Best mountain bike wheels 2023 – the lightest cross-country options to the strongest downhill MTB wheels

downhill mountain biker at Val di Sole
(Image credit: Paul Brett)

Based on variables like weight, stiffness, and rim width, a new set of the best mountain bike wheels will improve how your bike responds to various terrains and challenges. These factors are always changing based on your mountain bike discipline and there is often a large variation in weight and size across the board. There’s no one-wheel size-fits-all situation.

We've taken a look at the best mountain bike wheels, split them into three separate categories – cross-country, trail/enduro, and downhill mountain biking and picked out a mix of options in each based on price and performance. Cross-country mountain bike wheels should be light, whereas downhill wheels should be able to withstand heavy abuse. The best mountain bike wheels for trail and endurance riding balance these two factors.

If you are looking for something on a budget, our guide on budget MTB wheelsets is a good place to look. Don't forget that wheels and tires should be considered as a system, so to get the most out of the best mountain bike wheels be sure to install them with a pair of the best mountain bike tires in order to maximize traction and control on your rides. 

The best mountain bike wheels for cross-country

Why you can trust BikePerfect Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Hunt Race XC Wide

Hunt XC Wide wheelset (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Strong, light and amazing value

Specifications

Weight: 1,647g
Material: Aluminum
Rim width (internal): 25mm
Spoke count: 28 (front), 28 (rear)
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er)
Hubs: Novatec
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Unbeatable value
+
Robust wheelset for rowdy downcountry
+
Wide 25mm inner rim diameter supports tires between 2.1- and 2.5-in
+
Great after-sales support

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as stiff or light as carbon
-
Hard to justify spending more

The Hunt XC Wide wheelset is aimed at cross-country riders who want to get rowdy on the downhills. As a new breed of slacker, 100 to 130mm travel downcountry bikes become more popular, riders are beginning to look for wheels that are not only spritely on the climbs but have a wider and more robust rim profile that can handle increasingly challenging terrain.

Hunt seems to offer an almost complete wheel package. Durable 6061 T6 alloy rims give superb support to tires between 2.1- and 2.5-in to maximize traction when climbing and in corners. The hubs have a snappy five-degree engagement and are available in boost or standard spacing.  It might not be the lightest wheelset but for a bit more money, Hunt sells a Race version that proves alloy isn't dead, weighing in at a claimed 1,517g. 

Read more about why the Hunt XC Wide is one of our top wheelsets for aggressive XC riding. 

Reserve 28XC wheelset

Reserve 28XC wheelset (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
(opens in new tab)
Technically confident balance combined with lightweight for cross-country racers and downcountry riders

Specifications

Weight: From 1321g
Material: Carbon
Rim width (internal): 28mm
Spoke count: 24
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er)
Hubs: DT Swiss 350, 240 or 180
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Highly durable

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Only available in 29in

The Reserve 28XC are World Cup winning wheels and are a race-ready culmination of everything the brand has learnt from years at the highest levels of competition. 

At 1387g for a complete DT Swiss 180 hub wheelset with tape and valves (AND no rider weight limit and lifetime warranty), the 28XC features a wider and lower rim profile than their previous XC race wheels, that increases strength and lateral rigidity while adding vertical compliance. 

The new rim shape also eases tubeless tire installation and improves tire bead retention at lower pressure. The Reserve 28XC is sturdy and strong enough for a rowdy XC ride, but light and fast enough for a jaunt on the World Cup XC circuit.

The wheels may not be the lightest, but their weight is extremely respectable. The lightest option weighs in at a race-ready 1387g while the cheaper DT Swiss 350-hubbed wheelset still only adds on 183g with a saving of $600.

Reserve gives the option to spec three different DT Swiss hub options, the 250, 240 or 180. As always, DT hubs offer excellent durability and simple tool-free servicing. The rims and hubs are also backed up by a superb warranty so you can ride hard mile after mile.

Learn more about the Reserve 28XC 350 wheels and why they are at the top of our list in our full review. 

DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheelset review

DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheelset (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
(opens in new tab)
Enduro toughness with low XC weights

Specifications

Weight: 1541g
Material: Carbon
Rim width (internal): 30mm
Spoke count: 28
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er and 27.5)
Hubs: DT Swiss
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
XC light but enduro tough
+
Bright, light responsiveness but still calm in chaos
+
Slick-spin ceramic hybrid hubs
+
Rock-solid EXP Ratchet connection
+
Easily serviced internals

Reasons to avoid

-
Premium quality cost
-
Limited warranty cover
-
Slow free hub pick up
-
No Super Boost option

The DT Swiss XMC 1200 is the ultimate all-mountain wheel. A carbon layup specifically tuned for all-mountain use makes the rim tough yet super-light. And with a 30 mm internal width, it is made for wide rubber. 

