What’s The Difference? – Carbon Fibre VS Aluminium Wheels

What’s The Difference? – Carbon Fibre VS Aluminium Wheels

(digital sounds) – People often wonder what
the difference is between alloy wheels and carbon wheels. But what wheely is the difference? – What wheely is the difference? (laughter) – Don’t ask. – So most bikes come with
alloy wheels as standard and generally speaking
only the most expensive road bikes will come with carbon wheels. That said, they’re a very
popular, sort of, upgrade component for most people’s bikes. – Yes. And you can pick up a pair of carbon wheels for around £500, €600 and if you’re in the US, 700 bucks. But they also range from about 1,000-2,000 euros, pounds, or dollars
because of the costly manufacturing process
compared to the alloy wheels. – In contrast to that,
alloy wheels typically range from about £100-£700 or dollars For a good quality pair. So buying a pair of carbon wheels could be
a very considered purchase. In this video, we’re
gonna tell you everything you need to know about the differences between the two so that you
can make the best decision. – Right should we get to it? – Lets do it man. – Lets do it. (upbeat music) But other than price,
what is the difference I hear you ask. And while the first one’s
obvious, the visuals. Those carbon rims that Ollie’s rocking, they’re absolutely phenomenal. – They look mean don’t they? – Yeah they do – You know I might not
be the fastest rider but, I can, I can still look fast and that, is the most important thing. – Ollie, looks aren’t everything. – What? – But traditionally, alloy rims, had an unpainted brake
track, and that’s because the braking of that surface
caused the paint to chip off. So manufacturers just kept it there. – Yeah, however this is
changing and as proof of that I’ve got exhibit A. On Hank’s bike, there. Disk brakes are becoming
increasingly popular on road bikes and crucially,
more affordable too. And if you have an
aluminum disk brake wheel, well, you can paint it
whatever color you like because the braking is done
at the disk and therefore it’s not going to wear
off the paint on the rim. And so, that means you
can have a relatively entry level wheel such as this Vision, TRIMAX 30, yet it can
have this all black, sort of almost carbon look to it,
which is, well, really classy. – Other than the looks
carbon rims can also be made lighter than the equivalent alloy rims. And also more aerodynamic because, the depth of the
rim can be made much deeper. If you had a super deep alloy rim it would just be really
heavy, and probably, quite uncomfortable to ride. This is where a carbon
rim comes into its own. – The next big difference is weight. So an entry level aluminum
wheel set typically weighs around 2 kilograms
for a pair, without tires. Now if you compare that
to a carbon clincher, with a deep section rim, such
as this, Vision Metron 55. Well this weighs around 1500 grams for a pair without tires. So that’s a savings of
around, half a kilo. But carbon wheels can be
even lighter than that so if you got som top of the range, light weight carbon wheels,
they can weigh as little as just a kilogram per pair. – That might not sound
like a lot, but it is actually really noticeable
when out riding, especially when accelerating,
or attacking up a climb. – The area of the wheel where weight is most important is the rim. And the reason for this
is that the mass here has a greater moment on the on
the center axis of the wheel. Which means, that if you’re
that if your going to be doing say, a criterion where you’ve got to accelerate out of lots
of technical corners, or ride up punchy climbs,
then, the most advantageous wheel is gonna be a lighter
rim with lower inertia. – Aluminum wheels can be great though. And they can weigh as little
as 1300 to 1400 grams, which, well, it isn’t a lot. – Nice, not a lot, but, you
can save a further 300 grams, if you go for a wheel like
the Vision Metron 30 Tubular. Which we don’t have here but,
that’s quite a big saving. – Yeah, and that doesn’t
sound a lot but when you’re, stamping on the pedals,
or smashing up a climb, that is a real difference. – Yeah, now interestingly,
