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Hi, sorry if this is a really stupid question, but I'm currently thinking about buying some new wheels for my road bike and can't find the answer elsewhere.

I'm considering a set of Pro Lite Bracciano A42's because they are supposedly strong (I'm a big lump), have the upside of being aero and look quite nice. Obviously not a sexy as their carbon equivalents, but due to being heavy I don't want to risk getting carbon wheels at this point.

What's putting me off is that I keep seeing references to aero section wheels not being good on climbs and in windy conditions. The windy conditions bit is self explanatory, but I can't see why they would be detrimental to climbing. Being a big lump I certainly don't need any other hindrances on climbs...

Thanks in advance for help/advice, Paul.

44 comments

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tom_w [204 posts] 2 years ago
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I'd imagine it's the weight, there's more material in an aero rim and that's more weight to lug up the hill.

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redmeat [149 posts] 2 years ago
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As above, they weight more.

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andycoventry [110 posts] 2 years ago
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Generally speaking aero wheels (particularly cheaper ones) tend to be heavier than non-aero wheels.

You wont get the aero benefits when climbing but you will be carrying the weight penalty of a heavier wheel.

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PaulBox [395 posts] 2 years ago
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Ohhh, that makes sense, thanks guys.

I suppose I'd better weigh my current wheels to see how they compare before taking the plunge.

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SammyG [274 posts] 2 years ago
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Your not going to feel 500g on a climb, or notice aero wheels. The only time you do notice aero wheels making a difference is when you have a side wind and your getting blasted of the road, especially annoying on a decent.

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PaulBox [395 posts] 2 years ago
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I've been told that aero section rims will improve average speeds on the flat by between one and two miles per hour, is that bull?

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tom_w [204 posts] 2 years ago
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SammyG wrote:

Your not going to feel 500g on a climb, or notice aero wheels. The only time you do notice aero wheels making a difference is when you have a side wind and your getting blasted of the road, especially annoying on a decent.

I'd disagree re not noticing 500g, I've just switched to 300g lighter wheels and they certainly feel faster up hills to me. My hill times seem to confirm they are too.

I find it particularly noticeable when spinning them up to speed again after a steep section on a hill.

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olic [63 posts] 2 years ago
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FLO cycling have run a number of simulations with deep section wheels vs. climbing wheels and so on - see http://flocycling.blogspot.co.uk/. The data seems to suggest that even with dramatic weight differences, you are better off with aero wheels unless you're doing something like a mountain TT. Obviously you wouldn't want 90mm deep section wheels in huge crosswinds though.

This doesn't explain why most pro tour teams still ride low profile rims on mountain stages however, but that could be to do with aero advantages being important when riding in a group. The same could be said for aero frames, which can provide an even bigger aero advantage than wheels.

Finally there is one other thing - weight benefits are easy to demonstrate with data. A lot of manufacturers have data out there on their wheels, but it doesn't mean a lot to the average cyclist.

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Chris James [388 posts] 2 years ago
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PaulBox wrote:

I've been told that aero section rims will improve average speeds on the flat by between one and two miles per hour, is that bull?

Yes!

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Simon E [2727 posts] 2 years ago
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Firstly, let's dispel a couple of myths: lightweight wheels will not make much difference to your climbing and aero wheels will not noticeably improve your speed on the flat.

A lighter wheelset may feel a bit nicer but it won't have much effect on the time it takes. If you're on the heavy side then the percentage of all-up weight saved (which is what really matters) is miniscule.

As for aero wheels, even at 25mph you're looking at going 1-1.5% faster compared to a traditional 32-spoke box section wheel. A semi-aero rim (25-30mm) with ~20 spokes that is common now is likely to gain you at least half of that. American Classic 430, Bracciano or any number of others would do the job but after reading more wheel discussions than I care to count I'd get a handbuilt set with something like H Plus Son Archetype or Velocity A23s.

Unless your wheels are worn and need replacing I'd spend the money on a week riding somewhere nice. Riding your bike lots will do more for your fitness and enjoyment than all the bling in the world ever could.

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vorsprung [280 posts] 2 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

Firstly, let's dispel a couple of myths: lightweight wheels will not make much difference to your climbing and aero wheels will not noticeably improve your speed on the flat.

A lighter wheelset may feel a bit nicer but it won't have much effect on the time it takes. If you're on the heavy side then the percentage of all-up weight saved (which is what really matters) is miniscule.

As for aero wheels, even at 25mph you're looking at going 1-1.5% faster compared to a traditional 32-spoke box section wheel. A semi-aero rim (25-30mm) with ~20 spokes that is common now is likely to gain you at least half of that. American Classic 430, Bracciano or any number of others would do the job but after reading more wheel discussions than I care to count I'd get a handbuilt set with something like H Plus Son Archetype or Velocity A23s.

Unless your wheels are worn and need replacing I'd spend the money on a week riding somewhere nice. Riding your bike lots will do more for your fitness and enjoyment than all the bling in the world ever could.

I basically agree with this and I'm glad someone has explained more about this type of wheel! However I have a couple of cavets with your excellent reply.

