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Are Bike Wheels Interchangeable?


Millions of people far and wide, all across the world ride bikes. Whether you’re the mountain biker riding for fitness purposes, the bike messenger who rides their bicycle for work, or the laid-back rider who loves riding for the sheer pleasure, we’re here to answer the tough questions.

Are bike wheels interchangeable? The simplest answer for the question is that they are somewhat interchangeable. Two factors are most important in answering this question; what the bike will be used for, as well as the type and size of frame. The space in the chain stays, and forks also play an important role.

Cyclists want to get the most out of their ride, and they want to be able to do so in a way that accommodates their purposes for riding. Since the activity is so popular, it can be an inquiry to figure out exactly what wheels can be used on what bikes and what effect they’ll have on the ride itself. Although it may not seem like it would have a huge impact, even those marginal differences in size of an inch or less can make all the difference.

Interchanging Bike Wheels

Typically, enthusiasts and experts will do the math so as to find ways of interchanging tires for such purposes as making a bike more cruise-oriented or create more bottom bracket clearance for riding on dirt tracks. There are a few types of wheels for bikes that are the most common, dependent again on the purpose of the bike in the first place.

Wheel Types

Each type of wheel will have its own special, unique qualities that make it great for certain types of riding, but maybe not the best for others. It can seem daunting initially to go through wheel types trying to decide which will be best for your type of riding, so I have compiled a list with helpful details that will help you decide which is going to be best for your bike use.

  • Shallow section: When it comes to first starting out, this is always a viable option. They come at an affordable price, and the ratio of strength to weight is important, so this is a great choice for that purpose as well. They provide a comfortable ride but are also used by a lot of mountain bikers as well.
  • Mid section: For the rider looking for an all-purpose wheel, this may be your best option. Although a deeper well doesn’t necessarily mean the wheel will be faster or better, a lightweight rim such as a mid section wheel may enhance the aerodynamics.
  • Deep section: If speed is the name of the game for you, then this is your wheel. Having a deep well in your wheels enhances the speed more than shallow or mid section wheels. Typically, these wheels have been utilized on flat surfaces, but technological advancements have allowed for use in even mountain riding.
  • Clincher wheels: This is hands-down, the most commonly purchased bike wheel. The convenience factor is a big motivator behind this wheel’s usage as a bike can be ridden immediately after installation of clincher tires and tubes.
  • Tubular wheels: The tubular option is lighter than its clincher relative. When using this type of wheel, it is recommended to have a spare tire handy just in case. Although the tire is heavier than having a spare inner tube for a different type of wheel, changing, it is just as quick.
  • Tubeless wheels: This option is ever-growing in popularity and for good reason. It doesn’t require a tube and is only slightly heavier than the clincher option due to the extra material used in creating the tire seal. These tires may also be referred to as a “two-way fit.”

For more information on the types of tires that are available, you can click here.

The Frame Types

Bike frame also plays an important role in the determination of whether the wheel types are interchangeable. Some frames may make it more difficult to interchange the wheels resulting in frustration if you had other plans for the types of rides you plan to go on. I compiled a list of some of the more common types of bike frames available to riders today.

  • Diamond frame: This is the most common type of bike frame that exists in the marketplace today. Based on the safety bicycle, the frame consists of two triangles that are formed together to make a diamond shape.
  • Cantilever frame: This frame is popular for cruising bikes, as well as lowrider and wheelie bicycles. A cantilever frame is distinguished by the seat stays continuing past the seat post and curving down to connect with the down tube.
  • Step-through frame: This frame was typically used by women in the past for easier mounting and dismounting while wearing dresses or skirts. But even today they can be used for modern bikes. They are often used for utility bikes and do not include a top tube or crossbar.

There are many different types of bike frames, and you can find out even more information along with other, less common types by clicking here.

Rolling out the facts

The technological advancements that are constantly being made in the biking world tend to consistently create more options. Manufacturers and designers are making their best efforts to create the best options for their riders. Not every bike is equal, and not every bike can take the same ride. And not every bike is built to have its wheels interchanged.

With an insurmountable number of options to choose from, it’s a great idea to be educated as a lover of the bike ride so you can choose a frame that will allow you to change out the type of wheel you’re spinning when you want to change the type of ride.

Bicycle wheels are grouped by diameter, then the width of the rim has to be considered, and lastly, the width of the tire itself. You are never going to mix up your sizing of rims and tires. The different size options are too big a variation to mix up. However, there will always be minuscule size differences between rims and tires due to different manufacturers. But they will still fit.

The two most common types of bikes are road bikes and mountain bikes. When it comes to wheels for road bikes, things are pretty simple. The standard size of a road bike wheel from top to bottom is 622mm. It’s the interior width that contains the variation, thus creating the option to interchange the wheels if necessary. Interior width can range from 13mm to 25mm, which creates multiple options for wheel type on your road bike. The thicker the internal width, the more aerodynamic the wheel with less resistance.

Mountain bikes are the other most common type of bike, and the wheel size configuring is tricky. Mountain bike wheels have three different diameter options to choose from, creating a better chance for interchanging the wheels depending on the ride. 559mm, 584mm and 622mm are your diameter choices with interior rim widths being common among the three ranging from 19mm to 40mm. The lower end of the spectrum for lightweight, cross-country riding or your thicker options for downhill bikes.

Dependent on the bike frame and bike type as a whole is typically the determining factor behind interchanging the wheels. Mountain bikes give us more flexibility when deciding which wheels to use and the type of ride we’re going to use them for. Remember, the thicker the width, the more aerodynamic your bike will ride with the least resistance on natural terrain. The narrower width options being a better choice for road riding and a desire for speed.

Related articles:

Bike Wheel Sizes Explained: A Guide for Beginners

Can You Put Hybrid Tires on a Road Bike?

Are All Road Bike Hubs the Same Size?

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