Whether you're converting to a single-speed bike or upgrading your existing fixed-gear bike, you'll need a high quality wheelset that doesn't break the bank.
A reliable single speed wheelset can make all the difference. Opting for a wheelset that is light and easy to handle can turn an otherwise sluggish bike into a smooth rider. A sturdy set with a bit more weight behind it can handle everything you throw at it. It’s essential to find the balance.
The best single speed wheelsets do precisely that. They provide a balance between form, function, and cost.
Though tastes differ, there are a few tried and tested cheap single-speed wheelsets available that are perfect for beginners or those operating on a tight budget. In this post we’ll explore which are worth your time and money, and how to make sure they’re a perfect fit for you.
The Best Single Speed Wheelsets
A good wheelset can boost the quality of your ride substantially. There really is no bigger improvement you can make to a good single speed bike than upgrading the wheelset. Whether you’re upgrading an old bike, or converting a bike to a fixie, we’ve got you covered. Below is a list of the best single speed wheelsets around, each providing a good balance of durability and handling at a reasonable cost.
State Bicycle Fixed Gear Deep Profile Wheel Set
State Bicycle’s deep product fixie wheelset is an absolute bargain considering the build quality. A flip-flop rear hub gives you versatility in the form of a quick and easy method to switch between fixed gear and single speed.
Unlike some budget option single speed wheelsets, these high quality beginner wheelsets come with sealed bearing hubs, meaning you can trust they’ll be protected from the elements and require little in terms of upkeep.
6KU Deep V Alloy 700C Fixie Wheelset
6KU’s Deep V Alloy wheelset is by far the best looking single speed wheelset on our list. From reading consumer reviews, you’ll find that many make plunge based on looks alone; but aren’t disappointed with the quality afterward. A rear flip flop hub and tires and tubes included out of the box make these a perfect beginner wheelset.
As for durability, they seem to provide all the sturdiness you can expect from a wheelset at the lower end of the price scale. With all things customizable, there’ll come a time when you want to replace them with something higher-end, but you can rest assured they’ll last well beyond your expectations.
Retrospec Mantra 700c Deep V Fixed-Gear/Single-Speed Wheelset
Retrospec’s Mantra flip flop hub single-speed wheelset is positioned perfectly as a budget option for those new to fixed gear cycling. They ride smoothly, are ready to go out of the box, and are surprisingly lightweight.
There are a ton of vibrant color choices available, so you’re sure to find something to fit your tastes and make your single-speed bike a bit of a head-turner.
We’ve seen one or two misleading reviews stating that these wheels come without a braking surface, but having a dug a little deeper we can confirm they do indeed come with a braking surface that works just fine, weird.
Vuelta ZeroLite Track Comp 700C Wheel Set
Vuelta ZerLite Track wheelset has the feel and appearance of a wheelset twice its price. They look fantastic out of the box, though the decals are easily removable if the racing-look doesn’t tickle your fancy.
Super easy to install and with a build quality that feels absolutely top class, these sealed bearing wheels are very much “set and forget”; perfect for newcomers to fixed speed cycling. We’re impressed.
Pure Fix 700C 40mm Flip-Flop Wheelset
Pure Cycle’s flip-flop wheelset look fantastic and ride just as well. They are light, colorful, and seemingly incredibly well built. Our only gripe is that for the price tag, you could pick up a different, more impressive wheelset from our list. Despite that, they’re an excellent choice; and who doesn’t love hot pink wheels, right?
From studying reviews, it seems these Pure Fix Flip-Flop wheelsets divide opinion a little. Given our extremely positive experiences with Pure Cycles in the past, we find it incredibly hard to believe that the reports of poor build quality could result from anything other than buying cheap fakes. Be sure to buy from a reputable seller to avoid any issues.
A Guide To Buying Single Speed Wheelsets
Wheels are one of the most critical parts on your bike when it comes to performance as well as style. They have a significant impact on the speed, weight, and handling of your bike.
Choosing the right wheelset is a big part of having a bike you enjoy riding.
With the growing popularity of fixie bikes and the increasing interest in customization, you can now purchase a wide variety of single-speed wheelsets online.
Fixie bikes have exploded in popularity due to their reliability, ride comfort and their modest price tag. You can pick up a single-speed bike for much, much less than your average road bike.
