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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 09-17-11, 09:46 AM   #1
capt211
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Do wheels make THAT much of a difference?

I got a bike about two seasons ago off of C/L and have ridden it quite a bit since. It's a carbon frame with Ultegra components. I have a hilly 'training loop' that's roughly 27 miles, on very rough city streets, that I do 2 or 3 times a week. I've never done an official bicycle race but I competed in two sprint tri's this year and plan to do quite a few more next year.
I have Shimano wheels on it now. I looked for a name on them (like Ultegra or something) but there isn't anything other than a Shimano decal, so I'm guess they're pretty low end. If they are low end, they are good wheels. They spin for days and have kept true over 2 years on very rough roads.. and I weigh 205lbs.
Every time I go on the group rides I see guys with the 'areo' wheels, Zipp 404's and the such. I wonder to myself, would I really notice a difference. Do $2k wheels make it THAT much easier to climb? Are they THAT much more aerodynamic? Would I increase much average speed THAT much? (which is low 18mph)
I have felt like I just need to work on my legs... not sink more money into my bike. I'm just wondering, do wheels make THAT much of a difference?
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Old 09-17-11, 09:54 AM   #2
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No.
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Old 09-17-11, 09:55 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by capt211 View Post
I got a bike about two seasons ago off of C/L and have ridden it quite a bit since. It's a carbon frame with Ultegra components. I have a hilly 'training loop' that's roughly 27 miles, on very rough city streets, that I do 2 or 3 times a week. I've never done an official bicycle race but I competed in two sprint tri's this year and plan to do quite a few more next year.
I have Shimano wheels on it now. I looked for a name on them (like Ultegra or something) but there isn't anything other than a Shimano decal, so I'm guess they're pretty low end. If they are low end, they are good wheels. They spin for days and have kept true over 2 years on very rough roads.. and I weigh 205lbs.
Every time I go on the group rides I see guys with the 'areo' wheels, Zipp 404's and the such. I wonder to myself, would I really notice a difference. Do $2k wheels make it THAT much easier to climb? Are they THAT much more aerodynamic? Would I increase much average speed THAT much? (which is low 18mph)
I have felt like I just need to work on my legs... not sink more money into my bike. I'm just wondering, do wheels make THAT much of a difference?
That is absolutely true. But next to your frame, your wheels are the most important moving part of your bike.
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Old 09-17-11, 10:12 AM   #4
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Performance gains from equipment changes are miniscule compared to performance gains from more/smarter training.
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Old 09-17-11, 10:20 AM   #5
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I noticed a huge placebo effect when I replaced stock wheels with lighter and more aero wheels... Huge! ;-)

Not only was my bike lighter, but so was my wallet.
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Old 09-17-11, 10:23 AM   #6
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i honestly don't believe they make such an impact on your riding. you're basically paying $1 to shed 1-2lbs off your bike...

Just work extra harder to surpass those with all these expensive light weight equipments
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Old 09-17-11, 10:25 AM   #7
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No. Aero wheels don't help you climb at all...they provide a very slight aero benefit at higher speeds (like on the flats). However, most people are going to get much more of an aero benefit from improving body position on the bike, unless you already have that dialed in. At 205 lb it would be much more helpful to lose weight and/or improve cardio if you want to improve climbing speed.
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Old 09-17-11, 10:26 AM   #8
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I noticed a huge placebo effect when I replaced stock wheels with lighter and more aero wheels... Huge! ;-)

Not only was my bike lighter, but so was my wallet.
Best answer yet!
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Old 09-17-11, 11:10 AM   #9
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I noticed a huge placebo effect when I replaced stock wheels with lighter and more aero wheels... Huge! ;-)

Not only was my bike lighter, but so was my wallet.

+1

We always trained on 36h wheels shod with a bit wider tires, and raced on 24h/28h or 28h/32h sets. Mentally the difference was clear and with the slight improvement in acceleration we certainly worked harder, which improved our performance. When we outfitted our TT bikes with disk wheels the same improvement in our performance were found for the same reasons. Whether the performance improvement from increased effort was more or less than the improvement in equipment was greater I cannot say, but we had a noticable improvement in performance.

That said, I would not spend $2k for a wheel set unless I was in excellent condition to start with. You will definitely notice a difference in acceleration with a lighter set of wheels and measurable improvements in top speed with more aero wheels, but if you are not in top shape you are better advised to train harder and smarter.


BTW: Being full "kitted out" in lycra doesn't appreciably improve performance, but nearly everyone on a Saturday training ride will come looking as though they are a pro. Why do you think that is?

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Old 09-17-11, 11:11 AM   #10
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i honestly don't believe they make such an impact on your riding. you're basically paying $1 to shed 1-2lbs off your bike...

Just work extra harder to surpass those with all these expensive light weight equipments
The thing thats important to remember is that its bot just weight your taking off, its rotational mass weight your saving.
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Old 09-17-11, 11:16 AM   #11
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The improvement in looks far outpaces the improvement in performance. But I was able to feel the difference when I switched to 404's in the spring winds this year. But it's still hard work to ride the bike.
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Old 09-17-11, 11:21 AM   #12
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For me wheels are important in the sense that because I'm a heavier rider - finally down to 210 lbs. - I need wheels that stay true at my weight. I've heard various wheels described by 170 lb. riders as bombproof that are anything but that for me. Since I don't race or have any desire to, I don't care about shaving 100 grams of weight or being aero, but staying true is critical.

