The Chainlink

I'm looking to upgrade the wheels on my road bike before a sprint triathlon this summer.  I'm pushing hard to break top 3 in my age group by actually training for the bike leg beyond my regular commute this year, but I'll take some speed where I can buy it.  I'd like to try an Olympic distance next summer.

I'm upgrading the wheels not the bike because I also commute on it, so I don't want to lock up a super expensive bike outside my office.  And it's easier to store an extra set of wheels in a closet than another bike.  Price range is ~$1000

Trouble is, I've gone to different shops and gotten different recommendations for more aero vs lighter wheels, so I don't know which to go with.  Anybody have some advice on how to choose?  Thanks!

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For solo speed riding (e.g.: triathlons, time trials), reducing aerodynamic drag offers a greater advantage than lighter weight wheels.  Lighter wheels are favored for quicker acceleration and climbing.  That being said, unless your current wheels are in poor condition, better wheels are going to buy you far less speed than training will.

I completely agree.  That being said, I have spent quite a bit of $$ on wheels myself over the years.  What djm wrote was an expensive lesson for me.  It doesn't have to be for you.

It depends a bit on the bike distance but you're only going to be on the bike for about 10-20k for most sprint triathlons.  So that's about 30 minutes on the bike.  An aero wheel is probably not going to save you much time and may hurt if it's a really hilly course.  Honestly, an aero helmet is supposed to give you better savings than aero wheels and it'll be a lot cheaper to boot.  

 http://www.wheelbuilder.com/aero-disc-covers.html

Or build your own using coroplast plastic (often used for political signs) and zip ties.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfoAJicjNJc

Building Bike Polo front and rear wheel covers. 

Note caution on winds and front wheel cover can badly affect steering.

Corrugated plastic is coroplast.

Hi there, 

I would look at the overall picture - do you have extra accessories on your commuter bike that may weigh you down? (i.e. fendors, rack, water cage), are your pedals used for clip-ons? From my experience with short distance racing, it's just building your endurance and leg strength that will make the most impact on your speed.  

Improve your bike time with… (1). Clipless pedals (which actually have clips that attach your feet to the pedal). It will enable you to apply power to the entire rotation of your stroke. (2). Clip on aero bars. Getting your body down in a proper position will decrease drag plenty more than swapping out wheels. Both these upgrades will cost a lot less than aero wheels. Finally, and this is free, (3)."Ride lots", is what Eddie Merckx answered to a reporter who asked him what advice he'd give to aspiring riders. Good Luck.

Thanks for the (still conflicting :-)) advice!  Computrainer ride #2 is tonight, so I'm following the training plan while I sort out options.

Take a look at this page which outlines the benefits of various changes in a 40k TT.  You'll be doing a 20k TT at most on the bike leg so the time savings is probably a little less than half the listed time savings.  Basically, it boils down to improving your positioning and stuff on your body provides the most benefit since your body generates the most drag while riding.  As an added bonus, it's also the cheapest changes you can make.

You'll be doing a 20k TT at most on the bike leg so the time savings is probably a little less than half the listed time savings.

Note that those estimates assume a baseline (non-aero road bike) average speed of 31 mph over 40 Km.  Since power required due to drag increases with the cube of the speed, those savings are going to be much smaller at lower speeds.  The greatest advantage of improved aerodynamics is for very strong riders who, not coincidentally, are racing where seconds matter.  If you want to go faster, get a more powerful engine, not fancier wheels.

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