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Buyer’s Guide: Wheels

After your position, the most important aerodynamic feature on your bike are the wheels. We've got a thorough look at your options for 2012.

Once you’re on a bike that fits you properly, the next step to improving your race times (OK, the next stop to improving your race times that doesn’t involve more training) is to get yourself a fast set of race wheels. As you’ll see, some of race wheels cost more than many people will pay for an entire bike. When a few minutes mean that much to you, though, it’s an investment you’ll want to make


Aeolus 5 D3 Clincher

These are designed to deliver the performance of their 50 mm racing tubulars within a 1,550 g clincher package. The D3 (Dual Direction Design) rim profile offers the fastest aerodynamic shape available with the best stability in crosswinds. The one-piece molded carbon fiber rim provides the best aero shape and lightweight construction, while the DT 240 star ratchet internals and nail head spokes deliver fast reliable engagement and superior wheel stiffness.

Aeolus 9 D3 Tubular  $2,500

These are Bontrager’s most aerodynamic wheels, and quite possibly the fastest non-disc wheel in the world. Its 90 mm deep OCLV rim and D3 rim profile offers a fast aerodynamic shape and excellent stability in crosswinds. Carbon fiber hubs with DT 180 star ratchet internals and nail head spokes deliver fast reliable engagement and superior wheel stiffness. They weigh just 1,620 g.

Aura 5 $1,400

Billed as the everyday wheel for the performance cyclist, this lightweight wheel uses an Aluminum Carbon Construction (ACC) 23 x 50 mm rim combined with 6061 alloy with UD carbon optimal tire support. The stiff 15 mm rear axle with sealed bearing hubs and 3 pawl drive mechanism ensures quick and dependable engagement. The Aura 5 weighs 1,740 g.


DT Swiss
RRC 66 Clincher $3,600

The RRC DICUT wheels spin fast and long thanks to the aerodynamically optimized rims with excellent heat dissipation and the stiff straight pull star ratchet DICUT hubs. Clincher wheels weigh 1615 g and tubulars come in at 1415 g.

RRC 1055 Tubular Disc    $2,700

This 1,055 g hand-built wheel uses 100 percent DT Swiss components such as the DT Swiss Ratchet System (freehub system for high load capacity and reliability – no tools required for routine maintenance) and stainless steel sealed cartridge bearings for long life and continuous low rolling resistance. The RRC 1300 Clincher Disc weighs a bit more at 1,200 grams.

RC 620F & 760R  $1,700

The RC clinchers (1450 g) perform in all conditions and terrain. This is all due to the 32 mm deep UD carbon rims, high end hubs with the star rachet drive system for fast engagement, and aero spokes.


EC 90 TT $2,200

Extremely light at 1,440 g for a 90 mm wheelset, the EC90 TT utilizes Easton’s proprietary Variable Nipple Bed technology, which places material only where it’s needed to support spoke tension. The R4 TT front hub reduces frontal exposure to the wind by as much as 50 percent, and its low spoke count (12-front; 16-rear) and hidden nipples enhance aerodynamic efficiency.

EC90 Aero Clincher $2,200

These 56 mm deep and 1,670 g carbon fiber road clinchers are durable enough to withstand both training and racing. They are the only carbon clincher rim to survive tests in Easton’s laboratory for impact, fatigue resistance and their brake track torture test, handling temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The low spoke count (18-front; 20-rear) and hidden spoke nipples (tubular only) contribute to the aerodynamics.

EA50 Aero $500

Suited for everyday training and tough enough for cyclocross riding, these 1,785 g clinchers have a 30 mm deep aluminum rim, widely bladed stainless steel spokes and a completely revised red hubset. Hand laced and trued, they are built to last.


Stinger Disc Flamme Rouge $1,850

It’s claimed to be the fastest disc ever. Why? Its new construction technology and SCT Tuning has a unique aero shape and delivers increased lateral stiffness, while the rim substrate makes the disc lighter (1,195 g) and stiffer and the tire-to-rim interface is more aero than the $1,300 Jet version. It can accommodate riders up to 225 lbs.

Stinger 9 Flamme Rouge $2,550

With an emphasis on optimizing rim shape rather than depth, the Stinger 9’s shape not only lowers drag at all angles, but also gives the rim a bigger window of aerodynamic effectiveness. Testing reveals that it outperforms every spoked wheel shallower than 90 mm, but it also outperforms all the wheels that deeper than 90 mm. They boast increased lateral stiffness, cornering performance, and impact durability while maintaining comfort and ride quality.

Jet 5 Express $1,700

This 55 mm-deep wheelset offers great value and performance. It has C2 clincher rims, a lightweight unidirectional carbon aero section, sonic hubs and SCT (Stability Control Technology), where the rim depth is shaped for lowest aero drag and fine-tuned to maximize stability in crosswinds. The maximum rider weight limit is 190lbs, and both wheels tip the scales at 1,681 g.


