Carbon wheels not only make your bike look the part, but make your bike go faster.

The big drawback with these amazing wheels are the price, they are not cheap and can cost as much as your bike. This can take you down the second-hand route, searching on the internet looking for the ultimate bargain. The problem with this is knowing the history of the wheels, if they have been raced, ridden a lot in the rain or generally abused.

In the past, carbon wheels were just used for racing, but now the trend is that they’re ridden all the time.

Buying second-hand wheels online without seeing the wheel in person can be a problem. If you’re going to buy second-hand the best option is to inspect the wheels yourself, if this is not possible, then you can get the seller to film the wheels spinning, obviously this is not as good as physically seeing it for yourself, but an option where the seller can send you a video clip via an app like Whatsapp could be worthwhile and make sure your money is well spent.

If you’re buying from friends or members in your club then that’s great, as you will know most of the history of the wheels and the condition they are in and you will be allowed to have a thorough look over.

What to look for when buying second-hand wheels

Carbon breaking surface and rim

First things first, start by checking for wear on the braking surface. This can change in colour or fade in parts, and also the levels on the surface can change (a tip here is to run your finger along the brake surface slowly, and feel for an uneven surface). After doing that check over the whole rim for an kind of damage or shape change, this could be a break down in carbon, causing the wheel to be weak and could brake when the wheel gets hot.

See pictures of new braking surface and a worn braking surface.

If you see where the brake pad has left a mark in one or more places on the rim this can mean the wheel may not be true (i.e. it’s buckled). This just means that the brake pad is not braking on the wheel all the way around due to the wheel being not true.

Check the wheel is true (not buckled)

Spin the wheel placing both hands on skewers. Check if the wheel is running true by looking down the wheel as it’s spinning (this can be fixed at your local cycle shop by adjusting spokes).

Important – check spokes for any damage or corrosion, which could have caused buckle. If the wheel has a jump in it (not a complete circle) this is not so easily cured. Make sure it’s the rim jumping, not the tyre.

Free wheel and bearing


Also by spinning wheels you can check bearings.

Holding wheel again on the skewers and feeling the cups on the wheel are running freely, not gritty. Feel and listen.

Free wheel

Spin the back wheel away from you while holding the Buyers guide to Second hand carbon cycle wheels - 1 bearingscassette in your right hand. The wheel should spin freely with cassette not moving, If it doesn’t spin freely then the wheel will needs looking at. A tip here is to take deposable gloves with you.


There is so much force going through a wheel, with braking, cornering and high speed so it is vital to avoid a faulty wheel as they can be extremely dangerous especially while descending or riding in a bunch. It always pays to be cautious when buying second-hand if you don’t know the history of the wheels.