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What's the best possible wheel upgrade if money is no issue?(47 posts)

What's the best possible wheel upgrade if money is no issue?LuckyStrike
Nov 30, 2001 11:31 AM
I'm currently riding Rolf Vector Comps. I'm interested in making a wheel upgrade to cut down weight and improve aerodynamics. I'm not too considered with the cost. I'm leaning heavily toward clinchers. I need wheels for training and racing. I ride a lot of hills and race in centuries.
I'd like to hear some suggestions. What wheels would you get for your bike if price were no object. Please keep in mind reliability, durability, etc..
Thanks for the input!
ADA -nmnm
Nov 30, 2001 11:36 AM
re: What's the best possible wheel upgrade if money is no issue?mclements
Nov 30, 2001 1:05 PM
I would check out the Bontrager Race X-Lites. Not the carbon ones, because I wouldn't trust carbon on a wheel. But the next ones "down" the scale, which are alloy; a bit heavier but still light, and stronger.

They are not quite as aerodynamic as the Rolfs, but I think aerodynamics are overrated. You spend more time going up the hills than down, so sacrificing aerodynamics for a better strength / weight ratio seems like a wise idea.

Don't assume that more money always buys better performance -- sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.
Aerodynamics vs. weight...TJeanloz
Nov 30, 2001 1:14 PM
Through some calculated formula, the physicists among us have conclusively concluded that (for solo riding) an aerodynamic advantage almost always outweighs a weight advantage. This is to say that an aero wheel weighing more will be faster than a light (but less aero wheel).

Anybody have the numbers handy?
Aerodynamics vs. weight...mclements
Nov 30, 2001 1:45 PM
The formula would have to have speed as a dominant factor. Wind resistance goes up between the square and cube of speed. Because it's speed dependent, the optimal combination for hill climbing won't be the same as for flats or downhills. And adding significant hills significantly changes things from "flat road" assumptions, because we all spend a lot more time climbing up the hill than we do going down the other side.

For example, take my typical ride which is 32 miles with about 2,500' of climb. Overall, it's about a 2 hour ride and nearly all of the climbing is in the first half of the ride. I reach the distance halfway point, at about 80 to 85 minutes into the ride -- well past the time halfway point.

In other words, about 70% of the time is spent climbing steep hills at 6-12 mph. If I can go 1 MPH faster on the hill climb, it will provide greater benefit than going several MPH faster on the downhill.

So while the "aerodynamics rules" assumptions are generally true for the flats, when you add significant hills it changes things.
You should revise your formulas !cyclomoteur
Nov 30, 2001 3:17 PM
Let's say you weight 160lbs and your bike 17lbs;

If you want to got 1MPH faster on a 6-12mph climb you need to shave 14.75 lbs to 29.5 lbs off your bike;

I agree with you that shaving 14.75 to 29.5 lbs will be a greater benifit then going <7MPH faster on downhill.

You should revise your formulas !mclements
Nov 30, 2001 3:38 PM
Your calculation of 14.75 to 29.5 lbs. seems to be based on a calculation of overall power to weight ratio. Such a calculation ignores the difference between rotating mass and static mass. Here we're talking about a weight difference that is 100% rotational.

Notwithstanding that, consider a realistic comparison of wheel aerodynamics. Do you think the two wheels will really be different by 7 MPH? I doubt it. I've tried a few different wheels from old fashioned tri-cross 36 spoke wheels, to the same with bladed spokes, to Rolf Vector Comps. Same bike, same hill. The biggest difference was about 2 MPH. Since the Bontrager and Rolf wheels are both aerodynamic designs their differences are going to be even less than this.

