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Wheels and why upgrading improves performance

clelanjclelanj Posts: 68
edited October 2012 in Road beginners
Hi - Interested in what you are paying for when investing in upgraded (and by the looks of it expensive) new wheels.

What do they offer that improves the performance of the bike so much?

Thanks John

Posts

  • TakeTurnsTakeTurns Posts: 1,075
    edited October 2012
    Reducing weight from the wheels has a greater benefit than any other weight reduction upgrade. Reason being, if the wheel is lighter, it will spin faster.

    The hub is also another determinant of how smoothly the wheel will spin. Good bearings will mean low resistance. It's the heart of the wheel and the most expensive component.

    The quality of the build will determine how robust it will be, spokes, rim and equal tension. A good wheel can take a beating and still run tru. These are usually hand built. A cheap wheel will go out of tru as soon as you sit on it and is usually mass produced by machines with little human interference.

    My current wheelset is the Dura-Ace C50, it's got a 50mm rim, aero spokes, which are supposed to help with aerodynamics. I often ride solo so it's helpful. When in a RR packed within a bunch it's aerodynamics isn't much use unless I breakaway, but the hub is super smooth so it rolls well. It's not designed for hill climbing, but I still manage as they're pretty light. Arguably they're an all-rounder IMO.
  • They don't really 'improve the performance of the bike'. Not if that means that you expect substantial differences in your speeds. If you have a bike with very cheap, heavy wheels (not that lightness is the most important thing; it isn't) and you try another one with extremely light aerodynamic ones, you will not go 10mph faster. You will definitely feel flightier. Perhaps you will knock 3 minutes from your time. That is the nature of cycling.

    Good wheels will roll more nicely. They can be much lighter (than cheap ones), which will help on tough climbs, and they can be more aerodynamically efficient, which will reduce your effort and time by a little. Basically, another opportunity to tailor your bike to your riding style. They are also a good investment; whereas cheap wheels are often not worth refurbishing (if you can get spares for those cheap hubs) let alone rebuilding, nice hubs can last for years even in heavy use if kept properly, and are well worth relacing again and again. Many cyclists do this.

    The reason I would give for upgrading your wheels is that it is one upgrade that you will really notice. As a ratio of 'bang for buck' (or whatever the English equivalent is), I think wheels are the most enjoyable improvement. I snapped the axle in the rear wheel of my favourite bike going into a corner a few months ago (ouch) and replaced it with the only 27" that the LBS had; a Raleigh factory one for £30, and even that was nice to ride away on!
  • lotus49lotus49 Posts: 763
    It's easy to overestimate the peformance benefits of almost any bike upgrade.

    Cheap wheels are usually heavy and £300-400 will buy you a decent set of Chinese carbon wheels (there is a huge thread in the Road Buying Advice sub-forum if you're interested). If you have more money than sense or just want to show off how much you earn you could literally spend £2k on a pair of wheels. A decent pair of wheels can be a worthwhile upgrade but they are not going to turn you into Wiggo.

    The biggest difference you can make is to yourself in terms of weight and fitness. All but the very fittest could make a big difference by losing a couple of kgs and training a bit harder. I have heard people refer to an 11kg bike as "very heavy". I would regard anything under 7kg as very light but that's approximately £9000 for a 4kg weight saving (ie just over half a stone in old money) - not very good value I wouldn't say.

    It is enormously tempting to upgrade this bit or indeed the whole bike but it will never compensate for being fat and unfit (not that I'm suggesting you are either BTW ;-) ).
  • clelanjclelanj Posts: 68
    Thank you guys - some really interesting info there. I had often wondered why cyclists spent so much on wheels but never understood why an expensive (high quality) set made such a difference. Cheers John
  • lotus49 wrote:
    I have heard people refer to an 11kg bike as "very heavy". I would regard anything under 7kg as very light but that's approximately £9000 for a 4kg weight saving (ie just over half a stone in old money) - not very good value I wouldn't say.


    £9,000 :shock:

    Here is a nice saving :wink:

    http://www.jejamescycles.co.uk/cube-litening-super-item195602.html
    "You really think you can burn off sugar with exercise?" downhill paul
  • HerbsmanHerbsman Posts: 2,029
    TakeTurns wrote:
    ...if the wheel is lighter, it will spin faster.
    No.
    TakeTurns wrote:
    The hub is... the most expensive component.
    No.
    CAPTAIN BUCKFAST'S CYCLING TIPS - GUARANTEED TO WORK! 1 OUT OF 10 RACING CYCLISTS AGREE!
  • TakeTurnsTakeTurns Posts: 1,075
    Herbsman wrote:
    TakeTurns wrote:
    ...if the wheel is lighter, it will spin faster.
    No.
    Reduction in rotating mass will make it spin faster.
    Herbsman wrote:
    TakeTurns wrote:
    The hub is... the most expensive component.
    No.

    Following the rim that should say. Although that is not the case all the time.
  • deswellerdesweller Posts: 5,271
    TakeTurns wrote:
    Herbsman wrote:
    TakeTurns wrote:
    ...if the wheel is lighter, it will spin faster.
    No.
    Reduction in rotating mass will make it spin faster.

    No. Reduction in polar moment of inertia will make it easier to accelerate. Energy storage in wheels is a negligible factor in cycling assuming the cyclist is strong enough to keep accelerating to a sustainable airspeed.
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    On Strava.{/url}
  • TakeTurns wrote:
    Reduction in rotating mass will make it spin faster.
    Reduction in rotating mass will allow it to accelerate to a given angular velocity in a shorter time, given the same torque.

    For a given gearing, wheel diameter and pedal cadence, it won't spin any faster at all, regardless of its rotating mass.
    Is the gorilla tired yet?
  • TakeTurnsTakeTurns Posts: 1,075
    So the reduction in the overall weight will help it to accelerate faster? So in a race scenario where the pace is constantly changing, acceleration is crucial in order to not get dropped, wouldn't the rotation mass effect acceleration?
  • SproolSprool Posts: 1,022
    It may have been worded clumsily but I think we all knew what was meant - lighter wheels take less effort to get up to speed. The other factor is stiffness, and longevity - staying true after wear and tear.
    Light, strong or cheap - pick any 2 of the 3.
  • drlodgedrlodge Posts: 4,824
    A good pair of hand built wheels can be had for around £300, its probably the best investment in a bike you can make IMHO. Personally I believe the building of the wheel is more important that the components used, particularly getting even spoke tension, but obviously a well built wheel with censored components isn't much good either. Good components build more easily into a good, strong and true wheel.
    WyndyMilla Massive Attack | Rourke 953 | Condor Italia 531 Pro | Boardman CX Pro | DT Swiss RR440 Tubeless Wheels
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  • secretsamsecretsam Posts: 4,549
    A cheap solution is good tyres - I had terrible wheels and heavy tyres, changing to cheap well built wheels (Fulcrum R7s) and good light tyres (Michelin Pro3) made a huge difference. Tyres are an easy and cheap upgrade, although right now with winter over the hill, I'd invest in something a little tougher than my Pro3 jobs - plenty of advice in various places about tyres :lol::lol::lol::lol::lol:

    It's just a hill. Get over it.
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