Alloy Rim Roundup

For a few years we’ve been publishing what we consider to be the definitive hub reviews. Now we feel it’s time to tackle the rims and spokes that go into making a complete wheel. For now we’ll just be looking at rims: clincher alloy 700c rims, in fact.

One thing that made our hub review so successful was the presentation of different viewpoints by having the article be written by more than one person. We are going to continue on with that theme, this time with wheel builder Eric Gottesman from Ergott wheels. I consider Eric to be one of the best wheel builders working in the U.S. and am honored to have him writing this article with me. Eric has been building custom wheels for more than 12 years, giving the two of us a combined experience of more than 30 years.

Unfortunately, due to the staggering number of rim options, we just can’t cover every rim on the market. So we are limiting this review to 15 of the most popular rims, including selections from DT Swiss, H+Son, Hed, Kinlin, Mavic, Pacenti, Velocity, Stans, and Zipp.

Weight: As measured by us using an averaged weight from multiple rims.

Price: The given price is suggested U.S. retail

Dimensions: All dimensions are measured by us not using claimed specs by manufacturers. Depth, width and internal width are all rounded to the nearest 0.5mm

Some notes on tubeless: On the mtb side of wheels there is UST, a simple tubeless standard that let’s you know what is easily compatible. Road wheels lack this standard. There are multiple standards from different companies each with different meanings. Tubeless, tubeless ready, tubeless friendly and tubeless compatible. Basically what this means is that any of these rims are designed with tubeless in mind, but they are not claiming any specific compatibility with specific tubeless tires and pressures. Personally I think that until there is a universal standard any of the tubeless standards can be thought of as being easier to convert from tubed to tubeless but offers no universal guarantees. They may or may not work with certain tires and at certain pressures. Typically the main but not only component of a tubeless system will be a raised bead lock where the tire snaps into place when at pressure. This should allow the tire to remain in place even if pressure is let out.

Aluminum alloy vs Carbon: It’s important to note that when we discuss carbon rims, we refer to high quality rims such as Enve or Zipp. We are specifically not talking about unbranded wheels sold online under different names, as those are all over the spectrum from some quite nice ones to some which I’d consider dangerous to ride.

When considering a custom wheel build, one of the most critical decisions is the choice of rim material. While the intended application will have a large impact on this decision, there are other equally important considerations.

The intended use of a wheel set may well make the definitive decision on the material of choice. Is the wheel set used for recreational riding, training, racing, or combination of these? For recreationalists, any quality of the wheel set (or any component, for that matter) that improves the riding experience is highly desirable. Generally, you get what you pay for, so budget will largely define the choices for these riders. In the case of cyclists desiring high-mileage training wheels, strength, durability, and affordability are generally the important considerations. Conversely, a low mileage, race-day only wheel set may make some major concessions in durability and/or affordability in order to achieve superior performance. Of course, the type or types of races that a wheel set is intended for will define its specific characteristics. To make some very broad generalizations, aluminum tends to be an excellent choice for inexpensive, heavy-use wheel sets, while carbon rims are more often used in race applications and situations where maximum performance or a superior ride experience is desired.

For all but the most enviable cyclists, budget can be a major roadblock to building that most ideal wheel set. A good quality carbon wheel set will generally rival its aluminum counterparts in performance through increased strength and stiffness, and generally lighter weight, but with a cost penalty of in the range of $1,000-2,000. For those who can afford the expense of a quality carbon rim set, another important question to ask is “Can you afford to replace them?” A rim is essentially a wearable component. The braking track on a rim has a definite lifespan, largely defined by the conditions in which it is ridden. In dry conditions, rims can last many, many years, even under heavy use. But in wet environments, rims experience increased abrasion with the brake pads and accelerated wear that can put a wheel out of commission in just a few seasons. And there always looms the possibility of impact, whether through crashing or impact with road debris. The cost of a dented aluminum rim pales in comparison to the price tag attached to its quality carbon counterpart, even with some companies’ generous crash replacement programs.

