Basic wheel upgrade question
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  1. #1
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    Basic wheel upgrade question

    The OEM wheels on my Specialized are Alex AT400s. If I wanted to upgrade these wheels to something else that is Shimano cassette compatible, what would I mainly look for?

    I've been told that a wheel upgrade makes a big difference mainly due to weight savings, but actually the AT400s are pretty light at 1630g for the pair. Of course, that doesn't tell the whole tale since it doesn't say where they carry the weight in rim vs. hub, but it still seems pretty good. I don't have any particular complaints about them since I'm not an "expert class" rider that puts a lot of stress on the bike.

    So is an upgrade still worth it, and on what basis should I evaluate a candidate replacement?

  2. #2
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    If your wheels are working for you, I don't really think it matters.

    I have seen some Alex wheels (cheaper than those) have build quality problems, but really, the whole "need for featherweight wheels" is marketing hype. You would need dramatic changes (like to 1000g Z2's) and dramatic terrain (Mont Ventoux) to really "see" a difference.

    If you want a fairly cheap upgrade that you will notice, buy some NICE tires and use 'em when the weather is good. If you have Specialized All-Conditions or something, and swap to Vittoria Open Corsas, those will feel really sweet...

  3. #3
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    Double check your scale, 1630 grams sounds too light for that wheelset. I would bet that it is closer to 2000 grams or more!

  4. #4
    The Gimlet Eye
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlite48
    Double check your scale, 1630 grams sounds too light for that wheelset. I would bet that it is closer to 2000 grams or more!
    WEIGHT FT. 720g RR. 870g = 1590 g set
    http://www.bicyclebuys.com/Items01.a...fo&SKU=0508036

    The biggest complaint I see with Alex wheels is broken spokes. That may become an issue the longer the OP has those wheels.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Argentius
    If you want a fairly cheap upgrade that you will notice, buy some NICE tires and use 'em when the weather is good. If you have Specialized All-Conditions or something, and swap to Vittoria Open Corsas, those will feel really sweet...
    I second that... good tires (and tubes!) will make a difference in the speed and feel. Make sure you get ones with low Crr though... Vittorias or Michelins are usually the best.

    As for the wheels, I'd look for an aero upgrade... it will make the biggest difference in your speed. A 25-30mm rim with aero (steel!) spokes should be good for ~1% in speed when you are going hard on the flat. That isn't enough to really notice though unless you are competitive.

    Losing weight won't help at all on the flat, and even on very steep grades the difference it makes in your speed will always be less than the weight ratios. For instance you and your bike weigh 180lb saving half a pound will make you ~0.2% faster on steep climbs.

    When accelerating (and only then!) lighter rims will have double the benefit of lighter hubs. That gets touted a lot, but it is really a small effect.

    So... you can get good custom wheels with 30mm rims and aero spokes at around 1400g for ~$600. If that is more than you'd like to spend, there are plenty of factory wheels that are decent and have similar specs at ~1600-1800g that cost as little as $250.

  6. #6
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    You are probably better off just keeping the wheels that you have. 200g less (100g per wheel) isn't going to make that much of a difference. Climbing is something you can really work on and improve at by training for it more.

    If you are hellbent on new hoops I have a pair of R28SL2s and they are pretty light and were on sale. They hold up really well and you can race and train on them.

  7. #7
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    I generally agree with the "keep your wheelset" advice. My wife has a lower-end Alex wheelset on her Giant & it's been decent for her recreational riding (so far). OTOH- I upgraded my 2250+g (scale-confirmed weight!) Gipiemme T3 stock wheels to Ultegra/OP's (@~1800g). I am convinced I feel a real difference in "A vs B" testing with same tires over the same familiar 40mi ride (ave 16-18mph on rolling terrain). The repeated accelerations (stop-starts at lights,etc) on urban group rides probably magnifies the 450+g difference in rolling weight. The difference is not huge, so I doubt I would notice a 200g difference in wheel weights.
    If you do go for new wheels- keep your current ones. I kept the Gipiemme's 'cause it's never a bad idea to have a back-up wheelset.

  8. #8
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    Oh, glad I found this thread! I'm in the middle of this right now and it's kinda driving me nuts. If I may .....

    Being more used to a mtn bike for the past few years when I throw my leg over the road bike I feel like i'm on a motorcycle! My 1800 gram Shimano 105 wheelset, which would most likely be regarded as heavy, is EASY to spin up. Hey, the whole bike weighs less than 19 pounds, so that helps, too. Ahhhh, ignorance IS bliss. ;)

    I ended up picking up a pair of Continental Ultra Race tires (kevlar, thank you very much) and lightweight tubes to replace the Continental Ultra Gatorskin (wire - YUK!) pieces that the bike came with. The weight reduction was noticeable. Not sure about the RR - again, more used to mtn bike tires, so for me ..... slick is slick. Again, ignorance IS bliss. Haven't had a GOOD ride on them yet as i'm still waiting for a decent shakedown ride, but the few laps around the neighbourhood have provided me with still-valuable info.

    I want aero wheels, too. I guess one big plus I have is that any of the wheels i'm looking at are lighter, so I automatically get not only the aero benefit, but also those regarding lightweight. MY problem is that I don't know "what's enough?".

