XCO/XCM MTB Internal Rim Widths (Science Asks Wider Better?)

XCO and XCM internal rim widths have been increasing over the past years from 20mm being the norm years back, to the last few years 25mm being the sweet spot. Now 30mm is trending and Nino most recently won the Cape Epic 2019 on 30mm internal rims with tire inserts. So what does science say and is wider better? I guess it always depends and there are so many variables depending on tire choice, tire pressures, trail roughness and trail conditions.


The rim width of cross-country mountain bike wheel sets has increased in recent years, but the effect of this increase on performance remains unknown. The aim of this study was to analyse the influence of rim width on rolling resistance and off-road speed. We compared 3 tubeless wheel sets: 25 mm inner width as baseline, 30 mm width with the same tyre stiffness, and 30 mm width with the same tyre pressure. Three riders conducted 75 rolling resistance tests for each wheel set on a cross-country course. We determined rolling resistance using the virtual elevation method and calculated off-road speeds for flat and uphill conditions using a mathematical model. Baseline rolling resistance ( C r) was 0.0298, 90% CI [0.0286, 0.0310], which decreased by 1.4%, [0.7, 2.2] with the wider rim and the same tyre stiffness and increased by 0.9%, [0.1, 1.6] with the wider rim and the same tyre pressure. The corresponding effects on off-road speed were most likely trivial (0.0% to 0.7% faster and 0.1% to 0.6% slower, respectively). Because the effect of rim width on off-road speed seems negligible, athletes should choose the rim width that offers the best bike handling and should experiment with low tyre pressures.

Personally I run 24mm inner width on 2.35 and 2.25 tires. It seems to put the corner knobs in the right spot.

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