Ask pretty much any cyclist what is the first part they would upgrade and 95% of the time wheels is the answer you get. On a new bike the supplied wheels are likely an item the manufacturer has compromised on to keep the overall price down.
There is of course the another age old debate here, handbuilt vs machine built. As per, both have their pros and cons that I'm happy to discuss. What is definite is that wheel building is an art where each individual part works with and compliments the other. A good or great wheel requires thought and understanding.
They will be either carbon or alloy, thats the easy bit. How the rim is constructed and what material is used are two aspects, but things like rim shape, dimensions and drilling patterns have a significant impact on how a wheel will perform.
Just a metal casing, an axle and some bearings right? In a simplistic form yes but what about bracing angles, bearing size/type, axle size, axle compatibility etc etc. To quote our favourite wheel builder "a well made/designed hub should outlast the rest of the wheel."
Carbon spokes are beginning to hit the market again, about a decade after some farily bad press with Mavic wheels. Obviously they have been around in the form of the hyper wheels from Lightweight and Reynolds but carbon isn't always the answer. Metal spokes, whether bladed, butted, double butted (or triple), are probably the right choice for long term performance and useability. Which spokes are the right choice for your next wheelset is slightly more complex.
What most road cylists are really interested to know is how much do they weigh and are they fast? Claimed weights are fairly easy to verify, however the true aeroness is never clear. Thankfully Bike Authority is in the know, if you want some new wheels to save you some watts then look no further than our "Contact Us" page. In the same vein if you are after light weight, for a specific discipline or just a bit of bling then we can point you in the right direction.