    I'm looking at two opposite ends of the spectrum for wheelsets - Easton and Zipp! (okay, I think they're opposite ends) The LBS might give me a good enough deal on Zipp to make them mine, but I can't help but feel they're overkill (because they are). Nothing wrong with Easton AFAIK, and i'd be saving a ton of cash (factory wheels) ..... but they're "only" 30mm ..... but that might not be a bad thing because of crosswinds ..... but I don't know how much of a problem that'll be from area to area where I might ride ..... but but BUTBUTBUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Suddenly there is NO ignorance and NO bliss!

    What do I do?

    Oh, and let's not talk about Real Design's UltraSphere wheelset. Nearly a pound lighter than what i've got. That'll help lots in the city here.


    p.s. - are my new tires/tubes "nice", or "only" "okay"?


    rruff - Crr = ?


    I already know i'll be owning more than the Monoc I have currently at some point through this year. I guess it's more a question of what 2 wheelsets do I get ..... and which one now?
    Andrew
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  9. #9

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    Right - I'm going to be a little contraversial here. Firstly I tend to agree with others here that if you're happy with the wheels you've got don't waste money on a new pair. However, if you ride a more up-market pair you may think you're missing something with you're current wheels. Good hubs with nice rims and you can roll so easy.

    No for the contraversial bit. Don't get sucked into all this aero crap - no offence to anyone but in my opinion its marketing hype. Unless you're an pro-tour rider aero spokes and deep section rims with fancy but ineffectual lacing paterns are snake oil. Get yourself a really nice set of hand built wheels, I've read some really good things about Speedcific wheels, look a good price at around $300 for a pair with DT RR 1.1 rims. You can't get them here in the UK or I'd be sorely tempted.

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with traditionally laced 3 cross 28 or 32 hole hubs and rims with high quality Sapim or DT spokes. They'll last forever, cheap to mend and just as quick as anything else out there. You may even catch the wheel building bug and have a go yourself...

    As I say no offence meant to people who go for the aero stuff - this is merely my opinion (but then I ride a steel frame with a Brooks saddle )

    Cheers

    Danny B

  10. #10
    The Gimlet Eye
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    Quote Originally Posted by dannybgoode
    (but then I ride a steel frame with a Brooks saddle )
    Danny B
    You should have put that at the beginning of your post. Knowing that we could already guess your wheelset recommendation.


    Aero wheels snakeoil?
    http://www.analyticcycling.com/Wheel...rner_Page.html
    http://www.analyticcycling.com/WheelsBreak_Page.html
    http://www.analyticcycling.com/WheelsSprint_Page.html
    http://www.analyticcycling.com/WheelsClimb_Page.html
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/rinard/wheel/grignon.htm
    While these advantages may not benefit the casual rider, they're still measureable, and therefore not just "marketing hype" or "snake oil".

    Another benefit to aero wheels is the deep rims...which are usually heavier and stronger than non-aero rims. Which makes for a stronger wheel overall.
    Last edited by covenant; 03-18-2007 at 02:22 PM.

  11. #11
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    Prior threads go into more depth, but.......
    IMHO- Aero wheels do offer a modest advantage to the strong rider (ave speed 18-20mph+). Don't mean to start a flame war, but below that speed, quality of construction, durability, ride/handling, repairability, and (to a lesser extent) weight should be the considerations in selecting a wheelset. Even above that speed, aero profile should not trump these other practical considerations as the real-world power savings with the best wheels over conventionals may be around 1-4% max.
    The often cited Sept '05 TOUR magazine (Germany) had a decent scientific article on their sophisticated wind-tunnel testing of some high-end aero wheels. Their findings put this in some perspective. Briefly, they found they could begin to measure differences between wheels above 30kph. Differences in resistance with an aero wheel were greatest with a partial cross-wind ("sail effect"). At 40 kph (25mph), the difference between the best wheels and worst (equv to semi-aero Mavic K SL's) was 7 watts, or about 0.5 mph for a rider putting out 300watts on level ground with no wind (or 66sec over a 40k time trial). At 50kph (31+mph), roughly 475watts required power, the best wheels were 31 watts better than square rims (when most rims now are actually semi-aero 18-20mm tall). They tested lateral stiffness, and found significant differences (i.e. aero does not always = stiff rim). In addition, braking was an issue with some carbon wheels (stopping power, pad wear, or both). Among their conclusions- aero wheels are "competitive tools" and may not be the best choice for "training and touring".

    I do not think aero wheels are snake-oil, but the advantage is minor (at best) to most recreational (non-racing) roadies.

    Also- When considering wheelset weight remember that a 200 gram difference is a small fraction of total (bike + rider) weight. Giving up durability or handling to save a few grams is a poor trade-off. Even for pro racers, the lightest wheels are worthless if they fail during a ride.

    Bottom line: Wheelset Upgraditis can be an expensive & ultimately frustrating disease.

