If you want to reduce some weight and get better acceleration, a new set of wheels is a great upgrade to make. Maybe you have a bent wheel and are looking for a new one to replace it? Knowing what to look for and finding the best mtb wheels can be tricky with all the different types available.

This article is designed to let you know what you need to consider when buying new mtb wheels. We have also chosen the 10 best mtb wheels available to help you make a decision and get back on your bike, riding faster than before.

For more of out top mountain bike gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: 

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QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST MTB WHEELS

1. Race Face Turbine 30
2. Easton Haven
3. Mavic Xa Pro
4. Mavic Crossmax Pro
5. Crank Brothers Cobalt 2
6. Shimano Xtr
7. Spank Spike Race 28
8. Sun Ringle A.D.D
9. Mavic Crossride Fts-X
10. Shimano Deore/Sun Rhyno Lite

 

 

 

MTB WHEELS REVIEWS

RACE FACE TURBINE 30

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonREI

BEST FOR: A great value wheel for all-round mountain biking

RIM MATERIAL: Alloy

INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 30mm

TUBELESS: Yes

PROS: Wide, strong, stiff, fast engagement

CONS: None

 

 

 

EASTON HAVEN

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: 29″ riders who want a great carbon wheel

RIM MATERIAL: Carbon

INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 21mm

TUBELESS: Yes

PROS: Stiff, fast engagement

CONS: None

 

 

 

MAVIC XA PRO

Check out the latest price on:
REI

BEST FOR: A light and strong carbon wheel

RIM MATERIAL: Carbon

INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 26mm

TUBELESS: Yes

PROS: Light, strong

CONS: Price, narrower rim than comparable wheels

 

 

 

MAVIC CROSSMAX PRO

Check out the latest price on:
REI

BEST FOR: Hard trail riding

RIM MATERIAL: Alloy

INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 22.6mm

TUBELESS: Yes

PROS: Strong, light

CONS: None

 

 

 

CRANK BROTHERS COBALT 2

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: A strong and stiff wheel with unique looks.

RIM MATERIAL: Alloy

INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 19mm

TUBELESS: Yes

PROS: Stiff, look good, no holes drilled into the rim increases strength

CONS: Heavy

 

 

 

SHIMANO XTR

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: A good looking wheelset with the advantages of both carbon and alloy

RIM MATERIAL: Carbon/alloy

INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 24mm

TUBELESS: Yes

PROS: Durable aluminum rim wrapped in carbon for rigidity

CONS: Get out of true faster than expected

 

 

 

SPANK SPIKE RACE 28

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Affordable downhill wheels

RIM MATERIAL: Alloy

INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 23mm

TUBELESS: Yes

PROS: Strong, affordable

CONS: None

 

 

 

SUN RINGLE A.D.D

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: A fast and stiff downhill wheel

RIM MATERIAL: Alloy

INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 24mm

TUBELESS: Yes

PROS: Fast rolling, stiff

CONS: Slow engagement

 

 

 

MAVIC CROSSRIDE FTS-X

Check out the latest price on:
REI

BEST FOR: Riders who need a strong yet affordable wheel

RIM MATERIAL: Alloy

INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 21mm

TUBELESS: No

PROS: Affordable, strong

CONS: Heavy

 

 

 

SHIMANO DEORE/SUN RHYNO LITE

Check out the latest price on:
REI

BEST FOR: Riders who are willing to sacrifice weight for reliability

RIM MATERIAL: Alloy

INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 27.7mm

TUBELESS: No

PROS: Strong, reliable

CONS: Heavy

 

 

 

COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST MTB WHEELS

PICTURE
MTB WHEEL
BEST USE
SIZE
TUBELESS
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
MTB WHEEL
BEST USE
SIZE
TUBELESS
PRICE
RATING
Race Face Turbine 30
Overall
27.5”
Yes
$$$
5.0
Easton Haven
Overall
29.0”
Yes
$$$
5.0
Mavic XA Pro
Trail
27.5”
Yes
$$$
4.0
Mavic Crossmax Pro
Trail
27.5”
Yes
$$$
5.0
Crank Brothers Cobalt 2
Trail
26.0”
Yes
$$
3.5
Shimano XTR
Trail
27.5”
Yes
$$
4.0
Spank SPIKE Race 28
Downhill
27.5”
Yes
$$
5.0
Sun Ringle A.D.D
Downhill
27.5”
Yes
$$
4.5
Mavic Crossride FTS-X
Budget
29.0”
No
$
4.0
Shimano Deore/Sun Rhyno Lite
Budget
29.0”
No
$
4.0

 

 


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HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MTB WHEELS

RIDING STYLE

Different styles of mountain biking require wheels with different attributes. XC racers will want a lightweight wheelset, sacrificing strength in favor of speed.