The hubs feature the latest incarnation of the DT Ratchet System along with refined machining and fully lazered graphics making them the lightest DT Swiss has ever made. Together with bladed top-end spokes and the perfect DT Swiss build quality you would expect, this wheelset is made to ride trails with speed and confidence, with trustworthy durability. But the price is reflective of that. 

We noticed a boost in acceleration and plenty of stiffness on climbs and long pedally stretches of trail. Tracking over terrain, the XMC's are tight and precise, offering a good amount of feedback and traction. 

Read our full DT Swiss XMC 1200 review to find out why we love their combination of low weight and durability. 

Just Riding Along monitor wheelset

Just Riding Along monitor wheelset (Image credit: Future)
Super-light, artisan-built wheels for XC and gravel

Specifications

Weight: From 1300g
Material: Carbon
Rim width (internal): 25mm
Spoke count: up to 28
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (650b or 29er)
Hubs: Bitex
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra light
+
Surprisingly tough
+
Experienced handmade quality
+
Complete axle versatility
+
Reduced price replacement warranty

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for narrow tires

These custom carbon gravel and XC wheels are hand-built in Yorkshire, England. Weighing just 1,350g for the pair, the Just Riding Along Monitor is incredibly lightweight yet surprisingly robust. Since they're a custom build, you can choose to have them exactly how you want, with a tougher bikepacking version also available.

Choose between 650b or 29er rims, 24 or 28 holes, J-bend or straight-pull spokes, and Centerlock or 6-bolt disc hubs. You can decide the spoke count, the freehub, opt for boost spacing and choose custom colors for the nipples and decals. Finally, you can add on optional tubeless valves.

Whatever you opt for, the super low weight of these wheels will give your ride an instant boost in acceleration, while the freehub's fast engagement helps pedal strokes feel responsive. After several months of punishing them off-road, exposing them to cobbles, mud and grit, they held up exceptionally well and we've had no issues.

To find out more about why the Just Riding Along Monitor is one of our favorite XC and gravel wheels, be sure to check out the full review. 

Crankbrothers Synthesis Enduro Carbon

(Image credit: Crankbrothers)

Crankbrothers Synthesis XCT Carbon

A wheelset tuned to function as a system

Specifications

Weight: 1,554g
Material: Carbon
Rim width (internal): 26.5mm front, 24.5mm rear
Spoke count: 28 (front), 32 (rear)
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er)
Hubs: Crank Brothers Synthesis Standard
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Tuned wheels for better ride quality
+
Front and rear-specific 
+
Lightweight
+
Rated to be tough enough for trail riding
+
USA made 

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow hub engagement

Crankbrothers has tuned its Synthesis wheelset to achieve a difference in ride quality and lateral flexibility between the front and rear by using different rim profiles and spoke counts.

The Synthesis front wheel only has 28 spokes, while the rear is laced with 32. Internal rim widths differ too: they are wider at the front than the rear. Crankbrothers believes that a front-wheel should be more forgiving, as it is responsible for turning the bike and experiences severe terrain deflections that could ruin steering feedback dynamics.

Crankbrothers offers three different alloy Synthesis wheelsets, with its front/rear-specific build. The brand’s Synthesis XCT is a lightweight 29-inch option, featuring a 24.5mm internal diameter rear wheel and 26.5mm internal diameter front, the total weight of which tallies 1,554g.

Mavic CrossMax SL

(Image credit: GuyKesTV)
(opens in new tab)
Lively feeling, well-sealed, and tough all-rounder wheels

Specifications

Weight: 1,790g
Material: Aluminum
Rim width (internal): 30mm
Spoke count: 24
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er only
Hubs: Infinity hubs
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Good price
+
Secure tubeless setup
+
Custom graphic option

Reasons to avoid

-
Tough to remove tires
-
29er only
-
Slow freehub pick-up

Mavic started making bike rims 130 years ago and it's been refining its tubeless rims for over 20 years. The CrossMax XL S rims are engineered with Mavic patented Fore technology, featuring a fully sealed upper bridge that eliminates the need for rim tape. That saves 30 grams per wheel and does away with the hassle of using tape to set up tubeless tires. 

