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2014 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Wheels

Looking to buy new wheels this year? Check out the 14 featured in the 2014 Triathlete Buyer's Guide.

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The 2014 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 wheels from the guide here and check back to Triathlete.com for more Buyer’s Guide content.

Campagnolo Bullet 80

$2,400, Campagnolo.com
The draw: Iconic brand association

Choosing Campagnolo parts for your bike is more than an equipment decision—it serves as a membership card into a club of cycling devotees. The traditional Italian company hasn’t caught up with the technological advances in wheel design made by some brands, and ride feel is decidedly rough on straight roads and in corners. Riding these wheels is a loud statement of devotion to decades of cycling history.

Flo Cycling 60

$848, Flocycling.com
The draw: Affordability

Aero wheels don’t have to cost more than a bike. This small startup borrowed rim shape features from some of the best (and most expensive) race wheels and created a much more affordable version. With data to validate the speed of these wheels, Flo has quickly earned a following. Braking is superb and road vibration is minimal. They do, however, feel a bit sluggish compared to top-notch wheels when accelerating. If you want a set, be prepared to be patient: Flo has a queue of people waiting to buy its wheels.

Profile Design 58 Twenty Four

$1,800, Profile-design.com
The draw: Accessible carbon

This is the only race wheel at this price range that can match the features of wheels from the likes of Zipp and Enve. Bontrager, Hed, Flo and other brands offering aero wheels below $2,000 all cheapen wheel construction to drop the price tag; Profile Design builds its relatively affordable aero wheel with the same all-carbon construction of the most expensive options. And performance on the road lives up to those lofty expectations. They are fairly stiff and responsive when jamming on the pedals. Brake feel isn’t quite as powerful as the best carbon rims, but it is more than adequate.

Bontrager Aura 5 TLR

$1,200, Bontrager.com
The draw: Smooth ride, low price

Instead of building the Aura 5’s slightly lower-profile aero rim with a costly carbon backbone, Bontrager simply overlaid a slim fairing onto a standard shallow aluminum rim to keep costs in check. Despite its apparent flimsiness, the rim and well-sealed hubs on the Aura 5 have proven reliable across a range of weather conditions. While not easy to install, the Aura 5 TLR is compatible with tubeless tires, allowing mechanically inclined riders to opt for the smooth ride and puncture prevention of tubeless on a fast rim.

Rolf Prima Ares 4

$2,300, Rolfprima.com
The draw: Fast and fun

Low weight doesn’t make a wheel faster in a triathlon, but dropping mass definitely makes a bike more fun to ride. The Ares 4 clincher is lighter than most tubular wheels and the difference is unmistakable. This wheel feels like a rocket coming out of corners or sprinting from a group. Despite the low spoke count, Rolf’s proprietary lacing pattern allows these wheels to stand up against the rigors of everyday cycling. The broad rim fits the model for the most aerodynamically efficient wheels despite the shallow profile.

Zipp 303 CC Disc

$2,800, Zipp.com
The draw: Precise stopping

[buynowbutton:http://www.nytro.com/zipp/303-firecrest-front-carbon-clincher-wheel-11393]

One of the most popular performance wheels in the world is now available for those using disc brakes on their road or cyclocross bike. The Zipp 303 CC (Carbon Clincher) Disc uses the proven 45mm-deep Firecrest rim shape with six more spokes than the standard version on the front wheel to help fight the extra torque from a disc brake. The result is a smooth-riding, wind-cutting, hard-braking pair of wheels that would be a dream for most anyone using a six-bolt rotor disc brake bike.

Shimano 9000 C50 CL

$2,400, Bike.shimano.com
The draw: Workhorse strength

While just about every other wheel maker is striving for lighter, more slippery rims, Shimano’s C50 clincher is built to stand up to realistic demands for an everyday wheel. After months of abusive riding, these hoops didn’t show any sign of wear. Thanks to the alloy brake track, stopping control is fantastic and they dive through corners without swaying. The broad, semi-deep rim follows the newest outline for a fast, aero-efficient wheel. They aren’t the lightest, but you can mount these wheels on your bike and keep them there year-round. Who wants to buy an expensive wheelset only to have them hang in the garage until race day?

