The first bicycle wheels followed the traditions of carriage building: a wooden hub, a fixed steel axle (the bearings were located in the fork ends), wooden spokes and a shrink fitted iron tire. A typical modern wheel has a metal hub, wire tension spokes and a metal or carbon fiber rim which holds a pneumatic rubber tire.
A hub is the center part of a bicycle wheel. It consists of an axle, bearings and a hub shell. The hub shell typically has two machined metal flanges to which spokes can be attached. Hub shells can be one-piece with press-in cartridge or free bearings or, in the case of older designs, the flanges may be affixed to a separate hub shell.
The axle is attached to dropouts on the fork or the frame. The axle can attach using a:
Modern bicycles have adopted standard axle spacing: the hubs of front wheels are generally 100 mm wide fork spacing, road wheels with freehubs generally have a 130 mm wide rear wheel hub. Mountain bikes have adopted a 135 mm rear hub width, which allows clearance to mount a brake disc on the hub or to decrease the wheel dish for a more durable wheel. Freeride and downhill are available with both 142 and 150 mm spacing.