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Carbon vs alloy wheels

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Carbon vs alloy wheels

Old 12-08-21, 12:33 AM
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tankist
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Carbon vs alloy wheels

I have Orbea Orca carbon bike with SRAM Force eTap AXS and Fulcrum Race 4 wheels. The bike is very comfortable but feels a bit sluggish compared to my other older road bikes. Maybe this is because of heavier disc brakes vs lighter rim ones on the other bikes. Maybe because of 32mm tires with lower pressure vs 25 with higher. I'm wondering would there be a noticeable difference if I upgrade the wheels to carbon like Fulcrum Race Zero? These wheels are quite more expensive - would they be worth it? I'm looking for more sporty ride.
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Old 12-08-21, 07:44 AM
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I've done the "carbon vs alloy" thing, and honestly, I'm sticking with alloy. While the carbon wheels do feel a little different, I never noticed any increase in speed, climbing, etc. The alloy wheels I use are the Roval SLX 24, which are light and nice riding. No more carbon wheels for me. But that's for me and my riding style and ability. If you're a world tour rider, well, your mileage may vary.
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Old 12-08-21, 08:38 AM
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If it's just a perceptual difference, then yeah, I would guess it's the heavier and lower pressured 32s vs. the lighter, higher-pressured 25s on your other bikes. And not the material your rims are made out of. Are the rides actually any slower? -- hard to test this easily, but thought I'd ask.
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Old 12-08-21, 08:46 AM
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Going from heavier tires and wheels to lighter tires and wheels is certainly noticeable in terms of feel, IMO. Will you see any difference on the stop-watch? No.

Side note, if you go to some of the wider rims, you could probably move to a modern, nominal 28mm tire and not give up anything in terms of mounted width, which means that you could run fast but comfy air pressure and have tire profile that handles nicely.
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Old 12-08-21, 09:36 AM
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When I was shopping for wheels, I noticed that the weight of the alloy wheels I did get was only 3.5 ounces more than a "lightweight" carbon set. And a LOT less money. I'm not worried about 3.5 ounces. And yes, the choice of tire likely makes more of a difference than the wheel material.
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Old 12-08-21, 10:23 AM
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Have you played with your tire pressures to see if higher or lower psi make a difference for what you perceive as sluggishness?

If I run the recommended pressure for my weight and tire size then I feel like I'm having to work harder to make the bike move. My data also shows me better at the tire pressure I feel better on.
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Old 12-08-21, 10:26 AM
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My understanding is that carbon wheels are lighter but the main benefit is they are more aero and stiffer for the weight. If the type of riding you're doing doesn't give you the aero benefit and you don't put out a lot of power you may not notice much benefit from carbon wheels over quality alloy wheels. I would definitely try different tires first. You could try several pairs of tires for the price of one wheel. You could also try tubeless or those turbo lite tubes before putting out the money for new wheels.
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Old 12-08-21, 10:55 AM
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What tyres are they? I would start from there.
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Old 12-08-21, 11:15 AM
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where I live disc vs rim is no real advantage - it's rarely wet out here. so Rim/Carbon being more finicky, I don;t need.
Carbon vs Alloy - more aero or more bulletproof - I find my alloy work fine, reasonably light for acceleration and climbing.
Tires - good tires in 25 are still my go to on my HED wheels - 19mm internal.
Internal rim width does help with tire compliance vs psi inflation. Many carbon rims are way narrower, internal, than good alloy.
At my weight , 150 lbs/ 68 kg, I ride 75+ frt, 80 psi rear and its mostly comfortable and fast enough for my current riding.
We have plenty of crap roads in Santa Barbara county, where a 32 would seem a nice comfy ride, But a lot more weight to spin up and climb with...
I like 25mms because they're also much lighter... course, I'm still running light tubes also...
tubeless would be nice... iffn I only had 2 bikes - not possible at the moment.... LOL!
Ride On
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Old 12-08-21, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by tankist View Post
These wheels are quite more expensive - would they be worth it?
Post your Strava files and tax returns from the past 3 years and I'll plug them into my spreadsheet. The result will be a true, objective answer to your question.
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Old 12-08-21, 11:23 AM
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They look cooler.
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Old 12-08-21, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by tankist View Post
I have Orbea Orca carbon bike with SRAM Force eTap AXS and Fulcrum Race 4 wheels. The bike is very comfortable but feels a bit sluggish compared to my other older road bikes. Maybe this is because of heavier disc brakes vs lighter rim ones on the other bikes. Maybe because of 32mm tires with lower pressure vs 25 with higher. I'm wondering would there be a noticeable difference if I upgrade the wheels to carbon like Fulcrum Race Zero? These wheels are quite more expensive - would they be worth it? I'm looking for more sporty ride.
Lopping 260g off your wheel weight by moving to Racing Zero Carbon DB would probably improve liveliness and sporty feel, yeah.

Is it worth the cost? Almost certainly not, as there are options which are lighter, deeper, and less expensive, like Winspace Hyper 38, which are around 100g lighter, 8mm deeper, and $600 less than RZ Carbon. Hyper 38s would move your wheel weight savings up to more than 3/4lb.
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Old 12-08-21, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by tankist View Post
I have Orbea Orca carbon bike with SRAM Force eTap AXS and Fulcrum Race 4 wheels. The bike is very comfortable but feels a bit sluggish compared to my other older road bikes. Maybe this is because of heavier disc brakes vs lighter rim ones on the other bikes. Maybe because of 32mm tires with lower pressure vs 25 with higher. I'm wondering would there be a noticeable difference if I upgrade the wheels to carbon like Fulcrum Race Zero? These wheels are quite more expensive - would they be worth it? I'm looking for more sporty ride.
"Worth" is subjective...hence we cannot answer that question for you.
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Old 12-08-21, 12:23 PM
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I'm a life time fan of HED wheels in the alloy/carbon setup. A mild weight penalty for the alloy rim but the aero profile is carbon. Makes them more affordable and also a more carefree/easy wheelset to own versus all carbon IMO.

