Wheels - what's the difference

rob\'s_lexx Posts: 95
edited June 2011 in Road buying advice
I've scouted around on the net and seen loads and loads of wheelsets for road bikes and, apart from looks and material composition, what's the difference between them all?

i mean, do they in any way make the bike more responsive, faster, stronger etc etc?

i mean, i love the look of some of the american classics for example, but can't work out how/why they may improve the bike.




  • denzzz28
    denzzz28 Posts: 315
    they say a good set of wheel can make a difference, lighter is better, better hubs better rolling. stiifer rimes equal more responsiveness. tyres also plays a role on performance.
  • JRooke
    JRooke Posts: 243
    is this a serious question?
  • yep, im new to the bike scene and am trying to read around various topics. just trying to understand why there is such a difference between wheelsets - if its purely based on weight etc?
  • denzzz28
    denzzz28 Posts: 315
    JRooke wrote:
    is this a serious question?

    just curious, what made you ask if the question is serious or not?
  • P_Tucker
    P_Tucker Posts: 1,878
    ShutUpLegs wrote:
    denzzz28 wrote:

    just curious, what made you ask if the question is serious or not?

    is this a serious question?

  • northpole
    northpole Posts: 1,499
    The key thing is to go for the ones which are round - they work the best.
    Then get fit, at which point the other niceties of weight/ strength/ aero/ etc can be considered. Before then, it makes diddly squat difference.

  • P_Tucker
    P_Tucker Posts: 1,878
    This just in from the department of made up numbers - spending 50% more on a pair of wheels nets you a 0.25% improvement in performance.
  • Slack
    Slack Posts: 326
    Let's hope some sensible helpful individuals come along soon. The respondants thus far, with the exception of one, are obviously so knowledgable and experienced they have forgotten the fundamentals of which the op is looking for some guidance on.

    Why bother answer people if you're just going to be smart arse's taking the pee!!
    Plymouthsteve for councillor!!
  • NWLondoner
    NWLondoner Posts: 2,047
    Wheels can make the world of a difference.

    I used to use Planet X Model B's. Not having anything to compare them to I thought that they were a really good wheel.

    Once I had upgraded to Easton EA90 Aero I noticed how much better these wheels were.

    Wheel,Tube and Tyre choice can make a dramatic change to your riding experience.
  • Gazzetta67
    Gazzetta67 Posts: 1,890
    Slack wrote:
    Let's hope some sensible helpful individuals come along soon. The respondants thus far, with the exception of one, are obviously so knowledgable and experienced they have forgotten the fundamentals of which the op is looking for some guidance on.

    Why bother answer people if you're just going to be smart ars*'s taking the pee!!

    +1 Why bother coming on and show up your ignorance. The guy was only asking about wheels. We all had to start at some place when we got into cycling, getting back to the original question there is so much choice now regarding what wheels to have. depending on your budget and what your going to use the wheels for (touring,racing,training) etc i would try and find a decent bike shop and have a word with someone. Factory wheels seem to be the popular choice now like Campag Shamal, Mavic Ksyrium, Shimano Dura Ace. Hopefully more guys on here (except the ignorant lotbefore) am sure will give you some more help/ideas.cheers.
  • plowmar
    plowmar Posts: 1,032
    From the lower end of wheels it does make a difference IMO.

    I started with the standard xero wheels on the first road bike - Giant scr 1- and was pleased with them having had nothing to compare them to.

    I was bought a Bianchi 928 with Mavic aksiums and the difference was obvious - although that may have had something to do with the carbon frame.

    After hitting a pothole the xeros rim ripped and I bought some Shimano RS 80's to replace them, putting the RS 80's on the Biannchi and the Mavic's on the Giant which was by now a winter/ bad weather bike.

    THe difference was immeadiate and could only be to due to the wheels on both bikes. I am a fan of the conti 4000 tyres so the wheels were already shod with these.

    In conclusion therefore get the best you can afford and you will notice the difference both in climbing - although i have come to accept I am a cr*p climber- and response.
  • MichaelW
    MichaelW Posts: 2,164
    For comparison it helps to start with a benchmark, say a Shimano 105, 32 spoke with a Mavic Open Pro rim, basically the bog standard, traditional wheel.

    A higher grade Shimano hub will have smoother more durable bearings, maybe better seals. Parts of the hub may be made of lighter weight materials. You will not go much faster with better hubs.
    Campagnolo hubs are similar-ish, more money = better bearings, less weight.
    Non Shimano hubs are often much more expensive for little gain. There are a few which are stronger or easier to service, eg Hope.
    They key with traditional wheels is the quality of the build process.

    If you look at non-traditional, low-spoke wheels, these use much thicker, more aerodynamic rims but fewer spokes. Every component is designed to work together. They are faster if you are, stiffer to resist hard cornering forces, sometimes stronger for the weight, sometimes more durable BUT special spokes can be very hard to obtain for repairs.

