Are rim brake carbon wheels a good investment?

I’m tempted to buy a new wheelset. I’d like to get aero wheels for my CAAD10 and pass down the HED Belgium Plus wheels to my commuter which has old, narrow rims. In particular Reynolds seems to have some good offerings for rim brake carbon. However, I have two concerns - how does braking compare on rim brake carbon to disc brake carbon? Obviously disc brakes are better but its unclear to me how big the difference is and how much it matters. Second concern - is rim wear a concern with rim brake carbon wheels?

Oh, by ‘good investment’ I’m asking if they’re durable. I’d like to get at least 5-10 years out of a nice carbon wheelset. For reference, the HED Belgium Plus wheels I’ve been riding look like they’ll last a good long time - I think I have about 5,000 on them and they’re showing little wear.

i have had zipps 808 rim brakes for 7+ years and no issues. Just be careful on brake pads to use the correct ones so no little piece of aluminum scrape my carbon rims. It’s for my tribike where i’m not supposed to brake much i.e. only once on an out and back 180 km right ? :laughing:

Disks brake much better. So i’m careful when i swap bikes to relearn braking distances.

1 Like

Personally, I would not buy new rim brake wheels, but used ones: a lot of people are switching to disc brake road bikes and have to sell their wheels. Keep your bike for a few more years and then sell it before it becomes completely worthless.

If you get rim brake rims, you need special brake pads, very often a specific kind recommended/supplied by the wheel manufacturer. But even with those, braking performance in the wet will be much worse than on disc brakes. On disc brakes, braking performance in the wet is not limited by the brake, it will be limited by tire grip.

On rim brake rims, braking performance may be severely hampered in the wet. By how much depends on the rim and the brake pads you use. But universally, braking performance is compromised in the wet.

On rim brake bikes, the brake track is a wear item. So in principle it is a concern, especially if you ride and brake a lot. In contrast on disc brake bikes the rotors can be replaced for very little without replacing the entire wheel. Wheel and/or rim brake pad failures are rare, but do happen, especially in demanding environments like mountains.

That one is easy: how old is your bike? How long do you intend to use it? If the difference is <5 years, then by your definition the answer is no. A CAAD10 is already quite a few years old, so I’d plan my investments carefully.


Braking sucks when wet but you get used to it. I’ve been riding carbon rims exclusively for 4 years now and it’s not a problem in any way.

Brake track wear is practically non-existant if you use the correct (soft) pads. My 4 year old wheels show no wear at all. Carbon clinchers built today are a lot better than they were 10 years ago. Resins are higher temperature than they used to be.


I looks like I could pick up some reynolds wheels for about $1300 new or I could pick up some used ENVE SES 3.4’s for a couple hundred more. I’m kind of tempted to get the ENVEs.

1 Like

The Enve’s are nice, and at least the one my buddy has have a “singing brake track”, which I personally like. (The pattern on the rim’s brake track is such that it makes a distinct humming sound, with the frequency depending on the wheel speed.)

I use a set of Reynolds 58’s as my every day wheel set - I use the Reynold blue brake pads and in everything but wet weather I don’t really notice the difference from aluminum brake tracks.

They are 24 round spokes front and rear, and are still super true, and I am not a light weight rider. I think I would only spring for an upgrade if it was for bladed spokes, but even then, for daily drivers these work great.

In the wet the braking sucks, but as AJS914 said you get used to it. Two years on my current wheels and the brake track show little/no wear. I will ride aluminum wheels in the early spring and late fall when the roads get really gritty and generally wet.

1 Like

Let me add one footnote: when you change between aluminum and carbon wheels, you will also need to change your brake pads.

As @AJS914 mentioned, brake pads for carbon rims are softer and conversely, brake pads for aluminum rims are harder. Using brake pads for aluminum rims can cause premature wear and substandard braking performance. I reckon brake pads for carbon rims will just wear much faster if used on aluminum rims.

good call out OC - this is true I switch over the brake pads as well

You also don’t want aluminum particles contaminating your carbon brake pads

1 Like

Yes, would definitely change my brake pads.

Also, I don’t plan to use these wheels in the rain, or at least rarely. My commuter bike is a steel road bike with fenders.

