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  • "Wider" road rims – how much actual difference?
  • JonEdwards

    I need some new (ally clincher) road wheels. For my budget, I can either get a mid-high endish factory wheelset – currently looking at Fulcrum Racing Zero or Campag Shamals, which are both on decent deals in a variety of places, or I can go for a set of handbuilts with these new wider 23mm rims (Pacenti SL23/H+Son Archetype etc).

    Now how much difference do these wide rims *actually* make to the feel of the bike? My SO has a set of HED Ardennes wheels, which she loves (although she hasn’t ridden any other high end road wheels), but measuring the width of the mounted (identical) tyres, there’s less than 1mm difference between those and my “old skool” Ksyriums. The shape does seem less “lighbulby”, but I’ve no idea how that translates into noticeable road feel. For a variety of reasons I can’t fit them to my bike to try them.

    I’ve asked over on BR road forums, but any wheel related Qs tend to get dominated by a couple of wheel builder types who are obviously pro-handbuilt.

    Given the wider rims have been around for while now, I’m surprised that the big companies liKe Mavic, Campag/Fulcrum etc haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, if the difference is as pronounced as people are claiming. In wheelset terms, it only seems to be HED and Zipp who are pushing it.

    I’m “just riding”, no racing. Lots of hills and I’m a skinny bugger with an OK power to weight ratio, but dick all “real” power.


    Premier Icon Yak

    Missus Yak raves about her SL23s. But again she hasn’t tried them against a similar narrower build, with all other things being equal.

    She is also running them tubeless. That probably has more of an impact on the feel rather than the width. But then the rims were chosen with that in mind anyway. fwiw, the 23mm fusions come up about the same width as her old spesh 25s on narrower rims, but with a little less height and no ‘lightbulb’ shape.

    If I was buying, I would go handbuilts with similar rims.


    Macavity – that article is hardly conclusive – says more about the practical issues of mixing and matching narrow and wide wheels than about the benefits of the wide wheels. That’s kinda my issue – it all seems to be incredibly subjective.

    FWiW – aero is relatively unimportant to me. Weight & stiffness are important in the wheel dept, handling & comfort in the tyres.

    Yak – you’re in exactly the same place I am! Gut feel is to go handbuilts, but I have to pay full RRP, where there’s some real nice deals to had on factory wheelsets at the mo.

    Premier Icon Yak

    Go handbuilts! You get exactly what you want, built to your weight and requirements using easily sourced components.


    I doubt you’ll notice the difference – or if you do it will be because you think there ought to be one. Though given your options and that you’re not interested in aero (which is the main reason not to go handbuilt) I can’t see any reason not to have a set handbuilt with them. One advantage of those is that the components are standard so no problem buying new spokes etc.

    If you wonder why Mavic haven’t changed, you should check out just how old most of their rim tech is – little to no real development in the last 10 years. They’ll be the last people to adopt it.


    A mate of mine has had issues with Mavic hubs which seem to be quite common i.e. rusting, components falling apart etc. He had to bodge repairs with biro springs and zip ties as they don’t do spares kits for hubs. (This was on a pair of wheels that cost £800 a year ago).

    This has put me off Mavics specifically and some factory builts in general. I’m after a new set of wheels for next year and am debating whether to go for Dura Ace C24s or a set of handbuilt Archetypes.


    Shimano are better than Mavic, but as I said above, if you don’t need aero, what’s the disadvantage of handbuilt? (I have handbuilt semi-aero, so it is possible, but not as easy as factory ones)

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon

    I’e got Stans which aren’t wider but are lower so the tyre baloons up more, it is different, a bit smoother/more comfortable, I’d go hand built now that there’s a choice, 5 years ago when it was Open-Pro’s or nothing I’d have said factory, but handbuilts are now potentially lighter, cheaper, stronger, more aero, more comfortable, and easily fixed. Although factory wheels may well be a better compromise of all of that sometimes, there’s clearly more thought/work gone into C24’s or Kysriums than any handbuilt rim.

    Premier Icon bob_summers

    Nothing to add except I’ve got a pair of shamals sitting unused as the front rim is worn out and the replacement cost is astronomical. No more factory wheels for me…


    Couple of things that do make a slight difference:

    – the wider rim will give a marginally wider tyre profile. giving marginally more contact
    – The wider rim will allow wider tyres (assuming your frame will take it)
    – the wider rim will allow lower pressure to capitalise more fully on the above giving you more grip and a more cushioned ride.
    – Wider rims as stupidly easy to change tyres on.

    I have both 16mm and 18mm (internal) width rims and I can say that the wider ones give a better profile and I do run them at silly-low pressures at times with no issues. I got the wider ones for cross, but I am putting some 25mm tyres on for a road ride at the weekend, I’ll probably run them at about 80psi rather than 90 for a narrower rim.

    Personally I go for hand built wheels every time. ease of servicing and spares is a massive benefit.

    Don’t know if any of that helps at all.

    Premier Icon jameso

    Now how much difference do these wide rims *actually* make to the feel of the bike?

    Practically zero imo unless the width means you can use a wider tyre with less pressure. But for 23-25C at ~100psi, no difference that I can tell. Maybe noticed if you go from an Open Pro at 14mm to a 21mm? but a couple of mm either way, nah. There’s a middle ground where it may be a fine-tune that some can feel on a bike they’re well used to though and I think in general tyre volume is a better way to get comfort than ‘flex stays’ or similar features.