The problem is that since overall air resistance goes up sharply with speed, slow speed ascents are inherently more power efficient than fast descents. By this I mean that if you exert extra power on the fast downhills most of your energy is wasted into the wind. It takes a lot more power to go only a little bit faster. But if you exert extra power on a slow speed ascent, most of your energy goes directly toward increasing the speed of the bike. Very little is lost in air resistance because you're going so slow.
You should understand physics!Kerry Irons
Nov 30, 2001 7:20 PM
Rotating mass vs "static" mass (it's all moving forward) has meaning ONLY during acceleration and deceleration. Wheel weight is EXACTLY the same as water bottle weight (or any other weight) in terms of effort required to move it down the road, or up a hill. Lower mass in wheels is only an advantage when you're constantly accelerating, like in a crit where you have to brake for every corner. In order for a 150 lb. cyclist (on a 17 lb. bike) to go 1 mph faster up a 6% grade (8.5 mph vs. 7.5 mph), you would have to shave 22.5 lb. off the total weight. Simple as that. (Assumes same effort as required to go 20 mph on the flats)
You should understand physics!mclements
Nov 30, 2001 10:58 PM
Once again, oversimplified assumptions will give results that don't match reality.

You are assuming that the bike is always going a constant speed. Incorrect. The grade of the hill is constantly changing and the bike is constantly accelerating and decelerating.
Physics simplifiedKerry Irons
Dec 1, 2001 7:31 AM
On a bike, rim/tire mass takes exactly 2X the kinetic energy (compared to other weight) when it accelerates, although the KE numbers are VERY small compared to the total energy to overcome gravity (on a hill) or air drag (at higher speeds). As you state, the bike is constantly accelerating and decelerating when climbing due to pedaling surges, although this is a very small change in speed. Changes in grade are relatively few, are a miniscule percent of total time, and are no different than changes in speed you might experience on the flats due to wind speed changes.

What you apparently do not understand is that given any change in speed, virtually all of the kinetic energy spent in accelerating the mass (whether it is rim/tire mass or body mass) is returned when the deceleration takes place. Heavier wheels take more energy to accelerate, but return that energy when they decelerate. It's called conservation of energy - an immutable physical principle that requires no assumptions to invoke.

Again, the only place where light wheels are significantly important (compared saving weight anywhere else) is in a crit, where you "waste" kinetic energy in braking - you have to constantly regenerate this energy coming out of the corners. My "assumptions" are not oversimplified - it's straight physics.
Physics simplifiedmclements
Dec 1, 2001 9:21 AM
I understand what you're saying. Good points. I was caught up in thinking about how bad heavy wheels _feel_ on the bike, rather than about the overall conservation of rotational inertia.

So even though the additional rotational inertia of heavy aero wheels is not as bad for hill climbing as it feels, they just feel like crap to me and that's why I wouldn't want them on the bike. If I could get the aero without the extra weight, that's fine. But the extra weight makes the bike _feel_ like a pig.
mclements you have to admit that you were WRONGcyclomoteur
Dec 1, 2001 2:19 PM
say it : Aerodynamics is more important than shaving a few onces here and there.

not quite -- read what I said more carefullymclements
Dec 1, 2001 4:49 PM
Go back and read what I said from the beginning. My point all along was that aerodynamics is overrated for rides with significant hill climbing. This is true.

On hill climbing rides you spend most of your time at slow speeds at which aerodynamics provide no benefit. A wheel that sacrifices aerodynamics to obtain a better strength to weight ratio would be more optimal.

And going down the hill, the aero wheels aren't necessarily better. On most descents in the real world you are constantly braking for the turns and accelerating out of them. Here a wheel that sacrifices aerodynamics for low rotational inertia can also be more optimal.

The advantages of aero wheels do exist for certain conditions (relatively flat rides at relatively constant speeds). I never disputed this. My point is (and has been all along) that these conditions do not apply to all kinds of riding.
info linkDog
Dec 5, 2001 2:42 PM
This is reality?Galibier
Dec 3, 2001 2:46 PM
Wait a minute. I am a 150 lb climber. To state your calculation in reverse, adding 22.5 lbs to my bike or body weight will slow me by only 1 mph up a 6% grade?
not enough infoDog
Dec 3, 2001 4:57 PM
You must know power, which I suppose might be inferred from the speed. Weight matters much more to those with less power (watts).

Run the numbers at Choose "less weight on hill". You could put in a negative weight (mass) number to see the effect of more weight.

... a few numbers...Akirasho
Nov 30, 2001 3:40 PM

We abide.

