Best budget MTB wheels 2024 – performance boosting bargain upgrades

The best budget MTB wheels are a serious upgrade for any standard bike. Okay, the absolute best mountain bike wheels generally cost serious money, but that doesn't mean you can't get most of their performance for a fraction of their price.

Lighter wheels accelerate more easily, stiffer wheels track more accurately through corners and ugly rock gardens, and stronger wheels keep on spinning when others fail. With so many options out there, there's something to suit every kind of rider.

Wheel upgrades are simply one of the best aftermarket purchases you can make – even just changing to the best rim width for your best mountain bike tires can make a huge difference to tire stability, cornering performance and ride quality. 

Our reviewers have tested the best budget wheels for mountain biking to compile this list of those that offer maximum performance with minimum outlay. Our top pick are the awesome Hunt Race XC Wide wheels, and our best value choice are the Bontrager Line Comp 30 TLRs.

Jump to the bottom to see the things to consider when buying your next set of wheels or keep scrolling for our expert choice of best budget MTB wheels. 

Best budget MTB wheels

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Hunt Race XC Wide

At just over 1,500g the Race XC Wide is comparable to carbon race wheels many times the price (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
The best budget MTB wheelset overall

Specifications

Weight: 1,523g
Material: Aluminum
Size: 29in

Reasons to buy

+
World cup weight at a killer price
+
Near perfect balance of stiffness
and compliance
+
Instant engagement  
+
Fantastic aftersale support

Reasons to avoid

-
29er Boost option only
-
Heavier riders may find the engineered flex a little too much

It's hard to believe this level of feel and performance is available for so little cash. Fitting the Race XC Wides breathes life into any bike thanks to a top-dollar feel and agility-boosting acceleration and control.  

At barely over 1,500g, these represent a massive weight saving (likely to be around 500g!) over most OE (original equipment) wheelsets, even on some pretty expensive bikes. And as it's rotating weight, it really makes a difference.

Whether you're an XC racer or just love hammering out the miles, the advantages are massive – so long as the result isn't flimsy, anyway. And the Hunts are anything but.

They're tautly built to a very high quality, and transfer power without any wind-up loss. They're not crazy stiff though – some compliance has been engineered into the rim, so they always remain comfortable and track aggressive off-camber lines with ease. 

They can feel a bit flexy if you're really pushing it, but their forgiving feel makes them a great choice less aggressive riding – and especially for hardtails. 

Freehub engagement is near-instant, encouraging you to get on the pedals earlier and climb harder than ever. We punished these wheels far beyond their XC claims for months of testing, and needed only a single slight spoke tension adjustment as a result – we’re convinced they’re built to last. 

Read our Hunt Race XC Wide wheelset review for more detail.

If trail mountain biking is seriously your focus, though, we also have great things to say about the Hunt Trail Wide V2 wheelset. 

Bontrager Line Comp 30 TLR wheelset

The Comp 30 is an absolute bargain, and a great performer too (Image credit: Bontrager)

Bontrager Line Comp 30 TLR wheelset

The best value budget MTB wheelset

Specifications

Weight: 1,978g
Material: Aluminum
Size: 27.5in and 29in

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing value
+
Responsive freehub engagement

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the lightest
-
Some SRAM users will need to buy and fit an different freehub body 

The Bontrager Line Comp 30 is by far the cheapest option here, but the low price doesn’t mean sub-par performance. Just over a couple of hundred bucks can massively improve your bike's trail performance.  

The 29mm internal rim width boosts cornering traction and overall feel, and allows low pressures for even more control over most much skinnier entry-level wheels. 

The freehub body has 54 points of engagement, again a huge difference – most entry-level wheelsets have far fewer and are pretty laggy as a result. In fact, the acceleration pickup is comparable to wheelsets that cost three times as much as the Comp 30s. 

These are tubeless-ready, too, with rim tape and valves supplied. The only negative is the lack of a SRAM XD freehub body option, but if you're on a Shimano HG-style one anyway, these are a bargain.

Roval Control 29 Carbon wheels

The new asymmetric rim shape is much shallower and wider than the previous Roval XC rim (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
The best super-light budget MTB wheelset

Specifications

Weight: 1,480g
Material: Carbon
Size: 29in

Reasons to buy

+
Awesome price-to-performance ratio
+
Superlight but rich in control
+
Premium rims, workhorse hubs
+
Surprisingly trail tough
+
Lifetime warranty
+
Spare axle caps and spokes

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively slow free hub engagement
-
29er only  
-
250g heavier than the SLs

Roval's own Control SL wheels may be lighter, but the standard Control Carbon 29 wheelset we tested is hardly a heavyweight, and really hits the price-to-performance sweet spot. If you want carbon, these are an excellent place to start.

