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  1. #1
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    Wheel advice (not which wheel should I buy)

    2014 will be my first season of racing. I will be trying criteriums, road races and time trials. I am looking for advise on what to look for in a wheelset that I can ride for all three. Keep in mind that one of the TT's I will be riding under Eddie Merckx rules which are nothing over 30mm. Thanks in advice. (oh and in case the budget question comes up, I want to keep it under $500.00)

  2. #2
    powered by Racer Ex gsteinb's Avatar
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    so, not which wheel you should buy, but which wheelset you should buy.

    color me confused.

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    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Not more than 30mm? Tough to go wrong a set of Kinlin XR-300 hoops with Sapim CX-Ray spokes, and your favorite hubs. (for me, it's Alchemy Elf up front and PowerTap in the back)

    Really though, you've got bigger issues in your first season than wheel selection.

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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post
    Really though, you've got bigger issues in your first season than wheel selection.
    I realize this, believe me and I am working to lessen how big the issues can be. Thank you for your suggestion

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    In the Pain Cave thechemist's Avatar
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    Doesn't really matter but if you can only go to 30mm than I would get some variant in 30mm. Granted, I wouldn't let one TT dictate which wheelset I could get.

  6. #6
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    If you're thinking of racing in 2014 then presumably you have a bike. If you're looking for wheels then presumably you have not-so-aero wheels on that presumed bike.

    If the wheels on that bike are 30mm or shorter than get some big aero wheels to compliment the non-aero wheels. Too many people buy a second set of wheels that are much like the first set they have - the gains are minimal and you don't notice much of a difference. Get a wheel set that is totally different and you'll notice a difference. There's a lot of potential for debate here on what to buy so I won't go into details but an all purpose wheel set would be good, 50-70mm tall rims, etc. It's really up to you. Your budget implies that you might be better off spending your money on fit stuff (bar/stem/saddle/post), pedals/shoes, clothing, maintenance, entry fees, etc.

    If the wheels on that bike are over 30mm tall then think about how important that Merckx TT is. If it's really important then look for a sub-30mm rim wheel set. If not then see the above statement.

    If you don't have a bike or you don't have wheels then get some wheels that are under 30 mm tall.

    For TT stuff I think, but I can't prove (someone will pipe up though if I bring it up) that lower spoke counts are pretty significant. I've used the HED Ardennes rimmed wheels which are about 24mm tall. They're strong enough that I can run 18/24 spoke, which is how they came from HED. The aero difference between such a rim and a 30mm tall rim is going to be negligible. Get a good, light, reliable low-height-rim wheel set.

    If you're really hard up then see if there are racers in the area selling off their stock/OEM wheel sets. I know that there'd be a few wheel sets available in my area just from teammates alone. Usually you can get these wheels for dirt cheap.
    "...during the Lance years, being fit became the No. 1 thing. Totally the only thing. It’s a big part of what we do, but fitness is not the only thing. There’s skills, there’s tactics … there’s all kinds of stuff..." Tim Johnson

  7. #7
    soon to be gsteinc... rkwaki's Avatar
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    Mavic Ksyrium SL
    or some handbuilts that will take a pounding and be repairable.
    "if you ride it the way it's meant to be ridden there's no way any wife is less of a ***** than a bicycle." - gstein

  8. #8
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Ride your stock wheels for the Merckx TT and the to be purchased new or used deeper section wheels (>58 mm) for the other TTs, RRs and crits. Refer to CDR's response.

    My experience in Cat 5 was that wheel set selection did not make a difference for me in crit and road race results but I am a believer in paying attention to details and taking advantage of incremental improvements - including wheel selection. It is more fun and if I think I am faster, then I am faster.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

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    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    I'm thinking about upgrading wheels too. But I'm thinking about gettng it from overseas for a lot cheaper, after doing my homework on their built quality. I think 50 mm is a good trade off all around wheels. As far as aerodynamics, I think front wheels are more impacting, so it's usually better to have deeper rims in the front than in the back.
    1

  10. #10
    ride lots be safe Creakyknees's Avatar
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    sorry yeah +1 on "ride the stock wheels" - the cost is 'free' and they will not be a factor in your results ... ride lots be safe
    "have fun and be kind"
    - an internet post

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    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    Open Pro. /thread
    pro-meter: lol

    blog

  12. #12
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    Open Pro. /thread
    Says the guy who's OP just took a dump on him.

