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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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Old 04-13-11, 03:42 PM   #1
jarango
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Do expensive wheels make a difference

I see that wheels are one of the most recommended upgrades and that you can usually shed about a pound of weight by replacing the stock wheels commonly bundled with bikes. Is it really worth spending close to $500 or more on wheels? Is there a noticeable difference? Am I going to be able to get on the bike and say: Wow, these wheels really do improve my ride experience, or make me go faster, or get me less tired ?

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Old 04-13-11, 03:48 PM   #2
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Not nearly as much as 2-3 watts of extra power output from proper training. Of course, that takes work and it is usually more fun to just spend money. Deep down, you probably knew this already.
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Old 04-13-11, 03:49 PM   #3
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Yes, they make a difference. Whether it's a difference that matters, it's hard to say. When in doubt, just spend the money. It's good for the economy.
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Old 04-13-11, 03:56 PM   #4
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Yes.

Of course I am biased - I build them. I'm not talking about "are these bearings going to save me 2 seconds over a 40k? That kind of convo is for people with no lives. I'm talking - "I am riding OEM wheels that came with my bike. If I spend $500-$1k will I end up with a wheelset that will be noticably different?"

Yes. Heck yes.

Wheels and tires have the biggest impact on your ride and your ride's quality.....obviously outside of training and fitness. Only you can control your fitness though.
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Old 04-13-11, 04:01 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by jarango View Post
I see that wheels are one of the most recommended upgrades and that you can usually shed about a pound of weight by replacing the stock wheels commonly bundled with bikes. Is it really worth spending close to $500 or more on wheels? Is there a noticeable difference? Am I going to be able to get on the bike and say: Wow, these wheels really do improve my ride experience, or make me go faster, or get me less tired ?

Thanks
Jesus
My bike with clinchers: 18 lbs 11 oz.
My bike with tubulars: 15 lbs 13 oz.

Deep section wheels make a cool "whoosh" sound as you get them up to speed and they look cool. They could help in a race.

It basically depends all on how deep your pockets go and how much placebo and aesthetic beauty matter to you...
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Old 04-13-11, 04:03 PM   #6
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Mine made a huge difference but not so much in speed (mph). Mine made a difference in COMFORT. I went from Shimano RS-10 wheels at around $70 a pair to $500 a pair Williams System 30s.

They turned my CAAD9 from a 2-hour bike into a 4-hour bike. All the road vibrations and clunking when going over bike-path bridge joiners just disappeared.

For me that was WELL worth it.

Oh, the hubs roll way longer and smoother too.
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Old 04-13-11, 04:04 PM   #7
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Might be cheaper to get some latex tubes and nice tires over a whole new wheelset if you don't like the ride quality as of now.
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Old 04-13-11, 04:09 PM   #8
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Mine made a huge difference but not so much in speed (mph). Mine made a difference in COMFORT. I went from Shimano RS-10 wheels at around $70 a pair to $500 a pair Williams System 30s.

They turned my CAAD9 from a 2-hour bike into a 4-hour bike. All the road vibrations and clunking when going over bike-path bridge joiners just disappeared.

For me that was WELL worth it.

Oh, the hubs roll way longer and smoother too.
Did you change to new tires when changing wheels? I find it hard to imagine the wheels themselves made that big of a difference, with all those crappy roads in OC...
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Old 04-13-11, 04:12 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by jarango View Post
I see that wheels are one of the most recommended upgrades and that you can usually shed about a pound of weight by replacing the stock wheels commonly bundled with bikes. Is it really worth spending close to $500 or more on wheels? Is there a noticeable difference? Am I going to be able to get on the bike and say: Wow, these wheels really do improve my ride experience, or make me go faster, or get me less tired ?

Thanks
Jesus
Yes.
Yes.
That depends on "you". I did.

And expensive is a "relative" term.
I'd say that decent wheels start at 400.
Decent wheels with significant weight savings at about 600.
After that, I'd say (and this is just my opinion), you're looking at specialized wheels.
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Old 04-13-11, 04:13 PM   #10
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yes.

Of course i am biased - i build them. I'm not talking about "are these bearings going to save me 2 seconds over a 40k? That kind of convo is for people with no lives. I'm talking - "i am riding oem wheels that came with my bike. If i spend $500-$1k will i end up with a wheelset that will be noticably different?"

yes. Heck yes.

Wheels and tires have the biggest impact on your ride and your ride's quality.....obviously outside of training and fitness. Only you can control your fitness though.
+1k
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Old 04-13-11, 04:18 PM   #11
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Expensive wheels make you faster up hills by lightening your wallet.

