Hot Wheels: Choosing Aero Wheels

Reviews & Tech

10/14/2008| 0 comments
by Kirk Nordgren

Hot Wheels: Choosing Aero Wheels

It’s no big secret that aerodynamic wheels provide a significant benefit when it comes time to hammer on the bike. But what’s up with all the options?

spoked wheel sets instead of heavier disk rear/composite front combinations. Out on the course though, we saw that those weight concerns were unfounded. Sure the climbs brought speeds below the standard 12 mph barrier, but since the high speed descents allowed momentum to be carried into and up the next uphill, the most aerodynamic set-up (disk/composite) resulted in faster times.

Step 3: Speed vs. Durability

But besides weight, there are a few other downsides to the “most-aero” option in racing wheels. One is durability: these wheels are made for racing, not for enduring thousands of miles of training. Additionally, these wheels have an “apparent mass” which makes them harder to get moving. Basically, the more weight found farther from the axle, the more force it takes to make that wheel turn.

Step 4: Race Directors

Another factor to consider is the variety of events you want to compete in. If you’re racing criteriums, time trials, road races, and possibly triathlons, a disc wheel may only be useful – or legal – in a few events each year. On the other hand, a relatively light weight, “more aero” spoked wheel may provide very good performance in the highest percentage of your competitions.

Coach’s Opinion

If you’re training and racing on just one set of wheels, a durable aero rim with bladed spokes is your best option. It gives you the aerodynamic advantage of reduced drag and the flexibility to reap the benefits of that advantage in almost any conditions.

Kirk Nordgren is a Coach for Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Carmichael Training Systems. For more information on the latest in training, fitness, and nutrition go to


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