Vision Metron 55 Clincher

$2,600, Visiontechusa.com
The draw: Versatility

This do-it-all wheel is ready to compete with the better-known versions from the likes of Zipp. Its semi-shallow clincher rims have the aerodynamic chops for race day and feel responsive and nimble, making them an excellent choice for the occasional road race or group training ride. Brake grip is solid, ramping up consistently from light pressure. They are not, however, comparable to an aluminum-rim wheel. Expect an excellent connection with the road. Thanks to a broad rim and stiff construction, the wheel rides without roughness and keeps pace while aggressively cornering.

Mavic CXR60 Clincher

$2,750, Mavic.com
The draw: Synergy between wheel and tire

[buynowbutton:http://www.nytro.com/mavic/cosmic-cxr60-clincher-wheelset-sram-shimano-12560]

Designing the CXR60 clincher as a wheel-and-tire system creates two unique attributes. First, the combined alloy/carbon rim with Mavic’s own Exalith braking track offers great stopping power and all-weather predictability. Second, Mavic’s creative CX01 Blade system fills the space between the rim and the tire, thus creating an uninterrupted tire-and-rim profile that has proven to be very fast in aero testing. Adding Mavic’s typical quality and attention to detail make the CXR60 Clincher a great training or race wheel for a wide variety of riders.

Enve SES 8.9 tubular

$3,100, Enve.com
The draw: Fast and responsive

[buynowbutton:http://www.nytro.com/enve/89-ses-clincher-wheelset-dt240-10288]

A proven wind tunnel standout that is light enough for even the hilliest triathlon courses, the Enve SES 8.9 tubular is one of the fastest wheelsets available. The rims employ a wide U-shaped profile to help create excellent aerodynamic performance across a range of wind conditions, while creating the feeling of confidence in strong side winds. Available with a variety of durable hubs, the Enve SES 8.9 is a fast and versatile wheelset for riders of average weight looking for extra speed without sacrificing ride quality.

Xentis Squad 7.5 Clincher

$3,000, Xentis.com
The draw: Standout look and stiffness

If you’re tired of upgrading your bike only to find half your transition rack is sporting the same piece of gear, these wheels from Xentis are sure to make your bike stand out. The brand is new in the U.S., but has a long history with German triathletes. Braking feels unique. Stopping begins gradually and ramps up quickly while applying moderate pressure without having the tendency to lock up. Clydesdales take notice: They are quite robust and capable of withstanding the loads of larger riders.

Reynolds 72 Aero

$2,875, Reynoldscycling.com
The draw: Unique aero story

[buynowbutton:http://www.nytro.com/reynolds/aero-mix-72-90-clincher-wheelset-sram-shimano-23153]

Fat rims are in, but Reynolds has a different answer. Like many other top wheels, the outer diameter of the Aero 72 is very broad; the inner edge is unique, however. It’s pointy, almost sharp, and Reynolds claims this design difference reduces drag. Control in crosswinds is acceptable although not excellent, and braking feels reliable in dry conditions. When sprinting, these wheels come to life. They kick forward without hesitation.

Hed Ardennes Plus SL

$1,150, Hedcycling.com
The draw: Exhilarating ride

While this wheel looks similar to most training wheels, it feels remarkably different on the road. Broad rims do more than direct air around the rim. Spreading the tire apart creates a larger pillow of air to absorb and deflect road vibration. With a moderately wide 25C tire, the Ardennes Plus SL seems to float over the pavement, muting any roughness in the road. Cornering performance also benefits. These wheels build a rider’s confidence as they go deeper into a turn, knowing the rubber is positioned just right to aggressively jam through a bend.

Easton EA90 SLX

$1,200, Eastoncycling.com
The draw: Toughness; responsive feel

[buynowbutton:http://www.nytro.com/easton/ec70-sl-performance-rear-clincher-wheel-sram-shimano-11508]

Does your definition of a successful ride include something other than a new personal record? To make your bike more fun to ride, no upgrade is better than a light, shallow pair of aluminum wheels. Reducing aero drag doesn’t make a bike feel more responsive, but these wheels do. Sprint and they respond. You can charge through corners knowing the aluminum brake track is equipped to burn speed off in a hurry. And these wheels are equipped for tubeless tires without a conversion kit, allowing for smoother, puncture-free rides. Robust hubs and other components help you forget about the wheels and focus on riding.