Meanwhile, trail riders will need something stronger to cope with the stresses of being hammered through technical terrain. Enduro riders and downhill racers will need something even stronger and more durable.

 

WHEEL SIZE

Your frame and fork are almost most likely compatible with only one wheel size. The three wheel sizes for mountain bikes are 26″, 27.5″ (also known as 650b) and 29.” Some trials, dirt jump and children’s bikes will have 24″ wheels.

If you do not know what size wheel your bike takes, have a look at your tires. The wheel diameter followed by the tire width are printed on the side (e.g., 26×2.2).

 

RIM CONSIDERATIONS

 

WIDTH

Wider rims allow wider tires to be used. Wider rim and tire combinations have become popular in recent years for a couple of reasons.

First, the increased grip and bigger volume of wider tires allow riders to ride with more control through technical terrain and push harder in corners. On top of this, it has been proven that wider tires with lower pressure roll better over rough terrain, although they may be a bit slower to accelerate.

The internal rim width determines the maximum tire size you can use. For instance, 19mm allows up to 2.2-inch tires, 21mm up to 2.4 inches, and 23 mm for anything wider than 2.3 inches. There are also wider rims available for plus size tires and fat bikes.

Check what width tires your frame and fork is designed to take and purchase wheels designed for this size. You are unlikely to fit a wide downhill tire into a skinny XC frame and a plus size tire is not going in anything but a plus size bike. However, you can actually put slimmer tires in a plus size bike.

 

MATERIAL

You have a choice of either alloy or carbon when it comes to rims. Alloy rims can be just as light as carbon at a fraction of the cost, whereas carbon rims are stiffer. A stiffer rim will give you more power transfer and precision when cornering at the price of a harsher ride feel.

 

TUBELESS

Tubeless wheels have many advantages over traditional tire and tubes. Fewer punctures, lower rolling resistance, lighter weight and better grip are just a few of these benefits.

Keep in mind that tubeless rims will only work with tubeless tires. Tubeless-ready rims can be sealed with special rim tape and mounted with tubeless tires or used with an inner tube. Non-tubeless rims can only be used with inner tubes.

 

HUB CONSIDERATIONS

 

MANUFACTURE

Hubs are manufactured in two ways. Either they are forged and then machined or machined only. Forged hubs are generally stronger so a better decision.

 

BEARINGS

Whether you choose loose or cartridge bearings do not make too much difference to the performance of the wheel. The sealing of the bearings is what counts, as this keeps out dirt, water and grime that wear out the bearings.

 

POINTS OF ENGAGEMENT

This refers to the number of pawls in the rear hub that engages with the freewheel when you pedal. The pawls are responsible for the clicking or buzzing noise that a rear wheel makes when you are not pedaling.

More pawls mean more points of engagement and faster pick up when you start pedaling. It would be wise to look for hubs with at least three or more.

 

CASSETTE TYPE

If you want a super wide ratio 11- or 12-speed drivetrain, you need to make sure that the hub is compatible. Eleven- and 12-speed SRAM cassettes need to be mounted on a SRAM XD driver, whereas some Shimano cassettes can be mounted on regular hubs. Check their compatibility before you buy.

 

AXLES

There are currently many axle widths in use. Rear hubs have gotten wider, going from 135mm to 142mm and even reaching the 148mm “Boost” size.

Downhill hubs are either 150mm or 157mm wide. There is also the standard quick release, or the 12mm or 15mm through axle size to think about.

Thankfully, many new wheels include interchangeable adapters. But, you will need to check what size your frame takes and what sizes your intended wheels are compatible with.

Front hubs come in 100mm or the 110mm “Boost” size, with the same variety of quick release and through axles. Make sure your new wheel is compatible with your fork.

 

BRAKE TYPE

If you use rim brakes, then you need to get wheels with compatible rims. Nearly all modern mountain bikes use disk brakes. The rotors will also mount onto the hubs. Check whether you need hubs with 6 bolt ISO standard or centerlock to match your current brakes.

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