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Aerodynamic wheels for cycling

I’ve always been a bit of a gear freak, and I’m here to talk today about aerodynamic deep dish wheels and my experience with them. I first started using deep dish wheels in 2007, when a pair of used Spinergy 43mm deep wheels were given to me when I bought my Kuota Kharma road bike.

Here, I’ll give a brief review of the wheels that I’ve used in the past five years.

Shallow Wheels – 43 mm Spinergy Carbon Wheels

Interestingly, I didn’t really feel any aerodynamic benefits with these wheels, but I most definitely felt the cross-winds when they blew. I’m not a heavy dude by any stretch of the imagination – 150-155 lbs, 5’8″. I used these in Ironman Florida with a Quintana Roo Lucero, and, on the way back to the run course, I felt the cross-winds for sure.

They were extremely stiff, but then again you can also buy training wheels that are lighter and even more stiff. Not that I don’t recommend these wheels, but I’m not certain about the aerodynamic gains of such shallow wheels, and unless you’re getting Zipp 303s, these wheels are not worth the money.

Deep Wheels – 85 mm Gigantex  Full Carbon Clincher Wheels (Including Carbon Brake Track)

I purchased these online, brand new, for roughly $700 USD. I’ve used them for races of different distances, and I was actually pleasantly surprised with their aerodynamics and smoothness. I’ve had cross-winds with these wheels, but I didn’t feel them as much as the shallower wheels above, which is quite the paradox, as you usually feel cross-winds with deeper front wheels.

 One drawback to these wheels is the fact that they have a carbon brake track. This required carbon brake pads, because using regular pads that you mix with your training wheels (with a metal brake track) might cause unnecessary and unintended wear on the carbon surface.

Nevertheless, these were really impressive wheels, albeit on the heavy side. I actually felt more stable running this wheelset than the 43mm wheelset. I also ran a rear disc cover with these wheels, and I could tell you that it was a very fast setup. I didn’t feel that they had a very high quality finish to them, and, they don’t accelerate as quickly as the wheels I mention below.

Medium-Deep Wheels – Zipp 404s (58 mm deep)

Last winter, I got my hands on some Zipp 404s. Hands down, they are the smoothest wheels I’ve ever used, and they roll with such ease. They accelerate like nothing else. They are also the lightest compared to the above wheels. I think you really get what you pay for when you buy a brand like Zipp. I’ve used these on hills, and I’ve used them on flats, and they perform equally well.

As for the cross-winds, I did feel them at the Welland Sprint Tri in 2011 – but it was manageable. Note, I also ran a Zipp 900 disc wheel with the 404 front. Bottom line is, there is no doubt that Zipp makes superior wheels. 

Medium-Deep Wheels – Mavic Cosmic Carbone (50 mm deep)

I’ve used these once or twice (borrowed from fiancee), and must say that they run a lot like the Zipp wheels. The hub in the rear is slightly heavier, and you do feel this, but my personal opinion is that the Mavic wheels are not far behind. Again, Mavic is an amazing brand, one that they seem to use in the Tour de France.

Recommendation:

After using these various sets of wheels, I must say that I rank Zipp and Mavic higher than the relatively lesser known brands above. The quality of the finish is definitely higher with Zipp and Mavic, compared to the aforementioned brands Spinergy and Gigantex. These wheels are likely comparable in aerodynamics (without the use of scientific data), but the acceleration and feel of the Zipp and Mavic wheels seem to be superior for me.

I’d definitely recommend going with Zipp and Mavic. After having spent thousands and thousands of dollars on bike parts, there’s no question that if I could do it again, I’d have gone with the Zipp and Mavic wheels to begin with. It would have saved me lots of money from the beginning.

As I am a relative newcomer to cycling, I notice a lot of beginners tend to buy sub-standard equipment, thinking that they’ll upgrade to something better when they get faster. However, I disagree with this approach because 1) you will get faster through consistency in training, and 2) the re-sale value of branded and higher-end equipment is far higher than the lower-end equipment if you were to exit the sport. So, keep that in mind next time when you spend money on your next set of wheels!

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2 comments

  • Hi Arthur,
    I wished I read this article when I was looking for feedbacks on Spinergy wheels. All the feedbacks I saw were positive. I’d like to whack those authors in the head. They do not know what they are writing. Using these feedbacks, I bought the Spinergy wheels on ebay (because they are the only brand releasing 650c). I tried it and returned it the following day. Absolutely bad set of wheels, no ROI. Thanks for being honest in your review.

    – Alberto

  • Hi Alberto, as I said, not that I don’t recommend the wheels, but for that price point, it might be worth it to not get the aero wheels, but rather, the really light non-aero wheels that are extremely stiff.

    In the end, if you heart is set on aero wheels, then I recommend spending the money to get the quality – Cosmic Carbones or Zipp 404s.

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