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Bicycle wheels are one of the essential components of its structure. Being the only point of support with the ground, correctly identifying each of its parts is essential to ensure your safety and comfort on the bike.
In that sense, having a basic knowledge about the composition of the wheels will help you to choose the most suitable ones, depending on the terrain you are riding on. In addition, the acquisition of these basics will be very useful, especially if you need to repair it or make any kind of change to your bike.
The following is a detailed explanation of the different elements of a bicycle wheel.
The basic structure of a bicycle wheel has more components than most people think. Typically, the clincher tire, spokes and inner tube are the most familiar. However, knowledge of parts such as the rim and hub is far less common, but no less important.
The rim is the structure of the wheel and is mostly made of aluminum, steel or carbon. The rest of the elements that make up the wheel are placed on it.
The spokes have an essential function: to withstand tensile and compressive forces to make the wheel turn and support your weight, as well as to maintain the integrity of the rim shape. They are composed of a series of rods that are tensioned, which are complemented by the hub of the bike and the wheel rim itself. Depending on the type of bike, the number of spokes varies between 24 and 36.
This part is located in the central part of the wheel and is on which the spokes are mounted. In this way, it allows the placement of the bearings, which make the wheel turn smoothly while fixed to the frame.
The inner tube is a closed rubber cylinder with an orifice, called a valve, through which it is inflated. With the correct pressure, it gives consistency to the tire, providing comfort and rolling efficiency.
It provides the grip and comfort necessary for the bike to ride as safely as possible. The tire is the fulcrum, which, like your feet, contacts the ground.
This small component, which protrudes inside the wheel and between two spokes, is the access to inflate the inner tube. Depending on its shape, it will determine the type of pump we need to introduce air into it.
This accessory separates the spokes from the tube. Thus, it protects the tube and avoids punctures in the wheel.
The bike wheels size depends depends on the following characteristics:
The most commonly used unit of measurement for bicycle wheels is the ETRTO and is measured in millimeters. To give you a rough idea, these are the most common measurements:
These have a profile of 50 mm and upwards. They are focused for those cyclists who participate in triathlons, speed training on flat surfaces and timed exercises.
Popularly known as non-profiled wheels, they are below 30 mm. You will notice that the sidewall of the wheel is very small compared to the high profile ones. They are generally intended for riders who like to save weight and ride in hilly, steep terrain.
They range between 30 and 50 millimeters and are considered the most versatile bicycle wheels. This is because they maintain an important balance between function, comfort and weight. They are usually the preference of cyclists who want to move at high speed and, at the same time, climb mountain passes.
The rim width determines the maximum tyre width that a wheel can accommodate. These are the tyre widths that can be fitted to a bicycle depending on the rim width:
The rim depth is also measured with the ETRTO system, which provides a better appreciation of the measurement between the tire and the rim. For example, a tire marked 42 x 650b (42 - 584) can be mounted on a rim with a diameter of 584 mm.
Bicycle hubs are made of aluminum, but the internal parts, such as nuts or pawls, are usually made of steel. There are carbon fiber or titanium hubs, which are much more exclusive and are intended for high-end bicycle wheels or assemblies.
The flip-flop rear hub, also called double reversible sprocket (freewheel + fixed sprocket) is like having two bikes, one fixed mode and one free mode. That is, the rear wheel has two sprockets, on one side a fixed sprocket (Fixie) and on the other a freewheel (Single Speed) and you can change the position of the wheel to put the style you like best.
El buje trasero tiene una prolongación donde se le instala el cassette, conocido como núcleo de cassette. Los bujes Boost, por su parte, son más anchos que los bujes estándar o QR de 9 mm, por lo que aportan más rigidez a la rueda, aunque también son más pesados.
There are different types of bicycle brakes. Below, we explain what each of them consists of:
Also known as a rim brake. Braking force is applied as a result of friction from pads located on the wheel rim, allowing the wheel to stop. The pads may be rubber or leather.
This brake is very common, especially on children's bicycles. The coaster brake is like a mallet and is characterized by the ease with which the wheel can be stopped.
The rear wheel rotates without the need for the pedals to be in motion. When pedaling backwards, the mechanism functions as a brake. The brake parts are made of metal and require only minimal maintenance.
These are those that do not have a freewheel, that is, the pedals are always in motion when the bike is in motion. It facilitates braking by pedaling in the opposite direction, also allowing you to go backwards. They stand out for their lightness, simplicity and low maintenance.
It is very common to see this type of brakes on hybrid or road bikes, among others. They are highly efficient and withstand wet environments very well. They consist of a rotor that is fixed to the hub by bolts and contains a caliper with two pads, which press both sides of the rotor when mechanically or hydraulically actuated.
Cycling has many variants. You can do urban cycling, mountain biking, road cycling, track cycling or cyclocross, among many other modalities. Therefore, there are many types of design that respond to the requirements of each variety of practice.
The front wheels of bicycles are those on which the fork is attached. Generally, their size depends on the type of bicycle for which they are intended, since a road model is not the same as a mountain model, for example. In addition, although it is something that depends more on your taste, this also marks the width it should have.
They are available in a wide variety of designs. The traditional ones have 32 or 36 spokes, although some models can have up to 48 (40 is the most common intermediate figure). However, wheels with 6 spokes are becoming increasingly popular. In premium models, these elements are made of carbon.
Another element to take into account is the profile. In addition to giving a touch of color to the bike, we have already seen that, depending on our activity, it will be more convenient to choose a low, medium or high profile. It is also possible to have them prepared for disc or V-Brake systems, depending on your riding style.
Generally speaking, the rear wheels of bicycles are similar in design to the front wheels. However, there are models available with an even smaller number of poles. Some of them have only three, which significantly increases their lightness.
