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Throwing Good Money After Bad? New Wheelset for Light Touring

Old 11-16-21, 08:35 PM
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TrekCommuter
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Throwing Good Money After Bad? New Wheelset for Light Touring

Hello, everyone,

I have gotten back into intermediate distance rides this year of 30-75 miles in a day. Next year, I'd like to do some light/credit card touring with my wife of about the same distance per day for a few days on end. We both have 2015 Bianchi Volpes which have been rock solid bikes and they fit us well. My question is this. Would it be worth spending the roughly $300 for a Fulcrum Racing 5 wheelset? I am not looking to race, but perhaps to slightly increase efficiency to cover more miles per day. I've also considered looking into randonneuring at some point.

The stock wheels have Alexrims with Shimano Tiagra hubs. I've also thought about different bikes (maybe a Gunnar Sport Disc), but the price of bikes that would be demonstrably better than our Bianchis gives me sticker shock.

Any and all thoughts are welcome. Thanks!
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Old 11-16-21, 08:54 PM
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Working on an effective training plan to become a stronger cyclist would easily outstrip having lighter wheels. Having lighter tires will actually make a bigger difference that the wheels themselves. As I have become older, I have become weaker but fortunately winter is the perfect time to work on improving/ strength training.
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Old 11-16-21, 09:22 PM
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Ride what you have. Things to deal with that really matter are comfort related. All the contact points - hands, butt, feet. As you ride longer distances and issues arise, fix them.

Those wheels are never going to be a limiting factor.
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Old 11-16-21, 10:05 PM
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When I hear touring and wanting lighter wheels together, I get confused. Then I looked back and saw credit card touring.
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Old 11-16-21, 11:37 PM
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I think for 35-75 mile days your Volpes are capable bikes. My wife and I rode across the U.S. averaging over 50 miles a day for 76 consecutive days fully loaded. Depending on what tire you are using now, you might get some gain by going with a lighter tire. My Bianchi is my favorite touring bike.

This is my 2007 Volpe that I rode on our cross country trip. I replaced the original 32 mm tires with some relatively light 28 mm tires before the trip. It is a trade off between durability, comfort and weight. IMO the Volpe is a great all-around bike.




This is my 2013 Volpe. It replaced my 2007 frame ( it is a long story) The only components that are from my original bike are the bars and the shifters. The longest ride I did on this bike was 2 months in Europe. We were fully loaded and averaged about 250 miles a week. We did a lot of stopping and would take off a day in a town we wanted to explore. I used 32 mm tires on this trip, and I could tell the difference from the 28 mm tires.

Last edited by Doug64; 11-17-21 at 11:58 AM.
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Old 11-17-21, 02:27 AM
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Originally Posted by TrekCommuter View Post
Hello, everyone,

I have gotten back into intermediate distance rides this year of 30-75 miles in a day. Next year, I'd like to do some light/credit card touring with my wife of about the same distance per day for a few days on end. We both have 2015 Bianchi Volpes which have been rock solid bikes and they fit us well. My question is this. Would it be worth spending the roughly $300 for a Fulcrum Racing 5 wheelset? I am not looking to race, but perhaps to slightly increase efficiency to cover more miles per day. I've also considered looking into randonneuring at some point.

The stock wheels have Alexrims with Shimano Tiagra hubs. I've also thought about different bikes (maybe a Gunnar Sport Disc), but the price of bikes that would be demonstrably better than our Bianchis gives me sticker shock.

Any and all thoughts are welcome. Thanks!
My first bikepacking trip was road based on a set of DT Swiss R23s (20 front/24 rear spokes), which are a similar spec to the Racing 5s. For lightweight touring, they should be okay. IMHO, a nice set of wheels with a decent set of tyres is a great upgrade, and you will notice that they are nicer rolling.
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Old 11-17-21, 05:54 AM
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I agree with the others, keep what you have.

During the pandemic I was looking around for a good exercise route to ride solo, about 65 to 75 miles that I could ride from home. And found a good one with some flats, some hills, and a few obnoxious hills, some on paved bike trails and some on quiet roads. On my more energetic days I could add a loop in the middle that had some serious hills and some gravel for about 10 extra miles.

