Bicycle Mag Wheels vs Spoke Wheel: Important Comparison

Are you debating between acquiring amag wheel or a spoke wheel? In this article, we define what is meant by mag wheels and its difference between alloy wheels and spoke wheels. We also examine the advantages and disadvantages of spoke wheels and alloys wheels.

Mag Wheels

Mag short for magnesium wheels were common in the past but have been replaced by alloy wheels. It is because magnesium has many issues from being lightweight and it is highly flammable and therefore catches fire easily. Magnesium wheels are therefore not recommended for street bicycles or any other type of wheel.

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Bicycle Mag Wheels vs Spoke Wheel

What Does Mag Mean in the Bicycle Wheel Industry?

In the bicycle industry, the reference to bicycle wheels as being mag wheels or alloy wheels has been incorrectly used since the 1960s. Cast aluminum wheels were referred to as mags while aluminum wheels were referred to as alloys. Sometimes mag wheels refer to a wheel that is not iron-alloy/steel while alloy means any wheel that is not crafted from iron alone.

About Alloy Wheels

Alloy is a combination of metals or a mixture of a metal with another element. It can be a combination of aluminum and magnesium or other metals or a metal and an element. Alloy wheels are made by casting and forging the metals or metal and other elements.

Alloys are more commonly used than spoke wheels and the majority of new wheels in the market today are alloys. What’s more, mass production has made alloys cheaper in comparison to spoke wheels.

Most importantly, manufacturers have come up with newer alloys that are as sturdy as spoke wheels.

Alloy wheels made with a combination of magnesium and aluminum are advantageous, they are stronger, they look better and have better heat conduction properties. They can also be repaired.

Advantages of Alloys over Spoke Wheels

Most sports bicycles have alloy wheels. The main idea of inventing alloys was to shed weight from conventional bicycles. Alloy wheels are lighter than spoke wheels which make them easier to manage on sports bicycles.

It is easier to accelerate with a lighter wheel than a heavier wheel.It is because alloy is lightweight therefore providing more stability in comparison to spokes. Spoke wheels, on the other hand, are not stable at high speeds. Alloy wheels are also better at turning and braking than spoke wheels and have low rotational inertia.


Because alloy wheels are lightweight it makes the bicycle easy to manage because of not being heavy which translates also to fuel efficiency.

Alloys do not require much maintenance in comparison to spoke wheels which require skills to keep them in good condition. Also, alloy wheels have few wires in comparison to spoke wheels making cleaning them easier.

Alloys are also better aesthetically than spoke wheels.In addition, tubeless tires cannot use spoke wheels while alloys can accommodate them.

Spoke Wheels

Spoke wheels have been in use since the development of the bicycle and from the time solid rubber tires were invented. They took over from wooden wheels. In a spoke wheel, the rim of the wheel connects to the hub(center) by use of spokes.

The original versions of wheels used spokes that were loaded using compression systems whereas modern wheels use spokes loaded in tension. However, some manufacturers combine tension and compression loading systems.

There are different types and designs of spoke wheels. Some bicycle spoke wheels have removable spokes which can be replaced.

Types of Spoke Wheels

Uniform Spoke Wheel

In a uniform spoke wheel the spoke or wire has the same thickness.

Single-butted Spoke Wheel

They are thicker at the hub than the other section.

Double-butted Spoke Wheel

Double-butted spoke wheels have reduced thickness at the hub. They are lighter and more elastic than other spoke designs.

Triple-butted Spoke Wheel

They are thickest at the hub section, thinnest in the middle and thinner at the threaded end.

Materials for Making Spokes

Spokes can be constructed from different materials including stainless steel, steel, carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium. Stainless steel or is easy to maintain, it is stiff and durable and can tolerate damage. High-end bicycle wheels use stainless steel spokes while cheap models use galvanized spokes.

How Many Spokes in a Wheel?

A standard single rider bicycle wheel has either 28, 32 or 36 spokes. Regular wheels have an even distribution of spokes, as a result, they are durable. Spokes support the wheel, few spokes means that the rim is not well supported. If a wheel has few spokes, then it requires to have a stronger rim. In the future, technological advancements in rim design will most likely result in a reduced number of spokes in a wheel.

Advantages of Spoke over Alloys

Spoke Wheels are stiffer and tougher than alloys and are used in off-road and adventure cycling. However, they are heavier than alloys and they are more flexible.

A spoke wheel has better shock absorption capacity than an alloy wheel. The shock is first absorbed by the tires, which then transfers it to the wheels and then it is transferred to the suspension. Because the wheels are designed to be flexible, they absorb the shock while staying in shape without bending.


In addition, aligning spokes wheels is cheaper and bent wheels can be serviced, unlike alloy wheels.Spoke wheels do not crack neither do they lose their shape in bumps. They can also be easily repaired, unlike alloys which break. Unfortunately, spokes made from non-stainless steel are vulnerable to rusting, but they can be painted to prevent this.

Indeed, using spokes on rough roads results in fewer shocks to your backbone and back.

Just as importantly, spokes are cheaper than alloys. Therefore, spoke wheels are recommended for rough roads.

As such, dirt bikes use mostly spoke wheels while sports bicycles and other bicycles use alloy wheels.


Whether to buy spoke wheels or alloy wheels depends on your individual needs. But generally, alloys have become more popular than spokes of late. That’s because of the casting process which makes producingand redesigning them easier than spoke wheels.

While alloy materials are more expensive they are easier to manufacturer. As such, their level of quality also tends to be quite consistent.

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