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Ok, so I'm currently researching a new set of wheels, I was primarily looking at the weight of the wheels but during my research I came across a number of articles that would imply that 250g's off a set of wheels would make a minimal difference.

Here is an article backed with scientific research: http://www.biketechreview.com/index.php/reviews/wheels/63-wheel-performance it shows that reducing a wheelsets weight by 50% has a sub .5% difference in performance. The main gains that can be made by a wheel are in it's aerodynamic ability.

So I thought well, I will need a 40mm+ set of wheels to reap the aerodynamic benefits, then I stumbled on the following research: http://www.cyclingpowerlab.com/ComponentAerodynamics.aspx this data would suggest that the Campagnolo Zondas are a more aerodynamically sound choice than a Mavic Carbone SLR!

80 comments

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jengy [71 posts] 3 years ago
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250g is half a water bottle, you cant really tell much difference in pace with a change that small. My summer bike is 2kg lighter and goes maybe 1kmh quicker than the all-year one.. which is likely partly down to aero of not having mudguards. Feels a bit racier though..

Aero wheels seem to make a bit of difference, but you need to be going pretty quickly in the 1st place, and might not suit if you go up lots of hills as they tend to be heavier, and the best ones are lots of pennies.

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TheHatter [770 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm not sure I understand your point. It almost sounds like you're suggesting that spending money on bike upgrades may not be a good idea...?
nope, still not getting it  7

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 3 years ago
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I could buy super light wheels for the trike, not that I can afford them, because they are expensive. It would make minimal difference to my speed and climbing ability.

I decided, just to get a bit fitter and loose a couple of KG from.....around my waist line  19

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Simon E [2722 posts] 3 years ago
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Based on a little experience and lots of reading, I'd say that lighter wheels feel nicer but won't boost your speed by much, even on hills. Deep section aero wheels don't help as much as the adverts suggest, whether carbon or alloy. Also, I've read a number of times now, including from a couple of wheel builders, that bladed spokes are overrated.

If you enlarge the graph on this page you'll see that some so-called "aero" wheels don't necessarily fare better than some pretty ordinary hoops:
http://www.rouesartisanales.com/article-15505311.html

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SammyG [274 posts] 3 years ago
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Indeed from the info I have gleaned wheels made by SRAM, zipp and HED provide good aero benefits whereas other brands do not incorporate the same technologies and therefore do not have the benefits even if you buy a deep section rim!

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ilovemytinbred [161 posts] 3 years ago
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As above, light high quality wheels ride better, but like most bike bling they dont make you any faster. But as we ride for enjoyment something that is nicer to ride is not a waste of money.

In terms of increasing speed, aero wheels are only really worth it against the clock where 30 seconds over 25 miles is going to mean a few places in a race. You would struggle to measure the difference under normal riding conditions.

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davecochrane [140 posts] 3 years ago
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Interesting post. My stock Aksium Race wheels that came on my Fuji Team Pro 2009 pretty much almost fell apart on me this month and I was considering maybe the new Zipp 30 alu wheels for what are said to be great hubs and strong build quality. Anyone tried them?

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RichTheRoadie [67 posts] 3 years ago
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Rode my heaviest wheelset (around 2.5kg with tyres & tubes) on my 8.5kg steel bike last night and bagged 3 hill climb PBs.

AND the wheels (H+Son TB14 rims on Royce hubs) feel better than most others I've ridden (FMB-shod tubulars aside).

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badkneestom [135 posts] 3 years ago
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Physics: look up rotational and translational speeds.

What it really comes down to is the closer your weight is to the axis of rotation, the more speed you'll get. The image my mind goes to is a man holding weights on a spinning stool. The closer to his body, the faster he spins. Another way to think of it is your crank chainrings.

Overall, how much difference? I'd bet it's a pretty fair change. I don't buy that .5%

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SammyG [274 posts] 3 years ago
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I don't understand your point Tom are you suggesting that a smaller wheel will be faster as the weight of the rim and tire will be closer to the axis of rotation?

Either way the research points to the weight of the wheels does not matter just the total weight. Apart from when initially accelerating when overcoming the inertia of lighter wheels will be slightly easier.