I’m riding carbon wheels, and James is riding aluminum wheels, mine are the Vision Metron 55s and James is riding the Trimax 30s. And they both weigh, roughly the same ballpark,
around 1500 grams. But the crucial difference, is that the added mass
in mine, is functional. It’s aerodynamic, because they’re deeper. So, that brings us to our
next difference, aerodynamics. (upbeat music) – The biggest advantage to
carbon rims, is aerodynamics. You can go of these deep
section, aerodynamic wheels, like Ollie’s got on here. In simple terms, you go
faster, for the same effort, and I mean, who wouldn’t want that? – Now how much faster,
a deep section wheel is, is, well either, loads, or not very much, depending on your perspective. So, this has been studied a lot by many different independent sources. And generally speaking, you can expect to save around 30 seconds
over 40 kilometers at 40 kilometers an
hour, by using a deeper wheel, like this, over over
a shallower wheel, like this. – That sounds quite a lot. So, if you are bothered about getting more aerodynamic and faster, then carbon wheels are the ones to go for. (upbeat music) – With regards to
braking, if you’re running rim brakes, then aluminum
rims are accepted as having better braking
performance than carbon rims. And this is something that is particularly exaggerated in the wet. Aluminum rims also offer
better heat dissipation than a carbon rim. And if you’re a heavier rider, or if you’re dragging the
brakes down a steep descent, it is possible to delaminate a carbon rim. – Yes, but, manufacturers
have addressed this by texturing the rim and improving the resin. – But if you’re running disc brakes then, the material you’re rim is
made from doesn’t matter because all the braking
is done at the disc. And another advantage,
is to do with rim wear. So, using your rim
brakes can wear your rim, and this can be very
expensive on a carbon rim because, well it can’t really be repaired. But it’s not a problem,
if you’re running discs. – Sounds pretty good to me. (upbeat music) – Deep section wheels like
this can be twitchier, in cross winds, and this is a common concern that people have. Unfortunately, can’t
really show you today, because, today is, the
stillest day of the year. But, I have ridden deep sections in a wide variety of conditions. And I can say, that
it’s not as bad an issue as what lot of people think. And it’s something that has been, greatly improved with
more modern rim shapes. – But, it can be more
of an issue if you’re a smaller, lighter rider, like myself, but, I would go for an all around wheel. So, the 40 millimeter Vision
I’ve got here, is perfect. It’s light, it’s aerodynamic,
and it just does everything. – Yeah, and it’s not going to be too twitchy in the crosswinds. – Which is ideal. (upbeat music) Right Ollie, we need to
talk about stiffness. – What? – Of the wheels! (laughs) – Of course, yeah. – It’s a really important attribute, to have a stiff pair of wheels. The last thing you want,
is a flexy, inefficient, and rather spongy feeling wheel set when you’re smashing it on the pedals. And also, it’s a lot nicer
and and more confidence boosting when having a stiff
pair of wheels in the corners. – But it’s important to point out, and it’s a big but, that,
you can make a really stiff set of wheels out
of aluminum or carbon. The only difference will be
that the aluminum wheels, will probably be a little bit heavier. – And we want to keep it light don’t we? (growls) – So there you have it,
armed with this knowledge, hopefully now you can pick the wheel that best suites your needs. And if you found this
useful, then please give it thumbs up, as that will
help others find it too. – Yes and if you want
to watch a video on the difference between
aluminum and carbon bikes, then click down here.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. A heavier wheel will generate more flywheel effect, ie. not slow down so quickly when you stop pedalling, or begin the climb up after a decent – so yes you pay a small price getting the heavier wheel going, but you get it back later………….call me cynical, but I think bike and wheel manufacturers need some lever to get money out of our wallets, and ever lighter weight fits the bill ! Aero gains are more important than weight savings in my book.