    From all the cracked OP's I read about I can only assume people confuse a crappy, heavy, slow, sort of cheap wheel with something reliable. And yes Virginia, I've owned a set and the tubular equivilent.

    I'd look at a set of Ultegra tubeless. They can be had online for $300 or so. Hits all the design points for both reliability and performance. Stiff, aero, hard to kill. Plus it allows you to run tubeless which is a pretty large safety increase over a tube and with sealant will often get you through a race.

    I have a set that's been ridden nearly everyday for two years and three sets of tires, haven't touched them. I've taken mine off road numerous times and ridden them flat out on cobbles. 155 LB rider.

    At 30mm a somewhat smaller rim will be faster if it's got a lower spoke count (see Ultegra). Most 30mm rims are more show and less go. A few 40mm rims have good numbers (HED, ENVE). I race 60's for a ton of stuff even when it's windy.

    Thing with higher profile rims is they react slower and require a greater skill set to deal with if it gets gusty. If you've got a ton of miles on them training and then take them to a race, that's one thing. But buying them and sticking them on for a Cat 5 race...not so good.
    Last edited by Racer Ex; 11-20-13 at 06:19 PM.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
    sorry yeah +1 on "ride the stock wheels" - the cost is 'free' and they will not be a factor in your results ... ride lots be safe
    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    Thing with higher profile rims is they react slower and require a greater skill set to deal with if it gets gusty. If you've got a ton of miles on them training and then take them to a race, that's one thing. But buying them and sticking them on for a Cat 5 race...not so good.
    This makes sense. Thank you

  14. #14
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    If you're interested in Racer Ex's suggestion of Ultegra wheels, the ten speed versions are relatively cheap now - $256.60 at Ribble. Don't know what the shipping would be from the UK, but this firm is reasonable on shipping.
    Regards,
    Chuck

    Demain, on roule!

  15. #15
    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    Says the guy who's OP just took a dump on him.
    Lol I crashed that rim.. pretty sure any wheel woulda done the same.

    My point was less on the brand, and more don't worry about high profile rims for now.
    pro-meter: lol

    blog

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    It is more fun and if I think I am faster, then I am faster.
    +1. I race bikes for fun. I'm a hack Cat 3 that can't climb or TT and I consider finishing a race a minor triumph. Big wheels are fun. Heck, equipment thoughts are fun. It's part of the game.

    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    I'm thinking about upgrading wheels too. But I'm thinking about gettng it from overseas for a lot cheaper, after doing my homework on their built quality. I think 50 mm is a good trade off all around wheels. As far as aerodynamics, I think front wheels are more impacting, so it's usually better to have deeper rims in the front than in the back.
    I agree that a front wheel makes more of an aero difference. Heck I used to ride a Specialized TriSpoke front (aka HED3 aka what a lot of pros use even now as a front wheel in TTs) and a non-aero rear wheel (Eurus). I even bought a clincher front TriSpoke so I could train on one all the time.

    However with normal width rims you can't always run an aero front, or at least it's a bit sketchier than a non-aero front. With an aero rear you can always, always run the aero rear because it's stable. With the new wider rims you can run them in much windier conditions without problems. I've run a 75mm front in 20 mph gusts.

    My ideal wheel combo for a given normal amateur racer is a pair of really tall wheels, like 70-90mm tall, and a non-aero front wheel. Go big on the flatter races, use the non-aero front for anything with super fast descents (big aero wheels are a handful at, say, 50 mph with massive gusts). For example my go to race wheels are 75/90mm F/R (flat crits or crits with a short climb in them). I have a pair of 60mm tall wheels but I only used the front once or twice in super windy conditions when I forgot my non-aero front training wheel. If I could get a 35-45mm tall wide front race wheel then I wouldn't really need the 60s at all, although I plan on gluing rain tires on the 60s and saving them for rainy crits.
    "...during the Lance years, being fit became the No. 1 thing. Totally the only thing. It’s a big part of what we do, but fitness is not the only thing. There’s skills, there’s tactics … there’s all kinds of stuff..." Tim Johnson

  17. #17
    In the Pain Cave thechemist's Avatar
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    I forget, did they ever regulate wheel depth for amateur racers? I know there was talk of it earlier this year.

