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Wheel Choice Question

Road Cycling ďIt is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.Ē -- Ernest Hemingway

Wheel Choice Question

Old 06-09-19, 02:58 PM
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Predator 007
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Wheel Choice Question

I am 6-2", 185lbs and can average 18mph for an hour or so. I do a 70 mile ride and can average 17.5mph.

I have a Trek SL 6 Pro with Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3 wheels. Been thinking of upgrading to the 5's or possibly the Aeolus xxx 4. I have had several people tell me that it will make a "big" difference in my riding. Another person told me that it will probably not make any difference, other that look cool. He said unless you are pumping out 300 watts, averaging 23+mph, the aerodynamics of the bike and wheels will not make any difference.

What are your thoughts on upgrading wheels and is there a need if I only average 18mph?
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Old 06-09-19, 08:49 PM
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Conventional wisdom says there's a "need" if you're losing races by a fraction of a second. An aero jersey or for covers are likely to have as much impact on your speed.
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Old 06-09-19, 09:13 PM
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You'd probably see some benefit,

but for 'bang for the buck', get some Yoleos,

after optimizing tires, riding position (elbows in), & jersey.
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Old 06-09-19, 10:27 PM
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Do you want new wheels? Buy 'em. Want > need, man. We don't need any of this stuff.

But be aware that if you're buying new wheels in the hopes of suddenly getting faster, that's not gonna happen. Conditioning and better position on the bike will get you more speed.

But none of that will... spark joy. Getting a flatter back and forearms even to the ground ain't gonna make you happy. New wheels could absolutely make you happy.
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Old 06-09-19, 11:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Predator 007 View Post
is there a need
There's never a need. What is "need" anyway? If you're not competing professionally, then what are your "needs?" Even in fairly elite amateur racing, a prime sprint might win you a pair of socks, and you'll need a whole lot of those to make up for the cost of a fancy wheelset.

As far as the question of "am I fast enough to take advantage of a fancy wheelset", the answer is pretty much always "yes." The notion that aerodynamics doesn't become significant until well over 20mph is nonsense; if you're cruising along the flats at 18mph, a large majority of the resistance that you're battling is aerodynamic. That being said, though, wheels are only a small fraction of the total drag of bike+rider. And since your wheels are already not very non-aero, the gains to be had from switching to a fancy wheelset are unlikely to be dramatic. You might see a few tenths of a mph, but not several mph unless there's something dramatically wrong with your current wheels, like if you pumped the tires full of corn syrup instead of air, or if you packed your bearings with concrete instead of grease.
Everyone can benefit from fancy wheels, but fancy wheels aren't necessarily the first place you should look for speed gains. If you're after speed, and you aren't already using a fast helmet (i.e. something of the Bontrager Ballista sort), and good tight-fitting clothing, look into those first...

On the other hand, what do you WANT? If you WANT fancy wheels, and can reasonably afford them, go ahead and get them. Especially if they're then sort that make a good WOMP-WOMP sound, everyone likes a good WOMP-WOMP wheel. And if you really want to dial in the acoustics, get some latex tubes as well. All tires sound better with latex tubes.
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Old 06-10-19, 06:37 AM
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They're not going to make much of a difference other than perhaps making you push a bit harder to justify the new expense.

You want actual performance gains, latex tubes and fast tires will get you way more bang for your buck than wheels.

Aerodynamics and everything else will certainly affect you at 18 mph. It's just that the aerodynamic differences between your two wheels is very unlikely to be noticeable.
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Old 06-10-19, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
There's never a need. What is "need" anyway? If you're not competing professionally, then what are your "needs?" Even in fairly elite amateur racing, a prime sprint might win you a pair of socks, and you'll need a whole lot of those to make up for the cost of a fancy wheelset.
Usually our primes are cash, $20-100 being most common, though I've won a $200 prime and lost a few $300 primes. I've done a number of races that had (though I wasn't in contention for them) $300- $500 primes and once even a $740+ something, crowd-source gambler prime (really annoying, those primes, as they can get higher than the purse for actually winning) at certain races throughout the years.
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Old 06-10-19, 07:13 AM
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I recently had wheels on my mind as an upgrade after being bad on some group rides (I don't ride with groups a lot and when I do I always question myself!). My Allez is about 22lbs total (with box section wheels), so I got into thinking about weight on hills, and that if I shed some weight from the wheels I might be better able to follow wheels. Really, the issue is I don't ride enough with people so I need to improve how I ride in a pack, plus the guys I ride with are exceptionally fit and my surges aren't as strong as theirs. I consider myself in pretty darn good shape, my FTP is in the neighborhood of 300-310w (4.28-4.4 w/kg) but I have a lot of holes in my game.

From what I've read, lightweight wheels don't matter as much as aero and aero is only going to buy a little bit of time over a long ride. For me, if I'm riding solo, I don't care about speed, I prefer just watching power and having stronger rides from a wattage perspective. And if I'm group riding/racing, I need to just be better at riding with people and conserving energy. I'd love to make a gear upgrade that could save me a considerable amount of power, but I'm not convinced that wheels are all they're made out to be.
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Old 06-10-19, 11:19 AM
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Are the 5s going to be faster than the 3s? Yes, the deeper rims will be faster on a flat course.

