How to Measure Wheel Size on Your Bike

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If you spend any amount of time around cyclists whether in person or online then you know that one of the most discussed topics is how to measure the wheel size of their bike. Of course, old hands at this discuss it very casually because they have enough experience to know what you need to do the measurements, but newbie bikers can find it very frustrating in the beginning.

If the latter sounds like you, then it’s worth it to stick around as we’ll be covering the topic of how to determine bike wheel size at length in the following guide.

Note that bike wheel measurements need to be very concise, taking into account the fact that there are only a few inches standing between each bike wheel from the other.

How to Measure Bike Wheel Size

When you want to measure bicycle wheel size it’s important to look for certain numbers that are written either at the back or the front of the rim or wheel. These numbers will look something like this: “29” X “2.2”. the actual values might be different but they are usually written in that particular succession.

This basically means that the bike wheels measure 29 inches and the thickness of the tire is 2.2 inches. This is the simplest and most straightforward way to find out how large your bike wheels are because the numbers are straight in front of you.

But, if you have one of your wheels where these numbers aren’t displayed as clearly, then you should take matters into your hands and measure them yourself.

The first step in learning how to measure wheel size is to hold your bike really still. If you’re in the middle of nowhere then you might want to ask someone to hold it in place for you or lean it against a wall if that’s available to you.

You’ll need to put a yardstick on the tire’s edge before measuring the whole length of the tire. This will make it that much easier for you to attach it to the wheel properly and measure the entire length of the wheel.

Check the opposite part of the yardstick to see what the measurements are. Ideally, the number you get should be between 26 inches and 29 inches, and anything in between.

Why Are Bike Wheel Measurements Important?

Sure, you want to learn how to measure a bike wheel but have you asked yourself why this is important? Because wheels come in different sizes and you can’t just eyeball their size though.

Plus, if you’re going to ride your bike up a mountain or any other challenging trail, then you want it to be the correct size otherwise you won’t have much of a positive experience.

That’s because your bike wheel size plays a huge role in determining your bike’s rolling resistance and the larger your bike wheels are, the easier it is for them to tackle large obstacles.

Keep in mind that whenever your bike comes across obstacles on the road, its stability is affected, and this in turn affects your ability to control it and the speed at which it’s going. You’ll find that things can get even more intense when going uphill or down a steep slope.

Basically, the principles being employed here are the same ones that are responsible for the mechanisms utilized by monster trucks when tackling rough terrain. After all, you wouldn’t take a small city sedan off the road, would you?

Top 3 Wheel Sizes for Mountain Bikes

As you learn how to measure bike wheel size, you’ll notice that most mountain bikes come with wheels that measure 26 inches, 27.5 inches, or 29 inches.

That’s because these wheel sizes have been tested and shown to offer the best riding experience when tackling difficult terrain and wheel size can also affect the rider’s position and style.

26-Inch Wheels

In the beginning, all mountain bikes came with 26-inch wheels. These bikes were much smaller than most of the ones on the market now with 27.5 and 29-inch wheels but they offered better agility as well.

Mountain bikes that are fitted with 26-inch wheels are also easier to accelerate compared to bikes with larger wheels and make for a fantastic ride if you want to go really fast through a challenging trail with multiple twists and turns.

You’ll find that it’s much easier to navigate through obstacles with them as well but they can also make life harder due to bringing the bike’s handlebars closer to the saddle. This means that you must spend more energy to maintain your balance. But, on the other hand, this also makes the bike more responsive and agile.

But, if the advantages aren’t worth the downsides then you’ll probably end up joining hordes of mountain bikers who choose to opt for larger wheels in the long run for a smoother riding experience. That said, 26-inch wheels are still fantastic when it comes to jumping through mud and dirt.

27.5-Inch Wheels 

As you can imagine, these wheels offer a middle ground between the smaller 26-inch wheels and large 29-inch wheels.

Bike wheels that measure 27.5 inches are commonly referred to as 650B and they offer a smooth and balanced riding experience when compared to both other options.

They also make it that much easier for you to handle your bike and have been found to offer better durability than 29-inch wheels.

What makes 27.5-inch wheels so unique is the fact that they offer a much more comfortable ride due to the level of agility that they provide. In that sense, they really do offer the best of both worlds.

29-Inch Wheels 

Mountain bikes with larger wheels are lauded by avid MTB enthusiasts due to their ability to easily make light of large obstacles and rugged terrain.

However, most mountain bikes that come with 29-inch wheels are necessarily longer in length because they’re designed to handle the sheer size of the wheels while keeping the bike steady.

But, they do require you as a bike rider to maintain a certain position while sitting on the bike, and you need to have a certain level of confidence with regards to your ability to control your bike on 29-inch wheels.

Large, 29-inch wheels are also more likely to slow you down on the road because they add more weight to the bike. They can also cause unnecessary rigidity on the bike which is not surprising, but they will surely come in handy when roughing it on that mountain trail.

Conclusion

That’s how to measure bike wheels in inches and other metrics so that you can determine the best wheel size for your bike.

Whether you’re researching new bike wheels to replace the old ones on your bike or you want to figure out what size wheels are suitable for your particular application, knowing how to measure wheel size can be a very valuable skill that will come in handy multiple times during your cycling career.

Hope this guide has been helpful and happy riding out there!

James Mattis

James is a passionate bicyclist who has done about every kind of biking there is. He loves the wind in his hair, the sun over his shoulder and maybe even the bugs in his teeth. No, just kidding about that last item. He isn’t crazy about road burns, either, but acknowledges that to have the good there is the occasional tumble. James feels that his bike is the place where he can unwind, leave troubles alongside the road, meet new people, go new places, and live the life of adventure that he loves. He is ready to share the ride with you.

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