Why do better wheel sets work better?

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Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby lump_a_charcoal » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:02 pm

When I was looking to purchase my road bike in '11, an old friend in Canberra said that my choice of bike was fine, but being a cheap wheelset, I could just upgrade it later.

Now, don't get me wrong - I love retail therapy as much as the next bloke, and I am happy to gain a performance edge (real or placebo), but why do good wheel sets work better than cheaper ones?

Weight is an obvious one. What else?
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by BNA » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:06 pm

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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby RonK » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:06 pm

They don't loose their true or break.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby clackers » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:15 pm

And smoother/more durable hubs.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby jules21 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:19 pm

RonK wrote:They don't loose their true or break.

but my WH-R500s have been bullet proof. if they were high-end, people would be raving about them.
clackers wrote:And smoother/more durable hubs.

i'd question the benefit of this. one thing i noticed is that the rear hub on my WH-R500 feels rough. but it doesn't seem to cause any appreciable difference on the road, e.g. rolling downhill next to others.

i just bought a new bike with better wheels (Reynolds Solitude) and they feel more responsive in crits, coming out of corners. marginally. but i haven't instantly started winning or anything. the gains are marginal. better training however - now there's something that you will notice differences with.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby bychosis » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:23 pm

I was a sceptic too, but after upgrading my wheels found that they spun longer, and the lighter weight made accelerating quicker. I did go from very cheap to pretty decent so the difference was quite noticeable.
Better bearings have less friction so spin more freely, cheap ones FEEL rougher and require more maintenance
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby HappyHumber » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:38 pm

The difference mightn't always be perceptible tootling around on the bike, but pull the wheel and hold it by the axle/quick release and spin the rim. Certainly you can feel the quality - or condition - of bearings through your hand then.

Alternately with the bike up ended spin the wheels... and see how long they keep turning for under their own momentum.

Personally I can't but help think though, past a certain point the cost differential must be disproportionate to a measurable or perceptible difference. The rest is marketting.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby cyclotaur » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:40 pm

Biggest performance difference I noticed after getting a better wheelset is in descending - they roll better and corner much better.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby rkelsen » Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:42 pm

They're usually also lighter.

Less weight in the wheels means faster & easier acceleration.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby bychosis » Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:32 pm

Really good hubs will spin freely enough that the eventually they will rock back and forward to find a balance point, usually the valve ends up at the bottom. My good hubs will do this, cheap hubs just slow down to a stop, no rocking.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby human909 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:44 pm

lump_a_charcoal wrote:Now, don't get me wrong - I love retail therapy as much as the next bloke, and I am happy to gain a performance edge (real or placebo), but why do good wheel sets work better than cheaper ones?


Where is the blind (or double blind) tests that show good wheel sets work better? Most performance gains are placebo. Realistically there has been little real progress in the efficiency of roads bikes for 20 or 30 years.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby Xplora » Mon Feb 18, 2013 7:10 pm

Lump, are you losing races by a metre? Are you finding yourself 1-2kmh short in the paceline after a minute of rolling at your max?

Good wheels, like good bikes and groupsets, help get a bit extra out. Maybe your peak power on the ground is 500W instead of 480W with more expensive wheels. That 20W is essentially meaningless if you aren't racing, or specifically trying to achieve something. If you just can't win that coffee shop sprint without hot wheels, then spend up. If it is extra glasses of wine on Fridays that are holding you up, better to focus on your training regime. :lol:
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby il padrone » Mon Feb 18, 2013 7:19 pm

bychosis wrote:I was a sceptic too, but after upgrading my wheels found that they spun longer, and the lighter weight made accelerating quicker. I did go from very cheap to pretty decent so the difference was quite noticeable.
Better bearings have less friction so spin more freely, cheap ones FEEL rougher and require more maintenance

Some of this is a bit conditional. Firstly, once a wheel is up to speed it continues to roll with fairly little input. Lightweight wheels make a difference in initial accelaration, and in any increases in speed, but there is very little advantage at a steady speed. Heavy wheels in fact have more of a flywheel effect and may carry on over a rise or through a wind gust better. It thus depends on your intended use. Light wheels make a difference for racing, maybe for stop-start commuting and for hill climbing. However there is a price - durability and reliability. Heavier wheels (assuming greater strength) will be better for rougher roads, longer distance riding and riding in winds. For touring on rough roads, commuting carrying a bit of a load the reliability of not breaking spokes and maintaining true may be more important than the loss of sprinting speed.

