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In the cycling world there is a regular argument between the weight weenies and the aero heads.  We thought we'd take a look at this and come up with some guidance as to what the science actually says.  

If you are a weight weenie, you might want to stop reading, the news is not good.  It looks like aero wins, and wins big!  (The table below gives an insight into what we found. Our full report is a 5 minute read.)

(70kg rider @ 200 watts)

We wanted to make this guide as comprehensive as possible, so these are the areas that we cover:

  • The forces of nature - what forces affect you when you ride.
  • The power to overcome - why those forces matter.
  • Why the obsession with weight?
  • Why the obsession with aerodynamics?
  • Yeah? So what? - Exactly what does this ACTUALLY mean? 
  • What does this mean for wheel selection?
  • Direct comparison weight v aero - just for fun! 

The forces of nature

When you ride you are really impacted by three different forces:

  • Rolling resistance
  • Gravity
  • Drag

All of these forces are very well understood, with well established methods of calculation.  The equations are as follows:

Force (total) = Force (gravity) + Force (rolling) + Force (drag)

Force (gravity) = G x sin(arctan g%) x W

Force (rolling) = G x cos(arctan g%) x W x Cr

Force (drag) = 0.5 x Cd x A x Rho x V^2

Where:

G = 9.8067 (Gravitational constant)
g% = gradient as a %
W = combined weight of bike and rider
Cr = coefficient of rolling resistance
Cd = drag coefficient
A = frontal area of bike and rider
Rho = density of air
V = speed in metres per second

Of all the factors in the equations, the ones we are really interested in are weight and air resistance (often referenced as CdA). CdA is made up of two components, one being the size of the object involved (frontal area to be exact) and the other being how well it slips through the air.

The power to overcome

You have to generate a force to overcome all of the above, and when we take into account the speed you are trying to maintain, that lets us calculate the power you are generating.

Why the obsession with weight?

Way back when bikes were made of steel and riders had a sly cigarette before a race, weight was the ONLY well understood physical way to obtain an advantage over your competitors.  When you talk in terms of large weight differences you can clearly see why that would be the case.  Below we show you the impact on rider speed (kph) for various changes in weight.  We are comparing to a 70kg rider holding a constant 200 Watts.

It is very clear that large weight differences make large performance differences.  For those heavier riders among us this explains a great deal!  If you think about competitive riders, it's not too much of a stretch to say a 5kg body weight difference is a realistic scenario.  That gives the light rider a real advantage on even the slightest gradient. NOTE - the benefit starts to reduce after around 5%.  This is due to the fact that the absolute speed has reduced so much, that even though the % gain is higher the actual speed gain reduces.

What about when you start to look at possible equipment differences?  You might think that a bike that is 1kg lighter than another would give you a big advantage.  That all depends upon your definition of "big".  If we run the numbers for a 1kg weight difference (graph above, dark blue line showing 1kg at 5%) we see that at a 5% grade you only get a 0.18 kph difference. If you are racing a stage in the TDF up a mountain, maybe 0.18 kph is a huge deal, but if you are racing in a flat criterium, is 0.03 kph (graph above, dark blue line showing 1kg at 0%) worth the $'000's of dollars for the light build?  If we look at weight differences of less than 1kg (as would be the case for possible wheel changes), we see the weight-dependent changes are even smaller.

A set of wheels that are 500 grams heavier will only cost you 0.01 KPH on a flat course and only a maximum of 0.09 KPH on a 5% gradient.  For the reasons stated above the difference then starts to decrease.

 

Why the obsession with Aerodynamics?

In the late 80's and through the 90's some riders started doing some pretty weird stuff to gain aerodynamic advantages - at the time everyone thought they were just nuts!  That was until they started winning and setting records....

You can google all of that later.

From that point on, people started putting everything in wind tunnels. Frames, riders, wheels, helmets, shoe covers, shaved legs and even electrical tape on the front of your fork to create vortexes???? EVERYTHING!

We started to understand the differences in drag that can be achieved. From that we were able to quantify the actual performance benefits of all these innovations.  Now we go back to our trusty formulas.

Below we show the benefit of both a 5% reduction in drag and a 10% reduction in drag.  Again, for a 70kg rider at 200 watts.  5% and 10% are indicative of numbers quoted for various items of aero equipment in the cycling industry.

As you can see this is a VERY different shape to the graphs for weight changes.  This is due to the simple fact that as you go uphill you slow down, therefore the aero benefit gives you a smaller speed benefit.