They even make the "black" versions now with the black alloy brake track to get the same all black look as a full carbon wheel.
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Old 12-08-21, 01:26 PM
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Thanks everybody for the useful info you provided. I'm a casual rider of 61 years young, do it mostly for pleasure and health. For this year I have about 7,000 km of distance and 66,000 m of climb. I weight about 87 kg, my current tires are Conti 5000 TL 32mm pumped to max (6 bars) pressure. I think I'll stick with my current wheels for now but will try Conti 5000 TL 28 mm when the current tires wear out. And will take a look at other carbon alternatives to have a better perspective.
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Old 12-08-21, 02:51 PM
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You have high end tires. I don't think you will notice that much difference between 28 and 32's. Despite the advice here people rave about new wheels (especially carbon) and often say it's the best upgrade you can do for your bike. If you have the money I'm guessing you would be happy with a new set of carbon wheels.
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Old 12-08-21, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
Going from heavier tires and wheels to lighter tires and wheels is certainly noticeable in terms of feel, IMO. Will you see any difference on the stop-watch? No.
Anecdotally, this is what you should expect to experience.

Having a lighter wheel and tire set up in general will make the bike feel a bit more lively. However you should consider the weight of the total bike as whole since disc brake bikes are typically heavier than rim brakes. IMO after switching to disc brakes on the primary bike, they tend to have a harder time climbing and less of a snap in acceleration over rim brake. However modern geometry and disc brakes make the riding experience more enjoyable overall, YMMV.

If you're only looking at reducing weight, then carbon vs. alloy doesn't matter. The primary advantage to carbon wheels is that you can get aero profiles and shapes that alloy cannot do without excess weight. Carbon wheels usually aren't much lighter than alloy anyways. You'd have to consider where and how you like to ride. My climbing bike is an older Cannondale SuperSix with rim brakes and alloy wheels for a total bike weight of 6 kg. The primary is a Bottecchia Emme 4 with Zipp 303s and that comes in at 7.7 kg.

Last edited by oris; 12-08-21 at 04:36 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old 12-08-21, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by tankist View Post
would they be worth it?
Unless you're being paid to race and are losing sprints by less than 0.1 seconds, it's not "worth it". But if you want them and you have the expendable income, nobody's gonna stop you.
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Old 12-08-21, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
Post your Strava files and tax returns from the past 3 years and I'll plug them into my spreadsheet. The result will be a true, objective answer to your question.
I did something similar. Which is why I bought alloy. Did the same exercise for tires, as well. Got some surprising results. Reality can fly in the face of advertising claims.
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Old 12-08-21, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by dmanthree View Post
I did something similar. Which is why I bought alloy. Did the same exercise for tires, as well. Got some surprising results. Reality can fly in the face of advertising claims.
I guess humor is dead ...
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Old 12-08-21, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
Post your Strava files and tax returns from the past 3 years and I'll plug them into my spreadsheet. The result will be a true, objective answer to your question.
Come on, to be completely objective you must consider Strava files, tax returns, and Bike Forum posts (especially those with photos) for the most recent three years.
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Old 12-09-21, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by oris View Post
The primary advantage to carbon wheels is that you can get aero profiles and shapes that alloy cannot do without excess weight. Carbon wheels usually aren't much lighter than alloy anyways.
I thought the real advantage to carbon wheels was their stiffness laterally. That lets one accelerate faster when putting the power into the bike. Though the gain is probably less notable for a not so strong in the legs rider as it is for someone very strong in the legs.
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Old 12-09-21, 08:33 AM
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There's other advantages but carbon wheels aren't always stiffer in general. The main reason I would look at them is gaining an aero advantage and weight overall.
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Old 12-09-21, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
I thought the real advantage to carbon wheels was their stiffness laterally. That lets one accelerate faster when putting the power into the bike. Though the gain is probably less notable for a not so strong in the legs rider as it is for someone very strong in the legs.
I'd hazard a guess that the increased lateral stiffness is a side-benefit that comes from deeper aero rim shape. IOW, carbon fiber wheels aren't made deeper to solve a stiffness issue, but to improve aerodynamics. If (does?) anyone made a 24mm deep CF box shaped rim, would it be any stiffer than a same sized alloy rim?
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Old 12-09-21, 08:42 AM
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"Carbon" rims are in no way different than "alloy" rims except in material.

CF rims come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes as do alloy rims.

If you don't need very deep aero rims, then you can get alloy rims which weight less than deep CF rims .... and the biggest difference if "feel" (IMO) comes from reduced rotating mass. The difference disappears once you get up near cruising speed, but accelerating from a stop or low speeds, based on my own tests, the lighter wheels feel faster.

If you generally ride over 18 or so mph, you might gain a tiny a percentage of speed with a set of deep areo rims ... I doubt Strava would notice, and if it doesn't show up on Strava, does it even happen?

When I bought my Fuji, it felt sluggish and I was disappointed with it for a while ... then I got some lighter alloy rims and some Contis to replace the stock boat-anchor wheels and treaded on/off-road tires, saving about half a pound ... then I got some deeper CF rims which were a quarter-pound lighter still. The difference was dramatic from the stock wheel and tires, to CF wheels and Contis, was tremendous ....but the difference was not due to "fast" tires of CF rims .... it was purely Weight. I dropped maybe two pounds and that made the bike feel ... two pounds lighter.
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