It took 16 prototypes to design the Control rims, apparently, and they weigh a claimed 358g per piece. They're laced with DT’s well-proven, double-butted Competition straight-pull spokes to DT Swiss hubs. 

The broad rim and well-designed carbon fiber layup leads to a tough, high-performance wheelset, and if you do manage to damage them Specialized offers a generous lifetime warranty. With XCO courses getting more technical and XC bikes getting more capable of descending at speed, that's great news. 

These wheels are the perfect match for an aggressive rider. 

Read our detailed review for more insight into how the Roval Control 29 Carbon wheelset performed during our test.

Pair of DT Swiss 1900 wheels against a brick wall

The M1900s feature DT Swiss' 370 hub which has the Ratchet LN system (Image credit: Neal Hunt)
The best budget MTB wheelset for reliability

Specifications

Weight: From 1,998g
Material: Aluminum
Size: 27.5in and 29in

Reasons to buy

+
Solid and reassuring ratchet connection
+
Easy to service internals
+
Top-class durability heritage
+
Hand-built quality
+
Fit a wide range of bikes and groupsets with tool-free changes

Reasons to avoid

-
Freehub engagement is slower than some as standard
-
No Super Boost option
-
Straight pull spokes are less readily available than J-bend counterparts

DT Swiss wheels (plus their hubs and spokes) have long been the benchmark for premium quality durability. The latest 1900 range aims to continue the legacy of previous versions of being some of the most reliable wallet-friendly wheelsets on the market.

For the 1900 Spline range, DT has specced their 370 hub, which now has the Ratchet LN system, which uses two spinning pieces, one driven by the hub shell and one by the freehub. 

The 1900 wheel range uses two different rims; the M we tested comes with the 502 rims with a 30mm inner width, and the E and XC 1900 wheels use the E 532 rim, the little brother of the EX 511 rim, although made out of a different grade of aluminum alloy.

The M1900 uses DT’s lower-cost sleeved aluminum rims, which use a sleeved section to bond the two parts of the rim together, as opposed to its high-end wheels, which are welded. They have held up perfectly during our test, with zero damage or dings on the local rocky peak district trails without using a tire insert.

We found they offered a real Goldilocks feel of not too stiff, not too soft, not too heavy, but not too light or skittish either. On rocky trails, they are reassuringly solid, yet on rooty wet trails where more feedback is a benefit, they offer just the right amount of feel to let you get on with riding.

To sum up, the DT Swiss 1900s are a very good solid wheelset, perfect for high mileage riders who appreciate dependable, reliable hoops that can be serviced and kept running for years. For more info, see our full DT Swiss 1900 review.

Hope Fortus 30 SC Pro 5 wheelset

Hope's latest Pro 5 hubs have more than twice as many points of engagement than the previous versions for super rapid pick-up (Image credit: Mick Kirkman)
The best budget MTB wheelset for fast engagement

Specifications

Weight: 2,070g (32 spoke x 29in Boost tested)
Material: Aluminum
Size: 27.5-in and 29in

Reasons to buy

+
Fast engagement
+
Solid and laterally stiff with good zip
+
Rebuildable and repairable hubs
+
Hope’s multiple color options

Reasons to avoid

-
Still not the lightest
-
More cash than some direct sale brands' wheels

The Hope Fortus 30 SC Pro 5 uses Hope’s faster engaging and faster spinning hub and lighter single-cavity 30mm inside rims, balancing speed and strength.

The Pro 5 hubs have more than twice as many points of engagement than previous versions and a new offset 6-pawl freehub design in a 54t ratchet. There’s also improved sealing, which sees a new flexy labyrinth seal behind the freehub body that really snaps into place and a reduced axle diameter to accommodate larger, stronger bearings.

The Fortus SC version has a slimmer profile, omits some reinforcing bridges inside and is a lot lighter than the regular 30mm Fortus internal rim. The centerlock SC wheels we tested are 29in, use 32 Sapim race j-bend spokes with silver brass nipples and weigh 2,070g a pair. We found spoke tension was good and didn’t loosen during testing.