Yeah, so what?

Your bike wheels are a distinct point of drag generation. Using a more aerodynamic wheel can help reduce drag by reducing your CdA, therefore making you faster.

What is really interesting is when we start to compare weight and aero savings!

The graph below does just that.

Scenarios compared to the base case of a 70kg rider riding at 200 watts are:

70KG 0 CdA 300 weight - the weight is reduced by 300g

70KG 0 CdA 600 weight - the weight is reduced by 600g

70KG 10% CdA 0 weight - The CdA is reduced by 10%

70KG 5% CdA 0 weight - The CdA is reduced by 5%

We see a few key points here:

The 10% CdA reduction is better than a 600gram weight reduction up to a 6% gradient.

The 10% CdA reduction is better than a 300gram weight reduction up to a 7% gradient.

The 5% CdA reduction is better than the 300gram weight reduction up to almost 6%.

 

What does this mean for wheel selection?

Now we have done all the ground work we can FINALLY(!) translate this all into what it means for wheel selection.  We established the drag savings for each of our various wheels through our performance testing and have then produced the below data to compare our wheel sets to a set of Mavic Aksium alloy wheels.

We have highlighted our 88mm wheelset. Not the first wheelset that comes to mind when you think climbing!  We did this because they have almost the same weight as the Mavics.  For all the gradients we tested, you are better off with the aero wheel.

It's interesting to see that all our wheels converge at around the 4% gradient.

This shows the superior performance of our wheels, with the Aksium only winning out at all versus our rear disc wheelsets when the grade is above 7% (That would have to be a constant climb of 7% for your whole ride of course!)  This is due to the fact that only our rear disc wheelsets are actually heavier than the Aksium wheels. With all other sets they are both lighter and more aerodynamic.

This essentially informs us that we should all, in almost all circumstances ride, THE deepest rims we "can".  A number of things factor into that "can".  Most importantly you need to feel safe It's no good riding a set of 88mm wheels in a gusty cross wind, that will not be a great experience at all!  You may also not be that keen on riding around on super deep wheels just due to their look.  This all comes into play, and it is your choice.

But, the message is very clear.  If you are racing, or just want to ride faster - lighter IS better than heavier BUT aero wins. 

Direct comparison of weight v aero - just for fun

To round this all out, we thought it would be fun to look at a direct comparison between weight and aero savings at various gradients.  Specifically, what weight saving would you have to make in order to have the same benefit as switching from the Mavic Aksium wheels to the a set of ELEMENTAL 88mm wheels? (70kg rider @ 200 watts)

 

We think it about sums this up to say that on a flat road you need to reduce your weight by 26.5kgs to have the same performance benefit as the 88mm wheels.  

We hope you have found this all useful and informative, if so please share this with your friends and sign up to our eNews below - it gets you $50 off!  We also GIVE AWAY a set of wheels every three months to our eNews subscribers!

 CLICK HERE TO ENTER OUR GLOBAL GIVE AWAY 

Equations, assumptions and other calculations

Key equations:

Force (Total) = Force (gravity) + Force (rolling) + Force (drag)

Force (gravity) = G x sin(arctan g%) x W

Force (rolling) = G x cos(arctan g%) x W x Cr

Force (drag) = 0.5 x Cd x A x Rho x V^2

Where:

G = 9.8067 (Gravitational constant)
g% = gradient as a %
W = Combined weight of bike and rider
Cr = coefficient of rolling resistance
Cd = drag coefficient
A = Frontal area of bike and rider
Rho = Density of air
V = speed in metres per second
Baseline CdA - 0.3213

 

Assumptions

 

Cd changes related to each aero wheelset are constant.
CdA assumptions for our wheels have been based upon taking the results from our performance testing.
Rider power is a constant 200 watts.
These results are comparative, as such varying yaw angles have not been considered.  Given our rims will actually perform better at common yaw angles these results should be considered a worst case.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Please EMAIL US if you have any questions!

To see details and video of the UCI testing please click here

Who are you?

Wheelscience was founded in 2014 by Peter Coombe in Melbourne, Australia. Peter took up cycling in 2007 after 20 years of rugby playing and instantly became fascinated with wheels. After searching for some time for high quality, reliable, performance wheels he almost gave up looking!  Everything on the market was either very cheap and very nasty or very expensive and tended to flex under high power!  Plus it was impossible to tell the real science from the marketing hype.

