Monday, September 9, 2013

How to Choose your Wheelset for Triathlon Racing

Professional triathlete and Triple Threat friend Guilherme Ferreira Campos wrote this piece for the blog... great advice here, thanks G!

Lately a lot of people have come to me asking about how to find the best race wheels to suit their needs as riders. We have so many options today, and if you are new to the sport or don't read or study a lot about cycling, aerodynamics, etc it definitely can be a little bit confusing. Carbon clincher or tubular? What's the best rim depth? Does that same rim depth have the same performance for courses with different elevation profiles? These are just a few common questions that pop up in the general public’s mind.

I will talk a bit about how to choose the best model according to your needs and characteristics as a rider, using myself as an example. First things first, I believe in order to be as accurate as you can in your choice you should look at your biotype, meaning your height and weight. I am 5’5’’ and 122 pounds during racing season. Smaller and lightweight riders are much more affected by side/cross winds, making it harder to stay balanced on the bike, especially in the front end. Bigger and heavier riders are less affected by side/cross winds for the same rim depth.

I am a Rolf Prima sponsored athlete, and given their amazing range of choices, they can pretty much fit every type of rider perfectly. I of course first thought about which rim depth would fit me best. Besides my height and weight, I also considered the type of racing I mostly do. As a lightweight/short rider doing mostly long course racing, I chose an intermediate rim depth, going for the Rolf Prima Ares 6 (66mm rim depth) which are a super light wheel, coming in at 1590 grams for the wheelset (655 grams front wheel and 935 grams rear wheel). Considering I tend to race hilly bike courses, especially when racing back home in Europe, the weight of the wheelset played a very important role in my decision.

The less skills you have handling a bike, the more preference you should give to shallower rim depths on the front, where strong winds can affect your balance. Deeper rim depths on the back without proper riding skills will also force you to get out of the aero position, affecting all of the aerodynamic advantages of your tri bike.

Another main reason I chose the Rolf Prima Ares 6 is because they’re carbon clinchers. There’s a lot of discussion today between riding clinchers or tubulars for your race day wheelset, but for me personally, I can change a clincher rim way faster than a tubular. Do some good research about riding one or the other, analyze the pros and cons of both, and then decide which one works best for you. Among pro cyclists and triathletes there are athletes racing both for sure... consider what factors matter most to you individually because that's what matters on race day!

G goes to battle with these bad boys

Rolf has also a very large range of tubulars in the Tdf models with a variety of rim depths.
For more information visit the Rolf product page.

To finish up this review here, I’d like to briefly talk about the disc wheel. Discs are a very nice “tool” to make you faster, but you can only use it effectively in almost perfect conditions regarding wind and the course's elevation profile. If it’s super hilly it doesn’t make much sense because the aero benefits of the disc won’t benefit you as much as on a flatter course. The weight of the disc also plays a very important role. Rolf Prima’s disc is super light at only a bit more than 1000 grams for the tubular version and around 1300 grams for the clincher version. If you are looking for a disc wheel you should definitely check it out here.

Hope this helps in your decision to purchase your next wheelset!


In case you missed it, check out our interview with G from February, as well as his popular review of Fuji's new super bike, the Norcom Straight.

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