They also use ISM rim machining, which removes material in strategic areas of the rim to minimize weight without compromising strength. The rim has a 30mm internal width, optimized to squeeze the best performance out of any modern tire, and the Mavic Black Shield technology gives them distinctive finish that protects against scratches and abrasions. You can also swap the reflective logo stickers for custom bi-color logos from Silk graphics.

With 24 straight-pull spokes to further dial in the sweet spot between lateral stiffness and vertical compliance. The Infinity hubs feature a stiffer and lighter construction that is enhanced by the ultra-reliable ID360 double ratchet system for fast engagement. 

The wheelset is set up for 6-bolt or center lock disc mounts and is compatible with Shimano HG9, SRAM XD, and Micro Spline freewheel bodies. It’s available in 29” only and ships with UST tubeless valves, spare spokes and accessories.

Have a look at our full review of the Mavic CrossMax XL S and why they are one of our favorite all round wheels.

The best mountain bike wheels for trail and enduro

Industry Nine Enduro 310C mountain bike wheels

Industry Nine cutting edge carbon rim technology (Image credit: Industry Nine)
(opens in new tab)

Industry Nine Enduro 315C

These wheels are up there as the best around as far as carbon enduro wheels go

Specifications

Weight: 1,740g (29in)
Material: Carbon
Rim width (internal): 31mm
Spoke count: 24 or 32
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er or 650b)
Hubs: Hydra
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Cutting edge technology 
+
Good looks
+
Lifetime warranty
+
Quality hubs

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricing can get steep depending on build options

Cutting edge carbon rim technology meets the ground breaking Hydra hub platform to create some of the highest quality and best performing wheels on the market.

The carbon rims are produced in partnership with Canadian carbon company We Are One Composites who use the latest carbon layup technology. Each rim is hand laid in Kamloops BC to Industry Nines exclusive layup, mold and performance specifications.

Depending on your weight and riding style, the Industry Nine Enduro wheels are available in 27.5-inch or 29er versions and with 24 or 32 spoke designs, can be purchased as a complete build or customized using various components. The Ano Lab Custom Color gives you the pick of 11 different anodized colors to create a look as colorful or stealth as you wish making for an impressive and unique to each rider wheelset.

They also employ a hookless system for impact resistance, a 31mm internal rim width and have a limited lifetime warranty for peace of mind. The rim is designed to accommodate 2.3- to 2.8-inch tires

A big drawcard with these particular wheels is the Hydra freehub – offering 690 points of engagement, power delivery is immediate.

Enduro 315 Carbon 24h Rims are currently on backorder so you may have to wait to ride these beauties.

Hunt Trail Wide V2 wheels

Hunt trail wide mtb wheelset (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Best value all-mountain wheelset

Specifications

Weight: 1,880g
Material: Carbon
Rim width (internal): 30mm
Spoke count: 28
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er or 650b)
Hubs: Hunt
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Significantly tougher rims for minimal weight gain
+
Outstanding pricing
+
Smoother and more controlled
+
Super-fast freehub engagement
+
Much lighter than equivalent competitors

Reasons to avoid

-
80g heavier
-
Fractionally slower freehub engagement
-
No Centerlock disc option

We were big fans of Hunt's original Trail Wide wheels, and the new Hunt Trail Wide wheelset provides the same great performance. They feature a bit burly build with more metal, which makes them heavier and a bit slower to get up to speed, but they are still faster and lighter than their closest competition.  

When the going gets rough, the Trail Wide's act smooth and connected, meaning that they give good trail feedback to the rider, provide needed traction, and remain composed in corners. Fans of rough trails will be happy with the durability of the wheels too since we haven't managed to dent them yet. Overall, these put more expensive wheelsets to shame, making them an excellent budget upgrade option. 

For more on these great value for money wheels, see our Hunt Trail Wide V2 wheelset review.

