Have you wasted money on super light new wheels?

by SammyG   April 29, 2013  

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!

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Well yes, there's no point spending money on product development then not telling anybody about it! Successful manufacturing companies like these need both an effective R&D function and an effective marketing department.

posted by 700c [587 posts]
9th May 2013 - 12:26

7 Likes

700c is right, sorry BBB but after 25 years you might not notice any effect due to all the other changes, but plenty of others do. Whether it is gyroscopic or psychological it is a real effect. And if you move from point A to point B, or even Point A to Point A faster than you did or could before then the purchase was worth it no matter how it was achieved.



I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1434 posts]
9th May 2013 - 12:27

6 Likes

PS to the O.P, some dealers offer a try before you buy scheme on certain wheels (Reynolds is one of these manufacturers) so just try them out and if you don't notice a difference in the real world then don't buy!

All the rest is just B.S. pseudo-science and speculation, frankly!

posted by 700c [587 posts]
9th May 2013 - 12:31

5 Likes

700c wrote:
PS to the O.P, some dealers offer a try before you buy scheme on certain wheels (Reynolds is one of these manufacturers) so just try them out and if you don't notice a difference in the real world then don't buy!

All the rest is just B.S. pseudo-science and speculation, frankly!

As I said before I had Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL's (£800 wheelset) I'm now riding a £40 unbranded crappy wheelset. I can't notice a difference.

posted by SammyG [295 posts]
9th May 2013 - 13:31

7 Likes

SammyG wrote:

As I said before I had Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL's (£800 wheelset) I'm now riding a £40 unbranded crappy wheelset. I can't notice a difference.

TBH at 1720g those Mavic's aren't particularly light -and weight is the subject of your post - so, aerodynamics aside, this is my experience over past few years.

FSA RD-60 - 1980g upgraded to campag Zonda -1555g: Big difference in climbing ability and acceleration. Better under power and no flex

Campag Zonda upgraded to Reynolds 46T - 1180g: a further increase in ability to sprint up hills, faster to accelerate on the flat and to hold speed.+1 mph on my recent average speeds recorded on my usual 10 mile commute.

Of course the more expensive wheels have come with better hubs but I am certain that reduction in rotating weight has been a significant factor.

posted by 700c [587 posts]
9th May 2013 - 15:19

8 Likes

My current are 2200g so around a 500g difference between them and my mavics

posted by SammyG [295 posts]
9th May 2013 - 16:25

6 Likes

I'll give you £40 for your unbranded wheels then, if they are as good as £800 carbon Mavics!

posted by 700c [587 posts]
9th May 2013 - 16:42

8 Likes

No offence but road cycling community is known from riding and thinking in a pack.

Thousands, no.. millions, in fact 9 of 10 of roadies are still on pointless 23mm tyres (coz the pros use them...), mistaking vibrations and lack of comfort for speed and ignoring solid research on rolling resistance (e.g. excellent work by Bicycle Quarterly).
I won't even start on a stupid 19-21mm trend from (I believe) 90's that people mindlessly followed just like the pros...

It's one of the many examples in the cycling world and in life generally how the majority is often wrong and how their strong convictions are based on assumptions, subjective impressions and opinions of others rather than on scientific facts.

In assessing (meaningful) performance gains I'm only interested in research not fairy tales so I will appreciate if someone points me in the right direction. Links, articles please... (independent, not "sponsored" ones, normal, NO TT setup, just a typical bloke on the bike).

I'd like to know how much faster exactly on a varied route a typical non-competing bloke putting 250-300W and cycling at 15-18mph, mostly on hoods is going to gain from more aero or lightweight wheels exactly?

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [188 posts]
10th May 2013 - 10:23

2 Likes

It doesn't matter. You buy fancy shit because it makes you feel more awesome. This hobby is so much about the emotions. Performance is directly tied in to that. Feeling more pro is part of the fun.
The aesthetic of cycling is what makes it so wonderful. Down the generations there's things cyclists just do, because it looks right and because it feels right.
I'm as likely to buy a pair of shoes because they match details on my frame as I am to buy them for their performance. Genuinely, my new shoes made me faster because I felt great wearing them.
So you get the new ultra-lightweight wheelset. People pick up your bike to do that approving thing. Your bike's more awesome. You push yourself harder to do your bike justice. You look at your bike some more. You swap out your stem for one that works just a tiny bit better. You feel good. You push harder. You train more.
You're getting marginal gains all the time, not just physical but psychological too.

