Is it worth a wheel upgrade?

by Sensible   July 6, 2014  

I have been riding for a couple of years now and when i bought my first road bike I got quite a nice one so that I wouldn't have to upgrade too soon.

I have a carbon framed bike, with decent kit. It has fairly light wheels (DT swiss hubs), that are 1775g for the pair. I use Conti tyres.

I mainly ride on my own for fitness, but occasionally with friends and have done a couple of 100 mile charity rides. I average about 35-40 miles when I go out once per week and average about 15 mph. I find hill climbing hard, but am getting better and live in a very hilly area.

I understand that My wheels are good but at the bottom end of Giants decent wheel range.

Was thinking of I upgrading my wheels to something lighter, maybe 1350-1400g.

I am also unsure about the benefits of aero wheels, most of which don't seem any lighter than what I have.

If I was to buy some nice light wheels, will I notice any difference.

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Haha..tell it as it is Colin. I was 15st 7lb before I started cycling but seemed to have stopped losing weight at 13st 10lb...I am 5'11". Could lose a bit more, I suppose.

posted by Sensible [65 posts]
7th July 2014 - 1:31

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I believe at your age adding tricks wheels won't give you a great advantage, especially given the spec of your bike and tyres. If 15mph over a hilly course then that is good. I average a solo 16.5mph over 100 miles. I am up to 18.40mph over 30 - 40 miles with 1300 ft climbing. Note I dream of weighing 13 something stone, I weigh mid 15st one and find losing weight difficult.

Try out a flatter course if your average jumps up all well and good. If it doesn't try what I have done, 3 rides a week, one 20 miles flat out as fast as you go (I do 5x5 squats when I get home. Two 40 mile highish pace over something hillier (no problem where you live) three 50+ steady ride for endurance. This will up your speed.

posted by CXR94Di2 [235 posts]
7th July 2014 - 8:50

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Hi, I would love to recommend these wheels, Swiss side Francs.
http://www.swissside.com/shop/franc-wheelset
I wanted to upgrade my shimano RS500 (1800kg) & I was looking around for ages. comparing weight & price when I came across the swiss side brand.
I was on a more limited budget than you of £300 & I can honestly say that the wheels for the price are amazing.
they're not my everyday wheels, I just use them for crit & road racing around lancs & derbys & for the hilly TT's in Glossop. the hubs are buttery smooth & roll for ages. for your budget however you could upgrade to the gotthard wheels or even the new hadron deep section wheelset which would have you going faster Smile
I thought your weight might be an issue don't think you'd be have a problem. the max rider weight is 105kg.
check em out.

Noelieboy's picture

posted by Noelieboy [92 posts]
7th July 2014 - 10:40

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As a custom wheel builder, I should say "yes, of course they will!", but only with caveats.

What you have aren't bad wheels at all. Sub-1,800 g for a basic wheel set is not that heavy, DT Swiss are my go-to hubs (phenomenally under-rated) and Continental's 4000 tires are what I'd recommend as an all-round clincher tire. You are using 25mm wide tires, by the way, aren't you?

A wheel upgrade is an incremental improvement. Per comments above, 15 mph on a hilly route isn't shabby (especially with a 13 st body), and new wheels will not make you hurt any less, it will just make it last for a slightly shorter time.

That said, a significantly lighter set of wheels can help in a couple of ways. If your hills feature variable gradients then the lower centifugal weight will allow you to accelerate more easily as the gradient drops, which will reduce time and/ or the pain. Over a series of hills, the slightly less fatigue you get will be compounded. In other words, lighter wheels might shave 5 seconds off hill 1, but 50 seconds off hill 10.

For your budget, I'd go with alloy rims and DT-240 hubs. It's pretty easy to build a set that's near 1,200 g, but strong enough for you.

Adding a couple hundred more quid will get you access to carbon rim wheels. If you choose this, I'd only recommend tubular; they are lighter and cheaper than carbon clincher and there aren't any overheating issues. For a little over 1,000 quid you will be able to get a wheel set for almost 1,000 grams, again with DT-240 hubs. At this point the difference will feel significant; you have a lot less weight and the better handling of tubulars to boot.

posted by Gordy748 [98 posts]
7th July 2014 - 19:18

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Estimated all-up weight = 94kg.

Weight reduced by 1,400g wheelset = 375g.

This as a percentage of total = 0.4%.

