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Thread: Lighter Wheels

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    Senior Member TomD77's Avatar
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    Lighter Wheels

    I wandered into a LBS at the right time a few days back just as a customer was taking delivery of a high end carbon Trek Madone 5.7 with Ultegra components. The customer had elected to upgrade the stock wheels to something exotic and expensive prior to delivery and I ended up with the unused stock Bontrager Race Lite wheelset for $200. They are a definite upgrade from my stock wheels.

    When taking my original wheels off my bike, I weighed them sans tires. The front weighs a heavy 930 grams but the Bontrager weighs about 700, a huge improvement but still not exactly a lightweight. The way I look at it is that I got the 1st 230 gram reduction for only $200, the next 200 grams will cost about $2000. I might stand pat for a while.

    I rode with the Bontragers today on a hilly ride by local standards and found that I'm certain I detected an advantage but it was within my normal day to day variability. They were more comfortable though.

    Neither my riding ability or current financial situation (retired) has me spending $1 to $2 thousand on wheels.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    If the front weighs 230 grams less how much does the back weigh? Your stock wheels more than likely weighed in at more than 2100-2200 grams. Race Lites come in at just under 1800. You shouild have shaved 350 to 400 grams off of your old wheelset. What were you running stock before?
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  3. #3
    I need speed AzTallRider's Avatar
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    I'm betting you will really enjoy those wheels. I have the plain "Race" version that came on my 5.2 Madone, and they are solid and smooth. I do swap them out for uber-expensive carbon wheels when I race.

    Lighter wheels make a difference. Most of the difference is the same as reducing weight anywhere else, as the fundamental affect of the weight is more pronounced than the rotational aspects, but it's an area where you can knock off a lot of weight in one fell swoop.

    Congratulations on the great deal!
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    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    The weight reduction isn't going to make a measurable difference on the terrain you have in Florida. It only comes into play when you're doing climbs. But good new wheels for $200 is a score!

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    Senior Member TomD77's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
    The weight reduction isn't going to make a measurable difference on the terrain you have in Florida. It only comes into play when you're doing climbs. But good new wheels for $200 is a score!
    There are variations within Florida. I live in the extreme NW corner (panhandle) where you are constantly going up or down up to 10% and 200' +; not much, I know, by standards from other parts but hardly flat. I'm from north Georgia and a trip back up there had me on a mile + 20% grade. Almost killed me.

    The stock wheels are by Maddux.

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    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    Yes I know there's small hills there. But it takes a long climb for a small weight difference like you'd get from changing wheels to show any significant time difference. Play with http://analyticcycling.com/ForcesLessWeight_Page.html or http://noping.net/english/ to see for your self.

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    That was an excellent buy. Right place at the right time, Congrats.

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    So long as the durability of the Bontragers is up to snuff compared with the Maddux wheels, which I presume you can keep for training purposes... to increase the longevity of the new wheels.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

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    Erect member since 1953 cccorlew's Avatar
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    $200 for wheel that are merely round is not a bad deal. You got a really good deal. And now you ave spare wheels too!
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    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    What really counts is the rotational moment of inertia. Many reduced spoke count wheels need heavier rims for equivalent strength, putting additional weight right where you least want it. The result is reduced air resistance but a heavier feel during acceleration.
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    Senior Member TomD77's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
    Yes I know there's small hills there.
    I guess it's a small point to anyone other than Civil/Structural engineers such as myself but there aren't hills here; what there are is valleys. The basic elevation here is 220-290 feet above sea level but there are MANY deeply sculpted drainage features probably left over from the last ice age that go down to 30-70 ft ASL. Here is a Garmin track of a 32 mile ride that we did this AM. Not exactly the climb that some of you do but also not exactly the dead flat that a lot of people expect of Florida.


  12. #12
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Lighter wheels do not only work on hills. Acceleration will be improved a lot aswell.

    I am a great fan of lighter better quality wheels. The original wheels fitted to the bike would have been made to a price point. Besides the weight- the material and build quality would have been lower. 5 years ago I went Road but after 6 months I was beginning to think I had made a mistake. The MTB handled better and was faster and less tiring over a 30 mile ride on the road. Then one ride and I did a hill and frewheeling from the top I got 30mph and just made the curve halfway down. Problem was- the MTB did 37mph and the curve was a bit more lean on the bike. Talked to the LBS and a set of handbuilt wheels and I went back to the hill again. Speed back up and the curve was no longer there. Average speed went up by 2 mph on a 30 mile ride and the bike was less tiring.

    I lost 1 lb on changing to the handbuilts and a further bit by changing to Michelin PR2 tyres and lightweight tubes. They also improved the ride aswell.

    But just a warning on getting those New Lightweight Expensive wheels. Most of the aftermarket wheels are going to be stiff. When i got the TCR-C- I had Mavic Aksiums fitted to it. That bike was uncontrollable on fast downhills and hitting a Bump in the road had me bouncing across the road. Tried allsorts and cured the problem by fitting the Handbuilt wheels to it. Stiff frame- stiff wheels and my weanie weight of 150lbs and I could not hold the bike on the road. Changing to a more compliant wheel cured it.
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    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AzTallRider View Post
    I'm betting you will really enjoy those wheels. I have the plain "Race" version that came on my 5.2 Madone, and they are solid and smooth. I do swap them out for uber-expensive carbon wheels when I race.

    Lighter wheels make a difference. Most of the difference is the same as reducing weight anywhere else, as the fundamental affect of the weight is more pronounced than the rotational aspects, but it's an area where you can knock off a lot of weight in one fell swoop.