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iammarcmason [47 posts] 3 years ago
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Not to forget a decent wheel-set be it heavy or light should still handle and feel better than a £50 set of hoops and girders which in theory would allow you to be less battered when you are out on the ride therefore allowing you to be fresher towards the end.

(Also 0.5% of four hours is still 72 seconds which in this day and age is a race winning amount of time. Just saying)

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therevokid [948 posts] 3 years ago
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RichTheRoadie wrote:

... the wheels (H+Son TB14 rims on Royce hubs) feel better than most others I've ridden (FMB-shod tubulars aside).

Went from Kysrium Elite to Nemeis Clincher on Royce which
are markedly heavier but echo richtheroadie's commensts
as they feel nicer  1

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themartincox [499 posts] 3 years ago
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Yup, would echo that the feel of the wheels is probably more important than the performance 'gains' quoted.

Aero really only makes a difference once you are up to a good rate of knots, at lower speeds its kindof irrelevant.

A nice riding pair of wheels makes a difference ALL the time!

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ragtag [217 posts] 3 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

I decided, just to get a bit fitter and loose a couple of KG from.....around my waist line  19

This is good advice.

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roly [41 posts] 3 years ago
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IMHO No1 reason to upgrade is hubs. some nice rolling wheels make all the difference. and where is the scientific research into the effect of loving your new wheels you just spent money on and riding faster. works for me

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abudhabiChris [692 posts] 3 years ago
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With apologies to George Best... I spent all my money on carbon fibre frames, titanium components and expensive wheels - the rest I wasted.

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badback [302 posts] 3 years ago
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Interesting as I'm just about to upgrade my Khamsin's to Campagnolo Neutrons.

Whilst there is wheel intertia only has 0.5% effect on performance, the bike and rider weight has an 8% effect. Surely if you knock some weight off the wheels this will have an effect on this figure.

Plus surely if you reduce the weight of the wheel rim it will take less time to accelerate up to speed. (As Tom said rotational and translational speed.)

Tyre choice must be a factor as well as this is critical in reducing rolling resistance.

IIRC aero wheels only come into their own at speeds above 40 kmh.

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SammyG [274 posts] 3 years ago
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Rolling resistance is incredibly important, and aero wheels are still important at low speeds (see the hill climb data from the original post).

Getting the wheels up to speed will take less effort with less weight. For instance a Zipp 404 will take 118joules of effort to reach 19mph from 0 and a Shimano RS30 will take 143 joules. A bit of a difference, but let's take into account the rider. If the bike and rider weighs 80kg 2800joules of energy will be needed for the acceleration thus making the wheels account for only 5%.

With regards to the bike and rider making up 8% of the effect lets take the same 80kg bike + rider figure and work out what difference a 500g lighter wheelset would make. Just over .5% if you had a 1kg lighter wheelset (super expensive) that would be a 1% difference.

Btw are you selling the Khamsins?

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Colin Peyresourde [1724 posts] 3 years ago
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One factor to think of is that if you get lighter wheels the wheel and it's design need to be just as rigid as a heavier wheel. I used to have Bontrager XL race lites on my bikes. These were light and the bike flew, but I couldn't ride them on back to back runs without them warping.

I got the Ksyeriums which are bullet proof. I hardly ever have to check the spoke tension on them and they run like a dream.

I must admit that I thought that rotational force of the wheel could help (on a flat), so strategically weighted wheels are faster. I seem to remember that the old time trial bikes had ball bearings in them which would allow an athlete to keep their speed up. The only problem is if the speed drops and so not so good for going up hills.

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badback [302 posts] 3 years ago
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SammyG wrote:

Btw are you selling the Khamsins?

They are going on the good wife's bike.

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Leviathan [1980 posts] 3 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

I decided, just to get a bit fitter and loose a couple of KG from.....around my waist line  19

And how is that going for you?

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robdaykin (not verified) [368 posts] 3 years ago
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Purely objectively, based on measurements taken myself on actual rides, I've found bigger differences than the cyclingpowerlabs, but similar trends. I find lighter wheels are measurably faster with no aero features, and aero wheels give benefit climbing and below 25mph ground speed

I'd ignore the biketechreview article. I don't think it would pass peer review for a science journal is probably the politest way of putting it.

