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How do wheels work....?

knownothingbozoknownothingbozo Posts: 168
edited January 2012 in Road buying advice
I'm not a complete knownothingbozo - I know what they do but here's the thing....

What makes a set of zipp whatevers better than my set of planet x model b's? I got to thinking this whilst perusing the stands at the bike show, twirling some wheels etc, and thinking of all the research I had done at my very limited budget.

It seems that there are marginal gains in terms of weight, and in many cases no gain whatsoever as you go up the price range. It can't all be about flashy decals can it? So what makes a good wheel?

I guess it's one of those conundrums, not so easy to try them out, so comparisons are difficult.

I love my model b's, but then only have the alx200's they replaced for comparison. If I tried a set of RS80's which many people rave about, what would I notice in difference? Has anyone made this move? Or how about something else in the same price range.

My apologies if this is a very basic question which is answered in a detailed thread somewhere (I must confess to not looking very hard!)
Some people are like slinkies - not much use for anything, but they bring a smile to your face when you push them down the stairs.


  • Wirral_paulWirral_paul Posts: 2,476
    Lower rim weight will help acceleration and feel more lively. The overall wheel weight is less important than the rim weight for this reason. Deep rims such as Zipp 404's etc offer aero advantages at the higher speeds and so make it either a little easier to maintain a high cruise speed or offer a little extra speed for the same power output.

    What makes a good wheel though - tricky to quantify as there's so many variables as to what people want from their wheels. I've got 58mm full carbon clinchers which weigh less than many standard aluminium rimmed wheels and so offer aero advantages but also mean they still spin up quite quickly and i can climb the Welsh hills on them. They are latterally very stiff too - probably having shorter spokes helps here. They work for me anyway, but i wouldnt use them on a wet and windy winters day for sure!!
  • pilot_petepilot_pete Posts: 2,120

    It comes down to materials, design and build quality. What's the difference between a Trabant and a Ferrari? The same things.

    Well designed wheels (for the job you want them to do) using quality materials for the build, put together by an expert will be much better than cheap materials badly put together by a novice!

    You tend to find that well engineered wheels have quality hubs and bearings, that are both light and strong. Add a high quality spoke that is again very light, yet very strong to these hubs and a real quality rim and you end up with a wheel that is incredibly strong, resists flexing, yet is much lighter and rides much better than a cheap wheel that is both heavier, lower quality and just feels far inferior. Look at the humble spoke for example. To the layman they all look the same...a bit of wire to hold the hub in the centre of the rim, but just research a bit to see the difference in quality from simple wire to forged, especially strength vs weight.

    I know, because I invested in a set of hand built wheels using quality components and the difference over the stock wheels on my bike was both immediately evident and dramatic. I could literally feel they were faster for the same effort, it was that dramatic.

    So, you are paying for the materials, the build and of course the extensive research and product development for good quality products such as Zipp wheels. Of course you are also paying into a brand name. You can get similar quality without the branding and slightly cheaper if you go bespoke.

    Hope this helps.
  • pilot_petepilot_pete Posts: 2,120
    Oh, and quite often spoke counts too. A quality wheel will be stronger for the same spoke count, usually stronger even with a lower spoke count.

  • rakerake Posts: 3,204
    it depends what you use them for. reliable mile munchers your better off with 32 spokes double eyelet rims which arent too heavy. like said with some solid shimano hubs theyre very repairable and a couple hundred grams at the hub isnt noticeable.
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Often it comes down to marketing budgets, sponsorship and hype - companies 'give' wheels to bike testers / websites / sponsored athletes to write favourable reviews and gullible joe pays a huge premium for the privilege. Sponsored athlete breaks wheel and gets a free replacement - honest Joe breaks a wheel and gets a big bill.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • Thanks folks. So it seems that the weights given are not that helpful, as i suppose a super lightweight hub, could be used to decrease overall weight, with heavier rims, which would have an effect on rotating weight!
    More research needed, and potentially engage the services of a wheel builder who can build to a budget!
    Some people are like slinkies - not much use for anything, but they bring a smile to your face when you push them down the stairs.
  • Wirral_paulWirral_paul Posts: 2,476
    The following site may be helpful. If you click "listings" top left then you will find verified weights for many other items too.
  • Cornish-JCornish-J Posts: 978
    If you're interested in wheels from about 5 years ago then yes use that link!
  • Wirral_paulWirral_paul Posts: 2,476
    Cornish-J wrote:
    If you're interested in wheels from about 5 years ago then yes use that link!

    Thats very helpful so thanks for posting. You of course have a better suggestion that you are going to share??
  • Cornish-JCornish-J Posts: 978
    I'm just not sure what good providing information that is years out of date is...
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