The first bicycle wheels were from a horse-drawn cart, made of wood with a metal band around the bicycle rim, very hard and very uncomfortable to ride.
Then a man called Dunlop (Scottish) invented the pneumatic tire, this along with Macadam (another Scot) inventing the tar road surface made cycling a lot more comfortable.
The bicycle rim, like the bicycle frame, hasn’t changed much in the design, their still round, and always will be.
From the first wooden rims the next were made of steel, then alloy and now if you can afford it, carbon.
Of all bicycle parts, the bicycle rim can make a big difference in how your bike handles. First, the weight of your rim affects your sprinting and climbing as the weight will low you down, for a long, flat effort the weight isn’t so important as when you get the wheels rolling the weight can help to keep them going.
The shape of the rim can be important also, a flat rim is best for climbing as aerodynamics are not so important on a hill, a deep section, the aero rim will help you cut through the air, but in a crosswind could cause you handling problems.
Bicycle Rims Materials
The different materials used for rims are very important also, steel is heavy and if damaged can be difficult to pull back into shape, but because it’s so strong it is quite difficult to bend in the first place and steel is cheaper than all the other materials.
Alloy is probably the most popular rim, it can be made in any shape and profile, flat or aero, but not too deep as it would then weigh too much, most deep-section rims are of an alloy braking section nearest the tire which is then mounted to a carbon deep section for lightness and aerodynamics and a very beautiful looking bicycle rim.
As with most things if money is no problem you can go for the best, this would be an all-carbon rim, strong and very light, but there are a few problems with these rims, first, they don’t brake so well in wet conditions and you must use special brake blocks for carbon and they can be expensive.
Also, the rim has to be perfectly round and not have any bulges in the rim wall as this will make braking quite erratic, carbon is a difficult material to work with and must be well looked after.
Types Of Rims To Consider
There are also two types of rims to consider and this depends on which kind of tire you want to use, first there are tubular tires these are glued on to the bicycle rim, cost more and are difficult to repair after a puncture, but for racing, they feel and ride wonderfully.
Clincher tires have improved a lot recently and are nearly as good as tubular are for performance and are easily repairable and more reasonably priced. Most manufacturers make all styles in both systems.
So which should I buy? Not an easy answer, as there is so much to choose from, years ago you went to your local bike shop, picked out which hubs, spokes, and rims you wanted and he would build your wheels, but now most rim makers also manufacture there own wheelsets,
Mavic, Shimano, and Campagnolo are probably the best known, check out their websites for all their new goodies, there are other brands and if you go to your local cycle shop or look in the bike magazines you’ll find them.
There is a lot to choose from, but they are still all round.