Buyer’s Guide 2010: Wheels
One of the most important factors in improving your speed on the bike is your wheels.
After your position on the bike, the next most important factor in improving your speed on the bike is your choice of wheels. Deciding which wheels are the best for you has never been harder – a number of companies offer some blazingly fast options for the race course this season. Here’s a look at this year’s offerings:
Bontrager has come a long way since the early days when Keith Bontrager worked out of his garage in California. After selling the company to Trek in 1995, Bontrager, the company, has seen some of the world’s best, including Chris Lieto, ride its equipment to much success. The Aeolus 9.0 is the most aerodynamic wheel that Bontrager offers. Designed in collaboration with Steve Hed, this 90 mm wheel has 14 spokes, new Bontrager designed hubs and a variety of colour configurations. The front wheel (770 g tubular, 845 g clincher) is $1,149 to 1,399 while the rear (923 g tubular, 995 g clincher) is $1,249 to 1,499. The Aeolus 6.5 is the deepest tubular offering at 65 mm (710 g front, 875 g rear), while the Aeolus 5.0 Tubular is their lightest aerodynamic wheelset ($2,499 for the pair). The Aeolus 6.5, and 5.0 (Tubular) rear wheels are available with a Wireless Powertap SL ($2,999 to $3,299).
RRC 625F Tubular 66
If you were like us and thought DT Swiss just made outstanding spokes you’ll probably be equally surprised by the impressive looking wheels the company is producing these days. Available in both clincher and tubular models, the RRC wheels come in depths from 32 to 66 mm, and there’s a sleek looking rear disc to complete the package. The hand made carbon rims come with high end hubs with stainless steel or ceramic bearings and star ratchet drive systems. The super-light, high modulus UD carbon tubular wheels come with white aero spokes and DT Pro Lock aluminum nipples. ($3,303 to $3,435 for a set, $2,576 for the tubular disc and $3,100 for the clincher version).
Fast Forward (FFWD) Disc Wheels
These lenticular shaped disc wheels smoothen the air as it leaves the wheel surface, which means there’s less air turbulence … and more speed for you. Add to that the impressive lateral rigidity and you have no excuses at the end of your ride. These lightweight discs are available in 650 or 700 cc (starting at $1,700) sizes and you can also get one with a PowerTap hub (starting at $4,050). FFWD also makes a speedy looking three spoke carbon wheel, the THREE (starting at $1,500), which has 80 mm rims and spokes and offers a fast option between a disc and a spoked wheel. The F5 (50 mm) and F9 (90 mm) are spoked wheels that are hand built in the Netherlands. They use high-end Sapim spokes and FFWD hubs. The F5 starts at $1,700 for a set, while the F9 starts at $3,250.
Easton designs their own hubs, rims, nipples and each wheel is hand built from start to finish. The result are wheels with precise, balanced high tension that keeps them truer, longer and also lighter, stiffer and more responsive. For $2,199, you can have the 90 mm, 1,424 g, EC90 TT Tubular Wheelset. Their R4TT front hub reduces frontal spoke area by 50 per cent for improved aerodynamics and lower drag than similar wheels of its depth. For approximately the same price, the EC90 Tubular Aero Carbon Wheelset offers a shallower (56 mm) and lighter (1,335 g) option. New for 2010 is the EC90 SL Carbon Clincher Wheelset ($1,999). At 38 mm, and weighing 1,460 g, its all carbon rim is extremely strong, and features Easton’s ThermaTec for outstanding braking performance.
This relatively new company from Ogden, Utah, possesses over 30 years of carbon experience in the bicycle industry. Their patented process of molding the spoke holes (instead of drilling) results in a stronger and higher tensioned wheel. Wheels can be had at the 65 mm, 45 mm, and 24 mm rim depth. Clinchers do have a higher price tag than their tubular counterparts but the all-carbon construction optimizes aerodynamics, reduces rim weight, and dissipates heat. The 65 Clincher Wheelset with DT Swiss ceramic bearing hubs ($3299) weighs 1480 g, while the 1.65 Tubular – DT 190 ($3099) weighs a paltry 1190 g for the pair. Subtract $500 for wheels with DT Swiss 220 hubs and an extra 70 g.
Utilizing much the technology of its parent company (Zipp), Flashpoint offers value, aerodynamics, durability and vibration dampening comfort. All wheels (FP80, FP 60, and FP 40) are USA handmade clinchers with carbon rims and a machined aluminum braking surface. The 82 mm deep FP80 Wheelset tips the scales at 2,093 g and a price tag of $1,699.
Based out of Arcugnano, Italy, Fulcrum uses patented technology to create robust wheels that are ultralight and reactive. New for this year is the tubular Racing Speed (1,360 g, $2,899) 50 mm carbon wheel that maintains the characteristics of its XLR wheelset (1,324 g, $3899), but at a more affordable price. The Racing Speed’s aluminum hubs have an oversize flange on the right side of the rear wheel to guarantee the highest level of reactivity and minimize energy loss in the transmission of power from the pedal to the wheel. Additionally, the Two-to-One spoking system creates a fast and precise response once pedal pressure is applied. Like most all-carbon rims, the use of the special brake pads is required. For $3,750 you can add the tubular 1,010 g Racing Chrono disc wheel that features Ceramic Ultimate Level Technology, and a polyaramide surface for structural strength and aerodynamics.