Any sport is as much heart as it is head. Just accept that shiny things affect your heart too.

posted by bashthebox [647 posts]
10th May 2013 - 10:47

11 Likes

BBB wrote:
Thousands, no.. millions, in fact 9 of 10 of roadies are still on pointless 23mm tyres (coz the pros use them...), mistaking vibrations and lack of comfort for speed and ignoring solid research on rolling resistance (e.g. excellent work by Bicycle Quarterly).
I won't even start on a stupid 19-21mm trend from (I believe) 90's that people mindlessly followed just like the pros...

Bag of worms there, not that simple Love Struck

posted by SammyG [295 posts]
10th May 2013 - 11:19

1 Like

Very emotional and well-put, bashthebox! There's nothing wrong with feeling good. If you think you'll get the benefit, go for it.

Ultimately, no-one wants to be seen as an idiot wasting their time on £4k of bike, so any upgrade makes you want to do it justice and not look like you have all the gear and no idea.

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

posted by notfastenough [3476 posts]
10th May 2013 - 11:27

1 Like

I'd suggest that in purely numerical terms there's basically nothing you can buy for your bike, performance-wise, where the money wouldn't be better spent investing in improving your fitness. With the possible exception of TT bars, if you TT.

we're emotional beings though, not robots. let us have our carbon bottle cages, dammit.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7506 posts]
10th May 2013 - 11:46

7 Likes

Dave Atkinson wrote:
I'd suggest that in purely numerical terms there's basically nothing you can buy for your bike, performance-wise, where the money wouldn't be better spent investing in improving your fitness.

What about an E-Bike?

posted by farrell [1580 posts]
10th May 2013 - 12:19

1 Like

I agree with Dave Atkinson, getting fit is the best way to improve your performance. I have a twenty year old touring bike if I could afford a carbon wonder bike I doubt I would go any faster.

posted by AndrewB [2 posts]
11th May 2013 - 18:21

3 Likes

SammyG wrote:
BBB wrote:
Thousands, no.. millions, in fact 9 of 10 of roadies are still on pointless 23mm tyres (coz the pros use them...), mistaking vibrations and lack of comfort for speed and ignoring solid research on rolling resistance (e.g. excellent work by Bicycle Quarterly).
I won't even start on a stupid 19-21mm trend from (I believe) 90's that people mindlessly followed just like the pros...

Bag of worms there, not that simple Love Struck

It is very simple.

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [188 posts]
11th May 2013 - 19:44

2 Likes

BBB wrote:
SammyG wrote:
BBB wrote:
Thousands, no.. millions, in fact 9 of 10 of roadies are still on pointless 23mm tyres (coz the pros use them...), mistaking vibrations and lack of comfort for speed and ignoring solid research on rolling resistance (e.g. excellent work by Bicycle Quarterly).
I won't even start on a stupid 19-21mm trend from (I believe) 90's that people mindlessly followed just like the pros...

Bag of worms there, not that simple Love Struck

It is very simple.

Yes the rolling resistance is simple which will save you 0.2 - 0.3 watts going from 23c to 25c, but aerodynamic implications are closer to 6 watts dependent on wheel rim width.

posted by SammyG [295 posts]
11th May 2013 - 19:54

1 Like

Sorry guys simple solution:

Running, there has been so many" innovations" with running, and yet its proven training gains far out way any performance clothing gains.... Most performance gains from clothing ie compression only give the perceived feeling of better performance.

To sum up, aero=feeling of less effort thus can push harder =actually going harder

posted by blablablacksheep20 [50 posts]
11th May 2013 - 20:00

1 Like

Training's free.

The thread was about whether spending money on lighter and/or more aerodynamic wheels is worth it or not. All other factors being equal.

Wheel upgrades have made a difference for me, therefore it's worth spending money -to a point. This point will vary for everyone.

No amount of science or theory can convince though, you just have to try them out.

posted by 700c [587 posts]
11th May 2013 - 20:49

2 Likes

SammyG wrote:
BBB wrote:
SammyG wrote:
BBB wrote:
Thousands, no.. millions, in fact 9 of 10 of roadies are still on pointless 23mm tyres (coz the pros use them...), mistaking vibrations and lack of comfort for speed and ignoring solid research on rolling resistance (e.g. excellent work by Bicycle Quarterly).
I won't even start on a stupid 19-21mm trend from (I believe) 90's that people mindlessly followed just like the pros...

Bag of worms there, not that simple Love Struck

It is very simple.

