The aim of the current investigation was to explore the lateral stiffness of different sports wheelchair wheels available to athletes in 'new' and 'used' conditions and to determine the effect of (a) stiffness, (b) tyre type (clincher vs. tubular) and (c) tyre orientation on the physiological and biomechanical responses to submaximal and maximal effort propulsion specific to wheelchair basketball. Eight able-bodied individuals participated in the laboratory-based testing, which took place on a wheelchair ergometer at two fixed speeds (1.1 and 2.2 m s(-1)). Outcome measures were power output and physiological demand (oxygen uptake and heart rate). Three participants with experience of over-ground sports wheelchair propulsion also performed 2 × 20 m sprints in each wheel configuration. Results revealed that wheels differed significantly in lateral stiffness with the 'new' Spinergy wheel shown to be the stiffest (678.2 ± 102.1 N mm(-1)). However the effects of stiffness on physiological demand were minimal compared to tyre type whereby tubular tyres significantly reduced the rolling resistance and power output in relation to clincher tyres. Therefore tyre type (and subsequently inflation pressure) remains the most important aspect of wheel specification for athletes to consider and monitor when configuring a sports wheelchair.