For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
The 2013 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide magazine is out on newsstands now (and check out the digital version), and we’re giving you a sneak peek right here. Check out the complete aero wheel section from the guide below and check back to Triathlete.com for more Buyer’s Guide content.
American Classic Carbon TT Disc
The draw: A standout on smooth courses
Nothing says a bike is ready to race like a disc, and American Classic’s Carbon TT Disc is more than a flat sheet of foam wrapped in carbon. It has a lenticular shape, meaning it slopes from the narrowest point at the brake track to its widest point at the hub. Although another aero wheel maker abandoned this shape for another, this competing company insisted the lenticular shape is aerodynamically superior to a flat disc. Ride is typical of a foam-core disc—it’s rougher than a spoked wheel, but the tubular tire helps quiet the vibration.
Photos: Gear From The Eurobike Trade Show Floor
Mad Fiber Clincher
The draw: Ride quality
“Thrilling” is the word that comes to mind aboard a pair of Mad Fibers. They feel feather-light and accelerate with the perception of an extra kick. The carbon hub shell and spokes help shed grams, and their proprietary construction method allows the wheels to feel as solid and stiff as a spoked version—even during the most demanding descents. Aerodynamic performance doesn’t quite match the fastest wheels, according to a tunnel test conducted by the editors of Triathlete.
The draw: Training-tough and race-ready
Even with all the advancements to the braking performance of carbon rims, aluminum rims still put them to shame. Shimano’s Dura-Ace C50 has a deep carbon section bonded to an aluminum rim, giving it some of the aerodynamic benefit of full-blown race wheels and the reliability and control of a training wheel. The brake track is 24mm wide, and ride quality is much smoother than typical training wheels. If you want to get one set of wheels and leave them on your bike year round, these are up to the task of going fast in races and working flawlessly while training.
Mavic Cosmic Carbone 80
The draw: Aerodynamics and ease
Aerodynamic performance is finally at the top of Mavic’s priorities. These rims are similar to the shape of the brand’s aero standout, the CXR 80, but have a more traditional rim and tire interface instead of using the Blade bumper to fill the gap between tire and rim. As a result, changing a flat is easier with this pair, eliminating one more thing to worry about on race day. And Mavic’s hubs are smooth and reliable, never needing an adjustment over a long-term test.
3T Mercurio 60 LTD
The draw: Aero rim shape without an excessively familiar badge
At less than 1,400 grams, the Mercurio 60 LTD is one of the lighter wheels beyond 60mm of depth. But it’s wind drag characteristics, not weight, that make a wheel worthy of racing in a triathlon. The Mercurio 60 LTD rim is 23mm wide, making it best suited to moderately broad tires, which roll smoother and with less resistance than narrower options. Braking performance is on par with the average for carbon rims.
Zipp 404 Carbon Clincher
The draw: Thrive on any ride
It takes more than an aerodynamic rim shape for a wheel to be fast. It must also handle well, remain stable in unpredictable winds and brake reliably. Zipp’s 404 Carbon Clincher excels at all of these, and is a standout in the wind tunnel as well. Its wide rim not only helps reduce aerodynamic drag, but also reduces road vibration and improves cornering by spreading the tire into a larger form. Whether you want a wheel upgrade for races only or to make everyday rides that much more fun, the Zipp 404 excels in every way.
Easton EC90 SL 38
The draw: Uphill specialist
Durability, weight and ride feel are the hallmarks of the ec90 SL 38, not aerodynamic shaping. The 38mm deep rim is just 21mm across. it is robustly constructed with 18 spokes on the front wheel and 24 in the rear, yet still weighs just 1,250 grams, making it one of the lightest wheels tested for this review. Brake control isn’t quite on par with the best pairs including enve and Zipp, but they are lively and energetic when jamming up a hill—the steeper the better.
Hed Jet Disc
The draw: Disc aerodynamics and the ride of a spoked wheel
Most discs ride roughly because a solid foam core is less absorbent than a spoked wheel. although it isn’t the most glamorous construction, hed bonds thin sheets of carbon around a spoked wheel to create the Jet Disc, making the handling and ride feel outstanding. The covers on the wheel are equally aerodynamic to foam core construction, and this wheel tracks through tight corners instead of jittering and bouncing around like most discs.