Yes the rolling resistance is simple which will save you 0.2 - 0.3 watts going from 23c to 25c, but aerodynamic implications are closer to 6 watts dependent on wheel rim width.

Testing rolling resistance using smooth steel drums and air resistance of wheels/tyres using a TT bike "ridden" at 25-30mph in full aero position is as far to typical riding conditions as it gets.

It makes a very effective marketing, though.

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [188 posts]
14th May 2013 - 13:27

2 Likes

SammyG wrote:
BBB wrote:
SammyG wrote:
BBB wrote:
Thousands, no.. millions, in fact 9 of 10 of roadies are still on pointless 23mm tyres (coz the pros use them...), mistaking vibrations and lack of comfort for speed and ignoring solid research on rolling resistance (e.g. excellent work by Bicycle Quarterly).
I won't even start on a stupid 19-21mm trend from (I believe) 90's that people mindlessly followed just like the pros...

Bag of worms there, not that simple Love Struck

It is very simple.

Yes the rolling resistance is simple which will save you 0.2 - 0.3 watts going from 23c to 25c, but aerodynamic implications are closer to 6 watts dependent on wheel rim width.

Testing rolling resistance using smooth steel drums and air resistance of wheels/tyres using a TT bike "ridden" at 25-30mph in full aero position is as far from typical riding conditions as it gets.

It makes very effective marketing, though.

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [188 posts]
14th May 2013 - 13:33

2 Likes

BBB wrote:
SammyG wrote:
BBB wrote:
SammyG wrote:
BBB wrote:
Thousands, no.. millions, in fact 9 of 10 of roadies are still on pointless 23mm tyres (coz the pros use them...), mistaking vibrations and lack of comfort for speed and ignoring solid research on rolling resistance (e.g. excellent work by Bicycle Quarterly).
I won't even start on a stupid 19-21mm trend from (I believe) 90's that people mindlessly followed just like the pros...

Bag of worms there, not that simple Love Struck

It is very simple.

Yes the rolling resistance is simple which will save you 0.2 - 0.3 watts going from 23c to 25c, but aerodynamic implications are closer to 6 watts dependent on wheel rim width.

Testing rolling resistance using smooth steel drums and air resistance of wheels/tyres using a TT bike "ridden" at 25-30mph in full aero position is as far from typical riding conditions as it gets.

It makes very effective marketing, though.

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [188 posts]
27th August 2013 - 1:05

1 Like

All this stuff about rotational weight/rotational inertia. Read what Jobst Brandt has to say about it:

http://yarchive.net/bike/rotating_mass.html

His engineering/physics is spot on. The point is, rotational inertia only causes any negative effect when accelerating significantly. It might even have positive effects at a steady speed.

The sensation of surging forward with each push on the pedals does not mean you're going faster - you might just be slowing down more between pedal strokes due to reduced flywheel effect!

It can be very hard to tell what is actually faster without timing things and having some evidence that you're putting out an equal effort (ie power meter). Even then you can't control for wind conditions and other factors.

What is more simple is that saving weight on the bike or on yourself means you can ride up hills faster at the same speed (terminal velocity is higher - try coasting downhill next to someone heavier than you). The steeper the hill, the bigger the effect. You'll also go down hill more slowly, but the net effect going up and down is that you'll be quicker.

Saving weight also slightly reduces your rolling resistance at any speed.

I think the maths is off in the first linked article because the speed uphill is high (I think because it isn't very steep). This makes the aerodynamics far more significant than it is when you're grinding up a steep hill at low speed. Weight becomes the dominant factor at lower speeds.

DaveE128's picture

posted by DaveE128 [85 posts]
30th October 2014 - 13:39

3 Likes

bashthebox wrote:
It doesn't matter. You buy fancy shit because it makes you feel more awesome. This hobby is so much about the emotions. Performance is directly tied in to that. Feeling more pro is part of the fun.
The aesthetic of cycling is what makes it so wonderful. Down the generations there's things cyclists just do, because it looks right and because it feels right.
I'm as likely to buy a pair of shoes because they match details on my frame as I am to buy them for their performance. Genuinely, my new shoes made me faster because I felt great wearing them.
So you get the new ultra-lightweight wheelset. People pick up your bike to do that approving thing. Your bike's more awesome. You push yourself harder to do your bike justice. You look at your bike some more. You swap out your stem for one that works just a tiny bit better. You feel good. You push harder. You train more.
You're getting marginal gains all the time, not just physical but psychological too.

