Leong H asked in SportsCycling · 1 decade ago

How important is the wheelset in a road bike?

I would like to buy a new road racing bike,should I invest in a good (expensive) wheelset although this would mean that I will have to spend less on other parts (besides the frame).

Is there a different, beside weight, between a normal price wheelset and an expensive one. I noticed that some expensive wheelsets are only around 200g lighter.Besides speed and weight, the quality of ride is also important to me.

8 Answers

  • Favorite Answer

    There was a discussion on forums.roadbikereview.com about this specific topic. Most of the people in that conversation recommended going with a handbuilt set of wheels if you can afford it, from a good wheelbuilder (like oddsandendos.com). Handbuilt wheels will generally last longer and have greater support than pre-built wheelsets. The concensus in that conversation was that spending a lot on wheels will get you "bling" factor, but not much else for the extra money.

    Others will argue that wheelsets make a huge difference in the ride quality, or that the change in rotating mass from buying a lighter wheelset far outweights the change in weight of static mass, so they would say that it is worthwhile to spend money on wheels over any other component. Scientific evidence, however, contradicts these long held beliefs. Subjective testing would also reject these ideas. But for those that feel "faster" on an expensive lightweight wheelset, even if can't be verified scientifically, are getting their money's worth - they're just paying for their perceptual experience (and there's nothing wrong with that).

    Empirical evidence also indicates that super-light wheelsets have a higher failure rate under heavy riders (180lbs+) or highly agressive riders.

    If you can't afford a handbuilt set, there are a number of choices between inexpensive pre-built wheelsets from Neuvation (http://neuvationcycling.com) and ROL (www.rolwheels.com). I've seen people race on the very inexpensive Xero XR-1s, which are extrememly light and can be had for only $229 from Pricepoint.com. For about $350-400, you can pick up the highly regarded Easton Circuit wheelset. Going with an inexpensive set will leave more room for component upgrades that will make a more noticeable difference.

    Many of the above wheelsets are considered "semi-aero", with 23mm-30mm rim profiles. But studies seem to indicate that anything under 40mm has negligible benefits.

    It may be that the wheelset that comes on your bike will be just fine, and you won't have to upgrade it. If you do decide that you need to upgrade, use sites like roadbikereview.com when trying to decide if a prospective wheelset is worthwhile or not.

    You can save a lot of money by buying used components, but buying a used set of wheels can be problematic, as you don't know how much abused they've endured - unless you find a set that obviously shows little wear. Craigslist.org is a great resource for used bike parts.

    In the end, tire choice will have a much greater impact on the ride quality of the bike than a wheelset. I like the Michelin Pro Race 2s, and the Vittoria Diamante Pro Lights a lot. When used with latex tubes, they both ride very nice, and they're both very light.

    Whatever you choose, have fun on two wheels!

  • 1 decade ago

    The wheels are arguably the most important components on a bicycle.

    Rotating mass affects performance more than any other type of weight. For example, a 1 ounce (28g) savings on each wheel will provide the same performance increase as reducing the frame by one POUND (450g). This 28g savings can be had just by selecting good tires and tubes.

    I always suggest that you temper wheel choice with 3 things- repairability, usage, and cost.

    I have never been a big fan of any type of wheel that can't be repaired on the road, so carbon spokes and the like are out.

    Superlight materials such as carbon and others also have a limited life in this kind of use so if you want a good all around wheelset then a spoked wheel is going to be the best choice.

    On top of that, a good custom built spoked wheelset can be tailored to your specific desires regarding comfort and weight and usually cost a fraction of the exotic material sets and be longer lasting as well.

    So, get yourself a custom built top quality steel frame (I suggest looking into Bob Jackson from Leeds England) and the best spoked wheels you can find. You'll be far ahead of the pack. If you insist on an exotic flyweight frame you should think about a full magnesium model from Paketa... forget the carbon stays.