  2. Don't feel you've answered the question in tackling the price point. If you have £400 to spend on a pair of disc brake wheels, would you focus on weight, hubs, number of spokes, rim material etc.?

  3. You didn't address comfort. I'm sure in a previous video you said that alloy rims absorbed road vibrations better than carbon ones. Is this true?

  4. A few Mavic aluminum wheels are lighter than many carbon wheels. I have in my bike a Vision Comp Team 35. It looks good and on descent goes faster than few carbon wheels in my friends bike.

  5. Stiffness. Can it be that a deep section rim can be stiffer at same spoke tension with same brand spokes and hubs? Because you have shorter spokes? Not mentioned in the video. My experience is in that direction.But I still prefer aluminum rims.

  6. Factor in the additional weight of the disc brakes and calipers vs saddle brakes, and then try and justify the expense.

  7. If you go the carbon rims how will you fill in the 40 records you have saved? More time for social media?

  8. It is the moment of inertia (angular mass) that really matters, not the weight of the wheels itself… especially while accelerating.

  9. So many comments about cost of carbon, the reality of the achievable gains, and all from people with entirely different goals, experience and use cases. My view is that Crit races are usually won with fractions of a second between positions at speeds way in in excess of 40kph so if all other factors are equal then the wheels will make the difference and that is worth the money. There are multiple use cases and even more influencing factors at play, so every individual has to assess and balance how much value they place on economics, physics and aesthetics or plain old happiness and all of those in line with the intended use case or cases. Or just buy the ones that make you happiest.

  10. should I get E11EVEN 50mm carbon wheels or vision team 35 aluminum?
    I can also get the E11EVEN 38mm

  11. Alloy and aluminium are not interchangeable terms. Aluminium is a metal, an alloy is a mixture of two or more metal's.

  12. So I understand that I need to only ride on 80mm carbon wheels, on room brakes, with as much flex as possible, in the wet and ideally going downhill as much as possible, preferably with strong crosswinds.

  13. NOT TRUE HUNT has many light weight alloys wheels at 1600g or less even a set listed at 1439g for 549$ now they do offer hill climb carbons at 991g for 1739$ low profile BUT when you look at deep section wheels they weigh in at 1500g too but 4x as much than alloys SO cost should be a factor .

  14. well well well , nice good looking expensive wheels . i know people riding bikes with the half price of one carbon wheel … and they realy know how to ride 😉

  15. Do corn flakes in a glass bowl taste completely different compared to a porselin bowl? In think carbon or aluminuim for your rim does not make a noticible difference either. Merely the weight might be noticible (to minor extend)

  16. I bought my bike on a budget. MASI bicycles does, however, use the same exact frame for their entry level VIVO road bikes as they do the top end ones… they just change the components and the paint job to match the level you buy. That being said, by switching from the low end alloy wheels the bike came with, I stand to save a ton of weight on the bike and really wake it up a bit.

  17. Cream bearings will make more of a difference than spending hundreds on carbon wheels, un less u are paying a couple of grand on a set

  18. HOGWASH all of it because most ride at 35km hr not 40-45km/hr ,30secs pft l ll lite weight alloys for the money difference 300 vs 2000$ .SAFE YOUR MONEY buy lightest alloys you like and get new kit ,saddle etc or even pay rent ,car payment ,your lady out for supper ……

  19. Custom-laced high spoke count wheels for me @ 106kg. My current wheelset weighed 1650g with 24h/28h hoops

  20. Good video guys although, I hate disk brakes and my carbon wheels are from Roval which have excellent braking!!

  21. The biggest difference in Carbon vs Aluminum? Carbon will break and shatter leaving you thrown to the pavement. Aluminum will bend, but "hopefully" leave enough roundness to allow you to stop without a catastrophic crash. I don't care how much faster they are if I'm dead or have a broken collarbone.

  22. This comparison just confirms that aluminum wheels are awesome and the best choice moneywise. If you're a pro or rich then get the carbon wheels for max bling but don't count on getting those 30 secs. Any secs gained in a straight line will certainly be offset by losses in crosswinds.

  23. Honestly , disc brakes are cool since they look your wheel look sexy and let them turn until you break them I guess

  24. The lighter the rotating mass the less gyroscopic action. This can make a huge difference in stability or ride feel. It takes more balancing than with a heavier set of wheels.

