A light bicycle is fun to ride, and one of the biggest contributors to a bike’s weight is the wheels. If your carbon road bike came with a set of alloy wheels, they probably weigh around 2-2.5 kg. An entry-level carbon wheelset weighs from 1.5-1.7 kg depending on the rim depth.
But what about the lightest bicycle wheelset that you can get? In this article, we will be breaking down some of the latest and greatest lightweight bicycle wheelsets available today. Not just the lightest, this is a review of the fastest lightweight wheels that money can buy.
What to look for when choosing a light set of carbon wheels (other than weight)
There are many different factors that you need to consider when choosing a new set of wheels for your bike.
Weight is not everything. A wheel can be made light if it has a shallow depth, narrow rim, or thin hubs, but this wheel would be slow to ride and might break easily.
When looking for the lightest bike wheels, it is important to keep in mind the rim depth, rim width, stiffness, durability, and hub quality.
Rim depth is the distance from the top of the rim to the bottom. A shallow rim depth is lighter because it uses less material, but it is also not very aero. That is fine if you want the absolute lightest wheels or if you climb steep gradients frequently.
However, if you want a lightweight wheelset that is also fast, look for a 40-50 mm rim depth.
The width of your rims will affect how your bike handles and feels on the road. Wider rims can provide better stability, gives you a smoother ride, and may decrease rolling resistance, while narrower rims are lighter in weight and possibly more aero.
When looking at a wheel profile, you want to look at the internal or inner rim width rather than the outer. It is typically measured in millimeters and most modern rims have 19-21mm internal width.
Many factors can affect the stiffness of bicycle wheels. Some of these include the thickness of the rim wall, spoke count, and spoke tension. A thicker rim with a higher spoke count generally leads to a stiffer wheel, while a thinner and a lower spoke count results in a more flexible yet lighter wheel.
Stiffer wheels are better for performance, but less stiff wheels aren’t always bad because some people prefer them to be more comfortable on rough terrains.
Carbon bicycle wheels are expected to last for years and years of riding, so durability is an important consideration when choosing a set of wheels. A durable set of wheels will be able to withstand the rigors of everyday riding, as well as the occasional bump or pothole.
Lighter wheels are typically made of less material, so they have a thinner wall and can’t handle too much weight. They may break easier if you crashed or hit a big pothole at a high speed. Thicker rim walls are usually more durable, but they will increase weight.
The hub is the central part of the wheel, around which the rim and spokes are attached. It contains the axle on which the wheel spins and bearings that allow the wheel to rotate freely.
The hub is an important component of the bicycle and plays a crucial role in its performance.
Lighter wheels typically use a thinner or smaller hub body, weaker axle, and smaller bearings. This can reduce the weight significantly and make your wheels roll smoother, but they won’t last long and need proper maintenance.
The three types of bicycle wheel types are (hooked) clincher, tubular, and hookless.
Tubular rims are always the lightest but too much hassle for daily use. Hookless is lighter than a clincher but at this point, the tech is relatively new, and not many tires are supported.
Clincher wheels are the most common type of wheel today. They have an inner tube that holds the air, but most clincher wheels nowadays are also tubeless compatible.
Now here’s our list of the best lightweight carbon wheels:
1. Extralite CyberDisc 338CS
The Extralite CyberDisc 338CS is the lightest wheelset on this list. At 38mm depth, the whole set weighs 1,080g. In comparison, most high-end 38mm carbon wheels weigh around 1,400g. The CyberDisc 338CS is a “semi-hooked” tubeless-ready rim. Not technically a hookless rim since there’s a small hook that allows a wider range of tire compatibility while keeping the weight low.
At 18mm internal width, it’s narrower than standard carbon clinchers but still not too bad considering its weight.
The Extralite CyberDisc 338CS is definitely an exotic set of wheels that’s not suitable for everyone. If you ride on bumpy roads or bad weather quite often, you will need to inspect these wheels regularly for damage and clean up the hubs.
2. Zipp 353 & 454 NSW
Zipp 353 and 454 NSW are tubeless-only hookless wheels. At 45 mm rim depth, Zipp 353 NSW weighs amazingly low at only 1255 gr. That’s remarkable considering these wheels came from a mainstream, non-exotic brand like Extralite. Meanwhile, the Zipp 454 NSW is a 58 mm deep rim weighs in at 1358 gr, also very light but you probably came here because of the lighter set.
The secret to its weight lies in the hookless internal and the undulating rim design. So while they said Zipp 454 NSW to be a 58 mm rim depth, it’s actually a 53 mm and 58 mm rim depth. Speaking aerodynamically, it’s probably worse than a traditional 58 mm rim, but better than a 53 mm rim, somewhere in the middle.
3. Lightweight Obermayer EVO
The Lightweight wheels are most known for their expensive wheels, and Obermayer EVO is a very expensive set of wheels. It is, in fact, the most expensive wheels they offer.
With a 48 mm rim depth and 18.2 mm internal width, the Obermayer EVO weighs in at 1230 gr. It is the lightest rim available on the market for its depth, though the internal width is a bit outdated by today’s standards. According to Lightweight, the Obermayer EVO has an outstanding stiffness-to-weight ratio thanks to its special carbon layup and carbon spokes. Unfortunately, there’s no way for us to test this claim because we simply can’t afford it.
