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  1. #1
    Senior Member FatBottomedGirl's Avatar
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    Impact of wheels?

    Hi!

    This may be a stupid question, but until one has really experienced it, it is tough to imagine...

    How do wheels alter the behavior of a bike?
    Behind the ridicule of the question, I actually mean: I see on online stores hundreds of road wheels at various prices what does it change?
    How does a 2000$ wheelset differ from a 400$ one of from the stock wheels sold usually with bikes?

    I understand the weight might be a key feature: I myself experienced changing tyres from 450g to 230g which does not seem a lot until one steps on the pedal...
    The same applies, I suppose, for wheel as it is, just like tires, moving weight which makes it even more important.

    But what else?

    My real question underneath is that I have my rear rim that starts to show some serious wear and I am considering to start to look for a possible replacement...

    My current wheels are stock SHIMANO RS-10 that came with my CAAD 10 which look like entry level wheels. What would an upgrade "feel" like?

    Understand that I am not as much in the urgency to get the replacement as much as I am curious about the difference it can actually make.

    Thank you all!
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  2. #2
    Senior Member lsberrios1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FatBottomedGirl View Post
    Hi!

    This may be a stupid question, but until one has really experienced it, it is tough to imagine...

    How do wheels alter the behavior of a bike?
    Behind the ridicule of the question, I actually mean: I see on online stores hundreds of road wheels at various prices what does it change?
    How does a 2000$ wheelset differ from a 400$ one of from the stock wheels sold usually with bikes?

    I understand the weight might be a key feature: I myself experienced changing tyres from 450g to 230g which does not seem a lot until one steps on the pedal...
    The same applies, I suppose, for wheel as it is, just like tires, moving weight which makes it even more important.

    But what else?

    My real question underneath is that I have my rear rim that starts to show some serious wear and I am considering to start to look for a possible replacement...

    My current wheels are stock SHIMANO RS-10 that came with my CAAD 10 which look like entry level wheels. What would an upgrade "feel" like?

    Understand that I am not as much in the urgency to get the replacement as much as I am curious about the difference it can actually make.

    Thank you all!
    In my opinion it does make quite a difference. How? Well sometimes it is the amount work it takes to spin them up to speed (weight). Sometimes it is ride quality like harshness, rolling resistance (hubs, spokes and bearings). Sometimes is the aero benefit (depth and shape). I think it is the best performance upgrade other than contact points like saddle, stem and pedals. Given that all of the above is already taken care of, wheels is the next logical step (maybe brakes if they are really bad).

    Be aware, light weight is not always best. Sometimes heavier wheelsets have better aero and rolling qualities which some people prefer. I say it all depends on your type of riding too.
    Cat 6 going on PRO....

  3. #3
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    The thing that made me realize how much wheels affect performance is a test ride I did a long time ago. When I cam back to the shop, the owner asked what I thought. I said the bike felt very harsh. He switched the deep aluminum wheels to box rims and I went back out - night and day in terms of comfort.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  4. #4
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    Some folks like stiff. Some like light. Some like aero. Some want it all. It is so hard to describe. From my own perspective, I really like riding light wheels. For me that means about 1,250 g for the pair. I don't need expensive hubs and rims, but I want them to be light. Lightest possible spokes too, as long as they are stainless steel. I just like light wheels feel when accelerating. I can live without the ultimate stiffness, but I just really like light weight. In a way I am saying this not to get you to agree, but rather to realize you may have your own preference. Without a chance to ride all kinds of wheels, it could take you years to learn what you really want. I know it did for me. Best plan is to get in touch with a reasonably priced custom builder. Somebody like psimet. Discuss your body weight, riding style, intended use of the wheels, and let him help you plan your next pair. Then you can continue to evolve your preferences on the basis of what you learn from those wheels. It isn't a destination, it is a journey. Deep, huh? Good luck.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Very small difference, for a huge sum of money.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  6. #6
    The Rock Cycle eofelis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
    The thing that made me realize how much wheels affect performance is a test ride I did a long time ago. When I cam back to the shop, the owner asked what I thought. I said the bike felt very harsh. He switched the deep aluminum wheels to box rims and I went back out - night and day in terms of comfort.
    I have an older carbon fiber Specialized Ruby road bike (2007). It came with nice Ultegra low spoke count wheels. I'm a petite rider and I'm sensitive to whether a bike has a smooth ride. The Ruby rode nice but I thought it was a bit buzzy. Eventually I changed the wheels out to a set of Mavic Open Pros (32 spokes). It made a big difference in the ride and the bike is now as smooth as my 853 steel road bike (also with Open Pro wheels).
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  7. #7
    Senior Member lsberrios1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Very small difference, for a huge sum of money.
    Because it may not give you a 5mph advantage it does not mean it doesn't make a difference. Comfort and ride can come at a price too and that is very noticeable to the rider.
    Cat 6 going on PRO....