    Premier Icon TiRed

    Not a huge amount of difference to be honest. I have 19 mm Mavic rims on two sets of handbuilt wheels (plus some Ksyriums) and 21 mm rims on a set of aero Giant wheels. The difference in tyre widths for a given size makes more difference. For example; Schwalbe Ones in 23c come up with a very round profile more resembling 25c. Wider rims will spread them perhaps a mm further, but I did not notice. By contrast, Mavic Yksion tyres are dead on for width on Mavic rims. I now run 25c on all my wheelsets, which means that the tyre profile is more tubular for all brands, but last season’s 23c were not really that different. Road comfort is the biggest improvement for wider tyres.

    You may detect a slight improvement in cornering due to a rounder profile, for the same tyre, but a switch to another brand with a different profile will have just as big, if not bigger effect.


    Personally, I noticed a significant difference when I swapped from Open Pros to Archetypes.
    The difference in tyre profile is very obvious and the ride is certainly a lot smoother as a result.
    Anecdotally, I’d also say the wheel is a lot stiffer, although that’s obviously partly down to slightly deeper profile too.
    I won’t be having any more ‘narrow’ rims built, put it that way.


    I find it hard to believe that Mavic do not do spares kits for wheels that new. They have a UK service centre, which when I have used them (rim and hub rebuilds on Crossmax and Cosmic C) have turned around witihin a week and at a really great price. I think a lot of shops still remember the days when Mavic where dsitributed by a UK wholesaler who were, basically shit.


    I’ve got Velocity A23s with 28mm Conti GP4 Season tyres. Built for comfort on some of the ‘orrible road surfaces around here (and everywhere between London and Edinburgh)
    Never really ridden anything else, but its the most comfortable bike I’ve ever ridden. Built the wheels myself onto Shutter Precision PD8 dyno and Novatech something or other rear hub using Sapim Race spokes. Lush.

    This week just gone I have built up 4x H+son archetype rims, 2x Stans Grail, 2x velocity a23 and 2x Pacenti sl23.

    All users have said they have felt the stiffness benefit over their current factory wheelsets which are an assortment of mavic, shimano, fulcrum and some basic builds.

    Of all the rims I build on, I have found the Archetype to be the best mix of price/stiffness and weight although if I was building a higher end wheelset i’d go with the Pacenti.

    Premier Icon tomaso

    I got some Superstar Volta hubs built up with Pacenti rims and they are better then old Mavic Cosmic wheels I’ve had.

    Just got some very workman like H Plus Son Archetypes with 36 spokes for the singlespeed commuter hack. They look good but ain’t light compared to the S’star Pacenti wheelas but that may more be down to hubs and spokes..

    If your want a very special deal drop me an email as I want to build up some aivee SR5 hubs either too archetype or pacenti rims so I’m sure I could do you a really good deal. Also hand built doesn’t need to be super expensive everyone of my customers is surprise how cheap it can work out, As i tell them I have low over heads with the workshop I rent and don’t employ anyone.

    I built up a set of aivee sr5 on velocity a23 the other day, nice hubs.


    Currently I am using various wheels,

    Stans alpha 350 and 400 Hanbuilts
    H plus son
    Open pro
    Shamal ultra
    50mm deep carbon, 23mm wide

    I have raced cries and road races on the shamans and deep wheels this year, and trained a lot on the hanbuilts.

    The wider rims give a smoother ride, the tyre is more stable in the turns, and swaps from left to right better.

    But, my favourite wheel is the shamal ultra. It picks up speed so well, holds speed well, and holds a line in turns well.

    None of the handbuilts have or ever will have the same rigidity as a shamal/kysrium type of wheel.

    I have built the deep wheels in a few different ways over the years. I have settled on oval/lightweight spokes on the front, and Dt competition on the rear. This gives the wheel a more rigid feel under power, and it flexes less when sprinting.

    Am I faster on wider rims…
    Are Mavic open pros better quality than other rims…..yes
    Would you get used to anything you own….yes

    Moved over from standard 19mm to 23mm wide rims and they feel loads smoother and seem to roll faster when compared to mid to top level factory rims on the same tyres (width / brand etc).

    It’s one of those things that sounds like it should be filed under “snake oil” but when you try it it does seem to work. The archetypes get a lot of love and rightly so but I have a set of TB14’s that are equal to, if not better than my archetypes.

    These things are entirely subjective of course but I’d urge you to go for it.

    Got both my sets from this chap

    Edit: I’m not affiliated with the above wheelbuilder etc etc but would gladly accept bribes, bungs and free kit for gratuitous promotion


    The change from 19mm to 23mm is definitely noticeable. On non-toroidal rims thegreater width isn’t about aero, it’s about an increase in grip, comfort and handling.

    Premier Icon cynic-al

    I was thinking of doing a mythbuster thread on this very topic – seems there’s an urgent need!

    jobless – Member

    Couple of things that do make a slight difference:

    – the wider rim will give a marginally wider tyre profile. giving marginally more contact No, contact area is related to pressure alone.
    – The wider rim will allow wider tyres (assuming your frame will take it) Been reading the marketing? I run 2.3″s on Open pros. Go figure.
    – the wider rim will allow lower pressure to capitalise more fully on the above giving you more grip and a more cushioned ride. The difference is marginal – stay away from the marketing!
    – Wider rims as stupidly easy to change tyres on. How does rim width affect this at all?

    umop3pisdn – Member

    The change from 19mm to 23mm is definitely noticeable.

    Have you double-blind tested that?

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