We were impressed with the SCs’ performance. Stiff and direct whether stomping on cranks or chucking the bike in and out of big berms, our tires remained stable with zero burps or loss of air once seated, and they offer a comfortable and smooth ride quality that isn’t too jarring or staccato if the ground is baked rock hard or you’re smashing over repeated rocks or root webs. They feel worlds apart from the old Pro 4 Fortus 30s that always felt a bit of a dead lump and too slow climbing and getting going.

Check out our full Hope Fortus 30 SC Pro 5 review

Nukeproof Horizon V2 wheels

Front and rear rims on the Nukeproof Horizon V2 use different sidewall thicknesses to reflect likely loads (Image credit: Future)
The best budget MTB wheelset for enduro/downhill

Specifications

Weight: 2,025g
Material: Aluminum
Size: 27.5in and 29in

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable
+
Tough, well-damped ride feel
+
Super fast reacting hub with Enduro bearings
+
Excellent valve and rim detailing
+
Loads of hub options

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly heavier/duller than some competitors

Nukeproof’s Horizon V2 strikes a great balance between cost and performance. The wheelset is tightly laced with 32 J-bend spokes in a three-cross pattern front and back. The front and rear wheels have the same 30mm inner rim diameter and low 21.6mm rim profile, but the front has a slightly slimmer side wall. 

Nukeproof uses Enduro ABEC 5 bearings and their LLB/LLU seals make light contact with a channel which forms a network to aid in containing contaminants from entering the bearing. Enduro bearings come with a much larger volume of grease to ensure complete surface coverage of the ball bearings to avoid metal-on-metal contact and excessive wear.

While this is by no means the lightest enduro wheelset the lighter front still means it pops and lifts OK when needed. The longer, slacker spoke arrangement, differential rim wall thicknesses and alloy blend provide really controlled ride characteristics too.

While they’re definitely sturdy rather than having a super lively in trail feel, the near-instant 3.5 degree freehub engagement makes them very responsive through the pedals. This proved to be priceless in our tests when we needed a quick nudge to hop up and over any slow and awkward trail segments. 

The Horizon V2s have proven to be a really durable and solid all-rounder for more aggressive riding, so are a great choice if you’re planning on riding rougher enduro or downhill tracks with the occasional park day.

For more, see our full Nukeproof Horizon V2 review.

The Superstar AlpineTrail V6 wheelset

The Superstar AlpineTrail V6s are highly customizable (Image credit: Superstar Components)

Superstar AlpineTrail V6 wheelset

The best customizable budget MTB wheelset

Specifications

Weight: 1,665g
Material: Aluminum
Size: 27.5in and 29in

Reasons to buy

+
Highly customizable
+
Quality build and parts
+
Fit any axles
+
24mm version is pretty light

Reasons to avoid

-
Tubeless ready, but no valves included

Pretty much the only things you can't select with a pair of these are the spokes and nipples, and even then you wouldn't want to – they're excellent Sapim Laser and Polyax models, respectively.

Otherwise you can choose between two rim widths (Trail30 for 'intense' riding and Trail24 for race/trail), two rim diameters (27.5in or 29in), and two freehub types –Shimano 11-speed or SRAM XD/XDR. 

The result is going to fit your frame and fork, too, as Superstar does them with adaptors to fit 15mm and 20mm axles, Boost or non-Boost spacing and QR. They even offer a 12mm front option for road bikes, along with rear widths including the older 135mm and 142mm sizes, 148mm (Boost) and 157mm (Super Boost), and the new 150mm option.

The rims are asymmetrical for what Superstar says is greater rigidity, and the bearings a high-quality cartridge types from SKF, and they're tubeless ready. In 24mm (internal width) guise they're usefully light too at a claimed 1,665g, while even the burlier 30mm versions are under 2kg at 1,920g. 

With an impressive machine build, a two-year warranty, a lifetime truing service and a crash replacement scheme, these offer a really solid performance for a very reasonable price. 

The Scrub Alloy 30 Trail wheelset

The Scrubs are fully hand-built at a killer price point (Image credit: Scrub Wheels)

Scrub Alloy Trail wheelset

The best hand-built budget MTB wheelset

Specifications

Weight: 1,898g
Material: Aluminum
Size: 27.5in and 29in

Reasons to buy

+
Hand-built in the UK
+
Great ride feel
+
Personal aftercare support 

Reasons to avoid

-
Yet-to-be established name
-
Boost only

There’s something special about a fully hand-built wheel, and from the first few pedal strokes the high-quality components and attention to detail seriously impress. These are some of the best feeling hand-built wheels we’ve ever experienced; it’s amazing this level of quality can be felt at such a killer price point. 