Remain In Light.
... a few numbers...mclements
Nov 30, 2001 5:18 PM
Very interesting reference.

Its example is a 25 mile ride in about 1 hour. This can be done only on a relatively flat course. And the difference between a standard wheel and the best wheel is shown to be 1 minute, 10 seconds. This is about a 2% improvement, at 25 MPH speeds.

Most riders are somewhat slower than this and average more like 17-20 MPH on flat rides, and every hill slows the average speed down even more, so this 2% advantage is only theoretical, in reality it is less.

The article says lighter wheels have better acceleration that you can feel "in a parking lot" but says this isn't important. Yet anybody who climbs serious hills, spends most of his time at parking lot speeds.

In other words, the conclusions are only as realistic as the assumptions. How much climbing do you do?
Aerodynamics vs. weight...mclements
Dec 5, 2001 1:17 PM
On, I put in some numbers to their hill climb wheel calculator, to compare the lighter mavic wheels to the heavier aero wheels.

On the 8% grade 5k in length, the rider on non-aero lighter wheels is ahead by 2.22 seconds, 10 meters.

The two wheels are equal at between 5% and 6% grade. Steeper -> lighter is faster; Flatter -> aero is faster.
but here is the trickDog
Dec 6, 2001 7:05 AM
Say you are racing over a course with flats and hills - which would be faster? I can't see any possible way to figure it out, short of an extremely complex computer program that analyzes every inch of the course, knowing your power at that point. Throw in some drafting, and it really gets messy.
Look into Zipp clinchersspookyload
Dec 1, 2001 7:22 AM
As far as weight goes, the 2002 303 clinchers are very light. If you are more into aero, the 404 clinchers rule as the most aero wheel in mass production. Check out Zipps web page where they actually show wind tunnel data instead of just showing claims of aero like most wheels. The 404's are even strong enough to use as daily riding wheels. I say this since their rep from indianapolis rides them on his daily rider and he is about 320#. He claims he never has to true the wheels. That is a pretty good testament to durability. The 2002's are sweet, but you will drop some coin on them for sure.
re: What's the best possible wheel upgrade if money is no issue?JohnnyIV
Dec 1, 2001 9:06 AM
I ride Zipp 404 clinchers, and 303 clinchers. The 303's are super sweet, but the 404's fly. There is not a better wheelset out there, aero-wise. Zipp quality is top-notch. Their new carbon design makes them super light, and stiffer than the old wheels. Also, the new aluminum extrusion on the 404 clinchers is welded, and machined. Bottom line, you aren't gonna find a sweeter wheelset.
How much do they cost?mclements
Dec 1, 2001 9:13 AM
Even though price was no object in the question, I'm curious: How much do they cost?
here ya go: $1200 MSRP with linkCT1
Dec 1, 2001 1:14 PM
here ya go: $1200 MSRP with linkmclements
Dec 1, 2001 1:25 PM
The 303 wheels seem to offer the best of everything -- not just good aerodynamics, but also light weight for the climbs. Amazing. I had no idea aero wheels were available in such light weights. And they use real ball bearings in the hubs. Excellent.

How strong are these things? Anybody have a set they've been pounding on for a few thousand miles?
they have good service rep. as welldupe
Dec 1, 2001 5:43 PM
i dont have a current set.

but when looking for parts for an older set they knew exactly what i needed and were more than happy to answer any tech. questions and offer advice. sent me parts as "damaged replacements" prices even though it wasnt. they knew that it was an older set and were pleased that i was still using them.

they still behave like a little company.

