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. 😉