I generally rode one of three different bikes on that route. Ranged from my road bike with road bike gearing and 28mm tires, to my rando bike with 32mm tires and a road triple for wider gearing, to my light touring bike with 37mm tires and even lower gearing for the hills. With these three bikes, my wheels range from light duty road bike wheels with 28 spokes to touring weight wheels with heavier rims and 36 spokes in the rear, 32 spokes in the front.

My times for that exercise route varied very little from one bike to the next. What I noticed most was that my first gear on my road bike was comparable to my second gear on my rando bike and my third gear on my light touring bike. So, for hill climbing the light touring bike with lower gearing was preferable. The weight of bike as a whole also played a role, but that was secondary to the gearing, and the weight of wheelsets was hardly noticeable.

If you try some 200k brevets, I do not know what you are running for tires or what part of the country you are in. I have some good rolling 32mm tires on my rando bike that I use for 200k brevets. They are not the most expensive ultra supple tires, but they are not boat anchors either. If you want to try some randonneuring at some point, try it on the bike you have but think about what you want for tires. What is most important on a brevet is that your bike fits you well and you have a good saddle for many consecutive hours of saddle time. I find that once you go over 100 miles, your nutrition plan, hydration plan, and adequate electrolytes becomes very important. And mental attitude is also critical. Don't worry about your wheels yet.
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Old 11-17-21, 06:42 AM
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I have do a lot of touring and randonneuring, Your bike is fine as long as it fits and is comfortable.

I would take that $300 and make sure the Bianchi maintenance is up to date.

At most touring and randonneuring speeds, friction is what slows you down. At 10-11 mph, about half your output goes to overcoming wind and half to friction like tires, chain, bearings
.
I would use a fast tire like a 28, 30, or 32 mm Continental GP5000. That would yield you way more speed than those new wheels. I would pay attention to chain maintenance. If your Tiagra bearings are shot (doubtful, they are pretty good for entry level hubs), get the bearings replaced or do it yourself if you have the tools and ability.
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Old 11-17-21, 07:15 AM
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For your purposes I'd invest in very good tires before the wheels. When I had my Volpe I changed out the tires that came with it(don't remember..stiff..felt like riding on wet sand even on fast blacktop) for a set of Voyager Hypers(37mm)..yikes. Felt like a new bike...that thing was fast & fun to ride. Very comfortable do-anything bike. I used it on light trails as well as for touring. Sadly, Hypers are no longer made, but there's lots of good tires out there. I've made a couple tire orders within the last year+ from Bike24 in Germany. Good selection, good pricing, and most often..they have inventory..which has been an issue in recent times.

(even if you went with new wheels..you'd still need good, fast rolling tires..try the tires first and see where you net out)
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Old 11-17-21, 07:31 AM
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Since you mentioned money, I'll add this. I'm all for another, better set of wheels, but only if you can salvage them for next to nothing. Several times in my cycling life I've been given excellent used wheels by friends who have upgraded much farther than I would ever do. I got an incredible deal on Craigslist once, too, very nice wheels for less than the cost of the Gatorskin tires that came with them. Keep your eyes and ears open.

I also agree that lighter wheels are of limited value while touring. I made it cross-continent, self-supported, on a set of light wheels, but I was a little nervous about it especially after replacing a broken spoke in Minnesota. I pushed the envelope on that one, just to see if I could.
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Old 11-17-21, 07:52 AM
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Just for yucks:

Do something nice for your bike, and get the new wheels. You may notice an increase in speed, or maybe not. But you've probably been wearing the brake tracks down on your old wheels, and you were going to have to get some new ones sometime anyways!
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Old 11-17-21, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by TrekCommuter View Post
....Would it be worth spending the roughly $300 for a Fulcrum Racing 5 wheelset? ...
The stock wheels have Alexrims with Shimano Tiagra hubs....

won't make that much of a difference.
buy some lighter, faster tires.
service the hubs with fresh grease and new bearings.
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Old 11-17-21, 09:25 AM
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A quick note on used wheels. A friend of mine had accumulated a set of lightweight wheels and after he had not used them for a few years, he offered them to me. I took them, put a cassette on back, I think I needed to add rim tape, one lacked a skewer. I put tires and tubes on them and aired them up. One of them had a nasty bulge where there was a crack in the rim. I was surprised that I had missed that, as I had washed the dust and dirt from storage off of them and should have noticed any flaws. But when I let the air out, the crack disappeared.