  8. #8
    Senior Member RollCNY's Avatar
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    If you are trying to resolve a specific issue, new wheels can be very nice.

    If you are not trying to resolve a specific issue, new wheels can be a phenomenal waste of money.

  9. #9
    Senior Member WhyFi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RollCNY View Post
    If you are not trying to resolve a specific issue, new wheels can be a phenomenal waste of money.
    Keep speaking against 41 doctrine at your peril.
    Quote Originally Posted by RollCNY View Post
    I would wager that not riding in Minnesota is just as fatiguing as not riding in New York.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
    The thing that made me realize how much wheels affect performance is a test ride I did a long time ago. When I cam back to the shop, the owner asked what I thought. I said the bike felt very harsh. He switched the deep aluminum wheels to box rims and I went back out - night and day in terms of comfort.
    Quote Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
    Some folks like stiff. Some like light. Some like aero. Some want it all. It is so hard to describe. From my own perspective, I really like riding light wheels. For me that means about 1,250 g for the pair. I don't need expensive hubs and rims, but I want them to be light. Lightest possible spokes too, as long as they are stainless steel. I just like light wheels feel when accelerating. I can live without the ultimate stiffness, but I just really like light weight. In a way I am saying this not to get you to agree, but rather to realize you may have your own preference. Without a chance to ride all kinds of wheels, it could take you years to learn what you really want. I know it did for me. Best plan is to get in touch with a reasonably priced custom builder. Somebody like psimet. Discuss your body weight, riding style, intended use of the wheels, and let him help you plan your next pair. Then you can continue to evolve your preferences on the basis of what you learn from those wheels. It isn't a destination, it is a journey. Deep, huh? Good luck.
    Just to add another viewpoint, I prefer to get my comfort from my tire set up and don't find the last pound of weight to make to much difference.

    I currently do most of my riding on two similar sets of wheels that are 1600 and 1700 grams and have 23mm exterior width AL rims that allow me to ride at ~10psi less than I otherwise could (similar to going up one tire size). I built them myself, but you can get similar wheels from Psimet or Boyd and others for $450-700 depending on specifics. I have owned and still own some lighter and more expensive wheels but for everyday riding I don't find any advantage to them. The cheaper wheels I use are Kinlin XC279 rims laced with Sapim Race spokes 24/28 to Bitex hubs. I am typically weigh around 175#, ride 5-8k a year and race a dozen or so times. If I was on a budget the wheels I described above would be my only wheels and as is they get the bulk of my miles even though they are my cheapest. I also a more expensive version of those wheels using A23 rims and WI hubs rear but unless I am looking down I don't notice much difference.

    My race day wheels are carbon rimmed with CX-ray spokes everywhere but the rear DS and drop a good chunk of weight and are probably more aero, but my main reason for using them is because that they are tubulars and less likely to flat during a race and if they do they are less likely to come off the rim at high speed. If I do flat and want to stay in the race I am going to swap wheels not change a flat anyway.

    I still have a set Dura Ace wheels, DA/Mavic handbuilts and some IRD/Bitex 'climbing' wheels none of which get much use anymore even though all are lighter and/or more expensive than the wheels I do ride. They just don't offer a noticeable advantage. At some point I may replace the Mavic rims with a wider one as I like them better, but at the moment I just don't need any other wheels.

    As for anything lighter or pricier, I don't see the need. I get great comfort from the rim and tire combos I have. At ~175 pounds I've had great durability. My Bitex and Novatec hubs spin well enough compared to the DA and WI. I have already determined that past 1600 grams the next pound of weight loss isn't very important to me. Enve/HED/Zipp do have proven aero dynamics, and maybe if I did competitive time trials or triathlons I would be interested, but in cat 3 crits and the occasion road race I just don't feel like the wheels are affecting my performance so much. And for training rides I don't care either way.
    Last edited by canam73; 01-03-14 at 10:45 AM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Best answer:

    Ask some of your cycling friends if you can borrow their fancy wheels for a day.