try getting that from campy, shimano or mavic.
they have good service rep. as wellmclements
Dec 1, 2001 6:24 PM
Hmmmm. . .but I wonder why they don't pair up the spokes like Rolf or Bontrager. This should make the wheel stronger and also easier to true. Any ideas?
Exact opposite? Paired spoking is bunk.JS
Dec 2, 2001 8:18 PM
It is a great marketing gimmick, that's all. By paired spoking you have to overbuild rims because of the large unsupported span,adding weight in the process. Have you ever tried to true Rolfs? Not fun.
Paired spoking is _easier_ to truemclements
Dec 3, 2001 7:15 AM
Yes I've trued and rebuilt Rolf wheels. I can't say whether paired spokes make the wheel stronger, but I do know that paired spokes are easier to true, compared to low spoke count wheels that are not paired.
You're kidding, right?TJeanloz
Dec 3, 2001 7:56 AM
Paired spokes make wheels easier to true? You've been reading too much of the Trek service book. How easy are they to true when the bend is entirely between two of the pairs? I suppose if you're good with a hammer...
no joke -- it's all in the roundnessmclements
Dec 3, 2001 8:38 AM
If the bend is between two spokes, it's not easy whether or not the spokes are paired.

What I'm referring to is the fact that when I true a wheel, I don't just tighten (or loosen) one side. I find that doing so tends to impair the roundness of the wheel -- not immediately, but after the wheel is ridden a few times. So in addition to tightening (or loosening) one side, I loosen (or tighten) the other side as well. Of course before loosening a spoke one must check that it is tight to begin with and only loosen it just a touch. This is because the wheel doesn't immediately exert any force to "pull on" a loosened spoke -- but it does over time as it is stressed during riding, and this is why this technique works.

Yes I know this procedure is a bit different from what many people do, but it works. I've built a lot of wheels that have stood the test of many miles over the years.

My point is that when the spokes are paired, any adjustments for side-side truing can be offset by a corresponding spoke, to avoid impairing the roundness of the wheel.
Dec 3, 2001 8:54 AM
This is all true, and it is equally difficult to remove a between-the-spoke bend from a paired spoke wheel as from a traditional wheel- but the odd of such a bend are substantially smaller on a traditional wheel, where spokes are usually less than 2" apart.
i think this has to be the best price...on zippsdupe
Dec 4, 2001 9:59 AM
world clas cycles are having a few specials. thought some of you may be interested. i would only deal with them via phone or fax as they have stuffed an order of mine when trying to do it via email. scince rectified but a waste of time. other than that they are ok.

101 ROAD clincher or tubular $ 599.00 comes with free tires & tubes

303 Mid V aluminum clincher only $699.00 comes with free tires & tubes

303 Mid V carbon tubular only $799.00 comes with free tires & glue

404 Deep section clincher or tubular $899.00 comes with free tires & tubes

ciao, ben
Another point of viewnee Spoke Wrench
Dec 2, 2001 7:04 AM
This is an interesting question because there can be a bunch of correct answers. If I were grading the test, however, I don't think I would give any of the responses more than a C+. Here's why:

Everybody devoted a lot of thought to the physics of speed. The questionner even indicated durability and reliability should also be factors. Everybody just assumed the use of the bike based upon where and how they use their own bikes.

I think that the ultimate, cost-no-object wheelset for a flat criterium with a lot of corners would be different than what I would choose for a flat time trial or a coast to coast tour. I might even want different wheels for riding up or down the mountain. You can't intellegently discuss what's best until you define the use.
Another point of viewmclements
Dec 2, 2001 8:07 AM
Funny you should mention this. It's exactly what this entire thread has been discussing -- that different wheel designs have tradeoffs optimized for particular kinds of riding.

That is, I said aerodyamics are overrated because their advantages are realized only for certain types of riding. Then I provided an example of a different kind of ride (serious hill with twisty down side) where lighter weight is more important than aero (assuming same strength).

One thing you said is true. Everybody assumes the use of the bike based on where and how they use their own bikes. At least I'm guilty of this. Most of my riding is serious hills with twisty descents which is where I got my examples.
Your input so far; my thoughtsLuckyStrike
Dec 2, 2001 9:06 AM
I'm really glad about the number of responses to my question. The results so far are the ADA, Bontrager Race X-Lite, and the Zipp 303 or 404s.
I read through all the posts and then checked out each of the wheel maker's websites. Interestingly I'm buying a Trek tandem this spring that comes with the Bontrager Race X-Lites (with an upgraded tandem hub), so I'll be able to try that suggestion out first hand.