The crack was only noticeable with air pressure. So, be careful. In my case they were free from a friend so I could not complain, and I think he had never had tires on them. But if I had bought them from someone that had air pressure in them, I would have been quite upset.
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Old 11-17-21, 09:36 AM
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What exactly do you expect to gain by spending $300 on a new wheelset, arriving somewhere 5-10 minutes earlier? If that's important to you, then go right a head and buy the wheels. You seem to be happy with the Volpe "rock solid" for 6 years, what would make another bike "demonstrably better'?
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Old 11-17-21, 11:16 AM
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IDC/Pro-Lite Speed - Intelligent Design Cycles - Dynamo Wheels and Wheelsets | Intelligentdesigncycles


You didn't know you needed these, until just now.
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Old 11-17-21, 12:28 PM
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I did a quick review of the Fulcrum Racing 5 wheel set, and IMO they would not make a good wheel set for any kind of touring. Again, IMO these are the reasons why: I8 spoke radial laced and 20 spoke 2x laced wheels seem pretty flimsy for touring and the blade type spokes may be hard to replace on a tour. Three cross lacing provide a much stronger wheel. I have 24 spoke wheels on my light road bike, and I wonder about those sometimes. I've broken spokes on a 32 spoke front wheel several times before I replaced it with 36 spoke wheels. On a 16 or 20 spoke wheel, your rim will probably go out of true to the point that you can't ride the bike. With the 32 spoke wheels on your bike a broken spoke may only an inconvenience until you can find a bike shop.

This is a 36 spoke front wheel that I damaged coming downhill at 25- 30 mph. I hit a piece of metal and it put a bulge in my rim. I could not use the my front brake, but the rim was still round and true. I made it to a bike shop and put a new wheel on it. A 16 or 20 spoke rim would have been toast. This was a good set of wheels, hand made by a good wheel builder.

The bulge is near 9 o'clock. We cut out the hub, and I mailed it home.

Last edited by Doug64; 11-17-21 at 01:15 PM.
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Old 11-17-21, 12:49 PM
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Zero advantage to racing wheels but there are decided advantages to having rims that can accommodate 28mm wide tires. The wider tires allow for lower tire pressures as they have more volume and no significant increase in rolling resistance (most of the resistance with bicycling is the air drag from the rider). A 700x23 needs to be at 100 PSI to provide the same load support as a 700x25 at 85 PSI or a 700x28 at 70 PSI. Lower PSI makes for a smoother ride on bad roads and reduced chance for breaking a spoke.
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Old 11-17-21, 02:04 PM
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Until your wheel set breaks or fails you, save the money for when things do break or for a new ride!
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Old 11-17-21, 04:30 PM
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another "spend the money" on nice rolling tires. I've spent a lot of time on Schwalbe Supremes, so am biased towards them due to my extremely good experience with them. Good flat protection, but also a nice flexible sidewall that gives a really nice feel to your ride, and has a fast rolling main part of tire contact patch. More comfortable and faster than "tougher, stiff sidewall tires" and I personally have gotten hooked on wider tires-for the comfort and absolutely not being slower than some narrower tires.

as someone else also mentioned, check out your hubs, if the cups and cones are in good shape, a regreasing and proper cone adjustment can make them faster.

another big factor for overall daily speed is keeping your load to a lot less "sailboat effect" of panniers sticking out into the wind. Yes, narrow seatpacks, frame bags, or simply small narrower rear panniers, can and will make a real difference to being more efficient if you are riding light and therefore your speeds are higher. Tight jerseys, etc all too help a bit, so simply avoiding giant panniers that act like a sail will really help with average speed. Less weight on bike too.

so really, all this stuff can add up and make your bikes more efficient at 20, 25kph, which is where we most often are riding at on a lighter touring bike.

heck, just better tires and frame bags etc will make a real difference, forget about looking at your hubs (but they still could be made more efficient with some good regreasing and adjusting, often hubs are tight, even new)
also, a tighter cassette can make things more efficient also, by keeping better cadence, providing you still have sufficient low gears for climbing easily for your legs and not lugging down.
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Old 11-17-21, 06:00 PM
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Thank you all for the very thoughtful responses. I got a deal this summer on some 700x28 Continental Ultra Sport IIIs and they have made a huge difference over the stock tires. I'll save the money for maintenance and touring trips next spring. I think I've got the comfort fairly well dialed in. I'll keep after training during the winter months, as well.