Peter's work background in the automotive industry gave him a real understanding of the supply chain required to produce world class products. Peter decided to look more deeply into the wheel business and the REAL SCIENCE behind wheel performance.

After a few years of reading research papers and looking at what really matters in wheel performance, Peter and his wife Jo launched Wheelscience.

We aim to become the World's number 1 online carbon wheel business.  Why not come along with us?

If you have any questions, Peter likes nothing better than to talk about wheels.  Email him, he would also be happy to schedule a call with you for a chat.

Email - Peter@wheelscience.com

How do I keep in touch with what you guys are up to?

Just subscribe to our email list, that also entitles you to a $50 discount on all our wheels. Simply enter you email below and click subscribe.

 

Is buying online from you safe?

Wheelscience is a trading name for Australian company A.C.N 166 723 253. We are fully registered and insured.  We use PayPal to process our payments so you can get buyer protection from them as well.  You are at no risk dealing with us.

What is your warranty policy?

We offer a limited Lifetime warranty

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

Do you have any independent reviews of you wheels? 

Yes, please click here

Why can I not find many magazine reviews of your wheels?

We do not actively pursue magazine reviews as we have found it difficult to assess the true independence of writers.  The market is so driven by the marketing budgets of the big brands (Which you are paying for!!) that a great many reviews carry too much bias. For example, when did you last read a bad review of a big brand wheel?  Is it possible that they are all THAT good? If you know someone who you would like to review our wheels, who is independent, please let us know.

Are your clinchers tubeless ready

Yes, all EVEREST and ELEMENTAL series wheels are available as tubeless ready.  Note you can run a tubeless wheel with a tube if you wish.

IMPORTANT - Tire pressures in wider tires.

We state our maximum pressure in relation to a 25mm tire, however due to something called "hoop stress" wider tires have lower maximum pressures.  As a rough guide you should reduce the maximum pressure by 5-6psi for each 1mm of additional tire size.  NOTE these are MAXIMUMS and are far in excess of any recommended usage pressure.  Always follow tire manufacturers recommendations for maximum and usage pressures.

 Tire size Maximum pressure
25mm 125psi
28mm 110psi
32mm 85psi
40mm 50psi

Where do you ship to?

We Ship EVERYWHERE around the world.  Delivery is FREE even to Europe, which we ship to duty paid, nothing more for you to pay!


I want to upgrade my Disc brake wheels but am not sure which axle type I have.

This is a very common problem.  Just email Peter@wheelscience.com with the brand and model of your bike and he will come back to you with the required spec's.  You can add a picture of your current wheel hub if you have a chance.

You offer DT Swiss 240 and DT Swiss 180 hubs as an option.  Are they better than yours?

We offer DT Swiss 240/180 hubs because they have long been established as the go to performance hubs.  In our honest opinion the ELEMENTAL hubs match the 240 in all aspects save one.  The 240's have wider bearings and we use the straight pull version, meaning the rear wheel will be stiffer under EXTREME stress.  EXTREME stress means a 1800 watt extended sprint.  Under all other circumstances we do not feel a change is required.  We certainly do not feel the additional cost is required for TT or Tri racing, and only in the circumstances described above for road racing. Remember Peter spec'd these hubs for his 100kg plus weighing, 250kg squatting former rugby playing frame.  The DT SWISS 180 hubs are regarded by many people to be the best hubs in the world.

Tell me more about your braking surface and performance, especially the clinchers.

As we say above, the carbon materials now available and the use of none carbon inlays, with high temperature resins, makes braking effective and safe in all conditions. When combined with our ceramic fibre brake blocks, or our recommended replacements blocks, Reynolds cyro blue, your Wheelscience wheels will give you years of service and great stopping power. Correct brake block placement is very important.  Your blocks should contact the wheel at least 3mm below the rim and should be slightly "toed in" for the best, silent, braking.

I like the "Stealth" look, can I have my wheels with no decals?

Sure you can! Just select the "Stealth (No Decals)" option from the Decals menu.

How many "speed' are the wheels?

All our wheels are 11 speed but ship with a 10 speed adapter spacer.  XD and XDR are also available.

I'm involved in the cycling and triathlon business, can I work with you guys?

Yes, we have a partner program that allows Coaches, Clubs, and even shop owners to act as our agents.  The program is fully automated and you can sign up on our affiliate page.  The process is easy to sign up to and even easier to operate.