Traditionally alloy rims offered better and more consistent braking response particularly in wet environments. However recent innovations in carbon rims have done a lot to close this gap so a high quality carbon rim may now offer the same braking performance as a high quality alloy. It should be noted that this varies greatly, as a poor quality carbon rim can have extremely poor quality brake performance.

Rim width: A current trend among rim manufacturers is to move the internal and external widths of their rims towards wider dimensions. A wider rim changes the shape of the tire on the rim and allows for more air volume. More air volume can, but does not necessarily lead to improved ride quality. What it does do is allow for running lower pressures with decreased chance of pinch flats. We typically recommend running 10 psi lower pressure in wider rims with tubes. Wider rims can also provide a stiffer starting point for a wheel build allowing for use of fewer spokes. Many will argue that a wider rim also produces a more aero setup. However we don’t fully agree with this. A wider rim gives the possibility for a more aero and more stable setup with deeper rims, but with shallow 30mm rims we’ve seen no evidence that this is correct. For example one of the widest rims in the test, the Zipp 101 has been tested by Tour magazine and while it has produced very respectable drag numbers, other rims with lower and narrower profiles have produced even better results. Like with all things there are tradeoffs and wider rims do have some. The biggest drawback to wider rims is that they come at a weight penalty over narrower rims. They may have compatibility issues with some brake setups, and they also tend to be the more expensive option.

Asymmetric rims: While we are not specifically featuring any offset rims in the review, some of them are, or soon will be available with offset. Offset rims are an attempt to gain back some of the dimensional losses of wider freehub bodies that have been adopted over the years. Without regard to any of the rims in this review, in the past we’ve found that asymmetric rims have tended to have higher failure rates unless the rim is reinforced and weight added to the extrusion. Perhaps a better choice to gain back some of the tension ratio is to use a heavier gauge drive side spoke compared to the non drive side.

Now onto the Results

*You’re viewing a truncated table since we can’t fit all the data on a cell phone screen. To see all six columns please re-visit our site on a tablet, desktop or laptop.
Rim Weight Inner Width
DT 415 421 15
DT 440 453 16.5
H+ Archetype 472 17
H+ TB14 505 17.5
Hed C2 458 17.5
Kinlin XC279 498 17
Kinlin XR19W 396 15
Kinlin XR270 451 14
Kinlin XR300 466 13.5
Mavic Open Pro 447 15
Pacenti SL23 449 18
Stans Alpha 340 389 17
Velocity A23 452 17.5
Zipp 101 536 17.5

Our Thoughts on Each Rim

DT RR415

Thoughts: A fairly traditional boxier section rim that should appeal to those seeking a classic look. The rim builds nice and even with good quality alloy. Like with many DT components this one seeks a balance of characteristics rather than trying to excel in any one area. The rim is light, well made, has good braking performance and a middle of the road priced, but with a decrease in stiffness. It is limited in drillings to only 28 and 32.

Eric: What I like about DT more than Kinlin is the alloy is better. The Kinlin rim is softer and more prone to wear. DT rims are more round out of the box and build up with more even tension and more true. Spoke count limits this to a more “classic build”. Looks great on most bikes, but out of place on a Specialized Venge or Cervelo S5.

  • Weight: 421 Grams
  • Price: $85
  • Depth: 21mm
  • Width: 19.5mm
  • Internal Width: 15mm
  • Drillings: 28, 32
  • Colors: black, grey.

DT RR440

Thoughts: A better all around option from DT than the RR415. It has the same build quality as the 415, but the 440 finds itself being wider both internally and externally. It’s stiffer which allows it a wider range of uses as well as lower drillings. Like the 415 it has a nice brake surface and a nice price.

Eric: Nice rim and DT rim quality has always been great. I typically recommend the XR-270, but know that braking performance of the DT rim is better.

  • Weight: 453 grams.
  • Price: $80
  • Depth: 21mm
  • Width: 21mm
  • Internal Width: 16.5mm
  • Drillings: 20, 24, 28, 32
  • Colors: Black
  • Note: Available as an Asymmetric rim.

