The electric bike wheel is one of the most important parts of your electric bike. Whether you’re considering your first electric bike or looking for replacement wheels for your favorite weekend joyrider, you need to have the right set. If they don’t match your needs, you run the risk of not having an enjoyable ride. You might even experience avoidable challenges during your journey, whether heading to your favorite coffee shop or hitting up some trails.
We have compiled this guide to help answer the question “how to choose an electric bike wheel.” Keep reading to discover which wheels will give you the e-biking experience you want!
How To Choose an Electric Bike Wheel
When researching how to choose an electric bike, you will have to consider several factors. After all, the kind of wheels you need depends on how you use your bike. With that in mind, you need to consider several factors. Do you ride your bike to work or primarily use it for fun? What kind of terrain do you expect to depend on the most?
What Kind of Tires Do You Need?
Below, we will detail each activity’s best type of wheels and tires.
If your e-bike is your primary means of getting to and from work, you will likely ride on asphalt roads or concrete sidewalks. You might find yourself dealing with various conditions, from wet to dry. Commuting tires have subtle treads designed to get good traction on hard surfaces no matter the weather. They have a broad width range, from a slim 28mm to a chunky 42mm.
The width of your tires is important, as wider tires mean lower tire pressure, resulting in a comfortable ride. Still, thinner tires are faster due to less surface area being in contact with the road, which reduces friction.
If your idea of a fun weekend is an exhilarating rush of speed as you ride down a long asphalt trail, then road tires are for you! Road tires ride on paved surfaces at high speeds.
They have an ultra-slim width, high air pressure, and extremely thin treads very close to frictionless riding, lending a speedy, lightweight feeling to the experience. However, the minimal friction road tires tend to slip on wet surfaces, so care must be taken when riding in the rain.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, mountain bike tires are optimized for maximum traction on grass, sand, and dirt. To aid this, they possess thick treads and rigid, wide, fat construction. As a side note, mountain bike tires are the most likely type of tire made of natural rubber.
Many riders believe natural rubber possesses more excellent traction than its synthetic counterpart. If your weekends take you down rugged outdoor trails in the deep woods, mountainsides, or desert sands, you can’t go wrong with mountain bike tires.
Cyclocross is a form of bicycle racing involving paved and unpaved track sections. Hence, bicycle tires made for cyclocross must walk a middle ground between road and mountain tires.
These tires average width between 30 and 33mm and have either nearly flat threads, like road tires, or are covered in small studs to enable a better grip on mud and gravel. You may not be considering cyclocross, but if you enjoy a weekend on gravel tracks, you would be served well by a pair of these specialized tires.
If you intend to take your e-bike out in the snow, some special considerations must be made for your tires. Snow is problematic for wheels to get a grip in, necessitating having ones with low tire pressure. Moreover, you need tires with widely spaced nubs with broad spaces that prevent snow from getting trapped in your tires, ruining your traction.
To Clinch or Not To Clinch?
When considering how to choose an electric bike wheel, there’s also the question of what’s inside the tire. Bike tires come in three types based on how they hold air: clinchers, tubular, and tubeless.
Clinchers are far and away the standard type of bike tire, composed of an outer tire surrounding an inner tube. This tube is filled with air.
They are so named because they used to clinch onto the edge of your wheel as you filled their tubes with air. Modern clinchers are attached to wheels using steel or kevlar beads along the tire length that latch onto a flange on the rim.
Also called sew-up, tubular is composed of an outer tire and an inner rim, like clinchers. The difference is that the outer tire is sewn shut around the tube and glued onto the rim. An advantage of this setup is reduced weight compared to clinchers, as tubular lack the metal and kevlar that clinchers require.
In addition, tubular tires tend to provide a smoother ride. The final advantage of tubular tires is that, due to being a closed system, they tend to leak air more slowly when punctured.
The principal drawback of tubular tires is their relative complexity. When a tubular tire gets damaged, repairing it can be time-consuming. You would have to pry the tire free from the glue, undo the stitching keeping the tube in the tire, repair or replace it, then re-sew the tire and re-apply the glue. With such an involved process, it might be best to replace the whole wheel when it is punctured.
Tubeless tires have been the standard for all but the cheapest mountain and gravel bikes for several years. They have also gained popularity with road cyclists. These tires look much like the outer shell of a clincher.
Still, they form an airtight seal attached to a wheel, allowing you to pump air directly into the tire without needing an inner tube. The primary advantage of this setup is complete immunity from pinch flats, meaning you can ride in comfort at a lower psi without worrying over every rough bump.
One disadvantage of tubeless tires is a slightly higher vulnerability to punctures. You can mitigate that susceptibility by applying a sealant to the inside of your tubeless tire before putting it on the rim. Tubeless tires require an airtight seal on the rim, so it’s best to invest in a tubeless-ready rim if you want to switch to this type.
Electric Bike Wheel Sizes
Most models come with a default electric bicycle wheelset, seldom replaced over the bike’s life. However, if you want to replace your e-bike’s wheels, a few things need to be considered when selecting the size you want.
Small Wheels – 16-20 inch
This size is ideal for folding e-bikes. Folding bikes are made for urban living, as their compact design makes them ideal for bicycle storage racks on public transportation. You can also stow them in the trunk of your car for quick transport to the trail. Their small size also allows for easy maneuvering in high-traffic environments. Smaller wheels apply more force to the ground, resulting in swift acceleration.
A disadvantage of small wheels is that they don’t maintain inertia as well as larger tires, so don’t sustain speed well or roll easily. You will have to pedal faster or expend more of your e-bike’s battery power to achieve the same rate as bikes with larger wheels. Moreover, they don’t take bumps very well.
Large Wheels – 26-29 inch
A 26-inch wheel is the standard size for most models, from mountain bikes to road bikes to beach cruisers. Oversized wheels will stretch over dips and potholes that smaller wheels would plunge into, resulting in a smoother ride. What’re more, larger wheels store inertia more easily than smaller varieties.
You can coast and roll easily, and your e-bike’s battery will last longer. Large wheels have a greater contact area between the tire and the road. E-bikes with large wheels are more stable at high speeds and provide excellent traction on loose surfaces and while climbing hills.
However, there are some downsides. The longer wheelbase provides a large turn circle, reducing your e-bike’s maneuverability. That can be an issue in urban areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic. Large wheels accelerate slowly, meaning you need more foot or battery power to bring your e-bike up to speed.
One more weakness you may not consider at first is the increased likelihood that your spokes will break due to the greater length they must stretch. Furthermore, e-bikes compound the spoke issue by putting more strain on them with the weight of their engines.
In conclusion, we recommend smaller wheels for short trips through urban environments and large options for extended rides through rough terrain.
Conclusion: How To Choose Electric Bike Wheel
Choosing the right pair of wheels for your e-bike is a process that will require a lot of research and patience. After all, you want wheels that will work for you. With this guide on hand, you now know how to choose an electric bike wheel. That will help you narrow down your search to determine which tires will be the perfect match for your e-bike. Once you have them, your next step is to take them out for a spin and hit the road!
Read Also: E-Bike Classes 1, 2, 3