Do your bike wheels make a difference to your cycle performance?

Do your bike wheels make a difference to your cycle performance?

On this edition of the Ask Coach Parry Cycling podcast we ask our cycling coach Devlin Eyden about the differences in road wheels on your bike and find out if there is really a benefit in the performance you get from these more technically advanced wheels.  If technology is your thing then this podcast is for you.  Devlin talks us through cycling performance to cross winds and everything in between in terms of the road wheels we select for our bike.

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David Katz: Welcome back to the Ask Coach Parry Cycling podcast. I’m Mr Active, David Katz, joined by Devlin Eyden and today on the podcast a question specifically for the roadies and it revolves around those round things that keep you going.

Devlin, what are the big differences between road wheels and is there really a huge difference in terms of the performance you can get out of them?

Devlin Eyden: There can be. There’s various differences that we typically find in road wheels and there’s actually a huge market for those wheels at the moment. Differences firstly being the rim itself, we would get a difference between perhaps an aluminium rim or a carbon rim. The carbon obviously being a little bit more rigid, a little bit stiffer as well as lighter than you would typically find with your aluminium wheels.

Is it worth changing your bike wheels for something more advanced?

Moving inwards a little bit, we start talking carbon spokes and aluminium spokes, which again has a rigidity to it, which has a benefit with carbon and the weight issue and then when we start talking about the hubs as well as the wheels, we start talking ceramic bearings and the hubs, in the back wheel for instance, amount of the little ratchets that actually happen in the free wheel body. All of those will have a benefit on performance. When we start talking carbon wheels and ceramic bearings and we start talking carbon spokes and more rigidity, the rigidity of the wheel the stiffer the wheel, the less play there is the less flex on the wheel which means the momentum and the force that you’re putting into the bike is going in a straight line rather than flexing from side to side and losing momentum and losing energy.

That will always improve your performance to a degree and then at the same time we’ll start talking about, well, as I mentioned, the weight of it, when I start talking weight, obviously the lighter the wheel, especially when you start talking handling and how the bike will perform and that will have a huge effect. The bearings, as I mentioned, will assist you from a rolling resistance point of view as well. You’ll see a lot more the carbon wheel sets will tend to roll and spin a lot easier than you find with the older aluminium type of wheels.

We then start looking, we’re now referring to the carbon wheels and the rims as well, is what we call the section of the rim, the profile. You get a deep section wheel, which is typically the rim is a couple of centimetres deep. The deeper section of the rims, the whole idea of that is when you start talking more aerodynamics. So it cuts through the air a little bit better, it makes the bike have less wind resistance as well and then you’ll find if you start talking maybe a time trial bike or trial bikes as well, then you start talking a full disc wheel that you might find a lot of riders will ride on the back.

The flipside of advanced technology bike wheels

The flipside to using something like a full disc wheel where there is no air blowing through your spokes and slowing you down cycling, adding more resistance, the flipside and the negative to that is, if there is a windy course and you are heading a slight crosswind, makes it a lot more difficult to actually hold that bike up on the road, if you do have a cross wind. The deeper the section of the rim, as much as it cuts through the air quite well, any sort of crosswind will also have some sort of an effect on it.

We are talking wheels, we are talking advanced technology with wheels these days as well, but then that obviously all comes with quite a hefty price tag. When you’re looking at a good set of carbon [inaudible 0.19.23] wheels, you are then talking quite a hefty price tag that goes along with it. At the end of the day, it's a couple of milliseconds on your performance going to improve, is that going to benefit you or would it probably benefit you more in terms of power in the legs and training a little bit better. Obviously when you’re at the top end and the tip of the sword in the sport, you’re then looking for any split second gain, that 1% gain that will make a difference, but I think for the Average Joe rider as well, there’s a couple of other factors that you can gain performance, rather than necessarily going for a set of wheels and more advanced wheels.

DK: Devlin, I’m not even going to begin to get into costs because that climbs with it as well, but a very well rounded answer, as always, thank you very much for that.

If you would like to find out more about Devlin Eyden’s coaching and how he can help you, go to and click on the coaching tab.

From Devlin Eyden and myself, Mr Active, David Katz, we’ll catch up with you again next time.

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