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Are Climbing Wheels Funner to Ride?

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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

Are Climbing Wheels Funner to Ride?

Old 04-06-24, 09:50 PM
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Are Climbing Wheels Funner to Ride?

Assuming that the Synapse 2RLE I ordered arrives unscathed and survives its first few test rides, it would be time to go wheel shopping. The question is: shallower climbing wheels or deeper race wheels?

For example, comparing Roval Alpinist CL II (climbing wheelset) vs. Rapide CL II (race wheelset). A 215 g (i.e., just under half a pound) difference. This video (comparing the lighter and more expensive CLX II versions of these respective wheels) claims that the Rapide is 40 s faster than the Alpinist over a 10 km course over varied terrain.


And I have no reason to doubt the video! Everything I have read here and elsewhere says deeper wheels are faster everywhere except for > 10% grade. But even if the video is somehow representative of my fitness and my "go to" ride -- i.e., 28 miles; 1,100 ft. elevation gain; 15.5 mph average speed -- which usually takes just under 1 hour and 50 minutes, extrapolating the results from the video means that I finish 3 minutes faster. But I am not racing; I just want my new bike to be fun to ride, faster to accelerate (both from a stop and from cruising speed), and to handle well. Which type of wheels would you choose, and why?
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Old 04-06-24, 11:05 PM
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Funner.

Especially weight-weanie light-weight rear wheels with about 5 spokes in them.

Those make the hill-climbing experience even more funner. Especially when they go taco hell.

What is wrong with the stock wheels?
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Old 04-06-24, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Polaris OBark
Funner.
Fine; more fun.

Originally Posted by Polaris OBark
What is wrong with the stock wheels?
They are not CF?
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Old 04-06-24, 11:26 PM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir

And I have no reason to doubt the video! Everything I have read here and elsewhere says deeper wheels are faster everywhere except for > 10% grade. But even if the video is somehow representative of my fitness and my "go to" ride -- i.e., 28 miles; 1,100 ft. elevation g
Don’t believe everything that you read. That 10% value is way too high. More like 5% for most riders. Below 5%, go aero. Above 5%, go light. Windy, go light.

Or if you just want to have a fun ride, skip the aero.
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Old 04-06-24, 11:40 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Windy, go light.
SoCal has been windier than usual this past winter. But I wonder if my squirrelly line is really due to wind gusts hitting my 45 mm deep wheels or my substantial bulk?

Originally Posted by terrymorse
Or if you just want to have a fun ride, skip the aero.
In my limited experience, riding lighter wheels does make the bike feel faster, even though I may not be actually going any faster.
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Old 04-06-24, 11:57 PM
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Like adult underwear, the answer is depends. I've been playing around with the My Windsock app and seeing where how aero and weight factor into my rides. It appears the break over point, where weight trumps aero, is on rides with more than 100' per mile.

That being said, my new bike is a climbing frame, but with aero wheels...I think it strikes a good balance and any weakness on the hills can be attributed mostly to its rider. My other bike has a heavier frame with similar wheels, I used to think the wheels made it feel just a bit sluggish on the hills, but now I chalk it up to the total weight of the bike and possibly frame stiffness. The new bike feels very responsive in comparison, despite having the same depth wheels. Certainly no less responsive than the weight-weenie carbon rim-brake bike it replaced.
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Old 04-07-24, 04:51 AM
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I don’t think road wheels start getting un-fun until you’re rolling in the 1800g range, and I doubt the 215g difference between the Rovals negatively impacts the fun feel, so I’d go deeper and take the extra aero bennies all over the place.
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Old 04-07-24, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
They are not CF?
What’s wrong with that?
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Old 04-07-24, 07:34 AM
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Why would they be “funner”? Change of weight, handling, and maybe a bit of speed difference, sure. I’ll add comfort. But “Funner”, not in my bike world.
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Old 04-07-24, 09:55 AM
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26" wheels are more funner.
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Old 04-07-24, 10:07 AM
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My ultralight wheels makes the bike behave differently in a way I like. Aero wheels don't feel like anything until you get your stopwatch out.

So it depends if you ride your bike for pleasure or for Strava.
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Old 04-07-24, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
SoCal has been windier than usual this past winter. But I wonder if my squirrelly line is really due to wind gusts hitting my 45 mm deep wheels or my substantial bulk?
As a "low mass" rider, I've noticed that I get blown around more than the bulkier riders.
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Old 04-07-24, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by delbiker1
Why would they be “funner”? Change of weight, handling, and maybe a bit of speed difference, sure. I’ll add comfort. But “Funner”, not in my bike world.
Originally Posted by Kontact
My ultralight wheels makes the bike behave differently in a way I like. Aero wheels don't feel like anything until you get your stopwatch out.
Originally Posted by chaadster
I don’t think road wheels start getting un-fun until you’re rolling in the 1800g range, and I doubt the 215g difference between the Rovals negatively impacts the fun feel, so I’d go deeper and take the extra aero bennies all over the place.
I used "fun" (and inadvertently triggered Polaris OBark) because I am unsure of how to describe the difference in handling I noticed with lighter wheels. Maybe there is nothing else other than the ease of acceleration from a stop or cruising speed. I hesitated to use "lively" because I am not sure I have the bike handling skills of most bike mag authors.