First, there is an argument that if you do not have good souplesse (smooth regular pedalling style) then wheels do have micro accelerations all the time. Pedalling style is likely to be worse at high power input, such as when ascending. This effect is plain to see when using an inappropriate gear on a slope as the bike lurches forward with each downward stroke.

This means the the lower rotational weight, especially on climbs is helpful. For beginners this is more likely to be the case. So it's possible that light wheels could actually give someone with a poor pedalling style a small but measurable advantage on climbs.

Secondly, the 1%-1.5% figure for aerodynamics only applies for time trialists moving at 25mph+ who have presumably already adopted an aerodynamic position. For general riding any effect is unlikely to be noticeable at all

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Simon E [2727 posts] 2 years ago
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Another point: when comparing wheelsets you don't know where the weight has been saved. If it's from the hub it is of very little value in helping you go uphill; but if it's off the rim then it is likely weaker, with a thinner brake track. You may end up having to replace them much sooner than you might expect.

Keith Bontrager's now famous aphorism applies: Strong, light, cheap. Pick two.

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700c [908 posts] 2 years ago
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It's basically personal opinion. This has been covered many times before and there are a couple of usual suspects here who always come out against aero/ lightweight wheels - or perhaps the idea of someone else spending what they consider to be a lot of money on equipment.

Try them, see if they make a difference for you. Certain manufacturers - and possibly some good bike shops - will have a try before you buy policy

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700c [908 posts] 2 years ago
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I'd also add: It stands to reason that wheels and tyres make a big difference to the quality of ride. Just as frames, do, possibly more so. The quality of the wheelset and it's design and application to it's purpose will make a difference.

If it didn't we'd all be riding cheaply-made, heavy wheels, wouldn't we?

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Simon E [2727 posts] 2 years ago
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vorsprung wrote:

the lower rotational weight, especially on climbs is helpful. For beginners this is more likely to be the case. So it's possible that light wheels could actually give someone with a poor pedalling style a small but measurable advantage on climbs.

Measurable? I doubt it. We're talking about tiny micro-accelerations within each pedal stroke. An improvement in pedalling technique (and choice of gears, if possible) will be far more beneficial. Lighter, fast rolling tyres and lightweight inner tubes would be a better bet.

vorsprung wrote:

Secondly, the 1%-1.5% figure for aerodynamics only applies for time trialists moving at 25mph+ who have presumably already adopted an aerodynamic position. For general riding any effect is unlikely to be noticeable at all

The numbers are from wind tunnel tests of just the wheel and tyre. The aero effects still exist at lower speeds since physics doesn't change from 15mph to 25mph. But I agree, it's meaningless for general riding.

700c wrote:

It's basically personal opinion. This has been covered many times before and there are a couple of usual suspects here who always come out against aero/ lightweight wheels - or perhaps the idea of someone else spending what they consider to be a lot of money on equipment.

It's not my opinion, the numbers are consistent across a wide number of sources. We all like shiny kit but just because brand X says their wheels are fast/light/whatever doesn't mean you just buy it and automagically go faster.

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PaulBox [395 posts] 2 years ago
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Thank you all for your inputs and sorry for opening this particular can of wriggly things...

It seems that this is the roadie equivalent of the Flats vs SPD's debate in my more familiar world of mountain biking.

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olic [63 posts] 2 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

The numbers are from wind tunnel tests of just the wheel and tyre. The aero effects still exist at lower speeds since physics doesn't change from 15mph to 25mph. But I agree, it's meaningless for general riding.

It's strange how the 'you have to be going fast to benefit' thing is so often repeated when it's not the case, as you can see with a play on here:

http://www.cyclingpowerlab.com/componentaerodynamics.aspx

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Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't notice any disadvantage going up from either my low profile alloy tubs or the 50mm carbons, but if you're going up then generally you're coming down at some point. This is when I prefer to be on the low profile alloy rims, crosswinds hit harder when you're going faster and the braking surface is a bit keener.

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700c [908 posts] 2 years ago
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I wouldn't buy expensive bike kit based on manufacturer claims, I'm not sure anyone is that stupid are they?

I also wouldn't base decisions on wind tunnel figures. You simply can't factor in real world and human factors.

The idea that anyone would neglect their own training or technique and rely on expensive equipment 'to make them go faster' is also pretty patronising in this debate, to be honest. Yes I like my carbon wheels, and I disagree with the 'you won't notice the difference' brigade, that doesn't mean I've bought some manufacturer BS or am relying on expensive gear to make me go faster.

I've just put on my summer wheelset and it's improved my ride and speed to a significant extent -ie I notice the difference and I'm setting my fastest average speeds of the year now.

I'm not claiming they'd be right for everyone, but certainly wouldn't be so dismissive of a different opinion like some are on here

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edster99 [336 posts] 2 years ago
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Strava tells a story of an average speed difference of about 2.6kph between winter bike (blue ribble / 11kg / 36 spoke low profile rims) and summer bike (carbon Ridley /8.2kg / variety inc deep section carbons). Right now, that is a comparison of almost exactly 3000km on each so quite a good comparison. So - something is making a difference, and its not just the legs!

