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2015 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Wheels

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The draw: Top-level aerodynamics at a mid-level price

The modern wide bulge section rims of the Strike SLG offer aerodynamics that are competitive with wheels that cost significantly more as well as crosswind stability that exceeds many. The carbon braking surface, in combination with Reynolds Cryto pads, provides strong and well-modulated dry braking, better than almost any carbon rim offered just a few years ago. Expect some delay and grabbiness in wet conditions compared to current class leaders such as the Zipp Firestrike.
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The draw: All-rounder

Carbon clinchers may have surpassed tubular race wheels in popularity among triathletes, but the bump-absorbing suppleness offered by tubulars keeps them relevant—and seriously fun to ride. The HED Stinger 6 is suited to any race, from flat time trials to hilly road races. They are 60mm deep but ride and handle like a much shallower wheel. If you fancy tubular wheels and need one set to handle a variety of course profiles, look to the Stinger 6.

The draw: Otherworldly braking

Most experienced riders thought braking performance with carbon rims could never match the consistency and strength of an alloy rim wheel. Zipp’s Showstopper braking surface proves that isn’t true. The Zipp 404 Firestrike wheels and corresponding pads brake better than almost any wheel ridden by testers, even when wet. In addition to the stellar braking performance, the internal rim width of the Firestrike is 1mm wider than Zipp’s Firecrest 404, which improves tire aerodynamics when using wider tires.
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The draw: Aero performance, controllability

This is among the very fastest spoked wheels in a race against the clock, and offers more than just straight-line speed. Aero shaping validated by wind tunnel testing has proven that these rims aren’t just deep—they truly cut through the wind. Handling in crosswinds, while not totally easy, feels very similar to shallower aero wheels. When sprinting up to speed, the Aeolus 9 D3 is responsive, but some other aero wheels have a little more kick. Road vibration, however, is significantly lower than other extra-deep wheels.

The draw: Fun

Step on the pedals and the Qurano 60 responds aggressively. With a super-light tubular rim, the stiffly constructed wheelset propels forward with minimal lag. Running tubular tires is the more expensive and time-consuming option (and not necessarily faster), so this wheel is best for traditionalists or those looking for the lightest possible configuration. Riding these wheels up hills or accelerating out of a corner during a descent is a blast thanks to the supple connection with the road and feather-light weight.

The draw: Stiff and smooth

If you’re looking to upgrade to tubeless tires, these wheels should be at the top of your list. A smooth ride comes from the carbon laminate rims while a wider flange hub, bladed straight-pull spokes and an offset rim design make these wheels super stiff. Tubeless tires allow you to run lower tire pressure, which has a huge impact on ride quality, inspiring confidence on rough roads and improving cornering ability. They can also be run with tubes and clincher tires.

From $2,900,
The draw: Light, stable in side winds

Whether you are looking for a light climbing wheel or are concerned about racing in crosswinds, the Enve SES 3.4 is a strong choice. They employ wide and rounded rims to enhance aerodynamics across a range of yaw angles, while keeping the wheels as consistent as possible in side winds. Available with DT Swiss or Chris King hubs, the Enve SES 3.4 offers some of the most well-sealed hubs available, and they can be ridden everyday or brought out just for special occasions.
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The draw: Affordable aerodynamics

Swiss Side constructs these affordable aero wheels with a 62mm carbon fairing bonded to the aluminum rim, making them fairly heavy at nearly 1,700 grams. Don’t expect huge propulsion accelerating out of corners or while climbing. The Hadrons really shine once they’re up to speed, and offer confidence-inspiring handling on technical descents. The aluminum brake track means these wheels are well suited to everyday riding. If you’re looking for one wheelset to train and race on, the Hadron may be your next upgrade.

The draw: Responsive ride feel

The wide bulged and blunt Delta Rim shape of the Ares6 ES is designed to keep the air flowing smoothly around the wheel while maximizing stability. Rolf Prima combines this proven rim shape with its unique paired spoke and hub design to create a wheel that transmits power effectively while reducing overall weight. The result is a wheel with aerodynamics, weight and stiffness among the very best mid-depth wheels. While the hubs of the Ares6 ES do not compare to those of the benchmark wheels, the Ares6 ES offers a distinctive and very competitive package at a lower price.

$2,750 with tires,
The draw: Symbiotic wheel-and-tire pair

With a unique rubber bumper to smooth the transition between tire and wheel, CXR wheels have always been aerodynamic, durable, stable and responsive. However, the rolling resistance of the original integrated Yksion tires was on the higher end of the scale and hurt the overall performance of the wheel system. Thankfully, Mavic revamped its tires. The new integrated Yksion tubular tire that comes on the CXR is grippier and has notably improved rolling resistance. While the weight of the CXR 60 is a bit heavier than some tubular wheels, the Cosmic CXR 60 T is versatile and fast.

The draw: Versatility

For a carbon clincher delivering performance at a tolerable price, Profile Design’s Twenty Four range is a great option. The 38s aren’t as aero as deeper options, but they’re lighter, making them suitable for hilly triathlons, road races or even daily training. Profile’s rim design and carbon lay-up offer reliable braking and predictable handling, even in crosswinds. For an ultra-smooth ride, take advantage of the wide rims and run these wheels with 25mm tires.

The draw: Premier aerodynamics, very low price

If you are willing to compromise on weight, finish and dealer support for a disc with benchmark aerodynamic performance at the lowest possible price, the FLO Disc is the one. With a toroidal-plus-lenticular shape, the FLO Disc is basically a traditional spoked wheel with an integrated carbon laminate fairing. The aluminum braking surface provided consistent feel and the FLO Disc can be trued, but broken spokes require factory service.

The draw: Smooth ride

Among super-deep wheels, the comfortable ride of the Metron 81 Clincher stands out. Despite the deep rims, vibration over rough pavement is held to a minimum. Crosswinds have a moderate effect on stability—you won’t be blown off the road on account of this wheelset. Braking performance is decent but not exceptional when compared with some other aero options.

The draw: Versatile, proven

Few carbon wheel companies have the pedigree of Corima. Made in France, the 47 S+ is built with a foam core rim (most are hollow), which enhances lateral stiffness while also sucking up vibration like few others. The rim has a distinctive 12K carbon weave, and the 47mm rim depth offers great versatility across a wide range of terrain and wind conditions for most riders. Braking with Corima’s cork pads is strong and well modulated in dry weather with some of the usual carbon delay in wet conditions.

The draw: Tubeless option

All the key features of an all-around performer are in this wheelset. Its aero performance, crosswind stability, durability and braking control are on par with the best among mid-depth aero wheels. And on top of those benefits, the EC90 Aero 55 Clincher has a trump card—this rim is compatible with a tubeless setup, allowing for a smoother ride and fewer flat tires. While road tubeless may not yet be faster in a race (due to rolling resistance), it’s a fantastic upgrade for everyday training.