RELATED – Gear From The Future: Carbon Clincher Proliferation
Rolf Prima TDF 4SL
The draw: Crazy-light yet aero
Although tubulars are losing popularity to clinchers every year, one ride on this wheelset is a strong reminder of the tubular allure. Weighing just 1,170 grams helps the TDF 4SL launch out of corners, and the elastic glue connection between tire and rim creates a whisper-smooth ride. The 26mm-wide rim keeps this wheel among the aerodynamic elite despite the relatively shallow rim. Mounting a 25mm tubular to this wheel makes it one of the most fun-riding wheelsets we’ve ever tested.
RELATED – Pro Modifications: Jesse Thomas’ Bike Tech Solutions
Campagnolo Bora Ultra 8z
The draw: Because crossing Campy with another brand just feels wrong
While most aero wheel makers have adopted wide rim shapes, Campagnolo’s Bora Ultra Eighty utilizes a narrower profile suited to thin tires. Broader rims often help reduce drag at wide yaw angles, which happen on windy days and when riding at slower speeds. Since this is a tubular, it still mutes road vibration even with a narrow brake track and, despite the very deep rim, accelerates sharply.
Reynolds 72 Aero
The draw: One-of-a-kind rim shape
Like just about every other aero-focused race wheel maker, Reynolds’ new wheels are built around a wide brake track. This set, however, has one major difference from the shape that has quickly become the standard since Zipp released the Firecrest 404 in 2010. Reynolds’ wide outer rim tapers down to a sharp inner edge, which the company says is faster than the alternative. In changing crosswinds, they are pushed off course a little more than some aero wheels, and have a buttery smooth ride for such a deep wheel.
Karbon Speed Element 50/88
The draw: Affordable carbon
Carbon wheels that cost less than an entry-level bike are hard to come by, but Karbonsport makes them a reality. This pair doesn’t ride as smoothly or brake with equal precision to the sets costing twice as much, but they are genuine race wheels with aero features such as spoke nipples hidden within the rim. If you’re dying to have carbon rims and want to do it on a budget, these are the real deal at a discount.
Enve SES 8.9
The draw: Speed paired with control
Enve has mastered crosswind control. Even these extremely deep rims feel solid and steady in blustery winds. The bike leans, but never twitches. Braking performance is at the top of the heap for carbon rims—they modulate stopping power more precisely than just about any other. Other serious aero wheel makers actually acknowledge the SES rim shape is aerodynamically efficient. Even though the price is higher than similar wheels from Zipp and others, these wheels are a perfect race day weapon.
Bontrager Aeolus 7 D3 Clincher
The draw: Smooth-riding wind cheating system
When it comes to aerodynamics, the wheel starts with the tire. Bontrager created the R4 Aero tire specifically to match the Bontrager Aeolus D3 clincher wheels to reduce drag. A wind tunnel test conducted by a rival wheel maker proved it to be a very effective combination. Ride quality is extremely forgiving, although slightly less snappy and responsive under all-out sprinting than some others.
The draw: Aerodynamics coupled with Lightweight mystique
The German company that pioneered the full carbon wheel (and its insane price tag) has evolved with the latest aerodynamic developments to create a wheel that is light, gaudy, fun to ride and genuinely fast. The brake track is 25mm across and the deep rim section has parallel sidewalls and a blunt inner edge. Brake grip is surprisingly sharp—it’s one of the better performing composite rims. Fernweg is an unmitigated attention grabber that lives up to the hype.
Vision Metron 81
The draw: Genuine performance without following the herd
These weren’t the first wide- bodied aero wheels, but they can compete with the best. Vision clearly took cues from some of the fastest wheels in the tunnel when creating the Metron 81. It has a 26mm brake track and wide rim sidewalls to control the air over a variety of yaw angles. Crosswinds impact this wheel’s handling feel, but they don’t twitch wildly. Braking performance is solid and reliable, but not the best of the bunch.
RELATED – 2013 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Beginner Bike Kit
Follow Triathlete on Twitter @Triathletemag for inspiration, new workout ideas, gear reviews from our editors and more.