importance of wheels?

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by pool123, Mar 1, 2004.

  1. pool123

    pool123 New Member

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    Hi there, I'm realative new to racing, so I am wondering how much the quality of the wheels (rims) effect the overall performance (speed) in a race.

    I have a good bike (Trek 5500) but only some cheap wheels (Alex rims at450). I could change to ALX at320 which are considered to be high end. What do you think, is it worth it? If its only stability, then there is no need. The at450 seem to be very stable and I am only 66kg, so this shouldnt be an issue.
    Thanks in advance
     
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  2. tafi

    tafi Member

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    The rim will always start arguments about advantages and disadvantages.
    There are three attributes of a rim:
    Mass
    Aerodynamics
    Durability (also something to do with spoke count)

    It is difficult in the extreme to have low mass, high aerodynamic efficiency and durability all in the one wheel which is why racers tend to collect different wheels.

    Low mass rims are good in races where there are a lot of accelerations. Aerodynamic wheels are good in flatter to rolling terrain where there is a more constant higher speed. Durable 'traditional' wheels are at their best on rougher roads or in training.

    Often so called "high end wheels" are not good for much else than racing as they can go off true very quickly.

    Also one company's high end may be crap next to another's.

    I don't know much about Alex rims. The wheels I have used are all custom built. That way you can taylor the features you want.
     
  3. lokstah

    lokstah New Member

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    It's a subtle matter of relative factors, the same ones that govern any component's effectiveness or quality.

    When considering wheel quality, four or five chief characteristics come to mind off the top of my head: weight, durability, rotational stiffness or responsiveness, ride quality, and aerodynamics (the least relevant of the lot for most folks, generally). Weight is an obvious and popular consideration -- less weight, in general, means less to haul up a hill and less to spring forward from a standstill. The lightest clincher wheelsets hover around 1000 grams for the pair; heavier sets straddle the 2000 gram mark. Most retail wheelsets ranging from $400USD/pair to $1500USD/pair fill the 1300g to 1600g zone.

    Durability is another no-brainer, although its less intuitive than weight when it comes to price. Many of the sexier and pricier wheelsets are positioned as race-day wheels; they're light and marvelous, but not beefy enough for every day or training use. The cheapest wheels suffer the same fate by virtue of being junk. Look for middle-ground... the uber-popular Mavic Ksyrium SL owes much of its commerical success to the notion that it's remarkably durable for a high-performance race wheel, and fit for frequent use. Plenty of much cheaper wheels offer the same benefit, though; Velomax is a great company with durable, inexpensive options; Campy's mid and lower-end wheels have big followings as well. The Ksyrium's little brother, the Ksyrium Elite, is cheaper and supposedly tough as nails.

    Fancy wheels boast flex-free responsiveness as well -- that quality of rolling with precise power transfer when you stomp the pedals at a red light or accelerate aggressively. This is an elusive quality, though, because a wheel which is super stiff in this sense may not a) be the lightest, or b) be very comfy to ride. Many regard the Ksyrium SL, for example, as a snappy, jump-from-the-gun wheel with a harsh soul.

    Finally, aerodynamics come into play, though not for most folks in most situations. A deeper, sexy rim extending beyond the 32mm or 35mm mark starts to offer a subtle aerodynamic advantage when traveling at speeds in excess of 20 or 25mph. Unless you're spending over $1000USD, though, that extra rim material tends to come at a significant weight penalty, and cheap or pricey, can cause issues in cross-winds. Unless you specialize in time-trial or triathalon-style courses, with stretches of pure speed unhindered by climbs or other trouble, you're better off keeping aerodynamics low on your priority list.

    There's no doubt that a wheel upgrade can confer some advantage to a racer, but these qualities are all relative -- it comes down to how little a benefit you're willing to buy for how much cash. A good wheel can make your bike a great deal more fun, for a cost. What's your budget?
     
  4. pool123

    pool123 New Member

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    thank you for answering so quick.
    So my conclusion is, to buy the wheels (Alx 320) and spare them for races (frequent triathlons) and use the cheaper ones for training. Since there are lots of hills, I don`t need aerodynamics so much i guess. Heard lots of people complaining about the Ksyrium though, but of course, if there is a mass there are more critics as well...
     
  5. fushman

    fushman New Member

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    tons of people love ksyriums; i havent heard many complaints about them besides with respect to their cost. if you have the money you can get both aero and lite wheels, you see enough pros climb on campy boras for example but they are not cheap to say the least.
     
  6. lokstah

    lokstah New Member

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    I concur. Half of the reason they're so friggin popular is excellent marketing and promotion in regards to Mavic; the other half is the fact that they're an excellent, well-tested, all-around high-performance wheel.

    In describing them, folks often toss around terms like "bombproof," which is, of course, misleading. It's not inaccurate to say, though, that among stiff, lightweight, race-oriented wheels costing under $1000 USD, the Ksyrium SL is among the sturdiest. Many a high-mileage rider of the race or enthusiast stripe uses them for training and racing alike, and they hold up for most folks. Period.

    Keep in mind, though, that there are 2 (three now, actually) different levels of Ksyriums available on the market -- the new baseline "Equippe," the mid-level "Elite," and the race-oriented "SSC SL." I don't know much about the Equippe, but the Elite, like the SL, has a reputation for reliability within its category.
     
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