What to Look For
Carbon fiber represents a polymer form of graphite, according to the Polymer Science Learning Center. Carbon fiber constructions add stability and strength to materials such as epoxy. Carbon bicycle wheels feature several constructions. Some inexpensive wheels lay carbon over aluminum skeletons with alloy hubs and spokes. Some utilize full carbon rims with alloy spokes and hubs. Some high-end wheels, such as those used for climbing, feature carbon rims and carbon hubs, according to online cycling publication BikeCyclingReviews.com. Typically, the lightest carbon wheels utilize full carbon constructions with minimal alloys. Often, lightweight titanium alloys appear in the components of high-quality carbon bicycle wheels.
Many cyclists expect to utilize carbon fiber wheels as full-time riding, training and racing wheels. But cyclists often must train with heavier wheels to experience both a weight advantage and to conserve fragile carbon components for race use only. Carbon fiber technology allows for extremely durable construction, but few carbon bicycle wheels work as daily trainers for riders. Carbon wheels require expensive tubes featuring longer valves or require temperamental valve extensions. Many of the lightest weight and highest quality carbon bicycle wheels utilize traditional glue on bicycle tubular tires and require valve extensions.
Where to Buy
Bicycle shops, triathlon outfitters and online bicycle retailers sell carbon bicycle wheels. Inexpensive carbon bicycle wheels are sold online usually. Carbon wheels utilize specialized tools and components. Local bicycle shops often employ mechanics who can perform high-end lightweight component adjustment and repair. Carbon fiber limits torque applied at any adjustment point.
Inexpensive carbon fiber wheel sets sell for $150 to $400 and feature heavier designs with mostly alloy construction, as of 2013. Quality wheel sets featuring carbon rims and alloy components sell for $400 to $1,000 a set. Carbon bicycle wheel sets featuring mostly carbon constructions and lightweight alloys cost $1,000 to $2,000. The highest quality wheels featuring full carbon constructions with minimal titanium components sell for more than $2,000 per set.