Try riding a decent climb with a 2/3 full bottle then take it out. Can you tell the difference? Centrifugal force isn't a big factor, even with very light rims, as you're still pulling 93.625 kg against gravity.

If your goal is having some smart looking wheels on your bike then you are truly spoilt for choice. However, lightweight or aerodynamic wheels won't help you go better up hills.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2062 posts]
7th July 2014 - 20:05

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Thanks for the advice so far... bit of a mixed bag really as to whether I would notice any real difference by cutting about 375g of weight from a wheelset. Good idea about doing a hill with and without a water bottle....but isn't weight cut from wheels more noticeable than static weight because of rotating mass?

Noelieboy.. I am running 23mm Conti GP4000S. My bike came with 23mm Giant P-SLR1 tyres and they were fine, so when I wore them out I just bought 23mm Conti tyres. Would I gain anything from 25mm tyres. I haven't got much clearance but I guess there is more than 2mm.

Don't fancy tubular wheels...isn't that when you glue the tyres to the wheel. Sounds a bit too fussy. How do you fix a puncture? (excuse my ignorance)

I have had an issue with my rear hub in the past when the spring came off my pawls and I initially had no drive at all. After tinkering with it I managed to get some drive but couldn't free wheel. When I had it fixed and later serviced, the LBS said when I do change my wheels I could get some with better hubs (he intimated they weren't that good). I know DT Swiss have a good reputation but most of their hubs have star rachets. Mine has a spring and two pawls. So part of my upgrade would be to get some good quality hubs that roll well, maybe with ceramic bearings. I also use my bike all year round. Two winters have started to wear the rim, so in time I will need to replace the wheels anyway. I am just thinking ahead and maybe treating myself early.

posted by Sensible [65 posts]
7th July 2014 - 20:39

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I doubt if it will make much difference to your speed, but neither will it harm it and your backside will thank you if you go up a tyre size. Rider weight is a factor and 23 should really for the whippets amongst us.

posted by bikebot [789 posts]
8th July 2014 - 7:07

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Sensible wrote:
Good idea about doing a hill with and without a water bottle....but isn't weight cut from wheels more noticeable than static weight because of rotating mass?

Not all the weight saved in a lightweight wheelset is from the rim, otherwise they would be as thin as baking foil.

A rule of thumb: for 100 meters of height gained, 1 kg less weight saves 2 seconds. The difference between adding 1.8 kg of water to the bike or in the tyres is 0.9%. Hardly dramatic.
http://www.training4cyclists.com/how-much-time-does-extra-weight-cost-on...

Ceramic bearings make sod-all difference, don't believe the hype. To get better at riding hills you have to ride hard up hills. However, when you do see an improvement it is infinitely more rewarding than buying kit.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2062 posts]
8th July 2014 - 10:06

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Don't get me wrong, I am not into buying kit for the sake of it...and yes I am out there cycling hard up those hills. Today 49 miles, average 15.3 mph with 2500 feet of climbing.
http://www.strava.com/activities/163287279
I am asking the question whether I would notice the difference with lighter wheels. I am not into throwing money at it and not putting in the effort.

posted by Sensible [65 posts]
8th July 2014 - 18:46

114 Likes

Sensible wrote:
Don't get me wrong, I am not into buying kit for the sake of it...and yes I am out there cycling hard up those hills. Today 49 miles, average 15.3 mph with 2500 feet of climbing.
http://www.strava.com/activities/163287279
I am asking the question whether I would notice the difference with lighter wheels. I am not into throwing money at it and not putting in the effort.

For what it's worth. I notice a marked difference between my Aksiums / Fulcrum R7s and my Ksyriums / Shamals. Whether weight is a factor over hub quality / wheel stiffness in that difference is up for debate. However, more often than not I am faster over regular routes when riding on my dressy wheels. Moreso on undulating or hilly rides, less so on the flat.

posted by ajmarshal1 [376 posts]
8th July 2014 - 21:22

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Sensible wrote:
Don't get me wrong, I am not into buying kit for the sake of it...and yes I am out there cycling hard up those hills. Today 49 miles, average 15.3 mph with 2500 feet of climbing.
http://www.strava.com/activities/163287279
I am asking the question whether I would notice the difference with lighter wheels. I am not into throwing money at it and not putting in the effort.