H+Son Archetype

Thoughts: This is one of my favorite rims. Wide internal and external dimensions with a good 25mm depth, decent weight, decent price and good overall stiffness, make this an ideal everyday, any condition rider. The overall build and material quality is very high. Available in plenty of drillings and several finishes. I don’t like the black version of this rim because it’s anodized brake track does not hold up well to wear and it begins to look poor rather quickly. However the hard anodized version which is more of a grey finish holds up quite well. The hard ano also has more of a carbon rim look which may not appeal to everyone, but does appeal to me.

Eric: This rim is on my short list and with better distribution channels will be a good option to have. The hard anodizing surface is polarizing. Some people love the look of a well used set of anodized rims, others think it looks bad. With disc brake bikes becoming more popular for road/cross bikes, this problem is eliminated and the wheels will continue to have black sidewalls for the life of them.

  • Weight: 472 grams.
  • Price: $80-$90 (depending on finish)
  • Depth: 25mm
  • Width: 23mm
  • Internal width: 17mm
  • Drillings: 20, 24, 28, 32, 36
  • Colors: Black, Hard Ano, Silver.

H+Son TB14

Thoughts: Old school classic look mixed with modern technology. It features a basic shape that looks like an old school classic, but with wider modern dimensions and quality. Nice machined brake tracks, welded seam and double eyelets. It’s one of the heavier rims, but builds a super strong everyday, every terrain wheelset. A great modern choice for pave. The valve hole badge is also a nice touch lending to the classic look.

Eric: The polished finish is great for someone that wants to make a modern, classic.

  • Weight: 505 grams
  • Price: $80-$90 (depending on finish)
  • Depth: 14mm
  • Width: 23mm
  • Internal width: 17.5mm
  • Drillings: 28, 32, 36
  • Colors: Black, hard anodized, silver.

Hed Belgium C2

Thoughts: One of the first wide rims on the market, and superb build quality, in the past, gave them a leg up on a lot of others. However in the last year Hed seems to be discouraging sales of their rims and others have come out with competing rims at equal quality for better prices, which has leveled the field. The Hed rim has a great all around shape and consistent extrusions lead to more even spoke tension in builds. It also has a really nice bead blasted finish with reflective logos, but this may not offset the price, drilling and availability issues.

Eric: Similar thoughts. I loved working with this rim, but Hed has made it all but impossible to deal with. I’ve had wait times of a week and wait times of several months. They won’t sell any drilling less than 24 anymore purposefully limiting the choices to make their builds more attractive. Luckily, the void they left has been filled with choices that I think are as good or even better.

  • Weight: 458 grams.
  • Price: $130
  • Depth: 24mm
  • Width: 23mm
  • Internal width: 17.5mm
  • Drillings: 24, 28, 32
  • Colors: Black

Kinlin XR-19W

Thoughts: One of the lightest and least expensive rims in the review makes this an ideal choice for weight conscious, budget oriented builds. The XR19W has single eyelets and a classic shape concentrating more on light weight. We’d typically not recommend a 20/24 version of rim be built for riders over 150 pounds, but at 24/28 we find it works quite well for riders at 180 pounds. Of all the superlight clinchers this one is often my first choice.

Eric: I like this rim, but you have to be careful in choosing the right application. It’s better with a higher spoke count. Once you up the spoke count, you get closer to the territory of other options. I usually figure on 4 more spokes per wheel than I would with the wider rims in the 450g range. The are best suited for wheel projects that are trying to reach a target weight.

  • Weight: 396 grams
  • Price: $45
  • Depth: 21mm
  • Width: 19.5mm
  • Internal width: 15mm
  • Drillings: 20, 24, 28, 32
  • Colors: Black, silver.

Kinlin XR-270

Thoughts: This is probably one of the most popular aftermarket rims in the U.S. and with good reason. It’s got a decent weight, good price, great stiffness and good longevity. It’s available in wide range of drillings and a wide range of colors and works well for riders of all sizes. If it has a weak point it is that the brake track produces less consistent braking than some of the other rims.

Eric: Usually a better option than the XR-300 due to similar dimensions, but more round and even tension when built up. It’s a great “bang for the buck” rim that does a lot of things well, but nothing spectacular.