The K-Force Carbon (RD-888) is the newest that Full Speed Ahead has to offer. Hand built in Italy, the 50 mm tubular 3K carbon rims boast hubs with ceramic bearings, bladed sapim spokes, weighs 1,310 g and has a price tag of $3,799. Also at a 50 mm depth is the RD-488 Tubular Wheelset ($1599) at 1,340 g. The CNC-machined hub shells and sealed ABEC bearings are tough enough to be used for cyclocross racing.
Lance Armstrong’s wheel builder of choice, Steve Hed started handbuilding wheels in his garage in 1985 and they are still all handmade today. For 2010, HED offers five new wheels. Two disc wheels: Jet disc Flamme Rouge (1,200 to 1,240 g, $1,650) and the Stinger Disc FR (1,105 g, $1,950). Stinger 4 (1,294 g, $1,700), Stinger 4 FR (1,264 g, $2,250) and the Flanders C2 Road Racing Wheel (1,650 g, $800). With the new Flamme Rouge wheels there is a reduction in weight thanks to utilizing lighter materials wherever possible. Such as the use of ultralight high modulus carbon, replacing steel with titanium and the use of scandium alloy rims for their clinchers. PowerTap hubs can be built onto most Hed wheels including the Jet Disc, Jet, and Stinger line.
Dating back to 1889 this French wheel manufacturer has a long history of both tradition and experience. The rims are manufactured at the historical site of St Trivier, north of Lyon, then the milling and assembly takes place in Annecy-le-Vieux, France and in Romania. Their iO Road is their fastest front wheel and is finally available in a road version (which was formerly only available for Mavic sponsored pro athletes). It features woven 3k carbon for stiffness, a V-shaped deep rim and five aircraft wing spokes to lower wind resistance. In tubular only, it weighs 780 g and costs $3,999. For the definitive Mavic aerodynamic combination, add the 1,150 g high modulus carbon Comete Road rear disc wheel ($2,999) with a convex flange drive side and lenticular non-drive side. For something lighter on the wallet, there is the 52 mm Cosmic Carbone SL Wheelset at 1,740 g, and $1799.
Reynolds Cycling may have produced the most coveted wheels this year, the RZR. The world’s lightest production wheelset (875 g) is 46 mm deep, features unidirectional, ultra high modulus carbon fiber rims with boron strategically placed through the wheels to enhance performance, Reynold’s Swirl Lip Generator for improved aerodynamics and clean airflow across the rim section, symmetrically shaped airfoil carbon spokes, a Torque Flange carbon fiber hub, a rider weight limit of 180 lbs and a price tag of $6,300. Also for this year, look for the Assault 46 mm wheelset in tubular (1,330 g) for $1,550. The clincher version weighs 1,525 g and sells for $1,650.
Of interest to racers will be Dura Ace WH-7850-C50 tubular wheelset ($2,500). The 50 mm deep wheels reveal Shamino’s proprietary carbon construction, a titanium freehub body with quick engagement, wider flange hubs for increased rigidity and power transmission, along with quality proven angular contact bearings with oversize 7075 alloy axles. They weigh 1,469 g for the pair.
With the acquisition of Zipp in 2008, SRAM wheels are sure to feel the residual benefits from Zipp’s aerodynamic testing. Front and centre is the S80 Wheelset. The 82 mm unidirectional carbon fibre deep rim delivers stiffness, comfort and speed in a 2,090 g affordable package ($1,550). The value continues with their S60 (1,850 g, $1,400) and S40 (1,710 g, $1,400) wheelsets.
If market success can be determined by the fact that 62% of the athletes competing at the Ford Ironman World Championships are riding your wheels, then Zipp certainly has it. Much of that popularity is because Zipp offers wheels for every race condition, and has perfected their designs in the wind tunnel to make sure they have the fastest wheels possible before heading to production. Leading the way for their wheel lineup is the dimpled Super 9 tubular disc wheel ($2,275) weighing 995 g. It is 40 per cent stiffer than the 900 disc ($1,850 tubular) and, when paired with their Tangente tire, matches the Sub-9 Disc’s ability to generate forward lift. The Sub-9 achieved this by incorporating Zipp’s patented toroidal bulged rim shape (28.46 mm aero width), while the Super-9 creates the same level of aero performance with a flat-sided design that is 27.5 mm throughout. For the fastest non-disc wheel take a look at their 108 mm deep 1080 wheelset ($2,950) or, for something a bit more manageable in the crosswinds, the 81 rim profile 808 Wheelset ($2,750) which is also available as a Max 808 for bigger, stronger riders.