How to choose the most aerodynamic wheel selection.
With Ironman AZ coming up this weekend in our backyard, we want to educate you on the importance of wheel selection in regards to an event or race.
There are many wheels out there. As a rider, you might be limited to the wheels you train on or you might have a few sets of ‘race wheels’. Many ‘race wheels’ are made from a higher quality of carbon, have some sort of aerodynamic profile to them and include a higher quality of hub. Not all carbon wheels are created equal in terms of quality of design, carbon used (we’ll go into a blog on this topic!), and the aerodynamic advantage.
Again, not all wheel selections are created equal when it comes to aerodynamics. When wheels are tested in the Faster wind tunnel without the bike, the result is actually going to be different once you add the bicycle into the mix. A wheel on a bike will change the airflow and the aerodynamic effect the wheel has. Also when you add the same wheel onto a different bike, it’s going to have a different aerodynamic effect compared to the first bike. Throw in different tires, and you still have different results for the same wheel! This is why wind tunnel testing is a great resource to finding what wheel set-up will work best with your particular bike.
The other piece that comes into play when choosing the best wheel set-up is the course conditions (is it flat vs hilly) and the speed and direction of the wind. When we advise athletes on wheel selection for Ironman Kona, the wheel selection is very different to what we would suggest for the use at Ironman Arizona.
Most questions we get when athletes are looking for the right wheel set is: “do I go with a disc wheel?” “Do I use a lower profile wheel in the front and higher profile wheel in the back?” to “will I get blown over if I use high profile wheels?”. Again, these answers depend on the course profile, wind direction and speed and also the rider’s skill – if they are a lighter rider, can they handle a higher profile design or will they fight the side forces from the wind?
When athletes use the Faster wind tunnel and test a selection of wheels on their race set-up, we are then able to piece together the best options for different situations that they may encounter at their event. For instance, we can find out what wheel selection would be optimal for a wind coming from the side vs head-on. Again, every bike and wheel set-up is unique so what might be ideal for your friend’s bike, might not work the best for yours.
If you have questions concerning your wheel set up and would like to schedule a wind tunnel test, please contact us!