed to be aero though. There’s only a two year crash replacement warranty, which lags behind other expensive wheel brands.
Roval Rapide CLX II
- £2,500/€2,500/$2,800 as tested
- Compliant ride
- Stable and fast
The Roval Rapide CLX II is a speedy aero disc-brake wheelset that now works with tubeless tyres.
Hooked rims mean the Roval Rapide CLX II can accommodate a wider selection of tyres than its hookless rivals.
The wheelset has a low weight of 1,520g including tubeless valves and tape.
Despite the aerodynamic profile – the rear wheel rim is 60mm deep and the front is 9mm shallower – the Roval Rapide CLX II is among the most composed of its class in blustery conditions.
Pace and poise come with comfort, making the wheelset suitable for longer road rides, as well as racing and fast training.
Swiss Side Hadron² Ultimate 500 Disc
- £1,958/$2,288 as tested
- Decent weight and confident performance
- High price and alternative freehub bodies will cost you
The Swiss Side Hadron² Ultimate 500 Disc is a reliable, fast and all-conditions wheelset. But the carbon wheels do come with an impressive price tag, costing £1,958.
The wheels have an internal rim width of 20mm, which the brand says is optimised for 25mm and 28mm tyres. The wheels are supplied with tubeless tape and we fitted 25mm Schwalbe Pro One tyres with no fuss.
The DT Swiss hubs are reliable and provide rapid freehub engagement. The rear hub comes with a Shimano or SRAM 10- and 11-speed freehub as standard, but if you run an alternative groupset you’ll have to buy a compatible freehub body separately.
While in the past 50mm-deep rims could be a handful in the wind, we didn’t suffer any white-knuckle moments on gusty autumnal rides.
For all-round riding, these wheels are an ideal blend of aero and efficiency with enough stiffness for sprinting and short, sharp climbs.
Swiss Side Hadron² Ultimate 625 Disc
- £1,961/€2,288 as tested
- More aero than Swiss Side’s original Hadrons
- Stable for a deep section wheelset
Swiss Side’s wind tunnel tested 62.5mm deep section wheelset isn’t too heavy for its depth, coming in at 1,687g taped up. They’re 20mm wide internally and built up on DT Swiss 180 Dicut hubs with SINC ceramic bearings.
More aero than the original Hadrons, they’re also more stable than many other deeper section wheels we’ve tested and their lateral stiffness makes for a keen ride.
Zipp 202 NSW
- £2,678/$3,200 as tested
- Spectacular ride quality
With superlative ride quality, impressive levels of stiffness and wonderfully smooth hubs, Zipp’s 202 NSW wheels have a lot to offer.
The tubeless-ready rims, with their 21mm internal width, offer a great tyre profile with the recommended 28mm rubber.
This not only improves grip and smooths out the ride, but also apparently optimises the aerodynamic performance of the wheel/tyre combination.
The relatively high price is likely to be a stumbling block for some, but our tester felt the 202 NSW’s excellent performance lived up to the billing.
Zipp 404 Firecrest Tubeless Disc
- £1,600/€1,899/$2,005 as tested
- Light, aero and stable for the depth
- Hookless rims may limit tubeless tyre choice
The Zipp 404 Firecrest wheelset is a superb wheelset for fast road cycling, offering low weight and a great ride feel that belies the 58mm-deep rims.
The deep rims mean the wheelset is tangibly fast on the flat while still being controllable in blustery conditions. Weighing 1,527g on our scales, these deep-section wheels aren’t a disadvantage on climbs.
The 404s have a hookless rim with an internal width of 23mm. The hookless rim can make finding compatible tubeless tyres difficult. But find a tyre that fits and the wide rim combined with the low pressures you can run with a tubeless setup means this version of the 404 is much more comfortable than its predecessor.
These wheels are ideal for road purists looking for speed, but if you want something a bit more versatile you might want to consider the shallower Zipp 303 Firecrest wheelset.
Boyd Prologue Series 44mm
- £762/€905/$1,050 as tested
- Well priced with 44mm-deep carbon rims
- A comfortable ride that’s not over-stiff
Available for either disc or rim brakes, the Prologue wheels are 44mm deep with a 27mm external/19mm internal rim with the same profile as the brand’s premium Podium wheels. There’s a 28mm-deep disc brake version available too. They’re tubeless-ready and laced with J-bend spokes to hubs with a 10-degree engagement freehub.
At 1,745g, they’re not light but feel more lively than that, with enough give to be comfortable without dulling the ride.
Cannondale HollowGram R45
- £899 as tested
- High-quality carbon rims
- Overall mass may be a concern
The Cannondale HollowGRam R45 is an excellent carbon wheelset that defies its price tag.
The wheelset shares its tubeless carbon rim with Cannondale’s pricier KNOT 45 SL wheelset – just with more spoke holes.
While the wheelset might be just over 200g heavier than the KNOT 45 SL, it gains speed with ease thanks in part to the 21 points of engagement in the rear hub. Our tester found them to be quicker than expected when coasting.
A 28mm tyre was easy to coax onto the rim and measured 30mm wide when inflated.
DT Swiss CR1400 Dicut 25
- £700/€827/$1,047 as tested
- Wide, robust alloy rims
- Excellent hubs and freewheel
DT Swiss describes the CR1400 as an all-road wheelset. It’s built around DT’s lightweight, aero 240s hub with its sophisticated freewheel ratchet. The 25mm-deep, 22mm internal/26mm external alloy rim works well with wider tyres.
Tubeless setup is easy, with a secure seal to the rim, and the 1,746g a pair weight is good for a wide alloy rim. We rated the ride feel, it had no lateral flex under load and not too much rigidity for a comfortable ride.
Easton EA90 SL Disc
- £1,050/$1,000 as tested
- Great performance and high-quality construction
- Hookless tubeless rims
These are pricey for aluminium wheels, but when you consider they have a similar rim profile and weight to carbon options, they start to look like much better value.
Our tester found this wheelset to have excellent rigidity, meaning they accelerate and climb brilliantly.
- £1,850/$1,600 as tested
- ENVE quality at a (slightly) more affordable price
- Light and fast, although subject to cross-wind buffeting
ENVE’s 65mm-deep wheelset offers you the prestige brand at a (relatively) lower price than its SES wheels. Unlike the SES wheels, the ENVE 65s’ 21mm internal/28mm external width rims are identical front to rear. They’re tubeless-ready with hookless beads.
The ENVE 65 wheels weighed 1,640g, which is only 160g heavier than the SES wheels and the hub internals are the same, just with steel bearings in place of ceramic ones. We reckoned that was a fair trade-off for the £1,500 saving.
The wheels are really fast on still days, holding their speed well, although the depth makes acceleration slightly slower than shallower wheels. There was some buffeting once the wind got up, but ride comfort is good, particularly for such deep wheels.
- £1,500/€1,399/$1,699 as tested
- Sturdily built gravel wheels with quality DT Swiss spokes and hubs
- Light and stiff, but fragile rim tape
Another first-for-the-brand gravel wheelset, the Drifts’ aero 36mm deep hookless carbon rims are 24mm wide internally to handle tyres up to 60mm wide. They’re easy to set up tubeless, although the supplied rim tape is fragile and we needed to replace it.
They’re built up on DT Swiss 240 EXP hubs with extra-sturdy DT aero spokes for durability, but still weigh a respectable 1,525g.