Second matter - bearings. I had always believed that silk smooth bearings were the bees knees, essential for a fast ride. Three or four years ago I built up a front wheel with a Schmidt dynohub. A bit of drag I said but it has benefits. Riding with it I still rode a fast pace with my riding mates quite well. When I got a 'senso' light that automatically switches on and off with light levels I found that the light would come on and the only way I would know this was when someone else told me (it comes on very early in dusk, when the beam does not show as it is still light). The drag increases when the light is turned on but I was not able to notice it. These days I just leave the light on day and night. Yet to spin the dynohub's axle it is really rough and notchy - due to the action of the magnets - rougher than the worst regular bearings. But in use at normal riding speed this is simply not noticeable. I ride as fast and easily as anyone else, faster often enough.

So I am not so sure about the significance of silky bearings. Certainly have them running well and correctly adjusted but don't lose sleep over them.
Last edited by il padrone on Mon Feb 18, 2013 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby lump_a_charcoal » Mon Feb 18, 2013 7:23 pm

Xplora wrote:Lump, are you losing races by a metre? Are you finding yourself 1-2kmh short in the paceline after a minute of rolling at your max?

Good wheels, like good bikes and groupsets, help get a bit extra out. Maybe your peak power on the ground is 500W instead of 480W with more expensive wheels. That 20W is essentially meaningless if you aren't racing, or specifically trying to achieve something. If you just can't win that coffee shop sprint without hot wheels, then spend up. If it is extra glasses of wine on Fridays that are holding you up, better to focus on your training regime. :lol:


Ha ha, interesting questions.

To win a race, I would first have to enter one.

No, I was just wondering really, as I have never seen a good explanation as to why a good set is good.

That sentence was sponsored by the word good.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby ausrandoman » Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:08 pm

lump_a_charcoal wrote:I am happy to gain a performance edge (real or placebo), but why do good wheel sets work better than cheaper ones?

Weight is an obvious one. What else?


If you are happy with the placebo effect, you will probably go faster on an expensive pair of wheels. I am not being sarcastic.

The most important contribution to improved performance is lower aerodynamic drag with reduced weight second (unless you are comparing to all steel clunker wheels that are spectacularly heavy :) ) The contribution to rolling resistance from the bearings is not much, unless, once again, the previous wheels were really bad. Sure, it's nice to see and feel a wheel spin freely but, if you do the sums, it doesn't make a lot of difference.

Whenever I read people saying they can feel the difference in wheels, I am reminded of

There was a young man from the Coast
Who had an affair with a ghost.
At the height of orgasm
Said the pallid phantasm.
"I think I can feel it---almost!"

Maybe they can feel the difference if the drag and weight are well down but human perception is notoriously easy to mislead. Don't be so sure of what you think you can notice until you have had a good look at
http://www.researchgate.net/journal/003 ... chophysics
and
any video demonstration of Apollo Robbins
and
http://www.amazon.com/Signal-Detection- ... B0000CNA6W

People often overlook the effect of tyres - http://www.bikequarterly.com/images/TireDrop.pdf (Don't be mislead by the old-fashioned illustrations - there is a lot of solid engineering and measurement here)
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby g-boaf » Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:15 pm

My good wheels have great DT Swiss hubs on them, and while they are fast wheels, the engine (aka me) is getting a bit better too so I'm making better use of them.

That said - as long as I've got a road bike that fits me well and I'm comfortable on it- I will make do with what I have.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby alex » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:19 pm

unless you are going from below entry level to multi thousand dollar pro level equipment they will make no difference
if i get killed while out on my bike i dont want a 'memorial ride' by random punters i have never met.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby Mulger bill » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:23 pm

ausrandoman wrote:The most important contribution to improved performance is lower aerodynamic drag with reduced weight second.

My popcorn machine's broken and I can't read about NV wheels without it... :wink:
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby KenGS » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:26 pm

Better wheelsets are more aero
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby william » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:30 pm

Ah! Wheels.
Bearings and sticky seals.
Welded joints or pinned/sleeved.
Deep V with low spoke count.
Lighter low profile with higher spoke count.
Spoke tension.
Straight pull, J bend, bladed, oval shaped and butted.

For me, quality of materials is important first. Wheel with tyre on has to be weight balanced and trued to within a poofteenth. Weight is secondary. Bling is neither here or there. I dislike stickers anyway.

Aerodynamics is your choice for racing... after fitness.

