Amgen Tour of California Email Sign-Up |   


by JoE Silva

Now that we're staring down daylight savings time, riders all over will be rolling into parking lots and getting reacquainted with one another as they gear up for early morning rides. And nine times out of 10 what will they be talking about? Gear. New cleats, new clothes, and whatever else the heavy hitters are all using as they move towards the Spring Classics will be hot topics of discussion. But what would a pro, or a serious coach tell you to spend your hard-earned money on if you could only choose one component to upgrade? Wheels.

"Obviously if you buy a bike and you're not comfortable in the saddle or you don't like your shoes or your handle bars, that's a problem because those are you contact points with the bike," says Boyd Johnson of Boyd Cycling. "But for riders who are pretty dialed in, the wheels are the thing."

Whether you hope to try your hand at racing for the first time or are just looking for a significantly improved ride, a better set of wheels apparently will deliver superior handling and a more satisfying experience overall.

"It's a better feeling," Johnson continues. "If you're at speed and you have an aerodynamic wheel set, it almost feels like someone pushing on your saddle and helping you go along. The faster you're going, the more the aerodynamic benefits are felt. It makes it easier to maintain your efforts since you're putting out less energy, so at the end of a long day it could be a couple hundred less kilojoules that you've burned because of the wheels."

When you're ready, the best way to approach a new set of wheels is to be clear about what you're going to be using them for. Triathletes will have different requirements for a wheel set than someone who's set on riding hilly road races or criteriums. When it comes to materials, carbon rims are certainly attractive because of their low weight, but normally a good set of alloy wheels will do and will be far less expensive.

Other things to consider include increased rim width, which is gaining popularity amongst riders. Rim widths of 23 mm or wider allow your tires to take on a better profile since they don't have to bend back as much to fit into the rim. This makes a difference in cornering and handling, while also improving the tire's aerodynamics by having a better airflow over the tire and onto the rim. Another trend that new buyers might want to consider as well is looking at buying a wheel with 24/28 spoke count which can increase the product's durability.

"Our Vitesse has that option, which for riders who are 180 pounds and over can make a difference in the life of your wheels."

But while wheels might make a significant difference in your ride, they're not going to turn you into an over night superstar.

"It's not like you're going to put on a new set of wheels and go from getting dropped during a Cat 4 race to winning a Cat 3 race. But the wheels are where you're going to have your biggest performance increase."

You can find out more info about wheels at Boyd Cycling, online at boydcycling.com