Any sport is as much heart as it is head. Just accept that shiny things affect your heart too.

So true. It's predominantly the emotion and the magpie syndrome. After all, Bradley Wiggins could ride my current bike way faster than I can so there's nothing wrong with my bike Plain Face

posted by Tintow [19 posts]
30th October 2014 - 23:47

1 Like

As Dave128 posted, swapping to much lighter wheels (Ksyrium Elite) allowed me to grind up the very steep hills in my area with noticeably less effort (before that, I could not even get up some of them without dismounting). On the flat though, I seemed to lose some flywheel effect. Changing to 28mm tyres at 90 psi made a massive difference in ride comfort over the appalling roads (breathtaking views though), ultimately making me 10% faster on typical 3 hour mountain rides.
I believe that wheel manufacturers have only scratched the surface, the advent of disk brakes, wider rims, tubeless tyres will increase their design freedom. 5 years down the road, our wheel/tyre combinations will look very different.
Summing up: lighter rims make a real world difference when climbing, same as wider tyres on comfort; aero gains probably kick in above 35 km/hr overtaking the fly wheel effect. The truly interesting times in wheel/tyre development lay still ahead.

The entropy of the universe increases constantly. Carpe diem.

posted by noether [89 posts]
31st October 2014 - 6:17

2 Likes

On two occasions this year I have heard local guys banging on about their super light new wheels. One also has DI2. And you know what? They still aren't as fast as me.

Of course, if I had the money, no doubt I would be buying the same equipment.

stenmeister's picture

posted by stenmeister [76 posts]
31st October 2014 - 12:26

1 Like

I bought some Swissside Hadron deep section wheels based on as scientific a trial I could be bothered with. I tried a set for a week or two and rode the same short flat TT course numerous times with those wheels and measured them against what I could do on my old Askiums. I found I was around 1mph (21mph vs 20mph) quicker over the course with deep sections on, for the same HR effort, in reasonably similar wind conditions.

We're all individuals here, we make our choices and move on.

posted by Hoester [65 posts]
31st October 2014 - 12:53

0 Likes

stenmeister wrote:
On two occasions this year I have heard local guys banging on about their super light new wheels. One also has DI2. And you know what? They still aren't as fast as me.

Aaah - but are they as blessed with hubris as your good self ?

fukawitribe's picture

posted by fukawitribe [543 posts]
31st October 2014 - 13:12

4 Likes

BBB wrote:
In assessing (meaningful) performance gains I'm only interested in research not fairy tales so I will appreciate if someone points me in the right direction. Links, articles please... (independent, not "sponsored" ones, normal, NO TT setup, just a typical bloke on the bike).

I'd like to know how much faster exactly on a varied route a typical non-competing bloke putting 250-300W and cycling at 15-18mph, mostly on hoods is going to gain from more aero or lightweight wheels exactly?

.... because that's the kind of research that bike manufacturers are going to commission.

This thread is another variation of the age old debate between "I can afford it so why shouldn't I buy it, notwithstanding that I probably could realise similar improvement another way" and "spoilt rich dentists are ruining our sport by pretending to be pro, the true soul of cycling is 7 speed screw on blocks and steel frames".

I ride my bike cause its fun. I suspect the vast majority of users on this website are not paid to ride their bikes and so are in the same boat. For me, sometimes going fast is fun and I am "guilty" of buying loads of shiny stuff that I think will make me go faster (including some PX carbon wheels). Sometimes fun isn't going faster (hence fat bike), but rather doing something different. Have more fun. Trying to justify your fun by some kind of scientific metric is kind of sad; trying to guilt people out because they have chosen to get their kicks a particular way (e.g., via the purchase of carbon wheels) isn't any better.

posted by surly_by_name [177 posts]
31st October 2014 - 13:44

2 Likes

These discussions tend to go round in circles because those who want/can afford new kit justify it and those who do not want/can't afford argue against it. To paraphrase (incorrectly) Lance, it's a lot about the bike. Part of the enjoyment for many is the machinery, and nothing wrong with that. Even for the Eroica guys and gals, it's still about kit to a large extent

Scrufftie's picture

posted by Scrufftie [74 posts]
31st October 2014 - 18:54

1 Like

I like shiny things Cool nothing wrong with a bit of Gucci on your bike Big Grin

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

― George Carlin

“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”

― Euripides, Bacchae

Cyclist's picture

posted by Cyclist [226 posts]
3rd November 2014 - 22:36

0 Likes