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Old 12-17-09, 12:30 AM
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Location: Illinois
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Bikes: No bike at the moment; In process of building it.

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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
I'll pipe up.

First off, a monster engine will overpower a wheelset any day of the week. Get Cancellara on your local group ride and if he feels like it, he could rip it apart on a set of 36 spoke GP4s.

However, most of us aren't talented like that. I definitely fail in that average watt test. And since I manage to hold my own, it means that more than a few guys are at least close to me, and tactics, technical knowledge, and experience help make up for lack of engine.

So now you can justify aero wheels.

I'd highly recommend getting the same type of FRONT wheels for training and racing. For many years I trained on a clincher Trispoke (now known/sold as a HED3). I had a pair of tubular ones for racing. It probably looked odd with the big heavy looking front wheel combined with a usually "thin" looking rear wheel (Eurus, box clincher, Rev-X, 440, etc).

The front wheel really affects handling, esp if you're going to/from an aero wheel. It's critical that you understand how your wheel will handle. I've made some serious mistakes even between my DV46s and my Zipp 440 (pre-404), and I posted a long post somewhere around here complete with video of said mistake (basically I ended up drifting to the curb in the sprint, forcing me to soft pedal with about 100 meters left in the race, and yes, I got killed in the sprint).

The rear wheel doesn't matter handling wise. An aero rear makes you a little more stable, but that's about it. I raced a rear disk a lot for a few years, until I started getting scared I'd whack it good in a crash.

Front wheels are critical. So for your experiment, get two of the front wheels you want.

Plus the front wheel accounts for something like 60% of the aero forces, so you get most of the benefit from the front anyway.

I ride DV46 clinchers in training, tubulars in races. I also have a couple sets of box section aluminum wheels. I've also used the TriSpokes (still have them all), and recently starting using the 440 front. Incidentally one of my best races was on one of the box section wheels - I forgot the DV46s in the driveway that day and drove to the race with just the alum wheels. I decided to use the day to practice bridging gaps and I ended up finishing the race in the first main group. I never finished that well again for the rest of the year, and I was using my best wheels for most of those races (thinking "Heck, if I can finish on box sections, I'll kill it with the DV46s... wrong").

Once you're reasonably friendly to wheels, meaning you don't go out and dent rims often (like for 5 or 10 years, but figure a year would be a good start), you can ride pretty much anything you want. I'd set my own limits at a 330 gram rear alum rim, a 280 or lighter front rim for aluminum rims - your mileage may vary. But any carbon rim I've ridden has been fine under me. Crashes break wheels, but so does hitting something really hard, and if you can avoid the latter, you can hope for a non-negative result from the former.

Having said all that, in a Cat 5 race it won't matter much what wheels you have. Tactics, bike handling skills, and bike riding technique count for so much that wheels become almost last in the list of things to do well. I'd say that being able to draft closely will make a much bigger difference in the 5s - around here there is usually 5-6 feet between riders in a turn, not a foot or so like the 3s. Knowing how to ride close to other riders is the most significant thing you can do - else you'll be semi-time-trialing the whole race.

In the 4s wheels can help, and I think that the closer races (bike throw in a sprint) can be decided by wheel selection. The stuff about tactics and riding closely apply too, but for the better riders they'll know how to ride in close quarters as well as some of the basics in tactics. I have seen 3 and 4 wide sprints where no one throws the bike, and if just one of them had thrown their bike, they'd have won automatically. So great wheels don't make up for lack of knowledge or technical skills.

In the 3s I think wheels can make a small but significant difference. This is where you have guys throwing their bikes at the line (some well, some not so well), where everyone rides in close quarters, and the max speeds start creeping up there. Since the differences get a bit more tight, aero wheels can help make a difference.

Thanks for "piping up" CDR; I was sorta hoping you would.

After careful consideration I think I'll be training on American Classic hubs lace to a tubular kinlin (I know this'll open a can of worms but I rode some tubulars a few times and I loved everytime) made by Psiment. I don't mind learning to glue at all, it's a good skill to have, and to master. As far as which tubular tires I'll use, I think I'll just find whatever is the most indestructible, weight not having much say since they're training wheels.

I'll use those in my first few races and once comfortable I think I may have Psimet build up his 50mm carbon rims to the same American Class Micro 58/205 hubs and use those as race wheels.

Sound like a plan?

P.S. I recently inquired on prices for several setups and he's yet to get back to me, so I don't have hard numbers yet.
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