If I had to pick one of the wheelsets right now, I think the ADA would be my first choice (too bad it comes in tubular only), and the Zipp 303 second.

Hopefully I'll still get some more suggestions. Let me clarify a little more about what's important to me. Weight is the most important factor, but aerodynamics is also almost as important. I live in Las Vegas where the crosswinds can get pretty severe. I noticed a lot of "aerodynamic" wheels are quite non-aerodynamic when it comes to anything but the slightest amount of cross wind. When you're dealing with 15-25 mph winds on a frequent basis, the wheel's aerodynamics take on a new meaning.

Thanks to all, and happy cycling!
PS - my first choice before was going 2B the Mavic KyseriumsLuckyStrike
Dec 2, 2001 9:13 AM
Does anyone have any experience riding on these? There are a bit heavier than the suggestions made here so far.
Your input so far; my thoughtsmclements
Dec 2, 2001 9:36 AM
Tandems are awesome. A year or two ago, my wife and I test rode a few different tandems and ended up getting a Santana. I still think it's the most fun riding I've ever done in my 20 years of cycling. We started it just as a way to stick together on our rides, but it's turned into a fun experience all its own. She did her first century ride on it this year.

If the Bontrager wheels are strong enough for a tandem, that says a lot. Tandems usually use tandem-specific wheels because most standard road bike wheels just aren't strong enough (incidentally, same reason they use Ultegra over Dura Ace). The "tandem specific" hub probably means they use a wider hub (longer axle) in order to increase strength by using less dish in the rear wheel. They call it "dishless" but it still has some dish, though less than a normal bike.

Zipp over ADA and here's whygimondi
Dec 2, 2001 8:11 PM
My shop has sold the Zipp product for 5 or 6 years now and you are all right in that they are a really great company. They are actually very small, about 15 people, so you really do get good attention as a dealer and a customer, the 320lb guy is Bill, you should call and talk to him, he is to talk to and has been in this industry for ever.

Zipp will tell you that the 303 is a criterium designed wheel, while the 404 is a road race/TT wheel, with the 909 as the ultimate TT setup. Bill will tell you '404 is faster, 303 is quicker; so it's like white or dark chocolate, both are good' I personally own 303's and 404's both tuby and would pick the 404's any day of the week. They are faster, and very comfortable with no real cross wind issues.

Cees Beers of ADA is a whacky bike shop owner who makes wheels in his hsop which look highly suspect in person, they run in excess of $3000 and come with no real service or warrantee, that we can tell. I had one customer buy a pair, wait 7 months to get them in nearly 100 grams too heavy and basically never be able to get in touch with the company. 8 months later the wheels broke and he was stuck with them. A better product is Lightweight, this company and ADA have argued for years who created that wheel, but Lightweights look as if they were professionally made and have a pretty good reputation in the pro peloton. Also Zipp has an ADA/Lightweight competitor out now weighing only 960 grams, so that might be an option.

As for Paired spoking, Zipp and others have avoided it because it is silly. The real impetus behind this 'technology' is really marketing. It looks cool, period. The paired spokes highly stress the rim in nodes instead of spreading the stress out, and tend to clover-leaf where the rim tucks in radially at the spoke attachment. Also the low spoke counts require heavier spokes and heavier rim sections to deal with the high tensions. As a trek dealer, and having sold the shimano wheels, I can tell you the companies behind these products admit the 'technology' is not great, and really push them as a sales and marketing tool. Not to mention that they do have problems, not that all products don't have problems, but we probably build as many custom wheelsets in a yeara as we sell Rolf's/Bontragers/Shimanos and won't have one tenth the problems with our wheels as with their's. You could build a wheelset far superior to the Bontrager Race Lite for probably $200 less, that would be stiffer, more durable, and more comfortable for sure. As for aero, mabe one of our European posters could point us to the Tour Magazine article on wheels where they determined that paired spoking was actually LESS aerodynamic than regular patterns due to turbulence and boundary effects.