My bike is heavy but it gets me everywhere I need to go without too much haste and like IlPadrone, I have a dynamo front hub too.
I doubt you will feel any difference between $1000 wheels and $4000 wheels.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby ausrandoman » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:38 pm

Mulger bill wrote:
ausrandoman wrote:The most important contribution to improved performance is lower aerodynamic drag with reduced weight second.

My popcorn machine's broken and I can't read about NV wheels without it... :wink:


Poke the possum? Me? :shock: I wouldn't dream of it. :wink:
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby ausrandoman » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:46 pm

william wrote:I doubt you will feel any difference between $1000 wheels and $4000 wheels.


So do I but a product reviewer who said so would soon find his supply of test wheels had mysteriously stopped.

I wonder where the threshold is. With identical tyres and pressures, identical chains and cassettes how many people would notice the difference between $1000 wheels and wheels from a $300 bike? I've been puzzling over how to test this - it would require a way to ensure that the rider can't see the wheels.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby winstonw » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:23 pm

ausrandoman wrote:
Mulger bill wrote:
ausrandoman wrote:The most important contribution to improved performance is lower aerodynamic drag with reduced weight second.

My popcorn machine's broken and I can't read about NV wheels without it... :wink:


Poke the possum? Me? :shock: I wouldn't dream of it. :wink:


God said heavier aerodynamic wheels are better than lighter aerodynamic wheels, and the more aero the better.
But then some smart alex heretic comes along and creates a chart such as below, showing buying $50 shoe covers reduces aerodynamic drag better than either
- ditching your state of the art full disk aerodynamic rear wheel for a 3 spoker.
- replacing your front 24spoke non aero alloy rim wheel with a tt specialist 5 spoke deep section aero wheel.

Lump, if a $5000 wheelset works 0.267% "better" (as long as you don't go on slopes >7.889%, or ride in variable velocity and yaw cross winds, or ride through puddles so water gets in your deep sections; and have 7,500hrs in the saddle, and only ride on boiler plate smooth new bitumen), for 18.5% as many km's as a $400 wheelset, would you fork out the $5000?

You see Lump, quantifying 'better' is almost rocket science.
Just buy the shoe covers mate.

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Last edited by winstonw on Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby il padrone » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:31 pm

Strewth, how does a full tuck with aero bars cost $3000 :shock: Nah, nah, forget the wheels and the skinsuit. Get with the real aero plan :P

Look another data table!!

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Oh :? :( !?
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Last edited by il padrone on Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby ZepinAtor » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:33 pm

ausrandoman wrote:
william wrote:I doubt you will feel any difference between $1000 wheels and $4000 wheels.




I wonder where the threshold is. With identical tyres and pressures, identical chains and cassettes how many people would notice the difference between $1000 wheels and wheels from a $300 bike? I've been puzzling over how to test this - it would require a way to ensure that the rider can't see the wheels.


I've tested this exact scenario & I think you'll find Alex Simmons has extensive data proving the possible, but marginal advantages. He uses power data in controlled environments to achieve his results which I feel are quite conclusive. I could be wrong, but will try to attract his attention in this direction.

From my personal experience I regularly ride the same crit track in racing & training. 1.2km with the smallest of rises at the end of the main straight. I have two bikes training/racing & the only real difference is the wheels. Both are full carbon frames with very similar group sets. The training wheels which I race on half the time anyway are about 1700g.

Training wheels----- SL power hub on the rear laced to a 30mm Kinlin rim (aluminium) with C-Xray spokes (32), front is matching with Cycleops front hub.High end tyres ($90 retail) (1700g) Retail would be about $1800 or $800 without the power hub.

Racing wheels----SLC power hub (ceramic bearing) laced to 48mm ENVE carbon tubulars with C-Xray spokes (24), front is matching with 20 radial spokes. Corsa Evo tubulars($150 retail) (1200g) Retail would be about $4500 or $3000 without the power hub.

Now for the testing..........I suck equally on both........end of test!!
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Re: Why do better wheel sets work better?

Postby winstonw » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:47 pm

ZepinAtor wrote:I've tested this exact scenario & I think you'll find Alex Simmons has extensive data proving the possible, but marginal advantages. He uses power data in controlled environments to achieve his results which I feel are quite conclusive.


yeah but for your uncontrolled racing environment, where you spend so much time on the front, have you
- slammed your stem
- use deep drop bars
- done enough yoga to get a flat back angle

I was gonna buy Enves but think I'll just get shoe covers instead.
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