Click here to go to our partner page

I am part of a team, any chance of a group discount?

Absolutely!  Single transactions of three or more sets attract our team discount.  If your purchase is over $2,996 you can use the code "wheelteam" to help yourself to this awesome deal!  That code will not work for smaller orders.

Do you sell single wheels?

Yes, you can select that options in our wheel builder page.

Do you sell rims only so I can build up my own wheels?

Yes, follow this LINK

You claim your wheels match the big brands in terms of quality and performance, how are you prices so much lower?

The graph below demonstrates this very well.  We just don't have the advertising or distribution costs of the major brands.

 

Can you prove your performance numbers?

Yes. Firstly the data below is from testing done in Melbourne at the DISC velodrome

Secondly, and we are very proud of this, the below is the result of the Speed Zone challenge at Ironman WA, Jake Riley was one of our first ever customers and this was awesome!  

please see our testing page, if you would like any more info on this please just email us.

How strong are your wheels?

We test our wheels well beyond even the strictest European standard, but we think a picture is worth a thousand words:

Above is Wheelscience elite para athlete Jonathan Goerlach with his guide, Simon Hearn.  This awesome team put out about 400 watts between them when racing so we built them these.  They are standard ELEMENTAL rims and spokes but with tandem hubs.

What is your warranty policy?

We offer a limited Lifetime warranty

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

 

Crash Replacement

We will replace your crashed damaged wheel at a 30% discount to list price, plus shipping.

How do I keep in touch with what you guys are up to?

Just subscribe to our email list, that also entitles you to a $50 discount on all our wheels. Simply enter you email below and click subscribe.

 

Where do you manufacture your wheels?

When we were setting up Wheelscience 2012/2013 we started with the mantra "the right wheels at the right price".  That meant dissecting every aspect of the supply chain to minimise cost where it did not add value. We wanted to spend as much as possible making our wheels and as little as possible on everything else.

Apart from the many layers of middlemen, we found the greatest unnecessary cost to be freight and logistics.  With the global supply chain for carbon fiber being based around Asia, it only made sense to manufacture there.  We assessed China, Taiwan and Japan and settled on China.

We estimate we are saving our customers around $200-$300 per wheelset taking this approach.

We spent the next 18 months looking for a team to build our wheels. It took us a huge amount of time to find the right supply partner who would let us do what we wanted to do, not just buy wheels off the shelf but produce wheels to our exacting specifications and designs.

Once we found the right people, tested all the wheels and got UCI certification we knew we were ready.

We are now 1000's of wheels down the track and have to say we are immensely proud of our track record in terms of quality and performance.

 

 

SHIPPING YOUR BIKE WHEELS IS EASY - AND IT'S FREE!

We ship everywhere in the world.  Some countries have import requirements and taxes, we will help you understand the entire process.

 

 Country

Process

Australia

Free delivery by Auspost or premium delivery by FedEX to your door. You pay GST via your payment to us, nothing for you to do.  We do all the paperwork in the background.  EASY!

 

USA

Free delivery to you directly by USPS or premium delivery by FedEX.  Currently no Import duty is payable.  No Sales Tax is payable.

 

Canada

Free delivery to you by Canada post or premium delivery by FedEX.  Tax is GST @5% but we hardly ever hear that is actually applied but we refund it if it is.

 

UAE

Free delivery to you by Emirates post or premium delivery by FedEX.  Official import tax is 5% but we hardly ever hear that is actually applied but we refund it if it is.

 

Singapore

Free delivery to you by Singapore post or premium delivery by FedEX.  Tax is GST @7% but we hardly ever hear that is actually applied but we refund it if it is.

 

Europe (Inc UK)

Your parcel will be delivered by your local postal service or UPS with no more to pay. We use a freight forwarder, so no VAT or duty is payable.

Premium delivery by FedEX where we refund you the duty payable when the wheels arrive.

Rest of World Contact us and we will find out!

 

Shipping Times

All our wheels are built to order and we aim to ship within 10 working days of your order being placed. 12 working days for TT wheels.  We will keep you up to date when they are dispatched and provide you with a tracking number if available

Premium Shipping.

Free shipping uses the Global EMS network of postal services and is 100% reliable but transit times can be a week or more and tracking information may be delayed. Premium shipping has typical transit times of 3 days and is fully tracked.

Returns

You must inspect your wheels carefully BEFORE you sign for them if they are to be returned at no cost due to being damaged in transit.