Syntace C33i wheelset

Syntace C33i are a great value all round wheelset (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Next-level build quality, hyper-accurate and responsive all-rounders

Specifications

Weight: 1,700g (29er 40mm)
Material: Carbon
Rim width (internal): 28, 33, 40mm
Spoke count: 28
Tire options: Tubeless ready clinchers (26, 27.5, 29in)
Hubs: Syntace
Boost spacing: Yes
SRP: $1560 / £TBC

Reasons to buy

+
Light yet broad rims
+
Excellent tire security
+
Exceptional build quality
+
Reinforced freehub and bearings
+
Huge range of options

Reasons to avoid

-
Rim tape and valves are extra
-
Stiff rather than smooth
-
No lifetime warranty

These carbon wheels from Syntace are great value for money, offering standout, responsive and hyper-accurate performance for a fair price. The build quality is exceptional, with a triple sealing and reinforced freehub and bearings for extra durability.

They're available in 26-, 27.5- and 29-inch diameters with a choice of 28, 33 or 40mm internal rim widths. Pair these with rubber between 2.3- and 2.6-inches for an incredibly stable and supple ride feel. The carbon rims use various composite weaves, including cross-ply in the sidewalls for damage control.

It's no surprise seeing this kind of performance from Syntace, which was one of the first wheel brands to produce extra-wide rims. Pioneering fat tires for extra-stability, the brand offers 80 wheel choices when you count all the different options available. It's fair to say it knows a thing or two. 

To learn more about our thoughts on the Syntace C33i Straight Carbon 29, check out the full review. 

Zipp 3zero wheelset

Zipp 3zero moto wheelset (Image credit: Zipp)
Unconventional approach to wheel design with noticeable advantages

Specifications

Weight: 1,965g
Material: Carbon
Rim width (internal): 30mm
Spoke count: 32
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er or 650b)
Hubs: Zipp ZM1
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Easy tire installation
+
Designed for compliance, creating the feel of extra suspension
+
Lifetime Warranty
+
Tirewiz pressure gauges included 

Reasons to avoid

-
Top end pricing
-
Compliance can translate to vagueness on flat-out bike park berms

Wheel manufacturers are now understanding that despite a stiff wheel giving sharp cornering and acceleration, building compliance into a wheel allows better grip and control as the wheel can deform over rough terrain. 

No manufacturer takes the concept of wheel compliance further than Zipp which has entered the mountain bike market for the first time with its 3Zero Moto wheelset. Inspired by the single wall rim designs in motocross, the 3Zero features a 30mm internal width and can be purchased as single wheels or as a wheelset, in both cases built around Zipp's ZM1 hubs with standard splined SRAM/Shimano or SRAM XD freehubs. 

Wheelsets come as boost only in both 27.5- or 29-inch formats. If you purchase the complete wheelset, Zipp includes the Tyrewiz pressure gauges to make sure you're always at the preferred PSI for optimal grip.

If you're in the market for an enduro wheelset, find out more about why we like the 3Zero Moto wheelset in the full review. 

DT Swiss 1700

DT Swiss engineered excellence (Image credit: Future)
Swiss engineered excellence

Specifications

Weight: 1975g
Material: Aluminum
Rim width (internal): 30mm
Spoke count: 32
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er or 27.5)
Hubs: DT Swiss 350
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Bombproof, premium component build
+
Tightly targeted feel
+
Super reliable freehub
+
Faster engagement option
+
Full freehub range

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy
-
30mm only
-
Slow engagement as standard

The Swiss brand says that its DT Swiss XM 1700 wheelset are the wheels that hardcore riders would build for themselves. We found that that's mostly the case with these aluminum all-mountain hoops. 

For added toughness, DT Swiss has added more material on the sidewalls and bottom of the rim. The tough design does come with a weight penalty though. The wheels have an accurate, stiff feeling that precise riders will love. 

The main advantages we see with these wheels are the durability and the price point. If you're sick of constantly truing wheels and don't have a lot of cash to spend on a carbon pair of hoops, these are a good choice. 

Read our full DT Swiss XM 1700 review to find out why they are one of the best new all-around wheels we've tested. 

DT Swiss E1900 Spline mountain biking wheels

DT Swiss E1900 (Image credit: DT Swiss)
(opens in new tab)

DT Swiss E1900 Spline

Affordable, hardy and reliable — you’ll be hard-pressed to find another alloy enduro wheel as competent

Specifications

Weight: From 1994g
Material: Aluminum
Rim width (internal): 30mm front
Spoke count: 28
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er or 650b)
Hubs: DT Swiss 370
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Great price
+
Highly durable
+
Strong performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier than carbon options
-
Not the best looker

The DT Swiss E1900 Spline wheelset is an impressive upgrade for those looking to add more stiffness and precision to their riding at a price point that won’t break the bank.