  25. You guys must be sponsored by VISION?! I wouldn't recommend those wheels to anyone! Some hubs they use are a very poor quality. After a bearing change (wich wil come fast because they use sh*t bearings) it will have play wich you can not adjust! The design of some hubs is just wrong. DT/Hope/Zipp/Roval etc. all much better wheels!

  26. "30 seconds over 40km at 40kph"…. Nah… I upgraded my wheels from 2000g to 1500g and went tubeless which resulted in savings of 600g in total (3200g to 2600g). I went with Conti Grand Prix 5000 tl which has much less rolling resistance. On the second ride (once I got used to the new feel of the wheels) I beat my PR on a 2km climb by just over 1min, from 9m24 to 8m16. Heart-rate average was 173bpm and 174bpm. And with 5-12% gradient (okay, I am a lady and not super fast but still). Science is doing it wrong. They need to test real world situations.

  27. Great stuff but, I'd rather get a better workout with a heavier/less aero bike. I'm not on the Tour, I don't race and I'm not in it for the money.

  28. I built an aero bike from ground up for about $1,700 US including tools ilink aligator cables, fsa k force microshift sella italia slr s3 time xpresso and 38mm aero rims etc etc comes in around 16 lbs. It was fun to build the bike, and i feel like I own every ride. I dont care if I PR but I can tell you its much faster than my canondale Six13.

  29. I want some chinese carbon wheels for my CX bike but that feels so stupid since the wheelset would be ~200€ more expensive than an aluminium wheelset and it'd would be equally heavy.

  30. Wyglądają świetnie, no i kosztują też trochę dużo. Zdziwiłem się gdy wsiadłem na "karbona" kolegi, mimo sztywności kompozytu genialnie tłumi.
    Sam jeżdżę na alu.

  31. What I hear is that although carbon wheels can and will improve performance, they will cost a lot more money and if that improvement, whether marginal for a rider is worth the money then you should go for it. But, if aluminum wheels are what you can afford, there are great aluminum wheels out there that will be light as well but not as aero. I know that I can’t afford carbon wheels and I certainly wouldn’t spend them on the bike I currently ride but if I did have money to burn and I’m an avid cyclist, why not splurge and get a fantastic carbon bike with carbon wheels, even if I’ll look like a wanker with money riding it! If it makes me get out there every morning and put in my miles and I truly get enjoyment out of them then in the long run they will have been worth it, for both physical health and mental well-being…. again, if I have plenty of cash laying around doing nothing 😉

  32. Maybe I missed it but you don't cover one of the most important topics in my mind. STRENGTH and ENDURANCE. Are the carbon wheels as "bullet proof" as alloy? Am I going to hit a pot-hole and crack my carbon wheel, whereas my alloy wheel powers on and survives another 6,000 mile riding season? My Aluminum Fulcrum-Racing-One wheels have 19,000 miles on them.

    If you're just an amateur rider with no racing concerns, 30 seconds over 40Km is irrelevant. But a cracked rim from a small pot-hole that requires buying a new wheel? — that matters!

  33. It's alright going on about 1 percent -not marginal but negligible gains that's over a rubbish wheel. a decent non aerofoil wheel note I said aerofoil not aerodynamic as some non aerofoil wheels are within about 0.3 percent of any earo wheel. For example shimano c24 compared to the shimano c40 c50 are within 0.3 percent difference and the c24 about 200 gram lighter than any earo wheel. And better in cross winds.

    Also big thing to note that the percentage error of even best power meter can be plus or minus 1-2 percent so it is virtually impossible to truly know. Doesn't sound much but at 30mph at 550 watts that error is 6-11 watts more than earo wheels are supposed to save over average non aerofoil wheels.

    Also most tests are in lab and that doesn't equate to real road use again a test centre had road tested on same bike with same rider at same watts and again c24 wheel was travelling exactly same speed as aerofoil wheel at same watts so don't believe all the aerofoil hype it's always tested against cheap wheels not decent non aerofoil wheels.

