One of the most common ways that manufacturers make sure their bikes hit price points is to spec them with cheaper wheels. It might seem mental but it does make sense. If you’re buying a high-end road bike, for example you might already have a set of lovely carbon wheels and if the bike your buying comes with another set you’ll end up paying four figures more than you want to just to get another set. It's an easy way to turn a two grand bike into a £1,300 bike, with the relative amount saved increasing as bike price increase/fanciness of the specced wheels changes.
So if you’re riding a set of stock wheels, then upgrading them to something lighter or more aerodynamic can make a noticeable difference to the way your bike rides. You don’t have to spend a fortune, either. Sure, if you have your sights set on something cutting edge aero and right at the top of the pile - like a set of DT Swiss ARC 1100 - then you’re looking at north of two grand, but there are plenty of more affordable options that will make a difference.
One of our personal favourite sets of wheels are the wonderful DT Swiss PR 1400 OXiC. These aren’t for the aero-obsessed, as they’re low profile alloy clinchers, but they’re light (under 1,450g per set), look fantastic and the OXiC treatment gives seriously good braking performance.
If you’re looking for an MTB upgrade, you won’t do better than DT Swiss’s XM1501 Spline One wheels. Given 5 stars by BikeRadar, these are wheels that are tough, lightweight and available in a whole variety of different width options.