    Cheap wannabe low spoke wheels are to be avoided. Some of the very fancy designs just dont work as advertised. Its hard to generalize on how strong they are. Mavic and Fulcrum have good reputations. With any special wheel, you need good service and spares support.

    Bike companies like these "pre-built" wheels because they save on assembly costs and add brand value and a dash of sexiness to bikes.
  • getprg
    getprg Posts: 245
    It often takes the innocence of a newbe to expose the absence of collective wisdom.

    The OP asks an important question. Many experienced cyclists claim that if you make only one upgrade to your bike then wheels/tyres (ok that's 2!) is the place to start.

    Probe a little deeper and understanding what to look for is daunting. FWIW I've been road riding for about 3 years now and am about to undertake my first wheel upgrade (actually a replacement for worn out wheels on my winter bike).

    These are some of the principles I think should/might be taken into account:

    Weight - important - lighter is especially good when climbing (important for me where I am located) - but absolute weight is, I understand/was told, less important than rim weight when accelerating uphill - something to do with inertia I think. However rim weight is not easy to track down on most retailer websites and you will get a headache trying to research all the variables of rim, spoke and hub weight.
    Spoke count - less spokes = less weight and less wind resistance - except that if you read Sheldon Brown http://www.sheldonbrown.com/wheelbuild.html(read "How many spokes?")he is as ever practical about the so called benefits of expensive low spoke count wheels. More spokes (and smaller diameter wheels) provides more strength. Some tandem builders recommend mtb diameter wheels for touring for this very reason.
    Spoke design - bladed = more aerodynamic - never seen the research to back this up - but maybe it is true. Elbowless spokes supposedly less likely to break at the hub end - again not seen any empirical data to support this.
    Rim design - aero rims provide lower wind resistance - until you get in a strong cross wind up here in the Dales - then you need good dinghy sailing skills!
    Hub design - Sheldon Brown recommends forged hubs - do the manufacturers tell us this info? You'd hope they would.

    I'm sure there is much much more. I'm sure engineering rearchers would be able to come up with some simple tests to compare wheel performance - hub friction, wind resistance, vertical and horizontal strength at rim, inertia, hub longevity, rim longevity, cross wind performance etc etc - no magazine seems to offer this.
  • Evil Laugh
    Evil Laugh Posts: 1,412
    I'm interested in the different qualities of wheels and tyres, I buy quite a bit of stuff just to try things as objectively as possible. I always use the same tyres, pressures and bikes to compare.

    I don't race so I'm not really interested in how many seconds or watts a wheel will save me, just how nice and exciting it is to ride.

    I've found the key qualities I'd look for in a wheel to be comfort or ride quality (how the wheels contribute to absorbing road buzz etc, do they feel dead or lively in terms of road feel. Tyres contribute immensely in this regard but keeping tyres and pressures constant the effect of the wheel is still hugely significant ime). Rear wheel stiffness which aids fast and responsive acceleration and climbing. Front wheel stability for cornering and descending. This could be dependent on front wheel stiffness and/or the width of the rim, I'm not sure, I'm not conducting scientific research just drawing on my own experiences and attempting to make my own conclusions. I'd argue though that a comfortable, stable feeling wheelset would allow you to travel longer, less fatigued and give you more confidence to take descents and corners at higher speeds thus making you faster. Probably has a greater effect on speed over 50 miles for an average sort of rider than "watts required to accelerate a rim weighing x grams compared to another" type arguements for example.

    I guess weight plays it's part. Which is better to ride though a stiffer heavier wheel or a spongy light wheel?

    I had some wheels built for me. The rear would flex like mad out of the saddle going uphill, rim would be rubbing on the pads with each pedal revolution. I took it back and got it retensioned and this solved the problem and instantly made the wheel feel lighter and more responsive. The wheels do still feel heavier than lighter rimmed wheels I also own so there must be something in the rim/weight issue just it's not the be all and end all IMO.

    Nice hubs feel better to me too. Not sure you gain anything in terms of hub quality after about £500 per factory type wheelset and at that pricepoint and above brand becomes more important i think and that is as much personal preference as anything. I prefer the feel of dura ace hubs for example than mavic or dt Swiss. I think if someone tries to tell you a particular hub makes you go much faster though they're probably talking nonsense.

    I don't think you can look at a spec of a wheel (what do you ever get to go on, price and weight?) and say this will be better than that, just trying them out and gaining experience is a good way to go. Try not to listen too much to some of the vociferous fanboys on this site. Seek out balanced opinions that compare and contrast and seem based on experience rather than hearsay and brand loyalties, rules of association by country of manufacture and other such garbage.