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Budget Wheel Upgrades: DT Swiss R470 vs. Roval C 38, ENVE 45, & Zipp 303 S

The DT Swiss R470 Disc is the most common aluminum road and gravel wheel we see and it's hard to go wrong with it. But if you're interested in improving the performance of your bike, the Roval C 38, ENVE 45, and Zipp 303 S are our top recommendations for entry-level carbon wheel upgrades.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:FAQs

Can you guess what the most common wheelset is on new and used bikes? It’s the aluminum DT Swiss R470 Disc. When it comes to budget aluminum wheels, the R470 is hard to beat. DT Swiss makes some of the best wheels, hubs, and spokes in the business. It’s R470 is a do-it-all endurance road and gravel wheel that is relatively light (around 1,800 grams), it works well with many modern wide tires, and it can be run tubeless

The main reason we see so many R470s though is cost. Complete wheelsets can usually be found in the $300-400 range, and a lot of big bike manufacturers like Specialized and Canyon like to spec the R470 on their entry- to mid-level bikes to keep overall costs down. 

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If you need a solid budget-friendly wheelset for your road or gravel bike, it’s hard to go wrong with the R470. It’s the archetype for budget alloy wheels and the R470 is a reliable wheelset that will provide thousands of miles of service. If you need a spare set of wheels for any reason, it’s also our top recommendation. 

For riders interested in performance, though, wheels like the DT Swiss R470 leaves a lot to be desired. For many entry- to mid-level road and gravel bikes, the stock wheels are generally the weakest link and the first component worth upgrading. Let’s take a look at our three favorite budget carbon wheels and how they compare to a basic alloy wheelset like the R470. 

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The Best Budget Carbon Wheels 

DT Swiss R470 vs. Roval C 38, ENVE 45, & Zipp 303 S

Wheel

Weight

Internal Width

Depth

Price

DT Swiss R470 DB

1,800 g

20mm

24mm

~$300-400

Roval Rapide C 38

1,600 g

21mm

38mm

$1,100

ENVE 45

1,541 g

21mm

45mm

$1,400

Zipp 303 S

1,530 g

23mm

45mm

$1,400


The top 3 “budget” carbon wheels we recommend are:

  • Roval Rapide C 38
  • ENVE 45
  • Zipp 303 S 

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These carbon wheels retail in the $1,000-1,500 range. There are some carbon wheels that can be had for less, but we tend to recommend slightly pricier wheels made by reputable name brands because they have a better reputation for both performance and reliability. 

If purchased new, these wheels also have very good warranties, which make them worth the higher cost. As an added bonus, these wheels also tend to sell better than other brands on the used market if you ever decide to upgrade again. 

Weight

While at ~1,800 grams, the alloy R470 isn’t extremely heavy, it is still 200-400 grams heavier than most high-quality carbon wheels. While overall bike weight isn’t that important, reducing rotating weight at the wheels will provide a very noticeable performance gain. Your bike will feel easier to accelerate and ride up steep climbs. 

The weight difference between the three carbon wheel models listed here is 60-70 grams, which isn’t much. The Zipp 303 S is the lightest, but only marginally when compared to the ENVE 45. 

Internal Rim Width

Zipp 303 S internal rim width

21mm internal rim widths are the current standard for modern tubeless-ready road wheels. More rim width also allows you to run wider tires at lower pressures, which increases comfort and reduces rolling resistance. This internal rim width easily supports road tires in the 25-34mm range, and is generally aerodynamically optimized for 25-28mm tires. 

If you prefer tires in the 28-32mm range or you want to use these wheels on a gravel bike that will use larger 35-45mm tires, then the slightly wider 23mm internal width of the Zipp 303 S is a bit more versatile. 

One thing worth noting is that all these carbon wheels are hookless. The max pressure recommended for hookless rims is generally 72.5 PSI so it’s worth examining the recommended tire pressures you need to use for your weight. 

Stiffness and Aerodynamics

Wheel aerodynamics

Beyond weight, the two biggest advantages of moving to carbon rims is increased stiffness and improved aerodynamics. Compared to alloy rims like the R470, carbon rims are significantly stiffer. This means more of your pedaling energy goes directly into the ground rather than flexing the rim. The improved stiffness of carbon is especially noticeable during hard accelerations and when diving into high-speed corners. 

As for aerodynamics, because carbon is significantly lighter than aluminum, carbon rims can be formed into deeper, more aerodynamic shapes without a significant weight penalty. The carbon rims featured here are 14-21 deeper than the alloy R470. Deeper rims allow airflow to remain attached longer, reducing turbulence and drag. Experts generally point to wheels as the most valuable aero upgrade.  

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Final Thoughts

If you choose to upgrade the DT Swiss R470s on your bike, my suggestion is to keep the R470s for a rainy day rather than selling them. Because the R470s are a budget wheel, they don’t fetch much on the used market, and they may be more valuable as a spare wheelset. This also allows you to swap the R470s back onto your bike and keep your fancy carbon wheels if you ever decide to sell your bike

Looking for wheel upgrades? Shop our massive wheel selection:

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Looking to sell a bike, frame, or wheels? We’re the biggest buyer of used bikes in the world:

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