The Best BMX Wheels of 2018 are getting harder and harder to find. With new developments always being released, the BMX wheel is getting more and more complicated. The rims are getting stronger, the hubs are getting smoother and the spokes are constantly getting stronger and lighter. Obviously, the price of BMX wheels, along with these upgrades, is rising fast and making it harder to find the right wheel and to ensure it’s actually worthwhile. This post will talk you through the anatomy of a great wheel and then you’ll learn how to choose the right wheel for your riding style, experience level and budget.
Every type of bike has a different style of wheel and designed for different advantages. As many already know a bike wheel can be either single geared or multiple geared, simple enough by just using multiple sprockets of different sizes with a variety of sizes. An 11-32 tooth cassette has 11 separate sprockets with 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 25, 28 and 32 teeth. These are used to make pedalling harder or easier by changing the cassette the chain is riding on. BMX bikes are always single speed, with a rear sprocket of around 9 and a front sprocket of around 28 teeth. This is done to keep the gearing sufficiently hard to pedal whilst also preventing the front sprocket from catching when rolling into a quarter or half pipe at a skate park.
The Best Parts of a BMX Wheel
The rim is commonly a metal extrusion that is butted into itself to form a hoop, though may also be a structure of carbon fibre composite for the more expensive road bikes. Some wheels use both an aerodynamic carbon hoop bonded to an aluminium rim on which to mount conventional bicycle tires.
Aluminium alloy is the new go-to material when creating bike rims. Bike rims are made in three major shapes. The first is for rim brakes. These rims have a smooth parallel braking surface to accommodate brake pads. Rims that are meant for disk brake use are similar apart from having a curved parallel surface. This is done mainly for aesthetics as there’s nothing else that surface can be used for. The final common design is a thin carbon fibre wheel used on the more expensive road bikes.
The cross-section of a rim can have a variety of different geometries depending on the purpose. Aerodynamics, mass, stiffness, durability, tubeless, brakes, and cost are all choices you have to make when buying a new rim or wheel. Box-sections or Double-walled rims are those that hollow cross sections where the spokes attach. This distinguishes them from single walled rims. The double wall will make the rim stiffer and Triple-wall rims have even more reinforcement inside the box-section.
Aluminium rims are often reinforced with either single eyelets or double eyelets to distribute the stress coming from the spoke. A single eyelet reinforces the spoke hole much like a hollow rivet. A double eyelet is a cup that is riveted into both walls of a double-walled rim.
The front and back wheel aren’t vastly different apart from the drivetrain element on the rear wheel. Nearly all bike rims are within 4 ounces of each other, so if you’re looking for the lightweight solution you should look elsewhere. You also need to decide if you’re going to go all out and go for a large number of spokes to really up the strength. A regular bike will usually have 28 or 32 spokes, this keeps the weight and costs down because it doesn’t need to be as strong as others. BMX bikes are commonly given up to 36 or 48 spokes to deal with the strain of big drops, hard tires and no give or suspension.
For the more advanced rider and those building their own wheels, G-sport and BSD rims are the mainstream, reliable choice for a strong, light rim. Obviously, with both companies offering rims in all the options described above, one of these rims could be bought for nearly any riders needs.
G-Sport and their riders have gradually moved away from the 48 spoke rims towards the lighter 36’s. With every part of the wheel getting stronger, there is less need to have more material. G-Sport has three main types of rim: The Ribcage, The Rollcage and The Birdcage.
G-Sport RibcageThe ribcage rim is one of few rims that has actually had some breakthroughs recently. The Ribcage is designed to keep things light but reliable and able to take anything you throw at it. The spoke holes on a G-Sport Ribcage rim use patented, reinforced ribs to effectively hug the spoke nipples. This almost totally eliminates the possibility of a pull through. Where the nipples are pulled through the rim when it undergoes extreme stress. The lateral strength of the rim and spokes is achieved by cross lacing every spoke. This means each spoke goes from one side of the hub to the corresponding hole which is placed at the opposite side of the rim. This creates a steeper angle and although it’s harder to lace a wheel like this, the strength is increased considerably.