It sounds like you're wanting a subjective reaction. Like with clothes and music, sometimes you just have to decide for yourself.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2062 posts]
9th July 2014 - 9:00

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I agree with Sensible re any of the top tier Mavics, Campags or in my case, Fulcrums. I'm late 40s, 13 stone and ride hilly terrain at similar average speeds. Went through brief periods of ownership of two lightweight alloy wheelsets in the £300 to £500 price range that would initially launch me up any climb slightly quicker but then drive me crazy for the rest of the climb, flexing noticeably.

My bro had many happy years on Eurus' and then went onto Fulcrum Zeroes and on his recommendation I took the plunge with the Zeroes which I reckon are ace. Super stiff, a little heavier at 1600g, but combined with Conti tyres and lightweight tubes, an absolute joy to ride on. They feel so much more responsive when I put power down and have sharpened up the handling of the bike significantly. I think it's that latter feature that gives me the feeling that I'm a bit more 'brisk' across a variety of terrain.

Read on roadcc that there's an uprated version of the Zeroes in the pipeline so there could be deals on the existing model to be had.

posted by intheshed [5 posts]
9th July 2014 - 12:41

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What I meant to express was that I agree with ajmarshal1, whilst empathising with Sensible's original post.

I'll go and get me coat...

posted by intheshed [5 posts]
9th July 2014 - 18:54

104 Likes

Don't you have a friend or a local bike shop who would lend you a set of better wheels to have a go on so you can make up your own mind?

posted by drfabulous0 [403 posts]
9th July 2014 - 20:32

104 Likes

Soul wheels have a test ride program, and one of their wheel sets got a great review on here. Look them up, I think they courier the wheels out to you or something.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3475 posts]
9th July 2014 - 21:51

103 Likes

Blimey, Fulcrum Racing Zero are £700!! Surprise Surprise

That surely makes £480 for this 1430g wheelset an absolute steal - http://wheelsmith.co.uk/race24
Strada will build up the Velocity A23 for even less:
http://www.stradawheels.co.uk/shop/velocity-a23-wheelset/
With those specs and prices why would you pay more for overpriced factory wheels?

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2062 posts]
10th July 2014 - 9:28

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Simon E wrote:
It sounds like you're wanting a subjective reaction. Like with clothes and music, sometimes you just have to decide for yourself.

You mean....spend the £700 and then find out it makes no difference....maybe.

Amongst the cyclists out there there will be some that have done exactly what I am contemplating. Surely that is the point of a forum, to learn from others and get various opinions.

posted by Sensible [65 posts]
10th July 2014 - 11:17

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I had an interesting, eye opening experience at the weekend. I've always thought that my upgraded wheels (Campag Neutron Ultras) made a real difference to my performance until this last weekend, when I went out on my old Khamsins (approx 400g heavier) and set PBs on a number of climbs on my usual route. Granted, hardly a scientific study as there are all sorts of variables involved, but it does make me think that light wheels are not the answer to everything.

The Neutrons do look nicer than the Khamsins though, and, again in a purely unscientific way, I think they just "feel better" all round, so they'll be back on the bike soon enough!)

posted by chris75018 [100 posts]
10th July 2014 - 11:24

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Those Race 24 wheels have a max ride weight is 80 kg for those wheels. I think I am 87. Thats something I have learnt from this forum...to check the max ride weight.

posted by Sensible [65 posts]
10th July 2014 - 11:39

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I weigh the same as you, I upgraded my wheels last year after my old Mavics died (they were at least 10 years old) Bought some Forza Stratos, They were 100 or so gramms lighter, but more aero for £180. I noticed a slight difference (i ride a modified Ventoux Saracen) i bought second hand 10 years ago, it had a campy groupset when I bought it, still does. I treated it it a respray and some cheap carbon forks to replace the steel ones last year. the whole thing weighs about 10KG.

I am riding faster, now than I was a year ago, but more to do with weight loss, and more specific training, I ride about 150 miles a week on my trusty steed. As someone once said, it's not about the bike!

I would probably go faster for less were I to swap my standard for a compact, and my 12-25 for a 12-28 particularly on the hills!

BrokenBootneck's picture

posted by BrokenBootneck [27 posts]
10th July 2014 - 11:57

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Sensible wrote:
Amongst the cyclists out there there will be some that have done exactly what I am contemplating. Surely that is the point of a forum, to learn from others and get various opinions.

Absolutely. Although I wouldn't put much faith in a stranger's opinion; it's different if 15 regular contributors all say more or less the same thing.