  12. #12

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    Wink

    OK - maybe I was being a little dismissive of aero/factory built wheels with my last post The point I was making though is that its sometimes easy to get caught up in marketing hype and how things look. What's important is what type of riding you're doing and base your decision accordingly. Sometimes that will mean the latest and greatest but it is all to easy to overlook the more traditional stuff which sometimes does a better job depending on circumstance.

    I did until very recently ride a Colnago Dream B-Stay with Campy Neutron or Euros wheels depending on my mood and yes the frame was fantastic (still with the Brooks mind) and the wheels are incredibly nice to ride - still use the Neutrons on my winter training steed.

    However, given my current riding regime, fast but hilly club runs and century rides a light responsive steel frame with more traditional wheels made more sense. I currently lust after a Cervelo Carbon Soloist but I don't think I'd get as much benefit from it as I will my custom steel job (Reynold 853 btw, nice and modern )

    Cheers all

    Danny B

  13. #13
    al0
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    The Alex wheels are relatevely light and have smooth hubs, their only problem is reliability - spoke breakage and sometimes, play in the hubs. But both these problem normally occurs after few yers. I as well had Alex wheels (older model) on my Specialized and for first 3 years was very satisfied. Then both above mentioned problems have occured. So I have retired them and bought pair of hand-built 36 spokes (I weigh ~200lbs and am quite rough on wheels) CXP-33 with Ultegra hubs. Can not say that they are any better (or worse).

    I guess you may do the same - use your wheels while they hold then replace.

    If you race, especially TTs, aero wheels may give some advantage, but for other purposes there is no sense in upgrade.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewTO
    I ended up picking up a pair of Continental Ultra Race tires (kevlar, thank you very much) and lightweight tubes to replace the Continental Ultra Gatorskin (wire - YUK!) pieces that the bike came with.:
    Really, I just replaced a worn gp 4000 rear with a gatorskin wire bead with around 1500 miles on it and couldn't tell all that much of a difference. The gatorskin felt a little more "substantial" but if I didn't know the tire was changed I doubt I would have been able to tell the difference. I have a couple of brand new gp 4000's lying around but I'll wear out the gatorskin first.

  15. #15

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    customs

    Quote Originally Posted by rruff
    I

    So... you can get good custom wheels with 30mm rims and aero spokes at around 1400g for ~$600. If that is more than you'd like to spend, there are plenty of factory wheels that are decent and have similar specs at ~1600-1800g that cost as little as $250.
    Where would you recommend looking for 600 customs? A local shop in Santa Fe was saying their customs would run for 1000.

    Thanks

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis69
    Where would you recommend looking for 600 customs? A local shop in Santa Fe was saying their customs would run for 1000.
    For $600 you could get WI H1 hubs, CX-Ray spokes, and Ni30 rims... from a lot of custom builders, I'd guess.

    You live in Santa Fe? Did you talk to Jeremy at Alchemy?

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by rruff
    For $600 you could get WI H1 hubs, CX-Ray spokes, and Ni30 rims... from a lot of custom builders, I'd guess.

    You live in Santa Fe? Did you talk to Jeremy at Alchemy?
    Close to SF. I haven't been to Alchemy, but i'll check them out this weekend. 600 seems reasonable for a set, given some of the issues people mention with stock wheels. I haven't seen any deals for the Mavics or Eastons that seem to regarded, so I want to consider other options. Thanks!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis69
    600 seems reasonable for a set, given some of the issues people mention with stock wheels.
    The best thing about a custom build (if you get a good builder), is that they will take the time to make a wheel as good as it can be. There is a lot of detailed work that goes into it, that factories seem to skip... on all but their very high end wheels at least. Customs tend to be lighter also, which is strange but true. It's also nice that spokes, nipples, and rims are readily available should you need them.

    Jeremy would be a good bet...

  19. #19

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    cross wind?

    Another benefit to aero wheels is the deep rims...which are usually heavier and stronger than non-aero rims. Which makes for a stronger wheel overall.[/QUOTE]

    I was checking out a discussion of aero vs. non embedded in the following link

    http://www.campyonly.com/techtalk/techtalk11.html

    (under Fluid Dynamic Wheels)

    So are aero spokes inherently worse in cross winds?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by lookrider
    Really, I just replaced a worn gp 4000 rear with a gatorskin wire bead with around 1500 miles on it and couldn't tell all that much of a difference. The gatorskin felt a little more "substantial" but if I didn't know the tire was changed I doubt I would have been able to tell the difference. I have a couple of brand new gp 4000's lying around but I'll wear out the gatorskin first.
    I don't know what to tell you. I notice when there's a 100 gram difference in rubber on my mtn bike, too.

    I'm a freak, what can I say?!??!! (nah, just a weigh weenie)

    Bike feels largely different now with those Ultra Race tires and lightweight tubes now that i've got Easton Circuit wheels on my Monoc. Understandable, me thinks. ;) (not happy about the weight, though )
    Andrew
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis69
    So are aero spokes inherently worse in cross winds?
    They are inherently *faster* in cross winds. The deeper rims (the good ones anyway), create a sail or lift effect in cross winds which reduces drag... and along with that you'll get more side force, which could screw up your handling on the front wheel, since the force center is usually ahead of the steering axis. So... there is a trade off.

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