Robot’s Useless Reviews – Mag Wheels

Look, I don’t have a bike that will take 20″ magnesium alloy wheels anymore, but there is something deep inside me, perhaps a seed planted in 1978, that has grown into a desire for a set of 5-spoked mag wheels that never goes away. Why?

They look cool.

Yes. They are terrible at being wheels. Heavy. Fragile. Corrosive. But they look cool, and the heart wants what the heart wants.

Wanting something that doesn’t make sense isn’t a new idea in cycling. For example, we just had to have stiffer and stiffer frames, because power transfer and watts or whatever, but then actually we decided we didn’t like compact frames, which are much stiffer than frames with level top tubes, so let’s go back to the thing that looks better.

We are fickle, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or sometimes it’s in the eye of the beholder’s friends, who have way more influence than they deserve based on some of their life choices, and if these are your friends, then you know exactly what I’m saying. Many bicycle riding people subscribe too closely to group think, which is why so many who don’t race shave their legs and almost no one rides mag wheels anymore.

Magnesium is a natural treatment for anxiety, as it has been shown to lower the cortisol levels we associate with stress. Riding a bike has a similar effect. Can you even imagine how effective it is to ride a bicycle with magnesium wheels? You’d be, like, so chill.

And so they’re heavy? They take another second or so to spin up to speed, BUT…they take a second or so longer to spin down, too. It’s like a savings account for effort, with a similar, extremely low-interest payback.

And so they corrode? So has our social discourse over the last few decades, but we’re all still paying for two more streaming services than we need. We scroll through social media and little drips of dopamine help us turn our disdain for our fellow citizens into a whole new pastime. We’d be better off knitting, but then we’d have to learn something new.

And so they break? Yeah. Fair. No one wants to land a jump on a wheel that might not be round by the time their weight combines with their acceleration to produce maximum downward force, making a rendezvous with the pavement and a siren-assisted trip to the hospital much more likely.

But they do look cool.

Join the conversation
  1. Ron says

    Let me pull on my ‘Old Skool’ BMXer hat before I do a facepalm….

    Skyway Tuff Wheels (as pictured) did not contain any magnesium. They were composite nylon and are still made today.

    For a while. Mongoose made the competing Motomag wheels ( Despite the name, these were made of aluminum, not magnesium.

    The ‘mag wheels’ name likely came from hot rods, where cast aluminum (or maybe even magnesium?) wheels were used to replace the stamped steel or even spoked wheels that came stock on cars. The BMX kids picked up on the name and used it to refer to any wheel that wasn’t spoked. But magnesium never entered into the equation.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      Ron, I appreciate this a lot. While normally I try not to let truth, facts or science intrude on the Useless Reviews, you have dropped some good knowledge here. Please come back anytime.

  2. khal spencer says

    Interesting. Apparently there were/are magnesium wheels.

    I recall looking at a 1977 Porsche 911 and found out that it had a magnesium engine block, which created all sorts of ways for things to go wrong, especially back in the seventies when pollution control did all sorts of awful things to engines. I gave it a pass.

    1. Ron says

      Especially interesting given that Campagnolo was a manufacturer of magnesium wheels.

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