Road Wheel Selection Guide

      For road bikes, the main factors that affect speed are: the frame, road wheel, the cycling equipment, the Fitting set-up and the human factor. The human factor needs to be built up through constant exercise, so I won't go into it here; the other aspects that have the greatest impact on speed are the "frame and wheelset", as they are the main vehicles for converting power into kinetic energy.


     Carbon Bike Wheelset



The frame is the foundation of a road bike and its role is self-explanatory, so it is easy to recognise the role of the frame. However, it is often easy to overlook the impact of the wheelset on performance, and the first thing many people do when upgrading their road bike is to upgrade the gearing. Many people do not realise that the gearing kit does not have much direct impact on the performance of the bike.




In fact, the most direct and effective way to improve pedalling performance on a road bike is to upgrade to a better wheelset. A good wheelset can turn a "bull bike" into a "super bike", while a poor quality wheelset can turn a "super bike" into a "tractor" in no time. tractor". A good saddle goes with a good horse, and a good bike needs a good wheelset.




But there are so many different wheelsets for road bikes that it's hard to get your head around them. So how do you choose from so many wheelsets? I'd like to give you a guide to choosing a road carbon wheelset for those who are ready to upgrade their wheelsets!


There are three main categories of road wheels on the market today: pneumatic wheels (for flat roads), climbing wheels and general purpose wheels.



Pneumatic wheel sets





The most intuitive feature is the "high frame + fat rim", or even "fully enclosed", which looks imposing, but in terms of performance is characterised by low wind resistance, good cruising performance and good stability, but due to its heavier weight, acceleration and climbing performance is relatively weak.




Theoretically, the higher the frame height, the shorter the spokes and the more rigid they are, the less they cut into the wind during travel and the better the aerodynamic performance. Also, due to the high frame and fat rim design, the airflow travels further over the displacement of the frame height, making the airflow faster over the surface of the frame, with lower pressure and less wind resistance. However, as the higher frame height increases the material used, the weight is heavier and inertia is greater, making it easier to maintain speed and stability when travelling; and it also means that it is more difficult to change the speed of the frame when climbing and accelerating, giving the intuitive impression of a slower response.




The frame height of a typical pneumatic wheelset is 50mm or more, which requires a certain amount of leg strength and is usually not suitable for climbing long and steep hills. Large road wheelsets are usually used with frame heights in the 50mm-65mm range. If you will occasionally climb a bit, it is recommended to choose a wheelset with a frame height of about 50mm; triathlon and time trial bikes will usually use 60mm or more, or even fully enclosed plate wheels. There is also an exception to this rule. For heavier riders, it is also recommended to choose an aero wheelset with higher overall rigidity. If you weigh close to 100kg, a relatively high rigidity wheelset with a frame height of over 60mm may be a better choice, and a climbing wheelset should not be considered.


Road Wheel Selection Guide(图2)



Climbing wheelsets




The most obvious feature is the "low frame + light weight", which is characterised in terms of performance by a lighter acceleration response, but also by poorer cruising performance, relatively higher wind resistance, lower high-speed stability and a more understated look. Thanks to the lower frame, the climbing wheelset can have a more advantageous frame drive position and a lower weight for an attractive acceleration.




The average climbing wheelset has a frame height of less than 35mm and is designed for the ultimate in lightness and required rigidity, with a pair of ultra-light climbing wheelsets even weighing less than 1kg. They are more suitable for use specifically for long and steep climbs, but of course they also make it easier for riders with less leg strength to reach the top of a climb. Due to the lack of cruising and stability of climbing wheelsets, it is generally recommended to consider them for a second pair, unless the purpose of your ride is to climb.



Road Wheel Selection Guide(图3)


Multi-purpose wheelsets



The most obvious feature of this product is that it can only be described as "harmonious". The height of the frame is usually between 38mm and 50mm, the aluminium wheelsets being a different story.




Due to their design and positioning between aero and climbing wheels, they are also in between, ideal for undulating trails with moderate gradients and not too bad in terms of aero, stability and climbing, making them a wheel for almost everyone. For riders who are only going to buy one pair of wheels, a general purpose wheelset is the way to go - after all, the routes you're likely to ride are very diverse.



Road Wheel Selection Guide(图4)


Knowing that there are classifications of wheelsets, but that there are a very wide range of wheelsets available for each classification, we also need to understand how the design of road wheelsets affects performance?



Differences between the open version, the tube and tyre version and the vacuum version.



Many of you have probably struggled with this question when choosing a wheelset: should I buy the open version or the tube tyre version?




It's a real headache, but it's not that complicated. The advantages and disadvantages of the tubular version compared to the open version are clear: the biggest advantage is the lightness and road feel and the fact that it is cheaper; the biggest disadvantage is the ease of maintenance. The tubular version will have a better road feel and will give better acceleration due to the lighter weight and the tyres sticking to the rims, theoretically allowing you to ride faster, so we see the Pro's racing on tubulars, but we must also see the difference between ourselves and the Pro's - no logistic bike! The open version will have some performance gaps, but it's very easy to fix when you get a flat, and that's its biggest advantage.



Road Wheel Selection Guide(图5)



If you're not afraid of the trouble you might encounter, the tube tyre version is the preferred choice. Because tube tyres are also not as prone to flat tires as you might think. But if you want to use tube tyres, you'll have to be a livewire and build up RP from now on!




The vacuum version is technically also considered a type of open-ended version, except that the vacuum version does not require an inner tube. The vacuum outer tyre is a little heavier than the normal open tyre, but this weight is still quite light compared to an inner tube. And because there is no loss of kinetic energy caused by the inner tube rubbing against the outer tube, the vacuum tyre is also better than a conventional open-top tyre in terms of driving performance. However, the popularity of vacuum tyres on road bikes is currently low, mainly because of the very high requirements for airtightness of the rim and the fact that they are more expensive than conventional open-top wheelsets.




Although the conventional open wheel set is the weakest of the three, it is the most convenient and, from a practical point of view, the open version has the lowest chance of being a regret buy in the future...



Road Wheel Selection Guide(图6)

Wheel material


The mainstream materials used for road wheels are aluminium and carbon fibre. With the maturity of the carbon fibre production process and technology, carbon fibre wheelsets have also become very mature and more affordable. At present, the mid to high end of the market is already dominated by carbon fibre wheels, while aluminium wheelsets are mainly for the entry market.




The main differences between aluminium and carbon fibre wheels are weight, wind resistance and braking performance. In terms of weight, carbon fibre is much less dense, about 1/2 to 2/3 that of aluminium, and is 5 times stronger than aluminium, giving it an overwhelming weight advantage when making wheels of the same strength. Carbon fibre can also be made into any shape required to create a more aerodynamic wheel. Due to the density of aluminium, the weight of a high framed aero wheelset can be unacceptable.




However, aluminium is a good conductor of heat and the advantages of aluminium wheels in terms of braking performance are undeniable: more braking power and better brake cooling. With the exception of a very few carbon fibre wheels like the ZIPP NSW, the vast majority of carbon fibre wheels still have a significant braking performance gap with aluminium wheels. In terms of durability, the brake rim of carbon wheels normally lasts longer than that of aluminium wheels.



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