I personally can't tell much difference in ride quality unless the spokes are loose. If anything my most expensive wheels ride the hardest, but that's probably because they are deeper aero rims and thus stiffer.
The aero wheels let me go a little faster on long straight descents so I can stay in the draft of faster-descending racers. That was worth it to me, but I don't have to scrimp and save for wheels (because I don't waste money on junk), and I got a good deal on them. If I'd had to save to get them I'd be upset at how little I got out of them.

I have had plenty of people beat me in races on standard low profile clinchers. It's not the bike parts that make one fast.
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Old 04-13-11, 04:21 PM   #12
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Did you change to new tires when changing wheels? I find it hard to imagine the wheels themselves made that big of a difference, with all those crappy roads in OC...
No exaggeration. I've posted about it several times here because the difference was so severe. I had close to 5000 miles on those RS10s and I have now have a couple thousand on the System 30s. Same tires when I made the switch, too. I can't explain the difference enough. I have a CAAD9. It's not known as a plush bike. My first ride was like going from an aluminum bike to a carbon bike.

Kind of like if you were in your car and you were on a section of highway that was being prepped for repair so your whole car buzzes and then you hit the recently resurfaced pavement and there's this complete silence and smoothness. That's exactly what it was like for me.

Mind you, I was on probably one of the worst wheelsets you can have on a $1500 stock bike so anything different was sure to be noticed.
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Old 04-13-11, 04:25 PM   #13
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I like to say I can lose just as many races with 32 spokes as I can with 20.

I have never lost a race because my wheels were too heavy or not aero or stiff enough.
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Old 04-13-11, 04:34 PM   #14
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The difference for me was dramatic, I only need to ride a few feet to feel the difference in the ride quality. They climber better but I don't know if they have made me any faster, maybe just a little bit.
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Old 04-13-11, 04:52 PM   #15
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damn I hope so. just dropped over a grand on some Cosmics.
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Old 04-13-11, 04:54 PM   #16
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damn I hope so. just dropped over a grand on some Cosmics.
That's nothing. It would pay for about three months of medication for doctor's appointments, hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol control if you didn't ride and just became a fat blob.
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Old 04-13-11, 05:08 PM   #17
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Old 04-13-11, 05:13 PM   #18
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Exactly. Here we go.
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Old 04-13-11, 05:16 PM   #19
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damn I hope so. just dropped over a grand on some Cosmics.
Those sound sweet. I have the SLRs. They make said "whoosh" sound; plus, they look pretty cool IMO.

I've learned how to wheel suck like a champ so wheels don't make too much of a difference to me. A few weeks ago I was riding on my 20 lb steel Merckx with 32 spoke Open Pros and I drafted nearly 45 miles behind two tri guys.

They didn't seem amused when I said, "thanks for the pull" at the end of my ride--so serious...
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Old 04-13-11, 05:18 PM   #20
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I drafted a tri-guy yesterday on my 35-pound steel Safari at around 21mph. Once that beast gets moving with my fat butt behind it and a slight tailwind it pretty much doesn't matter how much your bike weighs.
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Old 04-13-11, 05:24 PM   #21
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I drafted a tri-guy yesterday on my 35-pound steel Safari at around 21mph. Once that beast gets moving with my fat butt behind it and a slight tailwind it pretty much doesn't matter how much your bike weighs.
I just like drafting Tri people because most of them aren't that crazy fast but usually ride at a nice, consistent clip and they look ridiculous--this coming from a grown man dressed in tights and plastic shirt. Plus, it's always fun when they are super serious.

The best is drafting behind a tandem (if they know what they are doing, which they usually do), however.
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Old 04-15-11, 07:04 PM   #22
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You are much faster because your wallet is so much lighter.
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Old 04-15-11, 07:11 PM   #23
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That's because Tri Guyz are ducks. Ducks can swim, fly and walk but they don't do any particularly well. Tri Guyz can swim, bike and run but they aren't going to be the best at all three. If they are you won't find them on your bike path, you'll find them in Kona.
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Old 04-15-11, 08:27 PM   #24
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How much of a difference does 10mm make in wheels, lets say between a 40mm carbon wheel vs a 50mm?
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Old 04-15-11, 08:55 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by 2ndGen View Post
Yes.
Yes.
That depends on "you". I did.

And expensive is a "relative" term.
I'd say that decent wheels start at 400.
Decent wheels with significant weight savings at about 600.
After that, I'd say (and this is just my opinion), you're looking at specialized wheels.
ill agree. with the above. i dont think $500 wheels are expensive. thats really the lowest i would start looking for decent wheels. yes i ride a set of $500 Williams wheels but i dont consider them expensive. are they a bargain heck yes. did they make a difference absolutlely. $1k+ is where i consider wheels to be expensive. i still think they are likely worth it but $1k is a lot of money for me. i still plan to pick up a set of higher end more expensive wheels but they will be primarily for races and special occasions rather than my everyday training/ commuting wheels like my Williams System 30s are now.
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