    Decide for yourself. For some folks the difference is very modest and barely there. Other folks find it significant.

    If possible see if you can keep the tires and PSI the same so you have an apples-to-apples comparison.

    If you don't have any cycling friends with fancy wheels, join a local bike club and make some.

    /thread
    Quote Originally Posted by RUOkie View Post
    never underestimate the idiocy of BF.

  12. #12
    Senior Member WhyFi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by datlas View Post
    /thread
    HA! We have not yet begun to 41!
    Quote Originally Posted by RollCNY View Post
    I would wager that not riding in Minnesota is just as fatiguing as not riding in New York.

  13. #13
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
    HA! We have not yet begun to 41!
    I know.

    But hope springs eternal!
    Quote Originally Posted by RUOkie View Post
    never underestimate the idiocy of BF.

  14. #14
    Senior Member WhyFi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by datlas View Post
    I know.

    But hope springs eternal!
    Spring would be about your only hope - too bad about that winter storm bearing down on tens of millions in the midwest and northeast.
    Quote Originally Posted by RollCNY View Post
    I would wager that not riding in Minnesota is just as fatiguing as not riding in New York.

  15. #15
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    I went from Aksiums to Flo 30s and the bike cornered better because the wheel was stiffer and it felt like there was less drag above 30mph (maybe bearings, maybe aero). That's what I could feel.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by eofelis View Post
    I have an older carbon fiber Specialized Ruby road bike (2007). It came with nice Ultegra low spoke count wheels. I'm a petite rider and I'm sensitive to whether a bike has a smooth ride. The Ruby rode nice but I thought it was a bit buzzy. Eventually I changed the wheels out to a set of Mavic Open Pros (32 spokes). It made a big difference in the ride and the bike is now as smooth as my 853 steel road bike (also with Open Pro wheels).
    Your Open Pro wheels are not comfortable because of the higher spoke count but in spite of it. Open Pros have a relatively flexible box shape which is less constrained against flexing than even a shallow profile V-shaped rim. I am not criticizing this; Open Pros are great rims. I am just clarifying the mechanism by which the comfort is realized. More spokes generally mean a stiffer wheel and a less comfortable ride, but the Open Pro rims make up for that. Enjoy them.

    My relatively shallow, V-shaped Kinlin XR-200 rims are also quite comfortable when laced with 20/24 ultra-light gauge spokes. Different strokes for different folks.

  17. #17
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
    My relatively shallow, V-shaped Kinlin XR-200 rims are also quite comfortable when laced with 20/24 ultra-light gauge spokes. Different spokes for different folks.
    fixed
    Quote Originally Posted by RUOkie View Post
    never underestimate the idiocy of BF.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Wesley36's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lsberrios1 View Post
    Because it may not give you a 5mph advantage it does not mean it doesn't make a difference. Comfort and ride can come at a price too and that is very noticeable to the rider.
    Not disagreeing, but coming back to the OP, what you wrote gives a very misleading impression. For people looking for a specific ride quality, or for people looking for marginal performance gains, new wheels can make a difference. But for a recreational cyclist who is trying to figure out what the deal is, the differences are quite modest between a service-able workhorse wheel and a fancy wheel. Not non-existent, these modest differences matter a lot to some people, but modest nonetheless.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by datlas View Post
    fixed
    Cute, but do you honestly think I didn't already think of that? Just trying to exercise some restraint. Thanks!

  20. #20
    Senior Member RollCNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
    Cute, but do you honestly think I didn't already think of that? Just trying to exercise some restraint. Thanks!
    I am assuming this is new for 2014?

  21. #21
    Senior Member karenashg's Avatar
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    I recently upgraded the vintage-in-a-bad-way wheels on my vintage-in-a-good-way bike. I went from 36-spoke boat anchors to much lighter Velocity A23's with a 24/28 spoke count on nice hubs. The bike feels much more willing to get going from a stop, feels both more lively and more solidly planted on the ground, especially in corners--it's been delightful. I can't say what is due to the lighter weight, or lower spoke count, or wider rim, or better hubs, but at least when you're making a pretty drastic change like I was, new wheels can have a huge difference in how your bike feels and performs.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by RollCNY View Post
    I am assuming this is new for 2014?
    Even cuter! Yeah, resolutions and such as that. May I rely on you to keep me informed how I'm doing?

