Light Weight Road Disc Wheels
Road bikes with disc brakes are becoming increasingly popular. They are being allowed in the peloton now, they do not wear out like rim brake wheels do, they offer consistent braking in wet and dry conditions, which is particularly relevant in the UK and on carbon fibre wheels, and there is no issue about heat build-up in the rims.
People who make this transition often then expect to obtain a set of wheels for the same weight as they previously had on their conventional road bike. They may also be disappointed that their shiny new disc brake road bike has very heavy wheels. Perhaps the heaviest they have ever had on a road bike! Other people do not want to make the transition because the wheels are so off-putting. So, why is this the case and does it have to be?
Well, fundamentally, you have to have a disc mount on both wheels. That adds weight. So all else being equal, they would be heavier. You also have torsional forces coming from front and rear so similar spoke counts at the front and rear makes sense (as you normally see on MTB’s). Rims can generally be a little lighter although they aren’t always as they may have to handle higher forces on their spoke bed.
In response to this and the popularity of disc brakes on road bikes I have produced a range of options here. These are specifically aimed at being light, whilst also meeting the real world needs of cycling. All of the wheels need to meet the following criteria:
1. They need to be stiff. Playing around with very light rims can often produce some very low weights. Very small hub flange diameters and low spoke counts can too. However, combining all of these factors, stiffness starts to really fall away. That can make your rotors rub and your wheels feel naff. I wouldn’t describe all of these wheels as very stiff, but definitely stiff enough. Spoke counts etc are only reduced when it still provides practical levels of stiffness.
2. 95kg rider weight limit or higher. 95kg is a real world limit. There are some rims out there (Ryde Pulse Comp Disc, DCR 24/18 for example) that will reduce the set weights further, which could be good options for some people. The Ryde rim is light and still produces a stiff build, for example, but it does not meet the strength criteria of allowing a 95kg rider. In the real world, people often weigh this much or take luggage. Many of the sets in this article can take more. All can handle this.
3. Able to take QR and through axle. There are some examples where these wheels cannot, but this will be specified. Nearly all can handle through axles both front and rear. Through axles make a lot of sense on disc brake bikes. You can read more about various interfaces here.
4. Able to take Shimano 11s and also Sram drivers. The Sram drivers are popular on light disc setups for a 1x arrangement. Nearly everything else is Shimano 11s so you have to be able to use a disc hub that can take Shimano 11s cassettes.
5. Sub 1600g. Well, there isn’t a lot of point talking about light road disc wheels if they fail to meet that criteria. Sub 1600g would be considered light even on conventional road wheels. Anything below 1500g is considered very light and is a common target for people on disc brake road bikes.
6. Durable – able to last 10k miles plus.
7. Fully serviceable – so you can replace bearings, freehub body, pawls if required, spokes, etc. Parts also need to be available in practice and not just in theory.
As and when we get the opportunity, will will provide actual weights for real world sets we have weighed. Until that point, weights are estimated, we will preserve the estimate when we have a genuine weight.
Rim: DCR 24/25 Hubs: DCR standard disc rear with lightweight front Spokes: D-light Weight: 1590g – from £340.
Straight away hitting all the criteria but only just. The lightweight front is 36g lighter than the standard front, so only with this can you get under 1600g. That said, you could go 24/24 drilling on this and still have reasonably heavy riders on it, then even with the interchangeable front you would be sub 1600g. 28/28 is a better build though and this stands as a good solid option. You could go with the Ryde Pulse Comp Disc rim here instead and reduce the rider weight or similarly you could go with the DCR 24/18 rim. It would represent a saving of about 70g, which does appeal.
As above with CX-Ray spokes – 1560g from £415.
So now we can hit the weight target with either hub and drilling option too. The CX-Ray is the benchmark spoke which will be used from now on.
As above with DCR centre lock hubs – 1520g, from £415.
A very compelling option. Both hubs are convertible. You have to either run a centre lock rotor or a standard rotor with a converter on this though, meaning that 6 bolt will probably remain the more popular option. Centre lock rotors are only required for Shimano on 140mm and only available from Shimano. You can read more about that here.
As above with DCR 35mm disc premium rims – 1430g from £820
The price is starting to creep up a bit here, however 1430g would definitely be considered a very light set of wheels even without disc brakes. So the wheels can be seen as starting to offset the weight of the rotor here too now. Moreover the rim is actually 40mm deep. Another compelling option.
As above with Tune King/Kong hubs – 1390g from £1195
So here we are starting to get into a more premium price point. There is quite a jump up to the King/Kong but for that you get larger axles, larger flanges and you are back on a 6 bolt interface too. The hubs are naturally stiffer as well. Additionally you should find the set sub 1400g.
As above with DCR Radical Disc – 1290g from £1196 (weighed at 1287g/pair) DCR Centre lock version of this weighed at 1353g
The Radical disc rims are shallower again – 30mm. What is technically possible with materials is starting to be tested here. The results speak for themselves though; a disc brake road wheelset that is still a clincher and sub 1300g. However this is the first set discussed here that does not officially have the option of running tubeless. It may be technically possible but it is not designed specifically to offer tubeless compatibility.
As above with Tune Prince/Princess straight hubs – 1230g from £tbc
The Prince/Princess represents yet another reasonable jump in cost, however they are a bit of a marvel in terms of their weight.
As above with MCFK 35mm road disc
Unlike the radical, the MCFK rim is deeper, wider, offset and tubeless compatible. So it is stiffer and it has a higher rider weight limit. With the MCFK rim, you really have reached the end of what is technically possible with carbon. Tune King/Kong builds are going to be more sensible, more common and more practical than Prince/Princess realistically, however the headline figure with them is in the region of 1220g. If you really wanted to reach the end of the road with how light you can build a set of road disc wheels that still meets all of the criteria initially laid up, the same set with Sapim CX-Super spokes would amazingly get you a set somewhere in the region if 1180g/pair. If you wanted to stick with centre lock hubs, you could go with the DT Swiss 240s here and get a set weight of approximately 1300g/pair with CX-Rays, costing £1600.
As above with 77, 41mm rims
77 rims take composite technology to the absolute limits, producing components for elite level cycling as well as having expertise in aerospace and motorsports industries. These are still tubeless compatible, still meet all of our critera. Set weights with Tune King/Kong would be around 1250g and would cost £2495. With DT Swiss 240 CL hubs sets would cost £2350 and would weigh approximately 1290g.
Well, we have been focusing on lightness here. Aerodynamics has featured on and off however, if you wanted a dedicated aero road disc set, you may wish to also consider the ENVE 3.4 disc. The 3.4 disc with Tune Prince/Princess would weigh approximately 1393g. However, if you really wanted to turn up the wick on aerodynamics, you could also have the ENVE 5.6 disc, which is my personal favourite aero carbon disc rim. It is also tubeless compatible, unlike the 3.4. If you wanted the most aero disc wheel, ENVE also now make a 7.8 disc rimset.
Also, if you just wanted a good quality but more economically priced road disc set, you may want to consider the DT Swiss R460 DB/DCR standard disc hubs/Sapim Race spokes in silver w/silver alloy nipples £270. Approximately 1830g.