    Congratulations on the great deal!
    I always wonder about the massive performance increases that people claim from even small bicycle weight differences. Take a rider who is say 80kg add on an 8kg bicycle, gives a total weight of 88kg, now to put 400g into perspective, 88kg is 88,000 grams, so the 400g reduction is less then 1/2 of a percent difference in total weight, even if rotational weight counts as double, which it only does under acceleration, your still only gaining 1%. Under racing conditions 1% can be the difference between first place and out of the money, under non-race conditions, it is so small that nobody will really notice.

  14. #14
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Weight is not the only gain on better wheels. That is important because it is where your pedalling effort does get transmitted to and most of the weight loss will be at the Outer edge of the wheel so more effective.

    But the better wheels will not distort on Cornering or when the 400watts of leg power goes into them. That is just as important as the bike will hold a line better and not lose power either.

    But it always goes with the proviso that you have to be able to use them.
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    TomD77, An excellant purchase, IMHO. Good for you!

    My experiance with lighter wheelsets is that acceleration and deceleration is enhanced, climbing is largely unaffected if the weight difference is only a couple hundred grams and if one rides a lot of flat land, like I do here on the coastal plains of the Gulf Coast, maybe a bit more work on a century ride because there's less rotational mass contributing to inertia, again just a slight amount.

    The light weight wheelset is the best bang for the buck option when seeking to gram down a bicycle, IMHO.

    Brad

  16. #16
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Right place + right time = great deal

    At that price, any performance gain is icing on the cake.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    IMO, it was a good market deal. When I purchased my Cervelo P2C they came stock with Shimano wheels. Initially, I was going to have the LBS credit my account $200 and purchase the bike without wheels. However, a set of OEM stock wheels seemed like something I might like to have. I use the rear wheel on my trainer to preserve my better tires.

    Here is a link to Williams System 19 http://williamscycling.com/sys19.html They weight 1440 gm for both wheels for $499. So the incremental cost for you to get additional weight savings is not $2000 but more like $300. That assumes that your Race Lite wheels are 1640 gm.

    The interesting aspect to this sport is that sometimes one can be thrown a curve ball by conventional BF thinking. At elite track nationals last month, my wife and I purchased a front disc to use in the indoor velodrome (no wind). The front disc is heavier than the trispoke or pentispoke alternatives but it is faster due to the elimination of all spokes. The argument can be made that it is more difficult to accelerate from standing start but that is somewhat negligible but not zero. We both thought the disc was a lot faster on the track than our trispoke riding at constant speed. Our coach explained that some of the added feeling of increased speed for less perceived effort is the weight of the disc. The added moment of inertia keeps the wheel rotating when legs fatigue and one can ride the rotational momentum through the turns - conventional flywheel.

    So in Florida where there are flat rides, you may find that the lighter wheels riding on flat terrain once the initial "hey these are faster wheels" wears off are not as nice as the older ones in some riding conditions. That assumes both wheelsets are aerodynamically equal and have the same rolling resistance which is probably not the case.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

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    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    So in Florida where there are flat rides, you may find that the lighter wheels riding on flat terrain once the initial "hey these are faster wheels" wears off are not as nice as the older ones in some riding conditions. That assumes both wheelsets are aerodynamically equal and have the same rolling resistance which is probably not the case.
    Why stop at that, given those conditions? Why not get heavier wheels? I know you're right, not arguing, but this is a serious question.

  19. #19
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    There's a good discussion about wheel weight and performance here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_performance

    For florida I'd use aerodynamic wheels. Those are heavier but they'd still be faster than light non aerodynamic wheels. Light wheels are not as durable as heavier wheels, so I use heavier wheels there as well.

  20. #20
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    For areas that have flat terrain, there are some nice deeper section wheel sets that are heavier but the real bonus is the energy savings due to aerodynamic efficiency. And a lot has to do with the type of ride. In group situations where there are a lot of accelerations, heavier wheels, depending on the riders power and the amount of acceleration, may not work very well. However, cruising along solo at a constant speed may favor more rotating inertia.

    For hill climbs, less weight is better. Even with the loss of the flywheel effect, the added weight will require more energy and increase climbing time.

    My point was that OP may be at his optimum wheel weight with the latest purchase with his terrain. The best way to figure this out is to do some testing and see which wheelset works the best.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

  21. #21
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    For hill climbs, less weight is better. Even with the loss of the flywheel effect, the added weight will require more energy and increase climbing time.

    My point was that OP may be at his optimum wheel weight with the latest purchase with his terrain. The best way to figure this out is to do some testing and see which wheelset works the best.
    This is super advice, test and see which works best. At one time I'd been certain about the first sentence but I'm not sure about even that any more, which is why I asked. You seem to have quite a bit of experience Hermes.

    My difficulty is that I can imagine that some hill has a given grade and length where you'd end up going faster (going down) with the heavier wheels, and the extra angular momentum helping carry you up the next. Maybe there is a point at which is advantageous but at some ridiculous weight. I could calculate it, and probably get it wrong by overlooking a variable. If someone has deliberately changed to heavier wheels for fast rolling hills and objectively checked their power readings?

    The reason it occurred last week I rode some (small to you) hills with a relatively heavy bike but with aero accessories. I had enough speed down one hill that I topped the next one at 32 mph, which was certainly impossible for me under normal circumstances. The next hill killed me though. Anyway, it made me wonder if having really heavy wheels is necessarily a disadvantage in rolling hills, if a guy could keep his momentum up.

    To the OP, don't take this as down-talking your wheels! I'm envious of your deal and your new wheels.

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