The Mag in mag wheels stands for magnesium. Magnesium wheels used to be popular as they are lightweight and look awesome on the right type of bike.
The design has since caught on, but you generally find that the modern “mag” wheels are made of aluminum, alloy, or carbon-fiber (as these materials are more robust and hard-wearing than magnesium).
So what are mag wheels?
Other than the material, mag wheels can be spotted from a mile away. They do not have the classic 20+ metal spokes that more traditional bike wheels have. They usually have 3 to 5 solid spokes. The spokes are a lot thicker than on conventional metal bicycle wheels.
This provides plenty of support for the rider and means that the wheels are very resilient to the lumps and bumps in the road. One of the major advantages of having mag style wheels is that they are always true. However, if they are ever bent by an impact, you can never true them again.
Due to their more robust construction, you never need to worry about the wheel becoming unaligned and affecting your cycling performance.
Downsides of Mag wheels?
However, with the increased strength and low maintenance come some disadvantages. Because they are more firm and a lot less flexible than traditional bike wheels, they are a lot more firm to ride.
This means that you feel all the contours of the road, and the wheels do not work with you to help soften the blow. Some also say that it can also impact how easy your bike is to control because the wheels are so inflexible.
Are mag wheels more aerodynamic?
There are mixed reviews as to whether mag wheels are actually more aerodynamic than classic wheels.
If you get lightweight (ideally carbon-fiber) versions, then you may notice an increase in performance.
Although these have a hefty price tag and should only really be bought if you are looking for marginal gains and are taking part in a serious time trial or triathlon.
Why do some cheap bikes have mag wheels?
We just talked about how mag wheels tend to be extremely expensive. However you probably have notices some bikes at Walmart that have mag wheels installed onto them. What is that about?
Lower end bikes tend to rely on flash to get consumers to buy them, and in those cases mag wheels look extremely cool, and expensive.
While I would recommend getting a standard wheel set on a lower end bike, if having mag wheels gets someone into riding a bicycle, then that is awesome!
Do you need mag wheels for your bike?
The consensus is that you get better performance and durability out of traditional multi spoked wheels. However, there is no denying that mag wheels do look fantastic and fit perfectly with a single-speed or city bike aesthetic.
So if you are prioritizing style and low maintenance over performance, they are worth looking into.
Mag wheels are extremely cool looking, and in some cases a great choice for many people! When you don’t have any impacts, they are low maintenance and are always true.
They also have been shown to possibly be more aerodynamic.
If you have no problem paying the hefty price tag, they can be a great option.