  • Weight: 451 grams
  • Price: $45
  • Depth: 27mm
  • Width: 19.5mm
  • Internal width: 14 mm
  • Drillings: 18, 20, 24, 28, 32
  • Colors: Black, blue, gold, green, pink, red, silver, white.

Kinlin XC-279

Thoughts: Similar in shape and dimension to the Hed, and at a big price savings, but with a penalty in the weight department. This rim builds a really nice round wheel with consistently even spoke tension. Stiffness and strength are both high on this rim which makes it a good choice for everyday riders of all sizes. This rim seems to exhibit better brake track characteristics than other Kinlin rims. Available in a wide range of drillings this really doesn’t give up anything on other wide rims. It is heavier than some other wide rims, but at 28mm it’s also deeper.

Eric: The smart ride will choose this rim over the rest of the Kinlin line. It will be more aerodynamic and have the wider rim advantages shared by other 23mm rims. The weigh allows me more confidence when recommending lower spoke counts to riders with more power/weight.

  • Weight: 498 grams
  • Price: $60
  • Depth: 28mm
  • Width: 23mm
  • Internal width: 17mm
  • Drillings: 20, 24, 28, 32
  • Colors: Black, silver.

Kinlin XR-300

Thoughts: The predecessor to the XR270, this rim is a nice rim but seems to be giving up to it’s competitors particularly the 270. The 300 has an old school deep v look and at 30mm it’s one of the deepest rims in the review. Over the last year or two we’ve begun to chose the slightly shallower 270 over the 300 most times due to more balanced characteristics. The 300 is still a good choice for a rider looking to build a bombproof training wheel.

Eric: I agree. Unless I’m replacing an older build and I’m matching rims, I recommend the XR-270 every time over this rim. The 27mm is a little wider which probably makes it more aerodynamic anyway and it’s lighter to boot.

  • Weight: 466 grams
  • Price: $50
  • Depth: 30mm
  • Width: 18mm
  • Internal width: 13.5
  • Drillings: 16, 18, 20, 24, 28, 32
  • Colors: Black, blue, gold, green, pink, red, silver, white.

Mavic Open Pro

Thoughts: The old guard. The Open Pro has been around for a long time and seen very few updates during those years. It’s typically not a rim we choose to build on as we think there are plenty of better options but decided to include it in this review for comparison sake. The Mavic does have a nice brake surface and a good classic look with eyelets. However it seems to be a bit more prone to cracking over time than some of the other more modern rims.

Eric: Nice rim when it was more widely used. The later rims I worked with weren’t as round and consistent. Lots of complaints about rattling slag by the joint. People have resorted to inserting foam into a small hole by the joint to stop the rattle since the pieces have no way of being removed. Eyelets have been known to loosen up and make noise as well. I’m not really sure why Mavic even makes these rims anymore. They are clearly interested in selling wheels, not rims.

  • Weight: 447 grams
  • Price: $65-$80 (depending on finish)
  • Depth: 19mm
  • Width: 20mm
  • Internal width: 15mm
  • Drillings: 32
  • Colors: Black, hard anodized, silver.

Pacenti SL23

Thoughts: In the interest in transparency in our reviews I think it’s important to say we contributed to the design of this rim, producing what we feel is the most balanced rim on the market. The SL23 is claimed at 23mm wide but we measure it closer to 24mm. It also has the widest internal width of all the rims in the review. Overall a shape similar to the Hed, but with a better price, better weight, wider width and full range of drillings we think this will be one of the most popular aftermarket rims for the coming year. The rim also has a heavily machined brake surface that provides smooth, consistent braking, and a wear indicator. The SL23 is also listed as tubeless friendly, having been tested as tubeless with wider and lower pressure tires we feel this rim will be a great choice for cx riders looking to go tubeless at low pressure.

Eric: I’ve been riding a pre-production rim for a while now and I’ve had no issues. It’s a new rim on the market, but very well designed and I have a good feeling it will test more aero than any other rim only option here. My Michelin 23mm tires are exactly as wide as the rim so there is a very smooth transition from tire to brake track. The Micheline Pro 4 25mm measures a plump 27mm on this rim.. At 80-85psi you are really threatening the ride quality of even the better tubular wheel/tire combinations out there. This will be my really bad road/gravel setup for the road bike.

