The evolution of the bicycle wheel has come a long way since its inception. The first bicycle wheels were taken from horse-drawn carts and were made of wood with a metal band around the rim. These wheels were extremely hard and uncomfortable to ride.
However, this all changed with the invention of the pneumatic tire by John Boyd Dunlop, a Scottish inventor. Along with the invention of tar road surfaces by another Scottish inventor, John Loudon McAdam, cycling became a much more comfortable experience.
The design of the bicycle rim has not changed much over the years. It has always been round and will likely remain so. The materials used for the edge have evolved from wood to steel, to alloy, and for those who can afford it, carbon. The type of rim used can greatly affect the handling of the bicycle. The weight of the edge plays a big role in sprinting and climbing, as a heavy rim will slow you down.
However, for flat and long efforts, the weight of the rim becomes less important, as the momentum of the wheel can help keep it rolling. The shape of the edge is also important. A flat rim is best for climbing, as aerodynamics are not as important on a hill. A deep section, the aerodynamic rim will help cut through the air, but can cause handling problems in crosswinds.
There are different materials used for bicycle rims, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Steel is heavy, but is also very strong and cheap. Alloy is the most popular material for rims and can be made in a variety of shapes and profiles, flat or aerodynamic.
However, deep-section alloy rims can become too heavy. Most deep-section rims have an alloy braking section closest to the tire, which is then mounted to a carbon deep section for lightness and aerodynamics. Carbon is the best material for rims, as it is strong and light, but it can be expensive. Carbon rims also do not brake well in wet conditions and require special brake blocks, which can also be expensive.
There are two types of rims to consider, depending on the type of tire you want to use. The first type is the tubular tire, which is glued to the rim. These tires are more expensive and are difficult to repair after a puncture, but they offer an excellent ride for racing purposes. The second type is the clincher tire, which has improved greatly in recent years and is nearly as good as tubular in terms of performance. They are also more reasonably priced and easily repairable. Most manufacturers offer both types of rims in both systems.
So, which rim should you buy? The answer is not a simple one, as there are many options to choose from. Gone are the days of going to a local bike shop and picking out your hubs, spokes, and rims, as most rim makers now manufacture their own wheel sets.
Brands such as Mavic, Shimano, and Campagnolo are among the most well-known and offer a wide range of new products. There are other brands available, and you can find them by visiting a local cycle shop or by looking in bike magazines. The bottom line is that there are many options to choose from, but they are all around.