Are you going to notice that speed difference? Maybe. It's a marginal improvement.
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Old 06-11-19, 03:00 AM
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Thanks for the responses. I also figured a nicer wheel set would have better bearings and maybe spin more freely. Again, I get it, it's going to be hard to measure and notice. I ended up going with the xxx4 because of the sale price. Having them put on Friday and have a 105 ride scheduled for Sunday, so I'll report back....
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Old 06-11-19, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Predator 007 View Post
Thanks for the responses. I also figured a nicer wheel set would have better bearings and maybe spin more freely. Again, I get it, it's going to be hard to measure and notice. I ended up going with the xxx4 because of the sale price. Having them put on Friday and have a 105 ride scheduled for Sunday, so I'll report back....
Congrats. Thatís supposed to be a great set of wheels.
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Old 06-11-19, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Predator 007 View Post
Thanks for the responses. I also figured a nicer wheel set would have better bearings and maybe spin more freely. Again, I get it, it's going to be hard to measure and notice. I ended up going with the xxx4 because of the sale price. Having them put on Friday and have a 105 ride scheduled for Sunday, so I'll report back....
These are good wheels. What tires are you using? It's pretty important if you want to optimze the aero advantage.
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Old 06-11-19, 10:12 AM
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Currently running Continental Gatorskins
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Old 06-11-19, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Predator 007 View Post
Currently running Continental Gatorskins
Do you..... have a particular need to use gatorskins? If youíre afraid of punctures, go with a fatter tire, lower pressure and orange sealant. Even works (extremely well) in tubes. You wonít be able to run over piles of glass nonchalantly anymore, but I think thatís a fair price to pay.
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Old 06-11-19, 03:28 PM
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Just was told that I would be less likely to get a flat running them, so I did it for piece of mind. Any reason I shouldn't run them?
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Old 06-11-19, 03:32 PM
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Gatorskins are costing you about 25w (both tires combined) compared to something like GP4ks. It just takes more energy to flatten the leading edge of the tire into a contact patch. That's equivalent to always riding up a shallow hill. Even when you ride down hill they're slowing you down.
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Old 06-11-19, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Predator 007 View Post
Just was told that I would be less likely to get a flat running them, so I did it for piece of mind. Any reason I shouldn't run them?
High rolling resistance. They're not as bad as super-beefy touring tires, but they're not a fast tire. Frankly their puncture-protection layer doesn't work all that well anyway... they're tougher than most racing tires, but not THAT tough.

The wet grip is poor, too.
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Old 06-12-19, 09:04 AM
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If you want wheels buy them. You don't need them. I recently bought a pair of Reynolds carbon wheels and new tires and I LOVE them. However, the .4 or .5mph I picked up is probably 65% due to the tires and 35% due to the wheels.

Tires (GP5k), aero helmet, proper saddle and seating position will all make a bigger difference than wheels. I do some long(ish) rides regularly > 40 miles sometimes 60+ miles and so knocking a couple minutes off my 60 mile time is meaningful when you're competitive like I am. However, I'm under no illusions that the biggest contributors to my speed increase of the last year are likely in this order:
Training
Tires
Positioning on bike (was already reasonably well positioned, this can make a huge difference if you're too upright)
Wheels
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Old 06-12-19, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Predator 007 View Post
Currently running Continental Gatorskins
Looks like you already got the XXX4s, so here is my recommendation: put the Conti GP5000 Tubeless, either 25c (more aero) or 28c (more comfort) on them with either Orange or Stan's sealant. These rims are tubeless ready with tapes already installed in them. You will be instantly faster, no joke, and have less punctures (or at least can ride home when you do) than the Gatorskins. Schwalbe Pro Ones are good tubeless tires also with good rolling resistance (faster) but a bit heavier than the Conti.
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Old 06-12-19, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by OUGrad05 View Post
biggest contributors to my speed increase of the last year are likely in this order:
Training
Tires
Positioning on bike (was already reasonably well positioned, this can make a huge difference if you're too upright)
Wheels
Can I quibble with your order? I'm just not convinced that the tires do quite that much. Positioning on the bike can be huge.

I've recently been working to optimize my hand and arm position, hands on the hoods, elbows a little below the hands and in. The gains are noticeable. My upgrade from Conti- 4-seasons to GP5000s? Yeah, that helped too, but I don't think as much.

Just my opinion.
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Old 06-12-19, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Can I quibble with your order? I'm just not convinced that the tires do quite that much. Positioning on the bike can be huge.

I've recently been working to optimize my hand and arm position, hands on the hoods, elbows a little below the hands and in. The gains are noticeable. My upgrade from Conti- 4-seasons to GP5000s? Yeah, that helped too, but I don't think as much.

Just my opinion.
I agree with you that it can be huge and the biggest for some. I'm specifically talking about what made the difference for me, as I stated I was already fairly well situated on my bike. I've picked up a significant amount of speed over the last year. Most of it due to training. Keep the engine running well.
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Old 06-12-19, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Can I quibble with your order? I'm just not convinced that the tires do quite that much. Positioning on the bike can be huge.

I've recently been working to optimize my hand and arm position, hands on the hoods, elbows a little below the hands and in. The gains are noticeable. My upgrade from Conti- 4-seasons to GP5000s? Yeah, that helped too, but I don't think as much.

Just my opinion.
Besides the engine which is the main source of power, all others are "marginal gains" in comparison. For most of riding more riders do, the name of the game is be aero, which includes reduce frontal area (e.g. bike position) and reduce drag (e.g. rolling resistance and tire/wheel interface). You can work on both the engine and aero at the same time if you want to optimize performance. The order of priority doesn't really matter, IHMO.
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Old 06-12-19, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Predator 007 View Post
Just was told that I would be less likely to get a flat running them, so I did it for piece of mind. Any reason I shouldn't run them?
Because they are as supple as a frozen garden hose.
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Old 06-12-19, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by noodle soup View Post
Because they are as supple as a frozen garden hose.
This one always gets me, and it's the laziness or the ignorance of the LBS salespeople. The Conti 4Season is just as puncture proof but more comfortable. The Gatorskins are just an overkill for more road applications. If I were a NYC bike courier, sure.
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