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russyparkin [570 posts] 2 years ago
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i live in plymouth, and i have ridden 50mm carbons for the last 7-8 months. they look AMAZING!

(see my pic on the bikes stickey, tcr with 50mm near the bottom of the list)

but i am getting rid of them asap to get some rs81 or something similar as they are terrible in the wind, verging from annoying if you want to say take your armwarmers off to down right lethal in strong coastal winds.

and no im not a chopper, i race and have ridden for 20 years.

on a wind free day they are great, best things ever! sound amazing and all that.

but there are 2-3 routes which are always dogged with a perma cross wind and holding a straight line sucks the fun out of my ride.

i say buy them if your area is not inherintly windy but if you live anywhere windy like fecking plymouth dont waste your time

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captain_slog [338 posts] 2 years ago
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edster99 wrote:

So - something is making a difference

The weather?

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pants [238 posts] 2 years ago
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PaulBox wrote:

I've been told that aero section rims will improve average speeds on the flat by between one and two miles per hour, is that bull?

If you want aero wheels because they are shiny and everyone wants them, get it. But for the majority of normal people riding around they offer very little to no increase in performance. If you have money to throw around you are better off getting some lighter wheels. OR you have enough money to get wheels that are both light and aero.

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Flying Scot [918 posts] 2 years ago
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My tuppence worth is that if you're doing a lot of climbing, you are likely to be riding in exposed conditions and deep sections catch crosswinds and pull the front wheel.

I don't have any proper 'aero' rims, but even at that, the deeper sections are noticeably more hassle on a windy day, not so much at high speed descending, but at low and medium speeds.

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Simon E [2727 posts] 2 years ago
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700c wrote:

The idea that anyone would neglect their own training or technique and rely on expensive equipment 'to make them go faster' is also pretty patronising in this debate, to be honest.

Really? Many, many people are buying bike kit (often prefixed with the word "carbon" or "lightweight") simply because they can. For lots of cyclists training is not a priority, while having the 'right' gear most certainly is.

If you're happy with your wheels that's great. I really don't have a problem with it, and you don't need to justify yourself. I am merely trying to explain that the marketing guff and the real world can be some distance apart. Wind tunnel data is certainly not irrelevant, it's how people test aero performance.

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Wookie [236 posts] 2 years ago
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edster99 wrote:

Strava tells a story of an average speed difference of about 2.6kph between winter bike (blue ribble / 11kg / 36 spoke low profile rims) and summer bike (carbon Ridley /8.2kg / variety inc deep section carbons). Right now, that is a comparison of almost exactly 3000km on each so quite a good comparison. So - something is making a difference, and its not just the legs!

That may be true but unless you are using both bikes in exactly the same conditions it may simply be you travel slower in the winter than the summer.
My winter average is 1 to 2 mph slower.

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edster99 [336 posts] 2 years ago
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Wesselwookie wrote:
edster99 wrote:

Strava tells a story of an average speed difference of about 2.6kph between winter bike (blue ribble / 11kg / 36 spoke low profile rims) and summer bike (carbon Ridley /8.2kg / variety inc deep section carbons). Right now, that is a comparison of almost exactly 3000km on each so quite a good comparison. So - something is making a difference, and its not just the legs!

That may be true but unless you are using both bikes in exactly the same conditions it may simply be you travel slower in the winter than the summer.
My winter average is 1 to 2 mph slower.

Yeah maybe. Some of it (as has been noted) is due to the weather and dancing carefully round wet corners. But the other thing I notice is how much more effort it takes to drive the blue battleship round the corners and accelerate out. thats at least partly due to the lighter weight of the wheels. If I'm getting back up to speed more quickly, then that will help my average.

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BBB [410 posts] 2 years ago
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To the OP.
You may be over-analysing it.
It will make **** all difference to your average speed, acceleration and enjoyment of riding whichever half decent wheels you're going to choose, especially as in your own words you are a "big lump".
Pick the ones that look good.

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dangoscomb [6 posts] 2 years ago
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I started riding 50mm carbon clinchers on my road bike (though i bought them for windy days on the TT bike in Lanzarote). I can't say i've noticed the winds too much in the UK, but then on the TT bike I usually ride a disc and an 808 so may be i'm just a bit more used to it?

I love them. They look great, sound great, are lighter than my previous Mavic KSYRIUM Elites.

Buy what makes you happy!

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glynr36 [637 posts] 2 years ago
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Wesselwookie wrote:
edster99 wrote:

Strava tells a story of an average speed difference of about 2.6kph between winter bike (blue ribble / 11kg / 36 spoke low profile rims) and summer bike (carbon Ridley /8.2kg / variety inc deep section carbons). Right now, that is a comparison of almost exactly 3000km on each so quite a good comparison. So - something is making a difference, and its not just the legs!

That may be true but unless you are using both bikes in exactly the same conditions it may simply be you travel slower in the winter than the summer.
My winter average is 1 to 2 mph slower.

Colder air is denser...

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