Race Wheel Configuration
If you’re reading this article, you’re likely doing everything possible to beat your rivals. Sometimes winning is about racing smarter not harder. This article explains how race wheel configurations can move you ahead of your competition. For wheels, there are two main impediments to speed: air resistance and rolling resistance. Air resistance is drag created by your wheels catching air. Rolling resistance relates to counter forces created by your tires rolling along the ground surface. As you lower these resistances, you go faster.
Reducing Air Resistance
Deep rim wheels and/or disc wheels are best for reducing air resistance. Rim depths vary from 30mm to 90mm. Typically, triathlon racing wheel configurations call for 60mm or greater rim depths. Rim depths less than 60mm are usually reserved for pure bike racing. In a nutshell, deeper is faster. However, as the front rim gets deeper, gusty winds have greater effect on steering. Consider your bike handling abilities when choosing your front rim depth. As for the rear wheel, when weight is not an important factor, a rear disc wheel is always fastest. Some say disc wheels are difficult to control in gusty winds, but many commentators provide contrary evidence. If you’re concerned about windy conditions, consider using 60mm rims in both front and rear. Otherwise, use a 60mm-90mm front wheel (depending on wind conditions) and a disc rear wheel. Remember, deeper is faster!!
There are several deep rim wheel brands, and all are not created equal. A few brands stand out as being elite for many years. Over the past decade, Zipp and Hed appear at the top of virtually every major review article. Other notable brands are Flow, Reynolds, and Enve.
Reducing Rolling Resistance
Tire and tube selection are important to reducing rolling resistance. Before selecting a tire, do a quick web search for a few rolling resistance charts. Many labs and manufacturers publish rolling resistance results for popular time trial tires. Typically, price increases as rolling resistance decreases. Based on your budget, select the tire make/model having the lowest tested rolling resistance. Don’t worry about puncture resistance! The high-end low resistance race tires have very good puncture resistance. A few notable brands are Continental, Specialized, and Vitoria.
As for tubes, use latex tubes. Latex tubes reduce rolling resistance based on how they change/maintain their shape. Various lab tests report that each latex tube provides a 1W-3W savings over conventional butyl tubes. That’s serious free speed!! Tire pressure is also a key factor in rolling resistance. Several labs have published weight-based inflation recommendations, so take a moment and find your ideal tire pressure – it could mean more free speed!
While there is no substitute for consistent training, you can take your racing to a higher level by finding more efficiencies than your competition. Keep training hard and racing smart!