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The great aero / lightweight wheel tradeoff - where is the balance point?

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The great aero / lightweight wheel tradeoff - where is the balance point?

Old 06-28-10, 09:31 PM
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FlashBazbo
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The great aero / lightweight wheel tradeoff - where is the balance point?

After a dissatisfying adventure with "aero" aluminum lightweight wheels, I'm in the market again. A non-negotiable priority is low maintenance. I would like to have Mavic Ksyrium-style freedom from wheel truing. Very close behind that is the desire for front end stability on nasty rapid descents. (I got neither of these with my "aero" aluminum lightweight wheels.)

Having said all that, I'm down to a tradeoff between wheel lightness and aero.

Generally speaking, a 50mm deep aero wheel will cost between 1/2 pound and 2/3 pound per wheelset. And all that weight is out there where it makes the most difference on the entire bike -- at the perimeter of the rims. If you've used both types of wheels, are aero benefits worth the extra heft? Does the inertia of the extra heft increase stability? Does it kill acceleration?
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Old 06-28-10, 09:50 PM
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I think you're over-thinking this.


If price is no objection, some LEW custom wheels would be one of the best choices.
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Old 06-28-10, 09:57 PM
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https://theworldslightestwheel.com/ will give you the best of both worlds.

Aero wheels help at all speeds, but you'll get the most out of them the faster you go. Lighter wheels helps with climbs, but they aren't really noticeable unless you're doing long climbs or steep climbs. It really comes down to how much elevation you gain.

Usually aero wheels are more beneficial than light wheels, unless you do a lot of climbing... Then one can argue that the aero wheels can help a little by being stiffer.
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Old 06-28-10, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by FlashBazbo View Post
Does it kill acceleration?
To see how it kills acceleration pick up the bike with the heavy wheels on and turn the pedal with your hand. See how difficult it is to spin the wheel up to 40kmh - not very.
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Old 06-29-10, 03:50 AM
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Maybe I'm answering my own question here . . .

Aero wheels don't REALLY help at all speeds, except in marketingland. But they do help at the speeds I ride 95%+ of the time. And, yes, I can tell a real-world difference between accelerating, say, a Mavic Ksyrium and a Mavic Aksium -- using legs and on a bicycle. I'm not sure it's a big climbing issue. It's more of an issue in situations with a lot of sudden accelerations and decelerations.

On the other hand, an Aksium weighs about the same as a lot of the 50mm aero wheels and an Aksium isn't THAT bad. (Some are lighter than Aksiums.)
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Old 06-29-10, 04:19 AM
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since your rides are 95% of the time in a speed range where aero wheels help, how about some sub 1600g wheels? that's if your body weight allows it.

tire selection is way more important than wheel selection, IMO.
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Old 06-29-10, 05:20 AM
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I have a set of easton EA90 SLX as my " light wheels" that i use for climbing days or some crit racing. I also have a set of Zipp 404 clincher's that i use 75% of the time. Not as light but stiff and more aero. i can feel the difference big time when riding at over 30km/h into a head wind...big time. The Zipp's are a great all rounder i think.
On my other bike I only have one set, Reynolds assault carbon clinchers. Great wheel, light, not too expensive and has held up to two years of riding and racing.
Got them off ebay for $900 20 months ago...
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Old 06-29-10, 05:29 AM
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what was wrong with the aero alu wheels?
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Old 06-29-10, 06:16 AM
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Originally Posted by AngryScientist View Post
what was wrong with the aero alu wheels?
They were aero, aluminum, and less than 1400g. The problems were high maintenance -- truing absolutely necessary every three weeks and one broken spoke, without hitting so much as a pot hole in the road. Granted, they have a weight limit, but I'm 10 kilos under the weight limit!

That, plus they gave a vague, insecure feel on fast descents.
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Old 06-29-10, 06:19 AM
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why does it matter if you don't race?
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Old 06-29-10, 06:25 AM
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The balance point is in your head. Sure aero wheels might give you an extra .25mph at 30mph, but do you think you will really notice that? Same with light wheels, unless all you do is climb 10% grades all day. However, placebo is a powerful thing and you might find that your new aero/light wheels really do make you faster because a) you have convinced yourself mentally that will be the case, and/or b) you like them so much that they make you want to ride more.

Go for a wheelset with high quality hubs and good lateral stiffness. Make sure they look good, too so you will want to ride them all the time. Weight should not be on the top of the priorities list for hobby riders like most of us here on BF.
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Old 06-29-10, 06:44 AM
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I started in the 70s when roadbikes were just generically referred to as 10 speeds. Lightweight was all that mattered. If you could afford it (I couldn't) Fiamme rims with silk sew-ups was the the ultimate. Not very durable but still light even by today's standards. No one (seriously) thought about aero back then and I admit I still look at weight first when I see a wheelset. Since I live in Fl I probably need to finally re-orient my thinking an start looking at aero features.