All of Lightweight’s wheels have a distinct look that separates them from the rest. If you don’t have a problem with the price and just want to get the most expensive-looking wheels for flexing purposes, this is the one to purchase.
4. Roval Rapide CLX or Bontrager Aeolus RSL 62
The outgoing version of Roval Rapide CLX is a non-tubeless clincher with a 51 mm front rim depth and 60 mm rear rim depth weighs in at 1400 as a set. If you want deep, aero wheels that are lightweight, this is your best option if you can still find it on the market.
The only downside of this wheelset is that it’s not tubeless-compatible. This shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t plan on running them tubeless. If you do, you might want to get the new Rapide CLX II — except, it’s 120 gr heavier at 1520 gr so you might as well choose another wheelset like the Bontrager Aeolus RSL 62 which has a deeper profile at 62 mm with the exact same weight. Worth mentioning that the Bontrager was chosen as the best-performing wheel by an independent test (Tour Magazine).
Ultimately, Roval and Bontrager are highly reputable companies in the industry. Both make great wheels for mainstream users and pro-level cyclists alike, so durability shouldn’t be a problem especially since they both use DT Swiss internals as the hub of choice.
5. Farsports Ventoux S EVO
Farsports is a Chinese carbon manufacturer well known for its high-quality carbon wheels on a budget. However, the reason why we include Farsports in this list is not only to give you a budget-friendly choice but also because they make seriously lightweight wheels: the Ventoux S EVO. Also, they are one of the few companies that still make rim brake wheels.
The Ventoux S EVO series is available in three variations:
- S3 – Weighs in at 1250 gr (rim brake) or 1215 gr (disc brake) with a F35 mm/R36 mm rim depth
- S4 – Weighs in at 1330 gr (rim brake) or 1295 gr (disc brake) with a F45 mm/R46 mm rim depth
- S6 – Weighs in at 1430 gr (rim brake) or 1375 gr (disc brake) with a F56 mm/R56 mm rim depth
All three versions have a 19 mm internal width. Not bad at all with that weight, especially the disc brake version, considering the Ventoux is a tubeless-ready hooked rim.
At a price lower than other wheels on this list (except the next one), the Ventoux S EVO comes with carbon spokes and CeramicSpeed bearings. The carbon spokes allow them to reduce weight compared to other wheels but still give you stiffness while the CeramicSpeed bearings lower the frictions in the hub.
6. Winspace Hyper
Winspace is a carbon manufacturer based in Xiamen, China. Since it first launched, the Hyper wheels offer the best value wheelset on the market. At such a low price, even lower than Farsports’, Winspace Hyper is also built with carbon spokes and ceramic bearings.
The Hyper is one of the lightest and stiffest wheelsets available. It weighs from 1267 gr to 1608 gr depending on the size and rim or disc braking system. The Hyper 50 mm disc brake weighs in at 1425 gr. In comparison, Farsports Ventoux EVO S4 weighs in at 1295 gr. A 130 gr difference, but the Hyper is also 5 mm deeper.
Winspace Hyper is the only wheelset in this list priced under $2000, making it the best-value lightweight wheelset if you consider the gram-per-dollar ratio. If you have a budget road bike, this would make it the best first upgrade you can buy.
Other Wheels to Consider
- Elite Drive 50D: A lightweight wheelset from China with carbon spokes and ceramic bearings that are as light as Farsports Ventoux EVO S, and as affordable as Winspace Hyper. This could’ve been the best budget lightweight wheelset, but some third-party reviewers reported several problems with their review sample, so we can’t recommend them just yet.
- ENVE SES 2.3: At 28 mm front depth and 32 mm rear depth, these hookless wheels weigh in at 1197 gr. If you’re not ready for exotic wheels such as the Extralite CyberDiscs, this is your second best option to get the absolute lowest grams.
- Vision Metron 45 SL: A 45 mm clincher wheelset weighs in at 1372 gr. Not bad, but nothing special since it can be compared directly against the Farsports Ventoux EVO S4 at 1295 gr. If you prefer a name brand from a western company instead of a Chinese one, this might be for you.
- Princeton CarbonWorks Peak 4550: Princeton CarbonWorks is a relatively new player new to the market, but immediately caught people’s eye thanks to its unique undulating rim design, fancy gold or chrome decals, and exorbitant price. Other than its look, the Peak 4550 also boasts an impressive weight. It is a tubeless-ready clincher that weighs in at 1348 gr in disc brake configuration with the in-house Tactic hub for 45/50 mm rim depth. From what we’ve seen on reviews and unboxing videos, though, it seems like the real weight is closer to 1450 gr.
- Partington R Series: The R-Series is a 1200 gr wheelset with a 39 mm front rim depth and 44 mm rear. Because of its wide carbon spokes, these wheels look like a Lightweight Obermayer but with a plain matte finish, shallower depth, and wider internals. These wheels are discontinued ahead of its V2 launch, planned to be released this summer — so watch out for that.