I’m sure, if you’re really into cycling and don’t have a last name like, say Trump (heh, trigger warning), you’ve looked at wheels and been dumbfounded by how much they can go for. A good used car’s worth of cash in many cases.
Then you wonder, if you’re like me, what all of the hub-bub is about. You’ve heard sayings like, “it’s not the bike, it’s the engine” and that seems to make sense, so you roll with that. There’s a fair chance you’ve even said it yourself…
And that’s because you’ve never ridden on a great pair of wheels, or possibly a great bike. Had you, you’d have sung a different tune – more to the tune of, “Yes, they (it) make(s) a difference but that difference is nominal”.
Simply put, the difference between a $250 set of wheels and a $500 set is decent You throw a $2500 set on a bike and you’ll know it.
There’s a trick to the equation though. It’s not like you’ll instantly be a mile and a half an hour faster. The difference is more subtle than that – and therein lies the rub.
I took my rain bike the other day and installed the wheels from my
good better bike because I was going to ride a century with my friends and I knew it was going to be fairly fast (5h:10m). The wheels from my Venge are about a pound lighter and I can feel that they simply spin better. On the other hand, I can still manage 19-1/2 mph with the old wheels…
I simply have to work harder to do it.
It’s the difference between finishing that century utterly smashed and in need of a nap or finishing the ride with a smile on my face and enough left in the tank to really enjoy the ride. That’s the difference between good wheels and not-so-good. Are they faster? Yes, but only in that you won’t have to work as hard to go fast.
Now, there’s one other aspect to wheels that must be discussed: The aero wheel. Here’s how the aero wheels work, technically. Carbon aero wheels typically run anywhere from $800 to $3,500. For the most part, one will get what one pays for but there are definitely deals to be had – especially on last year’s equipment. That said, aero wheels don’t quite work the way most people think they would – you actually have to go fast to get a benefit from them. Say, for instance, you’re normally riding around at 15-16 mph. Getting a new set of $3,000 aero wheels won’t magically get you up to 20 mph. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t notice much of a difference at all. On the other hand, if you already ride at 20-23 mph, what you’ll find is that it’s just a little easier to hold your speed when the pace really cranks up. So you won’t be faster, technically, but you will. Make sense?
Now, there’s a down-side to high quality and aero wheels: If you train on slow, crappy wheels you’ll be stronger for it in the long run. 😉
I have a confession to make; I love a good sprint.
Not the elbows, shoulders and head butt sprint, that stuff is silly and for kids (imao). I’m talking about the “you and you and you and me… let’s get after it” sprint. We get a decent lead out and BAM! We go.
After a spirited warmup, just my wife and I, we met up with the group and split between A’s and B’s. The C and D groups roll out a few minutes before everyone else. This week everyone waited while one of the guys fixed a flat in the parking lot. After a four minute wait, we rolled.
The pace was perfect. 20 mph for the first two miles and we ramped it up from there, up to 24 to 25 mph at times. Conditions were close to perfect, upper 80’s (a little warm) and only a single digit breeze out of the northeast. We had a great group for a double pace line too, six deep, two rows. Perfect.
Fast forward 20 miles of enjoyable club cycling and we’re rolling into the first sprint point. I was in a tough spot too, up front for a mile and up a pretty decent little climb. Fortunately the sprint is downhill. I launched at just the right time and took the City Limits sign by an inch, Carla right next to me… The chick is tough.
Eight miles later and we were lined up for the final sprint at the finish. I was in great position, at the front, with five miles to go and we still had all but one of our original group with us. I pulled up a series of rollers and headed to the back to recharge before the sprint… That’s exactly when we rolled up on Time Trial Bike Guy. Now, I had reason to hope because just the week before he’d done pretty good. He worked his way into the group (behind me – I may have been hopeful but I didn’t get stupid since last week) and we rolled for the finish. With two miles left I’d worked up to the front of the group again. The pace had picked up so the rotation quickened as well. I took a decent half-mile pull up front at 24 mph (into the wind) and signaled out. Carla passed me, then Phill… then nothing. I looked over my shoulder and there’s TTBG out of the saddle, pushing too hard a gear, with a widening gap. He actually, really, asked, “You got that?”
Ladies and gentlemen, leaving a gap like this for someone who’s just taken a turn up front, just so he can take third bike with an eight-deep pace line, is not a way to win friends and influence people. To say I was pissed is a wee bit of an understatement. Still, it was either fall all the way back and hope the group would pull back to Carla, or do it myself. I got out of the saddle and made the gap back.
Out of breath, I concentrated on a few breathing exercises I learned that help bet the heart rate and breathing stabilized so I had something left for the sprint. Then, with a full quarter-mile left, Carla made a huge mistake. She tried to go early. I was on her wheel immediately and to get her thinking I said, “Went too early”. I held her wheel to the actual sprint point (a farmhouse on the left side of the road) and launched. She couldn’t match and I cruised over the line by more than a few bike lengths, completely spent and out of breath. Normally I like to check my speed when I’m getting close to my max but I put everything I had into it. I didn’t even think of it until I’d already crossed the line.
I slumped over my bike and quickly downshifted until my shaky legs could spin out the last quarter-mile to the parking lot.
Almost foiled by TTBG. I did let him know that we do the same thing, with the sprint finish, every week – and that he damn near screwed up my favorite part of the whole ride. With the exception of that, last night’s club ride was one of the best ever.