  • Weight: 449 grams.
  • Price: $98
  • Depth: 26mm
  • Width: 24mm
  • Internal width: 18mm
  • Drillings: 20, 24, 28, 32
  • Colors: Black

Stans 340

Thoughts: We were not a fan of version 1 of the 340 having seen lots of issues with it which we feel Stans was slow to respond to. However we have to say the newer and heavier version 2 seems to be a good improvement. Not considered a wide rim by external dimensions, the internal dimension does indeed fall into the wide rim category making it a unique balance. We have found Stans to have a less than stellar warranty and customer service so that is something to consider. This rim is listed as tubeless and it has been successfully used as such, it is also important to note that there have been reports of tires coming off of the rim(both in tubeless and tubed versions). Most of these reports seem to be version 1, but a couple have claimed this with version 2.

Eric: They are more expensive than the XR-19, but the dimensions are better, the alloy is better and the rims are more straight and true to begin with. If someone is trying build up a set of premium hubs out there from the likes of Tune, Alchemy, White Industries or Chris King, I think the additional cost is money well spent over the life of the wheels. If the rims are being used in the wet, consider that they have less brake track and will wear out faster than some other rims.

  • Weight: 389 grams
  • Price: $120
  • Depth: 23mm
  • Width: 20mm
  • Internal width: 17mm
  • Drillings: 18, 20, 24, 28, 32
  • Colors: Black

Velocity A23


Thoughts: Overall a decent rim with good dimensions, but lacking in the stiffness department. Good internal and external widths. If you want a wide rim with a low weight this is a good choice but it does come with the trade off in the stiffness compared to other wide rims and typically should be considered in higher spoke counts. Available in plenty of drillings and plenty of colors.

Eric: I wish I didn’t have to clean out the rims before building them. They always have some shavings in them from drilling the spoke holes. Minor inconvenience, but worth noting. Velocity is working on having anodizing done in-house. Until then, anodized rim inventory is spotty and the wait time is unpredictable. They do build up okay. Once out on the road they should give lots of trouble free miles. I do think they are one tier down from the quality I get from DT, Hed, Pacenti and H+Son. The price has slowly been creeping up there into the elite rim category.

  • Weight: 452 grams
  • Price: $80
  • Depth: 19mm
  • Width: 23mm
  • Internal width: 17.5
  • Drillings: 20, 24, 28, 32, 36
  • Colors: Black, blue, green, orange, purple, red, silver

Zipp 101

Thoughts: Not available as an aftermarket rim on it’s own the Zipp 101 was included for comparison sake. This is the deepest of the wide rims but also the heaviest of any rim in the review, by a good margin. The 101 is a stout rim that builds up nicely and it has a lot “coolness factor” It’s the only toroidal shaped rim in the review which is claimed to improve aerodynamics but in these depths we doubt the difference is substantial. If purchased as a replacement rim for a set of 101’s the rim will set you back quite a bit. My opinion is that this is the crossover where one should consider carbon alternatives.

Eric: I would have thought that Zipp would have made this rim significantly lighter, but they chose a low spoke count instead (18f 20r for stock build) and set the rider weight limit at 250lbs. This is a poor choice as a result. They could have knocked 50g off the rims and made the spoke count 20/24 with a stallion option of 20/28 and had a better offering for their wheel lineup.

  • Weight: 536 grams
  • Price: $160
  • Depth: 30mm
  • Width: 24mm
  • Internal Width: 17.5mm
  • Drillings: 18, 20, 24
  • Colors: Black

In Summary

We realize that we’ve not covered every aspect of rim design nor have we gone too in depth into the qualities and drawbacks of each rim. We do however feel that this should provide a solid foundation for helping you to choose a rim which best fits your own personal needs. Mixed with our previous hub reviews, 11 speed conversion review, and future spoke review we feel that you should be well informed about the basic differences in components that go into making an ideal custom wheel.

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