Comete Road Disc $4,550

Relatively light at 1,150 grams (without tire), the disc has lenticular flanges to create negative drag under some wind conditions. The High modulus carbon fibre flanges decrease weight and inertia to deliver faster acceleration.

Cosmic Carbone 80 $2,850

Wind tunnel tested, these are Mavic’s most aerodynamic spoked wheelset (when utilizing their tires). They are 80 mm deep, have elliptical sidewalls, 16/20 thin ultra bladed spokes, high quality adjustable cartridge bearings and weigh 2,330 grams with tires installed.

Cosmic Carbone SL $1,450

Mavic’s best value aerodynamic wheelset, the 52 mm-deep Cosmic Carbone SL, with elliptical sidewalls, weighs 1,740 g, has 12 K carbon flanges bonded on superlight alloy rims, bladed spokes, integrated nipples, durable rims and delivers great braking performance in all weather conditions.


Dura Ace WH-7900-C50-TU $2,800
As with all wheels in the Dura Ace 7900 line, the carbon rim construction is done in-house.

This 50 mm 1,396 g tubular wheelset features high modulus carbon rims for use in a variety of wind conditions, an easy bearing adjust system, increased axial rigidity with its oversized A7075 Alloy axle, and a double butted blade alloy axle for lighter weight and aerodynamics. Available in clinchers (pictured) (1,662 g) for $2,400.

Dura Ace WH-7900-C35-CL $2,200

With similar features to the 50 mm wheelset, these 35 mm deep wheels have carbon-alloy composite rims. A great choice for hilly courses and for the weight conscious, the clincher set is a bit lighter at 1,627 g, and 1,339 g for the tubular ($2700).

Dura Ace WH-7900-C24-CL $1,400

What differentiates this 1395 g high performance day to day training clincher wheelset from the others in the Dura Ace line is its 24 mm rim depth and its ultra-light carbon laminated rims.


S80 $1,400

Providing great value for an 82 mm deep rim profile clincher wheelset, the S80 is not light by any means (2,090 g). The UD carbon construction is extra stiff for great power transfer but still remains comfortable.

S60 $1,550

SRAM’s 1,850 g, 60 mm deep carbon clincher wheelset can handle up to 220 lbs of rider weight. The hybrid-toroidal aerodynamic shaped structural woven carbon wheels have an aluminum braking surface, stainless steel spokes with internal alloy nipples and long lasting anodized hubs.

S40 $1,450

At 38 mm in depth, and weighing 1,710 g, these are SRAM’s lightest aero wheelset. Nicely suited for hill climbing, the new unidirectional carbon fiber used on the structural rim reduces weight while increasing stiffness.


RZR 92.2 $6.200

Stiff, responsive, aero, and light, the 92 mm rim depth terminates in a razor sharp trailing edge that creates the smoothest possible conformal shape for re-attachment of separated and turbulent air. It is the first wheel to apply Dispersive Effect Termination (DET) to a wheel contour to help smooth out the turbulent airflow caused by wheel rotation. The 92 RZR sets a new standard for a low-drag time trial and triathlon wheel – 15.2 watts at 50 kph at 10 degrees yaw.

Eighty One $3,000

Key to the Eighty One is Reynolds’ high modulus carbon and refined resin system to balance speed with stiffness and strength with lightness. This wheel includes Reynolds’ patented Swirl Lip Generator (SLG) for optimal aerodynamics and crosswind stability.

Element Disc $1,900

This is a full-carbon disc with low rolling resistance, exceptional torsional stability and a low drag coefficient. Now with Cryo Blue brake pads for better braking performance, it’s also the only disc that features a valve stem cup that accepts a standard pump head without an adaptor. The tubular disc weighs 1,180 g and the clincher version 1,338 g.


404 Firecrest Carbon CL $3,250

Zipp’s first full-carbon clincher wheelset, the new 404’s, weigh in at 1,561 g. This year’s version is getting the brand new 88/188 hubset, with a 7.5mm-wider bearing stance in the rear hub, and a driveside hub canted by two degrees for improved stiffness and reliability. Its Firecrest aero profile is the first deep-profile carbon clincher design to offer the superior aerodynamics, ride quality, strength and handling of a wider rim body.

Super 9 Tubular Disc $2,550

Super-light (995 g) yet still able to handle riders up to 275 lbs, the Super-9 is Zipp’s stiffest disc and can actually generate forward lift when paired with their Tangente tires. The hub features the stiff 17 mm axles of the 188 road hub, along with adjustable bearing preload with the industry’s only aero preload nut.

101 Clincher $1,600

This 1,527 g wheelset is the first to have a fully toroidal aluminum rim, which means that the 30 mm deep 101 can exceed the aerodynamic performance of V-shaped rims with much deeper profiles. It can save up to 42 seconds over 40 km when compared to other top aluminum wheelsets. Its wide platform also resists pinch flatting, improves lateral stiffness and provides stable handling on rough surfaces. It is laced with 18 front and 20 rear Sapim CX-Ray spokes and Zipp’s 88 /188 hubs with a wider bearing stance and Swiss steel bearings.-RH