Rim wall dents are another common occurrence when it comes to BMX rims. G-sport has worked to fix this problem by thickening the side walls whilst taking material off the other walls where the strength isn’t needed when taking big hits.
The Rollcage rim, coming in 36 and 48 spoke options whilst still weighing only 500 grams giving an unparalleled strength to weight ratio.
G-Sport RollcageAs you can see above, the Ribcage rim is rather expensive. The Rollcage is the more affordable option produced by G-Sport. The proven cross-lacing and rim shape of the Ribcage have been transferred over to the high-quality Rollcage. You may be wondering why the price is so vastly different if the rims are designed so similarly? Surprisingly the only differences are that the rim is made from 6061-T6 alloy and without the rim ribs. What makes the price difference even more confusing is that this rim is the lightest rim that is made from G-Sport. Weighing in at 50 grams less than the Ribcage (450g) the rim is actually lighter but is still including the main features of the more expensive Ribcage rim.
G-Sport BirdcageFinally the Birdcage rim. Made primarily to save weight by hollowing out the bead of the rim just like bird bones. Obviously by hollowing the bead out the overall size will need to be increased to keep the strength and reliability up. This thicker bead is incorporated to reduce the risk of punctures from inner tube nipping. The cross lacing design is actually adapted for the Birdcage rim to narrow down the inner wall of the rim. This was done to actually strengthen the spoke offset even further. The spoke nipple angles have extra support added by carefully tailoring the rims cross-section. The valve hole is commonly the main floor of the “Aero” style rims. When being used a lot of mass is directed toward the base of the rim and by drilling that massive hole in it weakens it sufficiently. It may not seem and look like much but the inner tube valve hole is offset to the side of the rim. This makes the valve much more accessible and also enables the rim to retain its strength.
BSD Nasa RimThe BSD Nasa BMX rim is the first in the BSD range and as many people will know BSD manufacture some great, high-quality products. Unfortunately, there aren’t many variations and options on the rim apart from the colours. The width is 419mm with about a 500g weight. To keep up the strength, BSD featured extra thick tapered sidewalls with an I-Beam design. Just like the rims featured above, the Nasa rim also uses cross-over lacing on the spokes to keep lateral strength as high as possible.
The Nasa rim is made of gold, black and silver. As you can see above, the gold one is gorgeous and definitely stands out from the crowd.
BMX HubsThe next wheel part of the list is the hub. The hub is by far the most intricate part of a BMX wheel. The hub is the only section that’s different between the front and the back wheel. Front BMX hubs are used simply as an attachment to the spokes of the wheel and inner cylindrical bearings to ensure the wheel will spin smoothly. The rear wheel has a more complicated hub. As you can see from the image above, there’s a fair amount of different parts, all essential in keeping the hub as strong and as safe as possible. The main difference between the front and back hub is the sprocket. This is usually a small single speed sprocket on a BMX whereas mountain bikes commonly feature a cassette with up to 9 different sized sprockets. Sprockets don’t have to be purchased already fitted to the BMX hub. Many people enjoy sprockets with different amount of teeth. The smaller the rear sprocket, the harder it is to pedal. Small sprockets are sometimes used for riders that need the ability to obtain more speed or more speed or used by park riders that need to be able to keep the front chainring small to prevent it from catching on ramps whilst riding. The axle/bolt can also be changed on each BMX wheel. There are various types of axles that can be used on bike wheels. The most popular BMX axle is one of allen bolts. These do not have to be used for strength and reliability of the wheels staying on your bike they are a good idea. Axles are also often hollowed out to save a lot of weight.
Profile Elite 15/20 CassetteThe Elite hub is one of Profiles finest. This BMX hub is definitely one of the best in the market. Boasting great strength, reliability and the fact the hub is super lightweight puts it miles ahead of the rest of this list. Profile has developed a whole new Ultra driver for the Elite hub, which includes a great 6 pawls and springs that create 204 points of engagement, making the engagement point virtually indistinguishable and giving you that beautiful ticking when you stop pedalling.