But most people asking 'should I upgrade?' type questions are only really looking for justification for stuff they want. They have been sold the idea and brush aside any comments that provide a different PoV.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2062 posts]
10th July 2014 - 12:43

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Simon E wrote:
Absolutely. Although I wouldn't put much faith in a stranger's opinion; it's different if 15 regular contributors all say more or less the same thing.

But most people asking 'should I upgrade?' type questions are only really looking for justification for stuff they want. They have been sold the idea and brush aside any comments that provide a different PoV.

Isn't that what an online forum is.... a stranger's opinion.

..and you seemed to have already decided what I am both wanting and thinking. That's quite a skill!

posted by Sensible [65 posts]
10th July 2014 - 14:31

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Sensible wrote:
Isn't that what an online forum is.... a stranger's opinion.

..and you seemed to have already decided what I am both wanting and thinking. That's quite a skill!

Firstly, one person's opinion is useless unless you know how they came to their conclusion; purchase justification is a well known phenomenon and happens all the time so I wouldn't trust one stranger's opinion. A genuine pattern across a range of users is of far more use to a potential buyer.

And I haven't "decided" anything about you, I was describing a very common behaviour with this type of topic. But you're welcome to jump to whatever conclusion you wish. If the cap fits...

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2062 posts]
10th July 2014 - 18:55

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Thanks to those that gave genuinely helpful comment and opinion, but I have now unsubscribed from this thread.

posted by Sensible [65 posts]
10th July 2014 - 20:05

96 Likes

Strewth! We are *sensitive* aren't we? I enjoyed reading this thread, so thanks for starting it, but I also particularly enjoyed Simon E's observations which I thought were spot-on.

posted by Joeinpoole [308 posts]
10th July 2014 - 20:13

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Wave

posted by Sensible [65 posts]
10th July 2014 - 20:30

94 Likes

I was really interested in the Soul wheels because of this test ride they offered but I couldn't get a reply off the rep.
real shame cos I reckon I would've bought them.

Noelieboy's picture

posted by Noelieboy [92 posts]
11th July 2014 - 14:23

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notfastenough wrote:
Soul wheels have a test ride program, and one of their wheel sets got a great review on here. Look them up, I think they courier the wheels out to you or something.

I was really interested in the Soul wheels because of this test ride they offered but I couldn't get a reply off the rep.
real shame cos I reckon I would've bought them.

Noelieboy's picture

posted by Noelieboy [92 posts]
11th July 2014 - 14:25

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Noelieboy wrote:
I was really interested in the Soul wheels because of this test ride they offered but I couldn't get a reply off the rep.
real shame cos I reckon I would've bought them.

That's odd - was it Adam from ASD? I only had to comment on the year-old Road.cc review article noting that Raceware Direct had dropped the price, and he replied almost instantly (I hadn't even contacted him), and also answered my questions. I do note, however, that Raceware list most of them as being sold out now - I wonder whether they aren't bothering to restock...

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3475 posts]
11th July 2014 - 15:37

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In reply to your questions:

Cutting weight from wheels is roughly equivalent to cutting double from elsewhere. It's rotational weight against static weight, and the reason is that rotational weight affects acceleration more (it's harder to change the inertia of a heavier wheel).

You should see a big difference moving up to 25mm tires. The road contact patch changes shape, becoming shorter and rounder. Because the tire deflects less, the rolling resistance is lower and you actually go faster.

More than that, there is more air volume in 25mm tires. So you can run your tires at lower pressures, which means the tires soak up bumps better. Which means you get battered by road vibration less and so you finish longer rides fresher and faster. Really.

Yes, tubulars are glue-on. They are a faff to get on, but generally are better handling. FMBs cost a ridiculous amount of money but boy, are they good. Punctures are very hard to fix if you are not a seamstress, but you can put some caffe latex in the tire and that will sort any smaller punctures.

Those hubs of yours are DT Onyx hubs. I would not recommend them. DT 350s use the ratchet system and are very good value, the 240s are a bit better but a lot more expensive for the money so not as good value.

Be careful with ceramic bearings. You can get either hybrid ceramic or full ceramic. Hybrid ceramic bearings run on steel races but full ceramic hubs use ceramic races too. The problem with the hybrids is that ceramic is harder than steel, so the bearings can wear the races quickly... too quickly sometimes.

The issue is with full ceramic bearings is that they are really expensive. I would upgrade my entire bike before getting ceramic bearings (I ride a custom Pegoretti with Super Record on steel bearings).

Hope this helps!

posted by Gordy748 [98 posts]
11th July 2014 - 22:25

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