Wheel weight - what is a reduction you consider "worth" the upgrade

I’ve posted before about wheels, and it’s a topic that comes and goes in my mind of things I’d like to change as an occasional road racer.

I had never weighed my wheels before, and all I have is a cheap luggage scale, but found that in total my wheels+tires is about 6lbs (2721g). My rear wheel is a powertap pro with g3 internals, 32h and velocity a23 rim, and that alone weighs 4lbs with continental 4000s ii tires (front is a stock axis sport from specialized, 2lbs total). Seems like this is on the heavy side? I raced this past weekend, and on a particular climb I found I was putting out 4w/kg and finishing a minute slower than other club mates in other fields (of course drafting played a role but I was drafting as well, but not a total apples-apples comparison). But I digress

This is a really subjective question, but was curious what folks felt like was enough of a weight reduction to consider a wheel upgrade to be “worth” the investment as far as performance improvement. 2lbs seems like a reasonable reduction going with a 1500g wheelset as a next tier up and relatively budget friendly, but from the bike calculator math it doesn’t seem to knock off a lot of time on a climb. So was curious what sort of factors people considered when upgrading wheels, purely from a weight standpoint and not considering aero at the moment.

Appreciate anyone who’ll humor me, topic is only fresh in my mind because I raced, otherwise if I’m not racing I’m not going to care as much about the wheels!

FLO Cycling - The Great Debate - Aero vs. Weight

Aero rims vs lightweight rims

Why riders like you need to go aero, wheel weight doesn’t matter — and how the wind tunnel proves it

AERO V WEIGHT

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Partial answer here, but I would suggest using bestbikesplit.com, and seeing what the time advantage would be. You can enter in a “race” then show how much faster you would be with your estimated weight drop. When I’ve run that number the result has usually been “meh”. What you also might gain upgrading wheels though is an aero advantage. Also, fresh wheels are just super fun and I get at least 10 more watts from a pure “wow these feels so fast” mentality :smile:.

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Does anyone know if the simulations run by FLO or the others account for coasting or braking?

For example, an aero wheelset may add an extra 5 kph on a downhill section, but if the rider’s skill only allows a certain max speed anyway, those potential gains wouldn’t result in a faster overall time. Based on FLOs sim for example, it appears that the rider would still be putting out 75% of FTP when in real life you may be braking.

I think the answer is no they don’t take this into account, which would mean that light weight may not be as far behind as these sims show. Personally, I rarely feel like I need to go much faster on downhills than I already do. Certainly there is still a significant aero gain over weight on flats, slight up hills and slight down hills (w/ pedaling), but I wonder how much they overestimate the impact on descents. Best bike split can use a max descent speed, so it would be good to include that in any test runs.

I also wonder about how accelerations come into play. All the simulations and wind tunnel tests appear to assume a constant power input, not something more real-world with corners, other riders, stop signs, etc. Seems to me that weight may have more impact in surge-y efforts on variable gradients with lower overall speeds.

I still think Aero wins, but maybe not by quite as much as the wheel manufacturers would like us to think.

You can get a 1500g wheelset quite cheaply. What’s the cheapest aero upgrade that’s worth it? I assume the title of this question implies budgetary concerns.

Just one option of the many available.
Bontrager Aeolus Comp 5 TLR Road Wheelset: $700, 1860 grams, aluminum rim with carbon fairing. I have them for my tri bike and they are great for the money.

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Yeah, budget definitely comes into play, since it’s something I’d have to justify to my spouse of how much better wheels could make me lol

But the links to the aero stuff are interesting, for sure!

I’ve got these popping up in my amazon, not sure I’d want to take a chance on them since I don’t see a lot of reviews, but the pricepoint is palatable lol