You may be wondering why there’s been so much innovation and new tech included in the Profile Elite hub. It’s actually profiles' brand new racing hub for BMX racers. The points of engagement and the lightweight Chromoly explains this brilliance. Profile offer 12 to 18 tooth variations but they only offer 26 spoke, right-hand drive drivers.
Profile Z-Coaster BMX FreecoasterThe Z-Coaster is the first freecoaster on this list and it’s been included as it is truly one of the best freecoasters on the market. Profile really have worked hard to get some of the best products on the market this year. If you didn’t know already, a freecoaster is a hub that can be disengaged. Simply speaking this means that when you’re rolling back on a freecoaster you won’t have to pedal backwards like you would with a normal cassette. BMX street riders often find the freecoaster very useful and it’s becoming more and more popular in the BMX community.
The main problem with freecoasters is the amount of time it takes to disengage and engage when pedalling. If you rode a cassette and then a freecoaster you’d notice the difference instantly. There is no noise when freewheeling and there is always a lag when you start pedalling forward. This lag is what profile has done a brilliant job of eliminating. There are a few options they offer. The smallest and quickest slack cam ring is just 20 degrees. If you couldn’t tell, this means you have to turn the crank 20 degrees before it engages. The other options go up to 80 degrees. Some riders prefer this.
BSD West Coaster Freecoaster HubBSD is another very popular BMX company selling many different parts of your favourite type of bike. Unlike Profile, BSD is more affordable and boast a much wider range of products. They are not solely dedicated to designing and selling specific products, meaning that BSD may not always produce products of better quality than profile.
This hub is the BSD West Coaster Freecoaster. Again it is a freecoaster, giving you the ability to freewheel backwards. A beautiful aluminium shell with great colours and also some great machining. BSD also offers a unique durable clutch design, a triple bearing 9t driver and the options of dual hub guards and left or right-hand drive. BSD have put a lot of effort into making themselves unique when designing this new freecoaster. Using a brand new drag system and a hefty triple bearing, you won’t be able to believe how smooth your riding will become.
SpokesMany BMX riders don’t buy spokes unless they are experienced in building and fixing bikes. Spokes come in different sizes and different pack amounts meaning unless you know exactly how to match up your wheel and your hub then you may have an unfortunate time buying the wrong sizes. Not to mention even after you manage to get the right spoke set to build your wheel you will have to learn how to lace it. This usually means buying a special truing stand. These stands are used to hold the wheel steady and straight while you get the spokes into place. After inserting and tightening all the spokes on your wheel in the right order then you can use the truing stand to straighten out the wheel. This is done through a process of tightening and loosening certain spokes to pull or push your rim into the correct shape.
In order to straighten a BMX wheel you will need another tool, a spoke key. A spoke key is used to twist the spoke nipples that are attached to the rim end of the wheel. The spokes and spoke nipples are screwed together, segregated by the BMX rim.
The basics of truing a wheel are relatively simple. First, you find where the wheel is bent, you then take the two or three spokes either side of the bend and tighten the ones on the opposite side of where the bend is pointing. (for example: if the rim is bent to the left then you will tighten the spokes that are attached to the right-hand side of the hub.) If this doesn’t fix the bend then you may need to loosen some spokes slightly to let you tighten the others with ease.
Buying replacement spokes don’t give riders much help either, bike shops have many replacements to fix up your wheels and replacing your own has become easier and easier with the increasing reach of the Internet.
The best BMX spokes regularly only come in two materials; aluminium and titanium, meaning that the only main differences between different spokes are the colours, material and brands. Even though this is the case, the prices of spokes fluctuate quite rapidly so it’s worth reading through the small list below where I have listed some of the most popular and best quality spokes on the BMX market.
Total BMX Double Butted Tech SpokesThe Total Double Butted spokes are some of the more expensive. The oil slick design is becoming increasingly popular with more and more riders focusing their bikes on the intriguing colours. These spokes are made from stainless steel, don’t worry though, they shave a surprising amount of weight off your wheelset compared to regular old spokes. You can buy these spokes now at Source BMX for around £50.
Vocal BMX Titanium SpokesTitanium spokes are kind of controversial in the BMX world. While they are definitely lighter and stronger than regular steel spokes, they don’t really add any significant improvements to the bike. This has only become a problem since titanium spokes often cost upwards of £80 for a set.
