With all of the focus on carbon rims these days, it would be natural to think that there was no place for alloy ones anymore; but in our opinion, that couldn't be further from the truth! While carbon rims do offer some real benefits, they're expensive, and not necessarily the best choice (at least for bikes with rim brakes) for wet-weather riding because of generally poor braking in the wet. And let's face it, not everyone has the money to drop on a new carbon wheelsetÃ¢â‚¬â€œespecially on a backup or winter wheelset. Because of this we wanted to highlight a few alloy rims that we feel are not just OK second-choices, but that actually provide great performance and features that make them desirable options regardless of price. Note that this post focuses on alloy road rims; in the future we'll talk about some of our favorite mountain rims.
Alloy rim technology and profiles have come a long way from the ones we rode 20 years ago, bringing stronger, lighter alloys to wide, tubeless-compatible rim profiles. And if you just don't want to go disc, or are looking for a nice wheelset to put on an older rim-brake bike, some of the best of these use a ceramic coating to deliver low-weight braking on par with discs that isn't affected by wet weather! These rims make a great alternative to carbon for off-season rides, or just a lower-cost option for any time of year, but as noted above: don't let the lower price fool you, because these are great rims, and we ride and recommend them daily.
With that bit of introduction, here are a few of our favorites:
The HED Belgium rim was arguably the first high-performance rim that used a wider profile to spread the tire out to match the rim with more closely for greater aerodynamics and traction, and higher air-volume for a smoother ride. Steve Hed had a very long history researching and making aerodynamic parts (we've all probably seen the famous HED tri-spoke wheel that has been a fixture of time trials and track racing), and this rim brings that no-how to a rim that is light, durable, and versatile, making it great for everyday use. The Plus version of this rim (which is the one we offer with our wheelsets) adds 2mm to the overall width of the rim, which works better with the 25mm and up tire sizes that many of us ride these days. And yes, the Belgium Plus is tubeless compatible, so you'll get a super-supple ride from your tires, and won't have to worry about every little sticker giving you a flat!
This rim is available with a machined brake track for rim brakes or without for discs. This our go-to rim, and in our opinion, both of the complete options below are some of the best values in road wheels at the moment!
Complete Wheels built around Chris King R45 hubs are available here.
Complete Wheels built around White Industries T11 hubs are available here.
If you're looking for a super-light, made-in-USA alloy rim, then this one just might be for you!
Astral has been keeping a low-profile, and their graphics are similarly low-key, but behind all of that is a high-quality alloy rim that won't make you pay any weight penalties. Astral is one of the few companies that actually makes their rims entirely in the USA, and to our knowledge, is the only one making a welded rim in the USA, so this is a pretty special product. Truth be told, the only beef we can find with Astral's rims is that the graphics are a bit ho-hum, but especially for a winter wheelset, your rims are likely to get dirty anyway so that really doesn't matter much. Like the HED option above, the Solstice is tubeless ready so you can have the best ride quality and puncture protection, but it has a slightly narrower profile, which is probably part of how it shaves-off some weight. The rim brake version of the wheelset below comes in at a mere 1370 grams, and the disc version only ups the weight to 1440 grams, so this is a great option for riders who either just want to keep the weight down without the cost of carbon, or who want a lightweight winter wheelset!
Complete wheels built with White Industries T11 hubs and Astral Solstice rims are available here.
It's hard to discuss alloy rims without at least thinking of the Mavic Open Pro. This rim was, and to some still is, the standard workhorse rim for road bikes: great Maxtal alloy, a welded seam, tough double eyelets, nice machined brake track, and great overall quality have made this rim a keeper! Over the years thoughÃ¢â‚¬â€œespecially as Mavic pushed the cycling world more and more toward wheel systems starting with the Helium wheelsetÃ¢â‚¬â€œthe venerable Open Pro's glory has faded a bit.
Well, that's finally changed with the new Open Pro UST and Open Pro UST Disc: these rims are wider, fully UST compliant, while maintaining a reasonable weight. They've also added some crazy shaping to the rim profile, with a look more reminiscent of Mavic's high-end Ksyrium wheel systems, which probably increases the strength while keeping the weight down because it focuses material at the spoke holes, but it definitely looks rad!
These are rims that we haven't offered in the past (we will be adding them to our AVT Works Custom Wheels soon)Ã¢â‚¬â€œpartly because we just like the other options that have so much. It's hard not to have a certain attachment to Mavic's rims though: most of us have ridden, and have enjoyed riding them because they tend to be very durable for their weight, whether that's because Mavic's Maxtal alloy really is as good as they say it is, or because they're just well made and well designed. Another place where Mavic excels is their tubeless support: they're one of the few manufacturers to use the UST standard. While savvy and cynical readers might point out that Mavic was one of the founders of the standard, that doesn't change the fact that it's one that seems to work quite well. Our experience of using rims that are UST compliant is that they are very reliable and easy to set-up tubeless, so that's a plus in our book!
While the rims to this point will give you a lightweight, high-performance wheelset, for the very best braking performance with rim brakes, a ceramic coating offers significant advantages, which brings us to....
This is where the really special stuff starts happening: the Boyd Altamont Ceramic alloy rims might look like carbon from a distance, but that stealthy coating is actual ceramic! This coating covers the entire rimÃ¢â‚¬â€œincluding the brake trackÃ¢â‚¬â€œwhich protects the rim because the coating is more durable than paint, but more importantly, it improves the braking in both wet and dry conditions when using rim brakes!
As far as we're concerned, Ceramic coated rims are where it's at for rim brakes. They make it possible to have the light-weight of a rim brake bike, but with the stopping capabilities (and uniformity across weather conditions) that discs usually give. It's really a win-win, so we're really excited about them!
The Altamont's 30mm deep rim profile is decidedly more aero than the other models in this post, but it's still squarely in the all-around category, making it a great choice for just about any type of riding. If you ride rim brakes, and want an alloy rimÃ¢â‚¬â€œwhether it's as a winter backup for a carbon one, or as a high-performance year-round oneÃ¢â‚¬â€œwe can't recommend this rim highly enough! The combination of medium depth, wide width, and the durability and braking performance make it a really impressive option, so if you're thinking it mightfit the bill for you, our bet is that it will!
Complete wheelsets built with White Industries T11 hubs and Boyd Altamont Ceramic Alloy rims are available here.
Complete wheelsets built with Chris King R45 hubs and Boyd Altamont Ceramic Alloy rims are available here.
As a special promo through the end of November, we're offering half-off one of our Donnelly road and gravel tire bundles when you spend over $500! Just use promo code "Tire_Promo" at checkout!
Hopefully this has been helpful, but if you're not sure which rim will be best for your next wheelset, just get in touch! We're always stoked to get riders on the best parts for their riding-styles, bikes, and budgets!