1 Like

My summer wheels for a while were Swisside Hadrons (carbon wheels but with an aluminium rim). I used them in the UK summer, so not 100% dry and a few very wet European sportives (LBL and the 312). They are 2014 wheels I think and have saw a lot of miles before being transferred to a TT bike I built in 2016 at the end of that year I put a disc cover on another wheel and eventually bought a full disc wheel so only the front remains on to this day. As well as better breaking being able to quickly swap it out for another aluminium wheel for training in seconds is a bonus.

Ive a set of Envy 4.5 Gen 1 which are now ticking into their 7th year of use. I’ve always used the Enve recommended pads on them and swap out to alloys when hitting the mountains. They also don’t really get used when it’s wet (stopping also gets ‘interesting’ then as well), no visible wear on them.

I brought 2nd hand carbon wheels (shimano c60’s) - one of the reasons I went for them was the aluminium brake track. As for a good investment, well it killed any desire to upgrade my TCR Advanced anyway!

I would ask how much you like your current bike / how long do you see yourself holding on to it?

I bought a Ridley Helium SLX rim-brake frame a couple of years back as an upgrade over the Cinelli Saetta I had. I was torn about going for disc, but I had an SRAM Red rim-brake group and decent alloy wheels, so I figured it would be a stop gap for a couple of years at least. However the Helium SLX is so good I struggle to see what benefit I will get from spending 1000’s moving to a disc frame bike, and I have to remind myself when I get “latest-bike-tech-envy” that the rim brake Helium was winning TdF stages only a small number of years ago.

So I made the decision its a keeper and earlier this year I did indeed invest in a pair of new carbon clinchers for it… No brake rub, no hoses / fluid, no regrets, still enough braking power to lock up the wheels. I did swap back in the alloys for an alps trip but then aero wheels dont buy you much anyway, when you are either going uphill at 8mph or downhill at 40mph+ gravity assisted.


I would ask how much you like your current bike / how long do you see yourself holding on to it?

Overall I’m happy with it, I just want better wheels. I could see myself keeping it for quite a while with a new (to me) set of wheels. Just took me a bit to research and find the latest generation of rim brake carbon wheels.

Good investment - 100% not.

But you making you enjoy your riding more and your bike looking way cooler is priceless anyway.

1 Like

Just one thing: be realistic about how long you want to and can use your current bike. But if you ride a lot, $1,000–1,500 for a pair of quality wheels is a good investment even if you end up getting a new bike after 3 years or so. Also, don’t underestimate how much better new bikes are.

I’d say that in 5 years you can either only get a rim brake version of a really high-end groupset or something much more low-end like Tiagra. Although, by then Tiagra might be the new 105 …

If I were you, I would probably get the new wheels now and start saving for a new bike. :sunglasses:

PS To put this into context, I kept my previous mountain bike for almost 10 years. The frame of my current mountain bike is 8 years old, although the groupset and the fork are from 2018 and I put on a new saddle, new brakes and a new carbon handlebar this year. What killed my previous mountain bike were new standards and discontinuation of parts. No more 10-speed XT cassettes, etc. And upgrading would have cost me as much as a new bike.

Just one thing: be realistic about how long you want to and can use your current bike.

Part of me would like a new bike but its not realistic right now because I have adult responsibilities. (kids, house, etc) A big purchase like that takes some effort to justify.

If I were to get a new bike, I like either the CAAD13 (probably new) or the 3T Strada Due (used). Something a bit aero with disc brakes and wider tires. But those would only be marginally wider than what I’d run with rim brakes. Also, realistically it would cost me about $4-5k to get either of those bikes to where I’d want. $1.5k-ish for a wheel set seems more reasonable.

1 Like

I put a set of zipp 404s on my CAAD10, put 25mm tires on (I think it will clear 28’s), its great. I also couldn’t justify spending 4-5k on a new bike when the CAAD is still pretty decent. External cables and Rim brakes just aren’t that bad IMHO. Your question on braking performance, I also only ride my CAAD in the dry (have a rain bike), and I find braking performance is actually superior on the carbon clinchers than on my commuter with alloy wheels (probably has a lot to do with brake pad choice).

1 Like

Short answer: no.
Buy a disc brake bike. Rim brake is regressive technology now.

If you want a pair, just buy the Chinese ones on Amazon for $300.