Originally Posted by terrymorse
As a "low mass" rider, I've noticed that I get blown around more than the bulkier riders.
Exactly. In conditions where even my 90 kg (just < 200 lbs.) bulk is being blown off my line, I am not sure that a 15 mm or 20 mm difference in wheel depth would make a lot of difference.
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Old 04-07-24, 12:57 PM
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In theory a lighter rim should be easier to spin up to speed from stop. In reality, how perceptible is this between two wheels? My personal experience is that a 30-38mm carbon rim feels more responsive than a 50-88mm carbon rim. If you're doing a lot of stop and go (which I do, because I try not to run too many red lights or stop signs), or sudden accelerations in a group ride setting, it may make the lighter wheels more enjoyable. If you do a lot of solo country road miles I might think the deeper heavier wheels could be better at holding a constant speed.
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Old 04-07-24, 01:28 PM
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Train harder and use the stock wheels
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Old 04-07-24, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by cweb99
Train harder and use the stock wheels
Train for what? If the point is just fitness, train on a 1980 Sekai.
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Old 04-07-24, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
Train for what? If the point is just fitness, train on a 1980 Sekai.
smoke them if you got them
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Old 04-07-24, 06:45 PM
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Hunt just came out with a light weight climbing wheel you might want to check out. 963 grams.
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Old 04-07-24, 09:40 PM
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In my experience---lighter wheels are faster ... for the first two or three pedal strokes. Accelerating? Lighter Feels better .... but after two or three pedal strokes the bike is moving faster and the wheels feel the same.

So, yes ... "funner."

However ... it is like having lighter and heavier bikes. Ride a few miles and they all feel like themselves.Comparisons are impossible and it becomes all about what you are riding now, not about what yo rode last week or whatever.

I'd look for something in the 38-mm range or so ... aero enough and still light. $$ mm seems to be the standard for "regular aero wheels, and anything more is too specialized for me .... and you might send a lot of time fighting the front wheel in crosswinds (I am Not a "low-mass" rider and on a day with 26-mph gusts, I was forced to correct firmly after each gust ... not so cool when the wind is pushing you into the traffic. and that was on low-weight 25-mm-deep rims. Double that and winds would be scary.)
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Old 04-07-24, 09:51 PM
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The essential conflict is between numerical performance and enjoyment. Do you require better wheels because you otherwise might not win? Or do you ride a racing bicycle for the pleasure of its sportiness and moment-to-moment excitement brought by responsive design? Light wheels are like fast handling and precise shifting.
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Old 04-07-24, 10:01 PM
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Go with what you enjoy more. If you like blasting the flats and just general speed get the aero wheels. If you like the "surge" feeling on climbs as you stand and push a big gear go with the climbing wheels. I have only went from decent to lighter wheels on my mtb, but it was a noticeable difference when climbing and I could tell when accelerating out of a slow corner.
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Old 04-08-24, 02:09 AM
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Ever wonder why pros sometimes switch bikes in time trials that include a big climb? Why not ride the bike with lighter wheels from the start?

RChung once or twice provided a link to study results showing that lighter wheels subtly sap energy everywhere but in substantial climbs. That's due to reduced conservation of energy with light wheels: less flywheel effect. In that sense, wheels function as capacitors. That also might explain why designers of high-performance aero bike wheels seem to have become less concerned about wheel weight. After all, most races have far more kms of flat or rolling terrain than of big climbs.

The Hi-E wheels I owned (briefly) in the mid-1980's might well have been the lightest production wheels ever designed. Scary light. I did a few time trials with them, and they were great on steep hills, but I never got used to the slight choppiness of pedaling - the perceptible micro-acceleration with each pedal stroke - everywhere else. That, plus the way they made my bike feel weirdly top-heavy, motivated me to sell them after a few months.
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Old 04-08-24, 05:11 AM
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I'd only ride and use climbing wheels if I was climbing literally 100% of a ride. A race where you need to get to the top of a mountain as fast as possible, for instance. As soon as you need to go down, the sailing effect outweighs the advantages IMO, and I'd get a ''balanced'' wheel (40mm or something).

Prove me wrong.
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Old 04-08-24, 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir

But even if the video is somehow representative of my fitness and my "go to" ride -- i.e., 28 miles; 1,100 ft. elevation gain; 15.5 mph average speed -- which usually takes just under 1 hour and 50 minutes, extrapolating the results from the video means that I finish 3 minutes faster. But I am not racing; I just want my new bike to be fun to ride, faster to accelerate (both from a stop and from cruising speed), and to handle well. Which type of wheels would you choose, and why?
Firstly, 215g of wheel mass is going to make no real world difference to your acceleration, whether you can feel it or not. It’s not actually hard to calculate and the results are very disappointing if you expect to make a gain. Basically it is a very good approximation to say that the gain in acceleration would be zero for that difference in wheel mass. Do you see any elite level crit racers and sprinters on Alpinist wheels?

The aero gains however are quite measurable and may or may not be useful to you. But they are there for the taking with no significant penalty on the ride you mention above.

So I would definitely take the aero wheels and their measurable real world speed gains, which are relatively lightweight and therefore fun anyway.
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Old 04-08-24, 06:08 AM
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When it comes to fun, light is right. A light bike, car, moto, boat, etc will feel more reactive and transmit a sense of directness and urgency ehich is at the very heart of what “feels fun” is.

“Funner” is not faster nor better. Don’t confuse the terms.

The old “light or aero?” paradigm is dead. Aero wheels can be plenty light for fun and still be faster. It used to be that a deep, aero-section wheelset was 2000g, but today, even better performance can be had for 1500g; that’s more than a pound less.

Also, modern, more bluntly rounded, aero rim shapes are less affected by cross-wind gusts than the old V-shape rims, so it’s good to know what people are actually riding where you are; ask around to aero rim riders in your area about which depth they think is optimal for conditions. I don’t have trouble with modern 45/52mm depths here in SE MI (and am going deeper on an inbound set), but coastal roads on windward side of Hawai’i might suggest differently.
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