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Racing Wheels vs. "Bling" Wheels

January 14, 2007

Let's get something straight right off the bat. There is a huge range of quality and performance when it comes to aftermarket wheels. One can easily identify the two very distinct categories in this market: the "bling bling" wheels and the hardcore racing wheels. While I am not a fan of the huge chrome "gangster" wheels, I'll be impartial in this article and give you an objective view of the options.

First of all, let me be more clear in the categories that I'm discussing. When I refer to racing wheels, I'm talking about strong, lightweight, medium to large sized wheels designed for performance applications. An example of a racing wheel would be the Volk TE37 forged magnesium wheel. This is a strong wheel made from a very light and exotic metal, magnesium. In fact, an 18 x 8.5 in. Volk TE37 only weighs 12.9 lbs! As you can imagine, a set of these wheels will set you back quite a bit financially.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have the "bling" wheels. What I am talking about are oversized, usually chrome, showy wheels often having very complex designs. I don't think I have to describe these. We've all seen show-off wheels such as spinners, for instance. The main objective of the manufacturer in designing these wheels is looks. Therefore, important performance factors such as weight take a back seat to aesthetic appeal.

Obviously, the first thing you need to consider when getting something for your car (or when buying anything, as a matter of fact) is what you're going to use the product for. Does it really make sense to have expensive racing wheels when you visit a race track once a month? Are huge "bling" wheels taboo on a high performance car even if it's built just to be a daily street-driven machine?

To be quite honest with you, the average driver, even a driving enthusiast, does not require racing wheels such as the Volk models described earlier because they will not race their car very often. So does this mean that "bling" wheels are a great option for their car? The answer to that question is a resounding "no!" I believe many individuals in the tuning scene would agree with me when I say that some cars are clearly meant to have sporty wheels and some are meant to have "bling" wheels.

In my opinion, I feel that sporty racing-style wheels are just more attractive and tasteful than over-the-top showy wheels. I think a nice sporty wheel would fit any car, but a show-off wheel certainly would not fit any car. Basically, if you drive a sports car, go with sporty wheels. Putting huge "bling" wheels on a sports car is just wrong, in my opinion, unless you are a big-time rapper.

This is usually not a great look for a sports car and it will kill your performance since show-off wheels tend to be very heavy. The increased rotating inertia and unsprung weight created by the wheels will worsen acceleration, braking, handling, and even ride quality. In essence, "bling" wheels are only for one purpose: looking good. They are bad for everything else so make sure that they are worth it before you get a set.

On the other side of the spectrum, I don't recommend hardcore racing wheels unless you visit the track at least once a week. The only real disadvantage with driving racing wheels on the street is the possibility for damage. These wheels tend to be extremely expensive and difficult to obtain, so cracking or scratching them while parking next to a tall curb would be really disappointing. In the ideal situation, I would recommend using mild sporty wheels for everyday driving and switching to the racing wheels for performance driving.

In any case, know what you're getting into when choosing a wheel. You're most likely better off with a mild sporty wheel. Make sure that the wheels you buy are suited for your car and what you plan to use your car for. Good luck!