These Vocal Spokes cost around £95 and can be bought in 4 different sizes in either raw or oil slick. Depending on who you talk to, some people will tell you titanium is a new way forward but others will swear by the old stainless steel spokes.
Sapim Super SpokesSapim Super Spokes are some of the most popular stainless steel spokes in the BMX world. The unique shape gives the steel a lot more strengths at the joining points of the wheel. Where the spoke attaches to the rim and the hub are the most common places for the spoke to snap, with the force that’s constantly exerted on the spokes in order to keep the rim solid and straight means that there’s often a weak point or two. Sapim has developed these spokes to be the lightest steel spokes in the world. A new unique grade of stainless steel has been developed and used for these spokes that enables the main section of the spoke to be reduced in diameter. Unfortunately, the Super Spokes aren’t widely available for purchase, but hopefully they become easier to come by in the years to come.
Full BMX Wheels
Up until now, we have looked at the best parts of a BMX wheel, which are probably little, to no use for you unless you understand how to build a wheel or are willing to pay a bike shop to build a wheel for you. Obviously, you can buy many types of wheels, all different sizes, weights, materials, colours and brands but there’s no point in just buying the first wheel you find in your price range. Many different BMX wheels are made for all different types of riding style. For example, you don’t want a weak, flexible street wheel for riding dirt jumps because it just won’t feel right and is much more likely to break whilst being ridden. The following are some of the most popular and best wheels on the market.
Profile Elite Hub WheelsetAs I stated earlier, Profile is one of the highest quality bike part manufacturers in the world, their product range isn’t extensive but is extremely well designed and made. Their signature products are their BMX hubs. The Elite hub is a very popular and very good quality hub and here Profile has used their hubs to build a full wheelset. This is probably done because they know that not everyone has the skills to be able to build their own wheels from scratch.
These specific wheels are made from Sun rims, Profile Elite hubs and Wheelsmith spokes and nipples. Profile do offer a great service that helps people who want a specific brand or style of wheel. This service is a custom build your own wheels. On their website, they have a specific page where you can either select every part from scratch and build your wheels from the ground up or you can select a wheel or wheelset like the ones pictured above and then change each part to match your own style, taste and needs.
Some of the things that can be changed include: Hub colour, Spoke holes, Rims, Hub Axles, Cassette size, Drive side, Spoke nipples, Spoke Lacing and the Spoke pattern.
If you didn’t already know, the prices of Profile products are by no means on the cheap side. If you’re looking to save up for a month and then go and buy some BMX wheels, Profile probably isn’t for you. Their prices are high but in my opinion, they accurately represent the quality of the products they are selling.
Primo Freemix Pro Rear BMX WheelPrimo is a BMX company that deal a lot more in the Park and street side of riding. Their wheels often come equipped with hub guards for protection whilst grinding and a lot of times have freecoaster hubs. This by no means their products aren’t some of the best you can buy. This is the Primo Freemix Pro Wheel. Specifically made for professional street and park riders. As you may be able to tell, this is a freecoaster hub. (You can often tell if a hub is a freecoaster by looking at the thickness of it. Freecoaster is commonly a lot thicker than conventional hubs.) This hub is then laced with a Primo VS rim with Primo forged spokes. Primo have used as many of their parts as possible in this bike and it shows in the quality. Unfortunately, it’s only available in the 9t version but can be bought in different colours and both RHD and LHD.
BSD Mind Bike WheelBSD is another company that dominates the BMX parts market. They make some great BMX street parts. This here is the BSD Mind Wheel. This is a regular female cassette wheel that features the top-notch BSD back street pro cassette hub. This hub is regularly laced to a double-walled NASA wheel with stainless spokes and nipples.
This wheel doesn’t look or feature anything spectacular despite the steep price tag but when you ride this wheel you’ll understand the amount of work that went into ensuring everything in this wheel is of great quality. In fact, this is an absolutely perfect rear wheel for any rider looking to change up their setup.
Written By Michael Scott from Tresna Clothing
I do not take any credit for the photographs in this article. All credit to origional companies