Despite the aluminum construction, the E1900s offer a good meld of stiffness and response thanks to the three-cross straight-pull spokes and proven DT Swiss 370 hubs. At 1,998g, they may not be the lightest option around but they’re hardy and able to accommodate riders of up to 130kg.

With a 30mm internal rim width and Boost hub spacing available across the range, the E1900 Spline wheelset is easily DT’s best-kept secret.

The best mountain bike wheels downhill riding

Nukeproof Horizon V2 rim logo

Nukeproof Horizon (Image credit: Future)
(opens in new tab)
The toughest wheels on the market are also one of the most affordable options

Specifications

Weight: 897g (Front, 29)
Material: Aluminum
Rim width (internal): 30mm
Spoke count: 32
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er or 650b)
Hubs: Nukeproof Horizon
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Durable option
+
Strong 
+
Good levels of traction

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy compared to carbon
-
Front and rear sold seperatly

The Horizon from Nukeproof was already one of our favorite downhill wheelsets for durability and price, and the brand has now revised the original offering with the V2. 

The updated wheels feature Boost and non-Boost options in 27.5 and 29er configurations. They are constructed out of Nukeproof's custom blend of alloy that optimizes toughness, stiffness and weight. 

The profile of the front and rear wheels are the same but the front features a thinner sidewall for weight savings. They also use J-bend spokes for easy replacement when they get battered. In addition to using Nukeproof hubs, the wheels also use Enduro ABEC 5 bearings.

For more, see our full Nukeproof Horizon V2 review.

Santa Cruz Reserve DH 29er downhill mountain bike wheels

Santa Cruz Reserve DH 29er wheelset (Image credit: Santa Cruz)
(opens in new tab)

Santa Cruz Reserve DH 29er

The Santa Cruz Reserve DH are high end downhill wheels with a winning pedigree

Specifications

Weight: 2,050g
Material: Carbon
Rim width (internal): 31mm
Spoke count: 32
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er or 650b)
Hubs: DT350, I9 Torch or Chris King
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Race winning pedigree
+
Stiffness
+
Durability
+
Lots of build and rim width options

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the cheapest

Santa Cruz’s Reserve DH 29er wheels are downhill-specific carbon hoops designed to withstand the abuse and impacts of modern downhill courses. 

The company has after all forged a name in the industry for pushing the boundaries and debunking the myths associated with carbon fiber, most notably on its bicycle frames.

Available in two wheel sizes, three hub choices and several rim widths, the Reserve 29er wheels are built with J-bend spokes with external secure-lock nipples for better consistency in terms of strength and durability – both front and rear wheels use a 28h spoke pattern.

Despite its downhill bent, the Reserve DH rim profile features a combination of stiffness and compliance. Add to that an asymmetric rim design and offset drilling pattern, both of which promote an even spoke tension, and the Reserve might just be the most balanced carbon downhill wheel ever made.

Hope Fortus 30

Hope Fortus 30 (Image credit: Future)
(opens in new tab)
They might be a little on the heavy side but these wheels are a bulletproof and affordable upgrade

Specifications

Weight: 2,435g
Material: Aluminum
Rim width (internal): 30mm
Spoke count: 32
Tire options: Tubeless ready, clincher (29er, 650b or 26er)
Hubs: Hope Pro 4
Boost spacing: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Good price
+
Great durability
+
Offered in 26, 27.5, or 29in

Reasons to avoid

-
On the heavier side

The Hope Fortus SC 30 is one of the most affordable downhill wheel options currently on the market. Like its chief adversary, the Nukeproof Horizon, it’s built from aluminum and threaded to Hope Pro 4 hubs with Sapim Race stainless steel double-butted spokes and brass nipples.

While these additions have significantly strengthened and stiffened the wheel - at both the front and rear end - they’ve also pushed up the weight to 2,435g (set of 29er wheels), which is notably heavier than other wheelsets of the same price point and ilk.

As their name references, the Fortus 30 wheels have an internal rim width of 30mm ensuring the tire is the perfect shape to give riders optimum grip in high-speed cornering situations.

For more, check out our Hope Fortus SC 30 review.

Best mountain bike wheels: what you need to know

What material is best for wheels?

Mountain bike wheels are manufactured from either carbon fiber or aluminum, both of which have their own pros and cons. Carbon wheels are stiff, light, strong and also absorb trail buzz to a certain extent but they’re expensive. Aluminum on the other hand is a lot cheaper and, while it also delivers a fairly decent amount of stiffness and performance, rims are prone to flex and dents but can be trued and repaired — carbon not so much.