  18. #18
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    I've been struggling with what wheel(set) to buy also. I've got a set of really old OP's - so old I don't really trust them anymore - that have been relegated to winter/trainer duty. On the other end I've got a pair of Firecrest 404 clinchers for race day. I don't really want to use the 404's as daily drivers, so I need a set of training wheels...and I don't like adjusting brake width every time I out on the aero wheels and race....

    What do you guys do? Adjust brakes with the race wheels on race day? Ride the nice wheels all the time? Have a second set of widish rims for daily drivers? (Which?)

    I would jump on RX's ultegra advice above but it doesn't address the brake adjustment PITA.

  19. #19
    Senior Member rankin116's Avatar
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    Easy solution, my race wheels are my training wheels. Maybe someday as my ability increases I'll see a need (or have the cash) to buy race specific wheels, but not now. So I can't answer your question. Although I can say there are plenty of 23mm aluminum rims out there you could build into a training wheel set. Wouldn't need to be expensive either.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by rapwithtom View Post
    I've been struggling with what wheel(set) to buy also. I've got a set of really old OP's - so old I don't really trust them anymore - that have been relegated to winter/trainer duty. On the other end I've got a pair of Firecrest 404 clinchers for race day. I don't really want to use the 404's as daily drivers, so I need a set of training wheels...and I don't like adjusting brake width every time I out on the aero wheels and race....

    What do you guys do? Adjust brakes with the race wheels on race day? Ride the nice wheels all the time? Have a second set of widish rims for daily drivers? (Which?)

    I would jump on RX's ultegra advice above but it doesn't address the brake adjustment PITA.
    When I got wider race wheels (HED Stingers) the width difference was so much that I had to adjust the brake using the anchor bolt. I decided to get the wide clinchers (HED Ardennes, Jets), which are about 5 mm narrower (vs 7mm) and now I "only" have to turn the barrel adjuster 5-6 full turns between the brakes (with the default position being on the race wheels, with barrel adjuster fully in). I discovered I had a flat as I lined up for a race and could get the clincher in place before we got going (and the brake adjusted).

    My ideal solution would be to get some wider clinchers, like the Ardennes plus or a set of the wider carbon clinchers. I'm not in a super rush though.
    "...during the Lance years, being fit became the No. 1 thing. Totally the only thing. It’s a big part of what we do, but fitness is not the only thing. There’s skills, there’s tactics … there’s all kinds of stuff..." Tim Johnson

  21. #21
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    Says the guy who's OP just took a dump on him.

    From all the cracked OP's I read about I can only assume people confuse a crappy, heavy, slow, sort of cheap wheel with something reliable. And yes Virginia, I've owned a set and the tubular equivilent.
    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    Says the guy who's OP just took a dump on him.

    From all the cracked OP's I read about I can only assume people confuse a crappy, heavy, slow, sort of cheap wheel with something reliable. And yes Virginia, I've owned a set and the tubular equivalent.
    The only explanation I can think of for the continued popularity of the Open Pro is Stockholm Syndrome. It's, what, 10 or 15 years old, now? When it first came out I guess it was pretty okay, but that's because it was one of the first "lightweight" double-wall rims out there. Time has passed it by. It's heavy, not remotely aerodynamic, and not especially durable - people think it's strong because of the eyelets, but so far as I can tell, they only prevent it from cracking around the spoke holes even sooner. A Kinlin XR-300 isn't terribly aero either, but it's an improvement, AND it's as light or lighter AND it's considerably more durable. Not to mention that it's a an old-school skinny rim, I'm not totally convinced that wide rims are a big improvement with 23mm tires, but I still think that going wider is the right move (that also rules out the XR-300, yes).

