Wheels, is the first installment in Upgrading Your Bicycle. Over the next few weeks I will go through several methods, direction and reasons for doing particular upgrades to your bicycle, I am going to focus on road bicycles throughout the series but more of the information is consistent throughout most aspects of cycling. Thank you for reading and I hope this is helpful in your research.
Wheels, is the first installment because a new wheelset will make the most dramatic impact on your cycling performance and experience. It will impact weight, ride quality, durability, aerodynamics, use of energy and speed. The following will explain how each of these attributes will affect your cycling experience and will hopefully help you make an educated decision on which type of wheels will work best for your riding type.
Weight: Weight is not as straight forward as you may think, because of how it relates with other attributes that we will be talking about. First off, the pros of a lighter wheelset. A lighter wheelset will lower the amount of rotational weight that your bicycle has, every gram you save in rotational weight is like saving 2 grams of static weight, the weight of non rotating object. A lighter wheel will allow you to go faster and climb easier. The cons of a lighter weight wheelset. The lighter weight you go with wheels, the lighter their load capacity is, meaning they will have a rider weight limit. So if you are over 180 pounds, this means you will lose a lot of durability in the wheels and bent rims and broken spokes will become the norm. Also, by going with a lighter weight wheel you will lose ride quality and you will feel more vibrations, due to the light weight materials used in making the light weight wheelsets. So, for a person looking for a good all around wheelset, that has a good balance of weight savings, durability and ride quality, check out something like the Fulcrum Racing 5.
Aerodynamics: Aerodynamics is an area that doesn’t get much attention outside of the Triathlon and Time Trial Worlds, but deserves its due in the traditional road cycling world as well. With wind tunnel testing, we are learning that even a slightly heavier wheel with a deeper rim profile (rim profile is the height of the rim from where the spokes inter the rim to the top of the braking surface) can save us more time in a race than by simply going with the ultra light wheelset. It is true that super deep rim profiles, over 60mm, should stay in the Triathlon and Time Trial world, slightly smaller rim profiles are very beneficial, especially if they are carbon fiber. Carbon fiber will help keep the wheelset light and stiff but it will also add a little bit of comfort to your ride compared to an ultra light aluminium rim. If you are thinking of a wheelset with a deeper rim profile but don’t want to drop a lot of cash check out the Fulcrum Racing Quattro. If you are thinking of going the weigh of carbon rims check out the VOSS WH-50/50c Wheelset.
Durability and Ride Quality: Durability and Ride Quality typically go hand in hand. Durability, in general, comes from a wheel construction with more material, and more material leads to a smoother ride. When a wheel has more material, or thicker materials, it will absorb road vibrations better because of the fact that there is more material to work as an absorbing agent. The thing that very nice about this category is that the wheels are generally less expensive. Check out the Fulcrum Racing 7.
Speed and Use of Energy: Speed and Use of Energy are both byproducts of all the things we have just discussed. Lighter and more aerodynamic wheels are going to decrease your use of energy and increase your average speed, where more durable smoother riding wheels are going to increase your use of energy and decrease your average speed.
These four categories will hopefully help you to classify yourself and a cyclist and help you determine you wants and needs from a wheelset, and then help you make a more educated decision on which wheels to purchase or give you more specific questions to ask when narrowing down your choices.
Please post your questions and I will answer them ASAP. Matt, Owner of Bikes 2 You, LLC.