On the trail, the Scrubs feel continuously smooth, change direction instantly and spin with ease.    

The 30mm internal diameter rims give a great profile to 2.4-2.5in rubber, and has yet to show any weakness even after several rim dinks that had us wincing. Built around own-brand hubs with sealed cartridge bearings and a six-pawl freehub, these wheels also have a swift, enthusiastic engagement. 

The Alloy 30s come pre-taped with valves already installed, and are backed with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty and five-year crash replacement support. If you’re not put off by the unknown name, this is a stellar option at a highly competitive price that will suit nearly all modern trail riders. 

The Halo Vortex wheelset

The Halo's heat-treated 33m alloy rim is super tough and resilient (Image credit: Halo)

Halo Vortex wheelset

The best super-tough budget MTB wheelset

Specifications

Weight: 2,090g
Material: Aluminum
Size: 27.5in and 29in

Reasons to buy

+
Stout rims will take a beating
+
Super easy tubeless setup
+
Wide 33mm rim gives a superb tire profile
+
Instant hub pickup
+
Available in all wheel configurations

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the lightest

Humming like a swarm of angry bees, Halo’s MT Supadrive rear hub has 120 points of engagement; the pickup and acceleration is instant. If your rear hub's voice is important to you, then you’ll love the Vortex wheelset. 

On the other hand, it's worth noting that while such instant reactions are great for powering out of berms or mid-enduro race sprints, if your suspension creates a lot of pedal kickback it will only become more noticeable.  

Surrounding the hub is Halo’s heat-treated 33mm (internal) alloy rim. This proves super tough and resilient, which isn’t that surprising considering Halo’s dirt jumping heritage. 

The spoke tensions are equal on either side and the rim is asymmetrical, and to compensate for the different leverages the wall thickness on the short/long sides differ as well – consequently, impact forces meet a balanced resistance. 

At over 2kg the Vortex wheels aren't light, but they're not excessively heavy either – if you’re a hard-hitting rider these are fit-and-forget.

They’re available in Boost and non-Boost hub widths, and the axles can be altered to work with any axle diameter too – even quick release. If you want a wheelset that sounds ace and will last you a full season of aggressive racing, this is a solid option.   

The Stans Crest S1 wheelset

The Crest S1 is designed to be light enough to race but tough enough to rally (Image credit: Stans Notubes)

Stans Crest S1 wheelset

The best budget MTB wheelset for XC and downcountry

Specifications

Weight: 1,800g
Material: Aluminum
Size: 29in

Reasons to buy

+
Good weight to strength to cost ratio
+
Easy tubeless setup
+
Compatible with most wheel standards

Reasons to avoid

-
On the narrow side by today's standards
-
Slow engagement

The Crest S1 is the latest in a long line of Stans XC wheels designed to be light enough to race but tough enough to rally. A 23mm internal width rim means XC tires from 2.1in to 2.3-in blow up to a well-rounded and traction-enhancing shape with no pinching, and the tough yet light build isn’t going to let you down when taking a poor line decision on race day.   

Stans NoTubes is the originator of tubeless and, as you might expect, the rim shape of the Crest S1 makes them an absolute breeze to set up. Tires tend to seal and seat within the first few strokes of the track pump, and as with all Stans wheels, they come pre-taped. You just need to add valves and sealant. 

Finishing off the speedy XC theme are Stans’ quick-engaging and fast-rolling Neo hubs, which can be made to fit a vast range of axle standards for excellent versatility.

How to choose the best budget MTB wheelset

Alloy or carbon? 

While most brands' more expensive wheels feature a carbon rim it doesn’t mean you can’t get top-performing characteristics from aluminum. The weight difference often won’t be as much as you think either. In fact, good alloy wheels can actually outperform overly stiff or dead feeling carbon hoops and in the event of a failure replacing an alloy rim is a whole lot cheaper, too.

How light should wheels be? 

Lightweight wheels – which are typically aimed at cross country and fast trail use – accelerate fast, stop quickly and due to their low overall weight climb efficiently. The flip side of these traits is the low overall weight and slimmer build tend to compromise strength when hammering down techy descents and they’re usually flexier when pushed hard compared to stouter trail/enduro options. 

Trail/enduro wheelsets are best suited to bikes most people are riding around on today, so they need to be able to perform well across a broad range of terrain. This means they need to be light enough to climb okay but tough enough to tackle testing descents. 