How wide should MTB wheel rims be?

Rim width has become a hotly debated topic over the years in all forms of cycling, owing to the lower rolling resistance and better grip offered by fitting larger-volume mountain bike tires. The important factor to note here is internal rim width which dictates what tires you can safely use — as a rule of thumb, the wider the rim, the greater the tire volume and contact patch with the trail. Rim widths differ vastly between cross-country, downhill and enduro wheels with profiles ranging from 23mm to 35mm.

How many spokes is best for MTB?

In a nutshell, spokes connect the hub to the rim and give the wheel its strength and shape. Spoke counts can differ between the front and rear wheel and the latter often employs more spokes for added strength and stiffness. Lacing patterns also vary and have different properties — some wheels are laced with two-cross straight-pull spokes for weight reduction (cross-country) while others employ three-cross-lacing patterns for better strength and torque efficacy (downhill/enduro). Spokes are made from either steel or aluminum and sometimes even carbon fiber.

What should I know about hubs and axles?

The best mountain bike hubs are constructed from aluminum or carbon composite. While the front hub is simple in function, the rear is more complex, featuring a freehub body onto which the cassette attaches. It also houses the intricate spring-loaded ratchet-and-pawl mechanism which enables the wheel to spin when freewheeling and engage the transmission when pedaling. Bigger pawls will deal better with more torque (downhill/enduro) while on the opposite end finer pawls will result in a faster engagement and better power delivery (cross-country).

Some freehubs, like those from DT Swiss and Chris King use a ratchet system rather than pawls, which provides more simultaneous points of engagement.

The need to continually improve front and rear-end stiffness has led to the introduction of thicker, more stable thru-axles that bolt directly into the fork and drop-outs. Most newer bikes offer wider ‘Boost’ axle spacing, which uses a 110x15mm front axle with a 148x12mm rear thru-axle for added levels of stiffness.

How many spokes is best for MTB?

In a nutshell, spokes connect the hub to the rim and give the wheel its strength and shape. Spoke counts can differ between the front and rear wheel and the latter often employs more spokes for added strength and stiffness. Lacing patterns also vary and have different properties — some wheels are laced with two-cross straight-pull spokes for weight reduction (cross-country) while others employ three-cross-lacing patterns for better strength and torque efficacy (downhill/enduro). Spokes are made from either steel or aluminum and sometimes even carbon fiber.

What should I know about hubs and axles?

The best mountain bike hubs are constructed from aluminum or carbon composite. While the front hub is simple in function, the rear is more complex, featuring a freehub body onto which the cassette attaches. It also houses the intricate spring-loaded ratchet-and-pawl mechanism which enables the wheel to spin when freewheeling and engage the transmission when pedaling. Bigger pawls will deal better with more torque (downhill/enduro) while on the opposite end finer pawls will result in a faster engagement and better power delivery (cross-country).

Some freehubs, like those from DT Swiss and Chris King use a ratchet system rather than pawls, which provides more simultaneous points of engagement.

The need to continually improve front and rear-end stiffness has led to the introduction of thicker, more stable thru-axles that bolt directly into the fork and drop-outs. Most newer bikes offer wider ‘Boost’ axle spacing, which uses a 110x15mm front axle with a 148x12mm rear thru-axle for added levels of stiffness.

Paul Brett
Staff writer

Based in Edinburgh, Paul Brett is a staff writer for BikePerfect.com. He has been an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, initially catching the mountain biking bug in the 1990s, and raced mountain bikes for over a decade before injury cut short a glittering career. He’s since developed an obsession for gravel riding and recently has dabbled in the dark art of cyclocross. A fan of the idea of bikepacking he has occasionally got involved and has ridden routes like the North Coast 500, Scotland and the Via Francigena (Pilgrim Route), Italy.


An award-winning photographer, when not riding a bike, he can be found at the side of a cyclocross track or a downhill mountain bike world championship shooting the action. Paul has been the founder, editor and senior writer for Proper Cycling magazine that has seen him travel the world interviewing some of the biggest names in mountain biking and writing about some of the biggest cycling brands.


Rides: Scott Spark RC Team Issue, Bergamont Grandurance Elite, Standert Kreissäge Team Edition


Height: 176cm


Weight: 85kg

With contributions from