Regarding the comments on reducing wind resistance, how much do you focus on clothing wind resistance when touring or randonneuring? My clothing choices are admittedly not terribly aero, usually athletic fit t-shirts.

PS: Those dynamo-hub wheels are awesome! As are the pictures of the Volpes fully loaded for touring!
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Old 11-17-21, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
another "spend the money" on nice rolling tires. I've spent a lot of time on Schwalbe Supremes, so am biased towards them due to my extremely good experience with them. Good flat protection, but also a nice flexible sidewall that gives a really nice feel to your ride, and has a fast rolling main part of tire contact patch. More comfortable and faster than "tougher, stiff sidewall tires" and I personally have gotten hooked on wider tires-for the comfort and absolutely not being slower than some narrower tires..
David,
I finally put Supremes on our bike this fall. I had been looking for a couple of pairs for about 8 months, and finally found some 32 mms in the UK. I had them on for almost 2 weeks when I ran over a tire destroyer, a broken neck of a beer bottle. I don't think any pneumatic tire would have done any better. I just got 2 more, one is a spare. Tires were in short supply for a long time. During the short time I rode them all your comments were right on. I'm looking forward to trying them with a load. My wife also said a lot of good things about them. She has had a chance to try her's out on a short tour and really likes them.

I almost cried I put a boot in it and rode home.

Last edited by Doug64; 11-17-21 at 07:04 PM.
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Old 11-17-21, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by TrekCommuter View Post
...
Regarding the comments on reducing wind resistance, how much do you focus on clothing wind resistance when touring or randonneuring? My clothing choices are admittedly not terribly aero, usually athletic fit t-shirts.

PS: Those dynamo-hub wheels are awesome! As are the pictures of the Volpes fully loaded for touring!
I do not think aero when it comes to clothing, but I have heard that flapping clothing has much more drag. My windbreaker probably flaps somewhat.

I try to be self sufficient when touring for electricity, have a USB charger drawing power from a dynohub to charge up a powerbank and other devices. But I rarely am indoors on a bike tour. When you are credit card touring you can charge up every night with an outlet, they are a lot less cost effective for you.
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Old 11-17-21, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
David,
I finally put Supremes on our bike this fall. I had been looking for a couple of pairs for about 8 months, and finally found some 32 mms in the UK. I had them on for almost 2 weeks when I ran over a tire destroyer, a broken neck of a beer bottle. I don't think any pneumatic tire would have done any better. I just got 2 more, one is a spare. Tires were in short supply for a long time. During the short time I rode them all your comments were right on. I'm looking forward to trying them with a load. My wife also said a lot of good things about them. She has had a chance to try her's out on a short tour and really likes them.

I almost cried I put a boot in it and rode home.
ouchie wawa---geez Louise Doug, thats a doozy. Poor tire, she's a done for aint it?
Glad you tried them and interesting to hear that they've been a positive riding experience (bar fight aside)
In the end, I ended not putting many kilometres on my 32 supreme, ended up riding other bikes more, but I do hope that they last as well as the others. I think I told you that I gpt a set of 26" 1.6 supremes, which are really about 37mm wide on the Troll rims, and they roll along really nicely too.
It's definitely fun trying out different tires sometimes, a bit of a changeup anyway.

I've never wrecked a tire this bad, but I twice have had new tires get nails skewered through them, but luckily the holes were just that, small holes, and tires went on for long lives.
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Old 11-17-21, 11:15 PM
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My view on touring is durability over weight. Plus coming from the 20th century, I would not trust 18 or even 20 spokes for touring., But then I weigh 220 lbs and usually carry about 25 lbs for credit card touring
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Old 11-17-21, 11:59 PM
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Originally Posted by TrekCommuter View Post
Would it be worth spending the roughly $300 for a Fulcrum Racing 5 wheelset?
The stock wheels have Alexrims with Shimano Tiagra hubs.
!
Have you actually weighed the stock wheelset? I've found cheap(ish) aftermarket wheelsets are sometimes barely any lighter than the alex rim/shimano hub combos that come stock on many bikes. Also, some may disagree, but radial laced wheels are never as comfortable as the usual 3x. As mentioned by others already try some nice tyres, will 33s fit?, https://ultradynamico.com/products/cava-race .
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