If you can find a suitable vintage bike frame, you can convert it to a fixed speed bike yourself. If you do go down this route, the most significant decision you have to make is what wheelset to put on it.
Parts of a Fixie Wheelset
There’s a lot of variety in the quality of fixie wheels, but they are all made up of the same components. They are:
- Fixed Rear Hub: What sets fixie bikes apart is the fact that the rear cog is fixed to the wheel, hence the name. As a result, the pedals, drivetrain, and wheels all move as one. This coupling between the wheels and the pedals means you’ll be unable to coast while riding a fixie.
- Cog: Usually having 16 or 18 teeth, this is the ring that the bike chain runs through. A high-quality cog usually means a smoother ride.
- Lock Ring: This is the piece that keeps the cog chain firmly attached to the rear hub. You need wheels with a good lock ring. If yours fails, you will find yourself unable to pedal; not a good situation to find yourself in halfway up a hill or miles from home.
Those are the standard pieces of a fixed wheelset. Many come with a feature known as a flip-flop hub. With this, you can flip your rear wheel around and gain the ability to coast.
This ability to coast is referred to as freewheeling. Anyone who may want to ride a single-speed and be able to coast should look for a flip-flop hub.
Things to Consider When Buying Fixie Wheelsets
When in the market for a new set of fixie wheels, there are some factors to look at to help make sure you get the right ones for you. The main ones are:
- Rim Material: For fixie wheelsets, you need to balance durability with weight. Carbon fiber, aluminum, and stainless steel are all excellent options. Rims that are both light and long-lasting are the most expensive and are harder to come by.
- Type of Wheels: There are three different types of bicycle wheels: shallow section, mid-section, and deep section. The shallow wheels are best designed for beginners, while the deep ones are more designed for racers looking to get the most speed out of the bikes.
- Braking Surface: The braking surface is composed of either aluminum or carbon. Aluminum braking surfaces are much more common to find.
- Tire Type: When shopping for any single-speed wheelset, you may come across the following terms: Tubular Tire – This type of wheel has an advanced set-up that may be daunting for beginners. They are the lightest of the options. They are completely round and do not “clinch” to the wheel. There is no separate tube; it is sewn into the tire itself. Clincher Tire – You will more than likely end up with this type of tire. Clincher tires are optimal blend of performance with price. They are the safest tire type, and the right choice for beginners; most kid’s bikes use them. These tires have inner tubes. Tubeless Tire – Tubeless tires are a bit heavier than clinchers. They lack the inner tube, and some people consider them more durable. Many popular tire manufacturers offer tubeless versions of their tires.
Fixie Wheelset vs. Single Speed Wheelset
The main difference between the two is that a single speed wheelset does not have a fixed rear hub. Instead, it has a freehub like a conventional bike.
Again, most wheelsets you buy that are fixies can also be flipped around and used as single speeds.
Fixie Wheelset vs. Track Wheelset
When you hear people talking about fixies, they sometimes use that word interchangeably with track wheelsets. They are almost identical with just a couple of key differences.
A legitimate track wheelset has no machine breaking surface.
That is because the only actual place track wheels are useful is in velodrome racing.
Since they need to be as fast as possible, they do not have flip-flop hubs because they would add unnecessary weight.
An actual track wheelset is much more expensive. You wouldn’t want to use it for regular road riding.
Do I Need To Buy A Whole Wheelset?
Technically, no. If you are converting a vintage bike into a single speed bike, you only need to swap out the rear wheel. Doing so will save you some money and time if you only have to remove and replace one wheel.
You may be able to get one excellent wheel for the same price as it would have taken to get two mediocre ones.
On the other hand, your bike will likely be a little funny looking. The wheels won’t match, and the front tire will probably be much older than the rear one. Uneven wear can lead to performance issues.
The wheelset is the single most expensive and essential upgrade you can make to your fixie. No other change can impact your ride nearly as much. It can change even the most boring of bikes into a super fun bike.
Getting the right fixed gear wheelset may take some research, but it will ultimately be worth it. You are looking for a balance of reliability and strength in a lightweight package.
Make sure that you have a high-quality chain to go with your fancy new fixie wheelset.
Keep it tight, because the saggier it is, the less responsive it is. The responsiveness is where the fun is at when riding a fixie, so don’t lose it!