Wheels are one of the most – if not THE most – critical component on your bike. It is therefore important to think hard before purchasing a set.
Wheels can now be made to optimise cycling performance in almost any discipline, from downhill mountain biking to velodrome riding. They are ultimately a balance of weight, rolling and aerodynamic resistance, strength and comfort.
Of all the components on Rebecca’s bike, this was the one I spent the most time researching.
My criteria was:
I wanted a compromise between strength and weight; Rebecca is not heavy on her wheels, but I did need a pair of wheels which would be robust enough to ride on roads which aren’t the smoothest. Going too light on a pair of wheel can result in rim damage if you hit a big pothole – though wheel technology is improving reliability of light wheels year on year.
Sportive wheels need to withstand the rigours of prolonged riding, over hills and poor road surfaces; there is no recovery van or spare wheels like there is in proper racing, so the wheels you start with are the ones you need to finish with.
A good set of bearings and an aerodynamic profile reduce the amount of rolling and aerodynamic resistance; the effects of which build up over time, and since sportives are long events, this is important.
Not one many people think of, but its important all the same – will these wheels work alongside existing wheels? i.e. can I swap from training wheels to these wheels and back again, easily? I don’t want to ride on these wheels all the time. Can I continue to use the same brake shoes (Carbon rimmed wheels need special compound brake blocks)? Can I use my existing gears without adjustment? Will these wheels fit in my frame?
Obviously, it’s a recession, and I’m not a millionaire – I need wheels which are good value for money.
And as I’ve mentioned before…good looking equipment is always faster!
1. They use Carbon Fibre deep rims; this is important for sportive riding because these provide good aerodynamics, without much weight penalty or wayward behaviour in crosswinds, which affect very deep-rimmed wheels. There is also some evidence to suggest that in combination with a conventional set of laced spokes it improves comfort by absorbing road vibration.
2. They use alloy for the braking surfaces. This is important because alloy tends to provide a more consistent and predictable braking action, and equally importantly, I don’t need to buy any fit any special pads to the brakes.
3. They use conventional metals spokes. In this case, the spokes are “bladed” to provide even better aerodynamic efficiency, but the important reason is – metal spokes can be replaced if they break. A solid carbon wheel on the other hand, cannot be repaired as easily.
4. They use “clinchers”. Clinchers are the normal tyre and inner tube combination most people are familiar with. However, on some high-end wheels, it is common to fit tubular tyres – these are all-in-one tyres which are optimised for racing, and are reported to have the best rolling resistance properties. This is fine if you have a recovery car with pre-prepared spare wheels, but in a sportive you don’t. It’s far more practical to repair a puncture with an inner tube than it is to completely replace a tubular tyre! Not to mention the inconvenience involved of having to lug such a spare tubular around with you.
5. They support “Shimano” 10 speed cassette gears. This is important, because all Rebecca’s wheels and bikes all use Shimano 10 speed gears.
6. Cost: At £300 a pair these represent excellent value for money, and I get full dealer support through our local bike shop in the event of a manufacturing defect or more serious repair.
Fitting wheels is easy; simply open or close the quick release lever to release or secure the wheel. Adjust the grip it makes on the frame by turning the non-release end of the release, until the lever is able to grip the frame/forks when closing. It should be tightest just as the lever is fully closed. If you cannot close the lever it is too tight!
It’s important to remember a few small things though:
- When closing the quick release, ensure it won’t close against any part of the frame; it will damage the painwork, it won’t actually be properly closed and you may not be able to open it again!
- Always ensure the quick release works against some resistance when closing it; this is how adhesion is maintained. Never ride a bike with a loose (but closed) quick release – it means the wheel is also loose!
ALTERNATIVES – IN THE SAME STYLE:
- Shimano Dura Ace 7850: Awesome wheels, but sell the kids into slavery first.
- HED Jet 4/Jet 6 Carbon/Alloy Clincher Wheelset: As per above, but you have both shimano and campag options.
- Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL Clincher Wheelset 2010: As per above, but you have both shimano and campag options; Mavic have been building wheels longer than most.
ALTERNATIVES – CONVENTIONAL (non-deep, alloy rim) STYLE:
ALTERNATIVES – “BUDGET”:
ALTERNATIVE – MONEY NO OBJECT:
Obviously, no wheel is enough on it’s own – you need tyres, and these are ultimately the most important component on the bike; without them you’re going nowhere, and with poor ones, you might even crash!
Tyres for Sportives need to be lightweight, but durable. They also need to be replaceable or repairable at the side of the road. They must also be comfortable, and last but not least – they must inspire confidence through good feedback and grip in the corners.
For Sportive riding, I recommend the Continental Grand Prix Attack/Force Road Tyre Twin Pack. I firmly believe that because each tyre has a different job to do on the bike, they should be optimised for that task. It’s not essential to have identical tyres front and back!
Rebecca has tested this on her training bike, and they do perform brilliantly – comfortable and easy rolling at the rear, while grippy with good feedback at the front.
- Michelin Pro3 Race Folding Road Tyre: (These are listed as racing tyres, but perform extremely reliably in sportives)
- Schwalbe Ultremo DD Evolution Black Folding Road Tyre (Definitely a racing tyre, but again, better puncture resistance than most)
If you’re building a bike let me know how you’re getting on! If you have questions please post them below or email me, as I would love to hear from you. AND don’t forget to share this post with your friends or anyone who you think might benefit. Talk again soon!