Not much help for the OP as I guess I'm in the same boat.
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Old 06-29-10, 06:44 AM
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I started in the 70s when roadbikes were just generically referred to as 10 speeds. Lightweight was all that mattered. If you could afford it (I couldn't) Fiamme rims with silk sew-ups was the the ultimate. Not very durable but still light even by today's standards. No one (seriously) thought about aero back then and I admit I still look at weight first when I see a wheelset. Since I live in Fl I probably need to finally re-orient my thinking an start looking at aero features.

Not much help for the OP as I guess I'm in the same boat.
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Old 06-29-10, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Grumpy McTrumpy View Post
why does it matter if you don't race?
you must be new to BF. Welcome.
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Old 06-29-10, 06:46 AM
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i read that you have to be going really fast before the aero makes a difference.
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Old 06-29-10, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by coasting View Post
i read that you have to be going really fast before the aero makes a difference.
I always enjoy arguing that aero wheels will save more time for slow people than fast people.
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Old 06-29-10, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by coasting View Post
i read that you have to be going really fast before the aero makes a difference.
I always enjoy arguing that aero wheels will save more time for slow people than fast people.
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Old 06-29-10, 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by FlashBazbo View Post
They were aero, aluminum, and less than 1400g. The problems were high maintenance -- truing absolutely necessary every three weeks and one broken spoke, without hitting so much as a pot hole in the road. Granted, they have a weight limit, but I'm 10 kilos under the weight limit!

That, plus they gave a vague, insecure feel on fast descents.
you know those weight limits aren't realistic for some manufacturers.
which wheels did you have and how much did you weigh?
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Old 06-29-10, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post
I always enjoy arguing that aero wheels will save more time for slow people than fast people.
you like arguing with the wall?

all these armchair physicists probably never even do a time trial anyway. what's the point?

(btw I know that you are correct)
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Old 06-29-10, 07:30 AM
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armchair physicist? i have no problem saying i know jackpoo about physics. if only other people on the internet would stick to their area of knowledge too. mine is how to eat lots after a ride and not fel guilty.
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Old 06-29-10, 07:58 AM
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you don't have to be an expert to participate in the scientific method.

just do some experimenting on your own and forget the misinformation superhighway.

even at 18mph there is a gigantic difference in power numbers between my full TT rig and road racing bike. It would be pointless to push the idea further when people should just formulate their own experiments. The results do need to be based on something quantifiable.

That means something OTHER than "gee, this wheel makes me feel faster"

even if you don't have a power meter, a coast-down test would be sufficient, provided you did it in identical wind conditions, such as an early morning.

again, this seems like a silly waste of time unless you are competing.
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Old 06-29-10, 08:12 AM
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^^^^ Regarding coast-downs, it's important to note that max speed is more important than starting speed. Get the start speed somewhat close, then look at max speed going down the hill, as that will be pretty consistent through varying start speeds. The point being, don't try to coast from a standing start to a landmark and time it -- you'll have a very tough time getting consistent results.

True that it shouldn't matter if not competing, and amounts to 100% silly.
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Old 06-29-10, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by fa63 View Post
The balance point is in your head. Sure aero wheels might give you an extra .25mph at 30mph, but do you think you will really notice that?
Yes, I know I will notice that. I've actually been told it's .5 mph. Either way, it's between 2 1/2 minutes and 5 minutes in 100 miles. And it's not in my head, it's on the clock at the end of the morning.

If you're purely a casual rider, you may not notice a small increment like that. If you're not competing, it probably IS silly. OTOH, if you're training and putting it out there, a .25 to .5 mph average difference is pretty big. If you're suffering through what it takes to build speed, why not get everything out of it?
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Old 06-29-10, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post
^^^^ Regarding coast-downs, it's important to note that max speed is more important than starting speed. Get the start speed somewhat close, then look at max speed going down the hill, as that will be pretty consistent through varying start speeds. The point being, don't try to coast from a standing start to a landmark and time it -- you'll have a very tough time getting consistent results.

True that it shouldn't matter if not competing, and amounts to 100% silly.

I had a standing start from the top of a hill with another cyclist next to me. I roll really fast and I'm not sure why. My weight, hub greased enough..whatever.
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Old 06-29-10, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by FlashBazbo View Post
Yes, I know I will notice that. I've actually been told it's .5 mph. Either way, it's between 2 1/2 minutes and 5 minutes in 100 miles. And it's not in my head, it's on the clock at the end of the morning.

If you're purely a casual rider, you may not notice a small increment like that. If you're not competing, it probably IS silly. OTOH, if you're training and putting it out there, a .25 to .5 mph average difference is pretty big. If you're suffering through what it takes to build speed, why not get everything out of it?
You are assuming that you can average 30mph. The gain in speed due to aero wheels would be much less, if not negligible, at speeds most casual (and even not so casual) cyclists ride at.

But like I said, placebo is a powerful drug.
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