    To the OP: the main reason for a new racer to buy a new set of wheels would be to have a spare set to put in the pit or the wheel truck in case of a flat during the race. I'll be honest, I've been racing six years and in ~80 races total (a couple of years with almost no racing in there) I've had access to spare wheels on only a handful of occasions, and for me that hasn't been an issue. I've never flatted out of a race, not saying that you won't because I know I've been lucky, but with good maintenance and not riding like an idiot it should be infrequent enough not to have a major impact on your results during a season. And frankly, the wheel truck in most RRs is going to allow you to ride your bike back to the finish line instead of hitchhiking. Very seldom can you expect to get a wheel change and get back into contention in a road race. So I hope you see the point that a new set of wheels is a good idea so you don't end up stranded in the middle of nowhere after a flat, but isn't likely to affect your results much.

    I think Ex's suggestion of going tubeless is intriguing. I don't know about this whole road tubeless thing, dealing with the tire availability and compatibility and such seems like a PITA, I think most setups are heavier for the same price (??) but Ex knows WTF he's talking about regarding equipment. So I would take that suggestion seriously. If you've got tubeless tires with sealant, you're definitely less likely to need that wheel truck in the first place.

    Oh, and finally - if you want wheels, buy wheels. New stuff is nice and your stock wheels are probably pretty crap. Get a professionally-built wheelset and ride them for everything, throw your crummy stock wheels in the pit and run them on the trainer. Have fun.

  22. #22
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rapwithtom View Post
    I've been struggling with what wheel(set) to buy also. I've got a set of really old OP's - so old I don't really trust them anymore - that have been relegated to winter/trainer duty. On the other end I've got a pair of Firecrest 404 clinchers for race day. I don't really want to use the 404's as daily drivers, so I need a set of training wheels...and I don't like adjusting brake width every time I out on the aero wheels and race....

    What do you guys do? Adjust brakes with the race wheels on race day? Ride the nice wheels all the time? Have a second set of widish rims for daily drivers? (Which?)

    I would jump on RX's ultegra advice above but it doesn't address the brake adjustment PITA.
    This is one of the reasons I haven't switched to wide rims on the road yet. The biggest is that my current do-all wheels, which are a nice balance of light, durable and comfy, are still going strong. But the need to basically buy two sets at once is reason #2 . That's what I did for cyclocross, purchased a pair of 23mm clinchers and tubulars at the same time. Of course, as I said, I already don't have a full spare set, so it's really that I didn't see enough benefit when I tested those clinchers on my road bike to want to run out and buy a set for it. Huge benefits in cross, though. Anyone who buys skinny rims to race cross in the post-wide rim world is doing themselves a big disservice.

  23. #23
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Ygduf's Avatar
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    what part of wide rims don't you guys trust or like?

    when I bought some 23mm HEDs with 25mm tires, I felt like it was a revelation. Super smooth, great for descending.

    twitter.com/ygduf
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    +1 on Grolby's 2 comments above.

    re: CX: yep I bought 2 pair of Boyd's wide aluminum wheels, 1 tubie 1 clincher, for CX. It was a smart decision. Interchangeable for my CX bike, and cheap enough that the fact that my race-day tubies are now all beat to hell doesn't really bother me...and it totally would if I'd trashed some 303's.

    back to road wheels: my OP's are at least 3 bikes old...much more than a decade I think...and although they've not shown any cracks and needed only seldom and moderate truing (and I'm ~200lbs), they are heavy, not-aero, and they're old enough that I don't really trust them for racing.

    So 2 yrs ago I bought a set of race wheels...Zipps...I love'em but they're enough $$$ that I worry about them when I ride/race them! (And then there's this wheel-interchangeability issue).

    BTW I did flat in a RR once. And yeah, my experience was such that it's not likely you're going to get back in the lead group...but you get to ride back to your car instead of hitch-hiking.

    And CDR thanks for the wheel advice. I've found some wide aluminum wheels on craigslist that should eliminate wheel-swapping brake adjustment (though not brake pad swapping, so there's still that.) CDR I'm one of those internet guys who you'll likely never meet but who have learned a lot from you - thanks!

    I think this is a great time of year to be buying wheels - there are lots of deals out there.

  25. #25
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    I'm really surprised that some of you haven't been replying:

    "First season racing, $500 budget = Used Powertap. Far greater gains than you'll find with just about any other $500 wheel set."
    Birth Certificate, Passport, Marriage License Driver's License and Residency Permit all say I'm a Fred. I guess there's no denying it.

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