    For me I use c24 travelling at a good steady pace with people with aerofoil wheels on flat with no difference in real world effort but weight saving uphill noticeable and accelerating out of corners noticeable and windy conditions noticeable.

  34. 30 sec is huge ……in a 40 k TT. In a crit, unless you are at the pointy end for the majority of the race, the benefits are negligible. But they do look cool!

  35. Can i still convert my rim brakes to a disc brake?..coz i hab a expensive wheelset ..i forgot to ask to supplier if it can convert to disc brake..

  36. Let me start with this, I love carbon. I have 3 US made carbon bikes. Love them all. But this video really didn't get down to the inconvenient truth of carbon wheels: The cross sectional shape of rims makes it very difficult to make carbon rims lighter than aluminum.
    Let's start with some assumptions you barely covered. We are talking clinchers only, no tubulars since those are race only and very difficult to deal with if flatting on a road ride. It's easier to make light tubular carbon rims because the cross sectional profile is very different.
    The unique properties of carbon make it strong ONLY in tensile loads. Which means when pulling the fiber strands along their length. Not side loads, compression loads or torsional loads. These are scientific facts of carbon fiber, I'm not making anything up.
    On clincher rims, the 'U' cross sectional shape is required, and the rim must be strong across the ends of that 'U' in order to support the tire and keep the bead seated. This is easy for aluminum. But carbon strands have to be oriented in a difficult and expensive way in order to load them in their strongest orientation, which is that tensile pulling load. If you think about it you will see what I mean- how do you make a U shape strong across the ends without putting the carbon strands across those ends? Which would no longer be a U shape obviously and then completely useless as a clincher rim.
    So to get around this problem they have to add much more carbon material to the rims than they would for most structural elements. Which adds back most of the weight savings that carbon has over aluminum.
    So to get actual carbon clincher rims that are lighter than aluminum you have to go VERY expensive. 2000-3000 range versus a 500-1000 range for high quality 1500 gram aluminum wheels. And they usually have pretty low weight limits.
    For most applications carbon is better, and if cost is no object than they can be marginally lighter. But the cost vector is extremely high for the comparative benefit.

  37. Mavic Ksyrium ES (aluminium) for me, 1520g. Light enough in the mountains and safer with rim breaks. Mavic used to only recommend aluminium rims in the Alps. Incidentally noticed a warning on some DT Swiss carbon wheels, not to position close to car exhausts! Obviously concerned that long periods of heat exposure (while transporting bike) could affect rim structure! … Carbon still look the best though.

  38. I like climbs. I use Campy Zonda – 1550g, €350, reliable, safe, strong, last long. Rim brakes. Even if I rode flat roads only, IMHO the whole idea of carbon wheels and disk brakes (on a road bike) for non-pro riders and hobbyists is just clever marketing BS. I have the money to easily afford €2000 wheels but I think it is just plain dumb. I don’t give a damn how “cool” deep section carbon wheels are supposed to look. Carbon frame – yes.

  39. "I might not be the fastest rider, but I can still look fast. And that's the most important thing!"

    LMAO, words to live by!

  40. I released in the early 90s the bicycle industry is an arms race to take as much out of your paycheck as possible. All most people need is a comfortable, safe bicycle to enjoy the outdoors. Carbon my ass.

  41. new to cycling – all i want to say is carbon wheels look so much cooler haha. dont want to be that poser who has gear too nice for their own good. but damn they look so dope haha.

  42. Have the best of both worlds, buy a HED 6 /9 wheelset, aluminium braking surface with a non structural aerofoil shaped rim – just as fast as the very best carbon wheels, have perfect braking qualities, lightweight and are half the price of the likes of envy wheels. This does nothing for selling more vision wheels though.

  43. I bought a decent road bike with 105, alloy with carbon forks. The stock alloy disc wheel set weighs 2.1kg. I upgraded to a 1500g carbon wheel set for under AUD$1000 and it was the best thing ever.

  44. This video thought me that Carbon Fiber Wheels are better, Disc Brakes are better and Trek builds a gorgeous bike!! And stiffness is always important!

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