I read a very good article last summer on rotational, dead and active weight, which gave some explanations and equations for why rider weight loss affects speed on the flat less than losing dead weight (the bike) and far less than rotational weight (wheels primarily). Can't find the link, but I seem to remember Chris Boardman either referenced it, or it was in an article talking about incremental gains last summer, which also mentioned him.

Having lost over 20lbs in the last 10 months, lower rider weight helps with climbing, but is far less significant on the flat than you'd hope. Certainly riding on the drops and aero wheels are both more significant than weight loss for me. Though it has helped lots with climbing.

And for me, no I didn't waste money on super light new wheels. I have invested wisely, and have had considerable pleasure from each upgrade I've made so far.

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pirnie [199 posts] 3 years ago
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I completely agree with robdaykin. As someone who spends most of my day reading peer reviewd scientific articles I didn't find the article particularly convincing (although I didn't follow all the maths).

From my personal experience as well, I know I can ride higer gears up the same climbs and keep up with faster riders in my club when using my Ksyrium Elites than the bog standard Bontragers off my Trek.

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badkneestom [135 posts] 3 years ago
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SammyG wrote:

I don't understand your point Tom are you suggesting that a smaller wheel will be faster as the weight of the rim and tire will be closer to the axis of rotation?

Either way the research points to the weight of the wheels does not matter just the total weight. Apart from when initially accelerating when overcoming the inertia of lighter wheels will be slightly easier.

I don't think we can be friends for your making me pull out the physics book.

Basically what it comes down to is that the further from the axis of rotation your center of mass is, the less rotating speed you'll get out of the same inertia. The tighter, the more rotational velocity.

Yes, a smaller wheel could cause this effect, but in essence you're also going to get less distance per rotation in this scenario. The true idea is to keep the center of mass at the hubs, hence lighter wheels.

I'm not disagreeing with the science, but .5% seems to be an outlier from an ideal situation used to prove a point. We aren't bike companies, and there's a reason engineers make millions for companies that do it better. It's not just marketing.

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SammyG [274 posts] 3 years ago
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Have a play with this calculator! http://www.u.arizona.edu/~sandiway/bike/climb.html
It's very interesting.

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Tjuice [194 posts] 3 years ago
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I didn't *waste* money on new light wheels. My new wheels made me very happy.

I spent £400 on a pair of Planet X 50mm aero tubulars, and saved myself both weight, and money over the Fulcrum Racing 1s I was considering getting! They feel great, look great on my bike, and I believe I go faster (according to my recorded times over routes I have cycled tens of times).

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notfastenough [3683 posts] 3 years ago
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It's not all about weight, or even speed. I enjoy covering ground quickly as much as the next guy, but my winter wheels weigh a total of 3.15kg with tyres/tubes/cassette/skewers. My christmas present, on the other hand (Mavi Ksyrium Equipes) weigh 2.6-2.7kg fully loaded. However, the difference on climbs is really not that great. They spin up easier, but they also flex under load. I'm going to get the spoke tension checked out, but as things stand, I wouldn't buy them again.

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RichTheRoadie [67 posts] 3 years ago
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@notfastenough - That's a simple matter of handbuilt Vs factory. My 3 sets of handbuilt are rock solid, but all factory wheels I've owned have had lateral flex. Even Lightweights and Mad Fibers.

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hezy87 [1 post] 3 years ago
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With the Planet X wheels they are both light and Aerodynamic so you should see best of both worlds. I think the point SammyG was making is that if they were just light, then it would have been money "wasted".

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700c [904 posts] 3 years ago
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I do think there's a real risk of wasting money on expensive wheels, if you factor in the law of diminishing returns, and the additional complications that come from using high end Wheelsets, for example:

My £300 Zondas feel great, I'm used to how they ride, the summer Vittoria's have bedded in and hum along the road fantastically

My new Reynolds tubulars (paid £1100), freewheel more freely, are a bit faster on the flat above 25 mph, but the installation of tyres was a pain in the arse, I screwed up the mounting first time, they need special brakes and can't be used when it's windy (or at least I'm scared to at present...) And are less comfortable

I may get used to them in due course, but are they worth 4 x the price I paid for the clinchers?

I think not..

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