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Old 09-17-11, 11:22 AM   #13
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Opinions from other threads on this forum suggest that low rolling resistance tires are equally if not more important than wheels. I think they're still incredibly expensive, but not nearly as much as wheels.
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Old 09-17-11, 11:41 AM   #14
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I purchased a wheelset that was much better than the stock set up, but probably considered low end by most and I immediately noticed that pedal resistance seemed to be about half if that makes sense. Pushing the lighter weight up hills was also noticeable. The bearings are also better in more expensive wheels offering a seemingly endless roll as well. I imagine there is a point where wheels become purely a status symbol and I am positive I will never know where that point is
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Old 09-17-11, 11:58 AM   #15
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Opinions from other threads on this forum suggest that low rolling resistance tires are equally if not more important than wheels. I think they're still incredibly expensive, but not nearly as much as wheels.
And the moment of inertia of the tire alone constitutes 40% of the total moment of inertia of most wheelsets (from Rol de whatever that site is).
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Old 09-17-11, 12:12 PM   #16
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I'm sure they help a little, but if you really just want to go faster, spend that $2000 on a personal trainer.
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Old 09-17-11, 12:20 PM   #17
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They don't make YOU faster, but you'd be kidding yourself if you said a lightweight set of wheels didn't spin up to speed faster. Aero wheels are only beneficial if you are in top shape and can maintain 25mph-30mph for a good amount of time. However, it's impossible to ignore the relatively instantaneous acceleration you get with a 1300g wheelset over a 2000g wheelset, even if you aren't a pro. Like bianchi10 said, it's not just mass off your bike, it's rotational mass off your wheels. Big difference there. That being said, there's no need to spend $2,000 on a fancy set of carbon fiber wheels. You can spend $500-$800 and get something in the 1300-1500g weight range that is still going to be strong enough for a 200lb rider to ride every day.

In the end, it depends on what your idea of "THAT" big of a difference is. To me, the difference in acceleration between a 2000g and 1300g wheelset is huge. And it's not placebo effect.

Last edited by ilovecycling; 09-17-11 at 12:25 PM.
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Old 09-17-11, 01:05 PM   #18
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I seriously think a lot of people worry about what's on their bike rather than improving their cycling performance.
What if one does both, duh...
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Old 09-17-11, 01:07 PM   #19
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That is absolutely true. But next to your frame, your wheels are the most important moving part of your bike.
Actually, your frame isn't supposed to be a moving part. You should probably get that looked at.

KeS
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Old 09-17-11, 01:18 PM   #20
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To borrow a line from a rando discussion, "If you can't do it on 32-spoke Open Pros, you probably can't do it on (the chi-chi wheel set of your choice)". Sure, lighter, more-aero wheels are fun and cool, but it still comes down to the motor.

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Old 09-17-11, 01:37 PM   #21
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It's really a cost/benefit question. Yes, light aero wheels make a difference ..... but which new wheels, compared to which old wheels to get an idea of the difference, and what is your budget, and what else can you do to improve (lose weight, train more & smarter, coaching ....), buy a trainer for winter, etc..

And what are your goals ? Getting to the coffe shop 2 seconds ahead of your friends ? Getting a medal in the National Time Trial Championship ?
So, if you have $1000 to spend, what's the best option ? Perhaps wheels are only 3rd on the list.
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Old 09-17-11, 01:54 PM   #22
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Opinions from other threads on this forum suggest that low rolling resistance tires are equally if not more important than wheels. I think they're still incredibly expensive, but not nearly as much as wheels.
Both add up but both aren't a huge factor ... the difference between a set of el cheapo wheels with the cheapest decent tires you can find and the most expensive wheels with the best tubulars you can find is $5000 but only a few percents in performance gain.

So the answer to all of the OP's questions is: "No."
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Old 09-17-11, 02:00 PM   #23
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Both add up but both aren't a huge factor ... the difference between a set of el cheapo wheels with the cheapest decent tires you can find and the most expensive wheels with the best tubulars you can find is $5000 but only a few percents in performance gain.

So the answer to all of the OP's questions is: "No."
of course in a sport where guys train to shave 100s of a second (track) in a short event or mere seconds in a long event a few % points wouldn't matter.
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Old 09-17-11, 03:06 PM   #24
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of course in a sport where guys train to shave 100s of a second (track) in a short event or mere seconds in a long event a few % points wouldn't matter.
In the actual cycling sport: Yes.
On the town roads for casual everyday cyclists: No.

Hell ... Don't look at me ... I've got a rear disc
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Old 09-17-11, 03:29 PM   #25
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your body is the most important component. lose bodyfat if weight is a concern.

as for the effect of aeroness, ive heard that most "aero" wheels are in fact not aero at all, theyre more for looks and sold to you because of buzz marketing. something about a rim needs to be so deep before it benefits from "aeroness," and most aero wheels arent deep enough.

that said, wheels probably can make a difference on the road (more so in a velo), but you'd need to be a high performer to notice the difference.

get them if you want though, if you think youll ride more
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