If you were to describe one place on a bike as the first upgrade point, it would probably be the wheels. Lots of off-the-shelf bikes come with down-specced wheels, meaning a change can make a big difference, and they’re really easy to change compared to, say, a crankset.
Fortunately, we don’t have the wheel size conundrums of our MTB-riding cousins (although the Cannondale Slate has opened that Pandora’s box) but there are still plenty of differences between road bike wheels. First up, now disc brakes are appearing everywhere you’ll need a specific set of wheels if you want to run discs, and it’s not just alloy clinchers either, there are some real carbon beauties for disc brake bikes.
Width is another confusion. For every wide rim, there’s another slim one, and for every aero-profiled rim there’s one where weight is the key concern. Similarly, road tubeless has added another option to the traditional clincher or tubular argument, and many wheels that would have been clincher rims before are now tubeless-ready as well.
And don’t forget tyres. Only one part of your bike touches the road surface, so you’d better make sure it’s quality. We’re far from the 23mm or nothing days of the past, and there’s everything here from traditional 23mm tyres up to plush 28mm rubber.