What Makes a Wheel ‘Wheel’ Fast?

Hello there, speedfreaks!  Today we are going more into depth about wheels, talking about what makes a wheel fast.  There are four components to look at: hubs, spokes, nipples and rims.  Depending on the terrain, a wheel is fast under any given circumstances in which it preforms the best.  A wheel that responds coming out of a corner is fast.  A wheel that is lightweight will take less effort to spin up to speed and feel like it defies gravity going uphill is fast.  A disc wheel on the back of your bike can transform your bike into a freight train that there’s no slowing down once you get over 28 mph.  A deep carbon wheelset will react to every pedal stroke, etc…

But at the center of every wheels is a hub.  A hub that rolls fast is the best hub, duh…  There are many options to select a hub that has high quality construction and bearings. Sealed bearing hubs from DT Swiss like the 240s or 190 which uses ceramic bearings and a lightweight freehub body.  White industries H2 (front) and H3 (rear) are renowned for their quality craftsmanship and show finish– these hubs use high quality bearings, tight machine tolerances and a titanium freehub body that has the strength of steel with the light weight of aluminum.  Chris King hubs are amazing as well and have the renowned durability and quality that their name has come to be recognized with, providing a unique engagement system that transfers your power quicker than you can say breakaway.  Of course, there is the old standby: Shimano.  These guys set the standard in design with their Dura Ace hubs, using loose ball bearings, their bearing surfaces are precision machined to give the smoothest and most durable rotation assembly available.

Choosing the right rim is precedent because you want something that is the best for the type of road feel and slippery wind cheating shape. On flat terrain where aerodynamics comes into play such as in a breakaway or time trial, a deeper section rim with a reduced spoke count or bladed spokes is best. A deeper section rim effectively reduces the spoke length needed to build a wheel, creating a stiffer stronger wheel. A stiff wheel is needed when a rider applies a great deal of lateral force to the bike when sprinting and climbing. Stiffness of a wheel reduces the lateral flex, thereby increasing the power transfer from the pedals to perpetuate forward motion. So rather than flexing side to side, a stiff wheel will allow a rider to get the maximum amount of power to the ground to go faster. We’ll (Wheel) talk about rim selection in the upcoming post.

Let the terrain dictate the kind of wheel that will be the fastest for you. If comfort helps you go faster over rough roads, shallower rims are best. If pure speed is what you after than a deeper section rim with less spokes will improve the aerodynamics of your bike. Aero spokes will make it even faster. If you are a bigger rider, this may not apply and using more, thicker gauge spokes in a wheel will make you faster because there will be less chance chance that you will break a spoke and not be able to finish a ride or race.




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