Striking the balance is hard and going either way on the spectrum can massively alter the on-trail performance – too heavy and your bike will feel sluggish and cumbersome, yet too light could make your bike feel twangy and vague.

What's the deal with hub spacing? 

Hub spacing is another factor you need to take into consideration when selecting a new wheelset. Most new bikes operate with Boost or even Super-Boost spacing, however, if your bike is a few years old there’s a possibility it could still be using narrower non-boost axle widths. These specs can be found in the bike’s specification list but if you’re unsure a local bike shop should be able to advise the correct dimensions. The frame spacing specs are as follows: 

Non-Boost – 100mm front + 142mm rear

Boost – 110mm front + 148mm rear

Super-Boost- 110mm front + 157mm rear

Axle diameter is something that seems to have settled with 15mm at the front and 12mm at the rear, but it’s still something worth checking. Some bikes, especially entry-level hardtails may still use a traditional 9mm quick release system spaced at either 135mm or 141mm whereas downhill bikes are still using a 20mm bolt through in the fork.      

What's the ideal inner rim width? 

To both keep the weight low and mesh best with skinnier cross country/trail tires, lighter-weight wheels generally see a narrower rim profile, too, typically around 19-25mm, so if you plan on running wider rubber these lightweight weight options probably are not what you require. If you and/or your bike require wider, more aggressive tires then a rim width of 26-35mm provides a predictable tire shape through the ranges of 2.4- to 2.6-inch modern rubber. 

How many spokes is best? 

32 or more spokes make for a stronger and stiffer wheel, whereas fewer spokes (28 or less) create a more forgiving and compliant ride. A wheel with more spokes will feel more direct and responsive under power but may cause premature rider fatigue and erratic ground tracing characteristics by being overly stiff. Plain gauge spokes are heavier and more dead feeling than butted (thicker at the ends, thinner in the middle) spokes and they’re often not as strong either, so go with a butted spoke wheel if possible.

The spoke nipples, which the spokes themselves thread into, are usually made from brass or alloy. We prefer brass nipples as they don’t corrode or seize when ridden in prolonged wet conditions. 

What do I need to know about freehubs? 

The freehub is the section of the rear hub that the cassette fits onto. Inside the freehub body is the mechanism that engages when you stamp on the cranks. The speed that the freehub engages in is measured in degrees or points of engagement. More points of engagement will result in less cassette movement before it engages and starts driving you forward.

There are pros and cons for both laggy and super-responsive engagements. If the freehub engages quicker, it allows for the power to be delivered earlier, meaning you can get up to speed faster. The flip side of this is that, depending on your bike, a freehub with lots of engagement can increase pedal kickback. It’s also worth noting that due to the quicker engaging freehubs containing smaller parts with tighter tolerances, they can require more maintenance, especially on cheaper wheels and reduce the overall longevity.        

Different drivetrain brands and models require a different freehub body fitting system to attach the cassette. Entry-level Shimano and SRAM systems use Shimano’s HG system, everything GX upwards from SRAM utilizes its XD driver system and Shimano's all-new 12 speed systems have made the switch to a new Micro Spline pattern. Just like before, if you’re unsure it’s worth looking at your bike's spec sheet or checking in with your local bike shop.

How we test the best budget MTB wheels

All the wheels tested here are ridden over several months and many, many miles in grueling conditions on all kinds of MTB trails. We test them in bone dry conditions as as well as filthy and wet to see how the wheel internals stand up over time and if the bearings and seals can take a beating.

Meet the testers

Guy Kesteven
Guy Kesteven

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect’s tech editor. He spent a few years working in bike shops before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of bike components and riding gear.

Mick Kirkman
Mick Kirkman

An ex-elite downhill racer, Mick's been mucking about and racing mountain bikes for over 20 years. He's tested all manner of wheels so knows exactly what works and what doesn't.

Jim Bland
Freelance writer

Jim Bland is a product tester and World Cup downhill mechanic based in North Yorkshire, England, but working Worldwide. Jim’s chosen riding genre is hard to pinpoint and regularly varies from e-bike-assisted shuttle runs one day to cutting downcountry laps the next. Always on the hunt for the perfect setup,  Jim will always be found comprehensively testing kit with World Cup racing levels of detail. His ultimate day out includes an alpine loam trail, blazing sunshine, and some fresh kit to test.  


Rides: Santa Cruz Hightower, Santa Cruz v10, Specialized Kenevo.

Height: 170cm 

Weight: 64kg



With contributions from