  23. #23
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    Like any other vehicle...tires/wheels make a big difference.

    I went from heavy, cheaper 19mm wheels to 25% lighter 23mm wheels. The brand is irrelevant (although I'm sure if you look it up...you can trace my posts). Better hubs, better spokes and a lighter/wider wheel made an immediate impact on ride quality. Not only was the ride smoother, but the handling and braking improved as did top speed. I did some "runs" where I can coast down a large hill, mostly out of the wind (trees on both sides). A simple "coast test" showed me an immediate pickup of a couple mph (I've made this run many times and have a good amount of data). It was immediately noticeable how much faster my bike picked up speed when coasting.

    Now...I don't go around coasting all over the place but I wanted a simple test. It is noticeable how better they ride. Like a good saddle, or comfortable shoes or nice kit...you can tell.

    My wheels set me back $625. Not cheap but no king's ransom. Had I dropped $2500 and got the same results, I may feel screwed. For my $$...it was a solid upgrade.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FatBottomedGirl View Post
    Hi!

    This may be a stupid question, but until one has really experienced it, it is tough to imagine...
    Of any potential upgrade, wheels make the most profound change to the performance of a bike. For example: take an old steel beater bike, and install some 1,200 gram carbon tubulars, and the bike is immediately transformed. Lower rotational weight is the key, and this means lowering the weight of the rims and tires.

    Of course there are tradeoffs:
    • Lower spoke count means more aero but require a higher rim weight.
    • More aero rim profiles are faster at higher sustained speeds, but are more sluggish in start/stops/accelerations due (more weight).
    • Lighter rims and tires are more fragile. Lighter tires wear out faster and suffer more flats.
    • Carbon rims offer inferior braking, but are a lot lighter than alu (I own several of both).
    • Tubular wheels offer an insurmountable performance advantages in terms of rotational weight. If you are riding for money, you will be riding on tubulars. If you don't want to deal with the expense and complexity of tubulars, then clinchers....
    • For this reason, expensive clinchers are a waste of money - equivalent to blinging out a econo-box car.


    In terms of 'ride quality' or 'road feel' or other such intanglible nonsense, tires make all of the difference here. Take any set of road wheels, and install a set of fat tires at a lower pressure, and a formerly jarring ride will become plush. Wheels have essentially zero vertical compliance. Tires, the saddle and seatpost (in that order) provide all of the shock absorption, vibration absorption etc etc..

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smokehouse View Post
    Like any other vehicle...tires/wheels make a big difference.

    I went from heavy, cheaper 19mm wheels to 25% lighter 23mm wheels. The brand is irrelevant (although I'm sure if you look it up...you can trace my posts). Better hubs, better spokes and a lighter/wider wheel made an immediate impact on ride quality. Not only was the ride smoother, but the handling and braking improved as did top speed. I did some "runs" where I can coast down a large hill, mostly out of the wind (trees on both sides). A simple "coast test" showed me an immediate pickup of a couple mph (I've made this run many times and have a good amount of data). It was immediately noticeable how much faster my bike picked up speed when coasting.

    Now...I don't go around coasting all over the place but I wanted a simple test. It is noticeable how better they ride. Like a good saddle, or comfortable shoes or nice kit...you can tell.

    My wheels set me back $625. Not cheap but no king's ransom. Had I dropped $2500 and got the same results, I may feel screwed. For my $$...it was a solid upgrade.
    Are you attributing the speed gain in your coast down test to better aero dynamics or what? What did you do to equalize differences in rolling resistance that could be caused by different tires and tubes, rim widths and tire pressure? And on your old wheels, do you know for sure that the bearing tension was set optimally and that they were in good enough condition to provide a suitable comparison?

    And how many runs are you talking, anyway? I have seen enough well documented coast down tests to know that very minor differences in body position and wind can cause large differences in results. For one person to assemble meaningful data it would required a lot of time and effort with a very focused and disciplined tester.

    Per the OPs original question which was regarding $2000 wheels vs. $400 dollar ones, how do you know that your simple test would not have yielded similar results had you compared your original wheels with an identical set that had been built with a 23mm wide touring rim with freshly serviced hubs at little to no additional cost?

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