Nobody mentioned he has differential equation solvers to predict time/speed/power whatever based on aero and mass data, including moment of inertia effects and such, very interesting if you have about an hour to kill.

ps, if you want cool, check this out, Gulli has already won 3 out of 4 national cross events this year with this setup
Thanks!Samu Ilonen
Dec 3, 2001 6:55 AM
I'm thinking about Zipp 280 (285g) rims and American Classic hubs (68/235g) and DT Revolutions or Sapim X-ray's.20 front and 28 rear.Alloy nipples(well greased).All in black.Set weight 1111g......nice? Tufo S3 tubes.195g ones...not light versions.D-A 11-21 cassette 145g (have allready) and Tune q-releace 63g. (have allready)

Zipp has exellent customer servise and they suggested usin 80-100kg tension on these whees.What do you think side stiffness will be?
Zipp: how strong is strong?mclements
Dec 3, 2001 7:11 AM
Are these Zipp wheels strong enough to be used on a tandem? In other words, does Zipp recommend this and do they honor the warranty under these conditions?

I ask because few of the lightweight aero wheels are strong enough to be used on a tandem. The Bontragers are unique in this regard.
HED Alps?Dog
Dec 3, 2001 8:04 AM
This wheel would seem to be in the running for best/fastest over all wheelset. Deep (55mm) and moderately light, and with an aluminum braking surface. Any thoughts?
Dec 3, 2001 4:47 PM
I sold Hed stuff for almost 8 years, and the Alps was the product that finally did it in for me. To get anything from Hed you have a minimum order of 5 pair, and I had two guys who wanted them. So we ordered 5, waited forever, sold the other three, and within two or three weeks after the much anticipated arrival four of them were broken. Seems that the aluminum rim is a bit flimsy in both planes and after continual use the carbon fairing breaks off and ultimately cracks radially. Hed assured me that these were not the final production versions, that was different, and better, but then why did he send me these crap wheels. Then he told me they probably weren't for guys over 175 or 180, so I had to go back to one of my customers and tell him I had led him astray and suggested the wrong wheels for him, and now he needed to buy something else. Since most all other things are more expensive, this makes me look like a bad guy amongst other things.

All in all, I only expect stuff to work, and to make 25-30% margin on stuff. This industry is not like clothing, nobody is getting rich, but with Hed you only make 12% margin, that barely covers shipping and the up front money to buy 5 pair of wheels, after all he had my money for over 5 months, and then I can only make 12%??? Our relationship had been rocky for ever, and his product is often suspect, but that was it for me. Others may differ, I know he has really great connections in this industry such as John Cobb and Lennard Zinn who have basically kept him in business, and they can have him and his failure prone wheels. Sorry to vent, but it had to be said.

ps Last I spoke with John Cobb the 'final production' version of this wheel was still not a reality

For my money, and my customer's, Mavic, Zipp, Campy, Velomax are all but impossible to beat.
good to see someone call a spade a spade. thx nmdupe
Dec 3, 2001 5:54 PM
It was stories like these that led me away from HEDJS
Dec 4, 2001 3:11 PM
to Zipp. There are ALOT of HED horror stories out there.
Mavic Cosmic Carbones?Chen2
Dec 3, 2001 11:57 AM
I don't know if they are the best, not the lightest, but they are fast, probably more aero-dynamic than most. Low spoke count, flat spokes, deep aero rim, and very strong. I love 'em.
re: What's the best possible wheel upgrade if money is no issue?grzy
Dec 5, 2001 9:26 AM
The mavic Ksyrium is a pretty bomber package - it offers strength, reliability, some aero dynamics. It's not the most exotic wheel set, nor is it the most expensive, but what it offers is a level of durabilty that is hard to match. Yeah, a really skilled builder can put together something lighter and just as strong - maybe. I'm fairly rough on my toys and the Ksyrium has held up better than any other wheel set that I've riden - FWIW. If none of that matters and you just want the ultimate then look into Lew Wheels out of Reno, NV or possibly the new DA tubualr carbon wheels. Both will run you around $1,300 for a pair. Rotsa ruck getting support in the filed though. Ksyriums are fairly easy to work on yourself and the spoke breakage issue isn't much of an issue. My LBS sells them individually.