    Source(s): 26 years in the industry
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    the more expensive ones may shave off a mere 200g, but that makes a world of difference on the rims. lightweight rims reduce rolling resistance which means quicker and easier acceleration and deceleration. lightweight tires also help a lot in reducing rolling resistance.

    the more expensive sets may also have bladed spokes, which cut down wind resistance a good amount when your moving 30+mph, and they look sick.

    the hubs dont lose much weight, but they can get better internals. they go from outboard bearings to sealed cartridge bearing, and the ultimate - Ceramic bearing. these babies roll forever but cost about $200 for a set. they are used by pros.

    basically, the more expensive they better. common sense right? spend at least $500 on a set and you are getting some pretty good stuff.

  • 1 decade ago

    Wheel sets are the SINGLE biggest upgrade you can do.

    Bontrager has a five year warranty.

    Mavic with MP3 program has two years.

    DT Swiss RR1450 Warranty not published but, arguably the best in the industry and they have been making the high end Bonty Hubs.

    Those would be the highlight of the industry. Kep in mind

    Try to get under 1500 grams/set to see the biggest improvements

    I myself ride American Classics - really stiff

    Source(s): Bike Shop Manager
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  • 1 decade ago

    as said earlier, upgrading your wheelset is the best thing that you can do to upgrade your bike.

    if your thinking of skimping on the bike, I wouldn't skimp on the wheelset, grouppo but more on the frame- these usually carry a long warranty and you can always swap thake your upgraded parts with you when you have more cash for that 'better' frame later on...

  • 1 decade ago

    Very tricky question...but a good question. The wheels you ride can make a bid difference in your riding comfort, speed, handling and climbing ability. Before purchasing a bike or a wheels set you need to know what type of rider you are and what your goals are. If you plan on racing much you will have a different goal then one who just does the weekend group rides. I have been riding for over 10 years and raced for several of those years. If you live in a basically flat part of the country, as I did in Florida, then 200 grams of wheel weight will not make much difference at all. In a more hilly area the wheel weight will be more noticeable. Keep in mind that climbing is effected by total bike, rider, equipment weight combined. If you have any body weight to loose that is where you will notice the most gain on climbing ability. You can spend thousands of dollars on your bike to save 200 grams. A person can loose pounds for free. I raced at 5-5.5% body fat. Once I got my body fat low I then started to shave grams off of my bike. This made a big difference when I traveled to mountains states and eventually moved to Colorado.

    There are group rides all over the country full of over weight guys riding super light $6,000-8,000 bikes that still wonder why they cant climb or hold a pace line. If you know what type of rider you are and the conditions you are going to ride in you can answer that question. I have found that for training wheels it is important to have a very strong set of clinchers. For years I trained on a set of very used Rolf Vectors. They were indestructible and had decent aerodynamics. I trained a lot in the dark and at times hit pot holes. For training rids, go for durability in your wheel set, tubes and tires. Nothing hurts your training like a mechanical failure. The Rolfs never failed me. For racing I used a lighter set of carbon fiber wheels, or super light set of alum climbing specific wheels. Get a good, strong fairly light (but not super light) wheel set and train, train, train. Super high end and ultra light parts will make your bike incredible but they won’t help you get any stronger. Only training will do that.

    The best advice I can give you is to spend your money on a quality frame. The rest will wear out and need to be replaced from time to time.

    Good Luck!

  • 1 decade ago

    Don't go cheap. I had a set of wheels that were breaking spokes at least once a week. I replaced them with a better set and haven't broken a spoke since. You don't have to go top of the line, but somwhere in the middle should be a good balance between economy and performance.

  • Ric
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    jeffrey k is spot on with his post. my only suggestion if you're going to upgrade, and I agree with others is the most important upgrade your can do on a bike is to stay away from the roller bearings, like the Shimano 105s or 600s and go with the sealed bearing variety of hub-sets like the Mavic Ksyrium for example, they are smother running and alot less maintenance and for goodness sakes stay away from custom built, unless you are a racer it's not worth the money.

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