Note that the sprockets of the drive system are placed on the rear wheel. This can be fixed in the case of fixie bikes or single-speed bikes. Likewise, their number depends on the number of speeds the bike has in the rest of the cases.
The coaster brake system incorporates a hub on the rear wheel that rotates freely to the fixed sprocket; therefore, if we stop pedaling, the bicycle continues to move forward in the same way as a fixed sprocket would. To apply the brake we must pedal backwards to progressively slow down the speed of the bicycle.
This system is used mostly in the Netherlands because of its useful and easy operation and because the terrain is very flat and easy to ride on.
The coaster brake system is an alternative to fixed-gear bicycles or hand brakes.
This type of wheel is characterized by incorporating all the necessary elements to be able to roll. They have tubes and tires, among other elements, so you will not have to worry about looking for these components separately.
Therefore, this option is perfect if you want to save time, since mounting them on the bicycle will be much easier and faster.
This option can be very interesting for you, for example, if you need to renew the wheels of your bicycle. In this way, you will have two wheels of the same style, the front and the rear.
In addition, if you have several different sets of wheels, you will be able to choose one or the other depending on the terrain you are going to ride. Thus, the options of riding on different routes are multiplied.
Carbon wheels offer a number of unquestionable advantages. The first of these has to do with weight. Currently, no lighter rims are manufactured than those made of this material, so they will allow you to ride faster than other compounds. However, it is not the only one.
It is curious, but this weight reduction does not translate into a loss of strength. On the contrary. Carbon wheels are more immune to torsion than aluminum wheels.
The main advantage of aluminum wheels is their price, which is significantly lower than that of carbon wheels. In addition, in most of the usual uses of fixie bikes or any other type of bicycle, the differences in performance are not excessively perceptible. At least, for the occasional or amateur user.
On the other hand, aluminum wheels tend to have a longer service life than carbon wheels, even though they are heavier and offer poorer performance. They also favor a more aggressive ride. This undoubtedly appeals to many users and is the reason why it is still a very common material for mountain bikes.
Fixie bikes are those that operate with a fixed sprocket, which means that, in order to brake, it is necessary to avoid the movement of the cranks by means of the pedals. This system is a little slower in terms of response than that used on other types of bikes.
The use of fixie wheels is especially focused on urban environments. Single-speed wheels are practically identical to fixie wheels. In fact, the only difference between one type of bike and the other lies in the placement of a brake on each rim and the use of a freewheel instead of a fixed sprocket. This will allow you to enjoy exceptional mechanical simplicity and the same riding style you have practiced all your life.
You can't forget air pumps to inflate the inner tubes of your tyres if you don't use tubeless tyres. Also, in terms of security, you can place reflective elements on the spokes or buy an anti-theft system that attaches to them to prevent your bike from being stolen when it is parked.
In Santafixie we offer wheels called flip-flop in which you can install a fixed sprocket on one side and a freewheel on the other, so you can choose the driving system. Just by turning the wheel you can turn a single-speed bike into a fixie bike.
In terms of size, urban wheels and fixie and single-speed wheels are very similar. In fact, they are most commonly found in 700C or 650C sizes. They also share the same utility, as they are intended for use primarily on asphalt.
However, the main difference with the previous ones is in the width. Urban wheels are usually halfway between road and mountain wheels. This ensures a larger contact surface with the ground and better grip. It is also common for them to incorporate small lugs and engravings to evacuate water in case of rain.
Keep in mind that, in many cases, these bikes are used for commuting to work, school or shopping. Therefore, it is important that dust and water accumulated on the wheel does not stain your clothes or cause damage. Thanks to the fender, elements such as the shock absorber and transmission will not be damaged.
As a general rule, these are 700C wheels with very little thickness and a relatively high profile (between 30 and 60 mm). They are usually equipped with 28 to 32 spokes in order to minimize weight, promote airflow and facilitate high speeds.
They are designed to be driven on asphalt for long distances and have a rather narrow width. The contact surface has no knobs, although it may have grooves to improve wet grip.
Velodromes are intrinsically linked to the history of cycling. On them it is possible to reach extraordinarily high speeds using track bikes, which go even a step further than time trial bikes. They also stand out for being very simple in mechanical terms.
The main difference between track wheels and road wheels is in the spokes and profiles. The latter are particularly large and offer a completely smooth contact surface. After all, it is impossible for it to rain inside a velodrome. The priority is to achieve the highest possible speed.
The number of spokes is reduced to a minimum. In fact, they are sometimes replaced by thicker canes in order to reduce aerodynamic loads to a minimum. Nowadays, many users choose them for their fixie bikes because of their original and striking aesthetics.
We are talking about hybrid wheels here, just like the bikes for which they are designed. By this we mean that they offer good performance both on asphalt and on off-road trails that are not overly complex.
Obviously, they are mounted on tires that offer more grip than road tires but do not have such a high rolling capacity. Likewise, they do not reach the level of robustness and traction of mountain tires. However, they allow alternating both types of roads on the same route without any problem.
Having a good bike at your disposal makes all the difference. However, to feel safe and enjoy every ride or commute to work or college, it's important to have the right wheel accessories.
For example, mudguards prevent water, dust and mud from damaging the mechanics of your bike. Special mention should be made of puncture repair kits. Thanks to them, if you suffer a problem of this type, you will be able to fix it quickly. So you won't have to carry one or more spare tires in your backpack.
Nor can we forget air pumps to inflate the inner tubes of the wheels in case you do not use tubeless tires. Also, in terms of security, you can place reflective elements on the spokes or buy an anti-theft system that attaches to them to prevent your bike from being stolen when it is parked.
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