I am not a mechanic or an engineer, to be honest when it comes to my bike bar changing the wheels, cleaning it and ‘general’ maintenance I trust all other services and changes to my local bike shop, cycle zone in Lisburn.
About three years ago on my previous bike, a Merida aluminium frame with sora group set, my local bike shop who had lots of valuable knowledge recommended if I wanted to make any upgrade, new wheels are a good start. At the time I hadn’t jumped completely feet first in to cycling and didn’t want to spend £1000 on new wheels. After some research and work by my local shop, they recommended a set of Stans No Tubes Alpha 340 wheelset. These were a kilo lighter than my previous wheels and cost £450, and nearly three years later they still retail around the same price. They are great wheels and I use them on my current bike, Giant TCR Advanced 2015. However as I have competed in more triathlons I have debated should I bite the bullet and buy a set of aero wheels. I am not going to buy a transition specific bike, unless the six numbers come up in the lottery, as I like to do sportives as well as triathlons, however I started to think aero wheels could be a half way house. Anyone who has looked at aero wheels will know the options available are a completed minefield and started to prompt many questions in my head:
- How much should I spend?
- Are the wheels typically the same weight as my Stans wheels or heavier?
- Will they actually make any difference?
Firstly, how much should I spend? I looked at a number of options, looking at the weight of my current wheels. I watched numerous videos showing how an aero wheel set could help however in my head I thought “I don’t want to buy a set of wheels massively heavier than my current wheels!”. After numerous research, the ones I really liked were the Shimano C50 Dura Ace set, however with a massive price tag of between £1,100 and £1,400 depending on which site I looked at. I didn’t want to spend that however would be happy with spending between £500 and £550. I know this was going to be difficult however I wasn’t willing to spend more than that on a set of wheels that realistically would only be used on race days and good weather cycles.
The weight aspect effects that as well, for example I didn’t want to spend the money on a set of wheels and not be able to use them if they route on a Sunday morning cycle or sportive includes any sort of hill. My Stans were 1450 grams, I didn’t want to go much heavier than that.
Will they make a difference was big debated, however after watching a number of videos by GCN and Cycling Weekly it showed they can make a difference of up to 2 mph, that doesn’t seem like a lot but that could shave 4-6 minutes per hour from your time.
After much debate and research, an email popped in to my inbox two weeks before the 70.3 Ironman, Chain Reactions had released their own brand of aero wheels called prime. This immediately made me sit up and look. The wheels were a similar weight to the Stans, and carbon clinchers were costing around £600. After much debated I jumped in with both feet and bought the 50m Prime Carbon Clincher. So they arrived and I put in the same tubes, same wheels and same cassette (Ultegra 11/25) as my Stans wheels and the results were unbelievable:
- Front wheels Stans 994 grams, Prime 1029 grams
- Back wheel Stans 1403 grams, Prime 1423 grams
From a weight point of view there was little or no difference which was great. Bar changing the break pads to carbon pads they was no other altering required. In summary before getting on the bike, weight was about the same as Stans, cost was reasonable compared to similar wheels with an out of the box weight of 1550 grams aero wheel set, the only question remaining is would they make an difference.
Two rides before the ironman 70.3 the feel on the bike is slightly different. On the two days I cycled in 16mph winds, and you could feel a cross wind more than the Stans, to the point that you wouldn’t cycle with them on winds that were much stronger. Speed wise, you can just feel that they are quicker. I set a number of PB’s on strava on the two runs, approximately 50 miles, however the big test will be the ironman 70.3 in Dublin. They feel faster and definitely feel like they can help you maintain a faster speed. Overall thus far impression but the proof will be in the racing, how will they feel on Sunday 14th August?