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2016 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Wheels

The 11 wheels reviewed in the 2016 Triathlete Buyer's Guide.

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The draw: Deep rim, tubeless ready

Bontrager improved its Aeolus line of wheels by making them lighter, wider and tubeless ready. The fastest and deepest of the lineup, the 90mm Aeolus 9 may not be your first pick for extremely windy or hilly courses, but these wheels are light and stable enough to perform well in most race conditions. Because they are tubeless compatible, you can take advantage of the low rolling resistance and smooth ride of tubeless tires if you desire.

The draw: Wet weather braking

Since 1984, HED Cycling has been one of the industry leaders in wheel technology, and its new Jet 9 Black wheelset is no exception. The wheels feature HED’s plus rim, with internal diameter of 21mm, allowing for better rolling resistance and improved aerodynamics. The standout feature of the Black series is the Turbine Braking Technology, which not only looks cool but also, HED reports, allows for 25 percent shorter stopping distance in dry weather, and 70 percent shorter in wet conditions.

The draw: Course-specific technology

Having been out for a few years now, Profile Design continues to prove that it is a strong competitor in the wheel market with its Twenty Four series. Each wheel in the series is 24.4 mm wide, and the 78 model is 78mm deep. While the outside width is on par with other high-end carbon wheels, the internal width of the Twenty Four series is quite narrow (at 17mm). This helps combat heat buildup and allows for better, more predictable braking. Profile Design worked with course analyzing company SpeedTheory to take popular race courses into consideration when designing the wheels for real-world conditions.

The draw: U.S.-built quality wheelset

State Wheels may be a less familiar name in the wheel industry, but what it lacks in brand recognition, it makes up for in quality. The brand’s 50/80W set is hand-built in Austin, Texas, and uses White Industry’s T11 hubs (which feature a light, but durable, titanium freehub) and Sapim CX-Ray spokes. The 50mm deep front and 80mm deep rear are both 25mm wide, which help improve the aerodynamics and ride quality of the wheels. With their staggered depth, the 50/80W handle crosswinds well, are plenty stiff and have braking that’s on par with most other carbon wheels.

The draw: Versatility

Reynolds has an abundance of wheel options for triathletes, offering mixed sets of wheels with different depths. The Assault/Strike set is one of the most versatile with a 41mm deep front and 62mm rear. This combo hits a sweet spot of aero and lightweight, making it a suitable choice for a variety of course profiles. A solid value at less than $2,000, this set is also tubeless compatible.

The draw: Color customization

Rolf’s Delta Rim Technology (delta track is the fastest position for gaining forward airspeed in skydiving) brings a redesigned rim shape to the Ares 6 for 2016. This new rim shape, which goes from 24.5mm at the brake track to 27mm at its widest point, helps direct the airflow over the rim. This, combined with Rolf’s signature paired spokes, greatly reduces the side force on the wheels. For 2016, Rolf also offers buyers the opportunity to have custom decals ($96 up-charge), or custom decals and ceramic-coated hubs ($150 up-charge). From “painted hills pink” to “obsidian black,” the Ares 6 is sure to match your ride.

The draw: The ultimate race wheelset
*Editor’s Choice*

In order to improve on its industry-leading Firecrest 808, Zipp’s designers had their work cut out for them. Not only did they manage to make the 808s faster, but Zipp also improved almost every aspect of the wheelset with the new 808 NSW. NSW, or Nest Speed Weaponry technology, refers to the company’s top-secret lab (“the nest”), where they have the company’s most advanced design engineers working on new projects. The 808 NSWs have a new shape that is said to save 3–4 watts over the Firecrest design, a new brake track (known as “Showstopper”) that has braking power on par with the best alloy rims, graphics that are printed directly onto the wheel and an all-new Cognition hubset that disengages the ratchet mechanism in order to decrease drag while coasting.

The draw: Mold-breaking design

Knight is a new brand looking to disrupt the wheel industry with a proprietary parabolic rim shape that focuses on the trailing edge rather than the leading edge of the rim. This design philosophy reportedly produces less disturbance, creating a faster wheel. Out on the road, the Knight 65s check all the boxes: light, responsive, stiff and stable. They’re also available with several hub options, including anodized red Chris King R45s.

The draw: Reliable braking and durability

Perhaps no other name in the cycling industry is more synonymous with reliability than Dura-Ace. Shimano’s wheels may not be the lightest or sexiest (the C50 set weighs nearly 1,700 grams), but they get the job done. Shimano currently doesn’t make a full carbon clincher, but the aluminum brake track on this set makes them suitable for training and racing. If you’re not counting every gram on your bike’s build and are looking for a low-maintenance, durable wheel set capable of any ride or race, the C50s are a nice pick.

The draw: Affordable speed
*Best Value*

Extensive research and design went into FLO’s all-new full carbon clinchers, which are sure to boost the brand’s strong reputation for making fast yet affordable wheels. Weighing 367 grams less than the previous version of the FLO 60 with a rim shape that’s a reported 28 percent faster, FLO managed to keep the price down, making these wheels a potential game-changer at about a third of the price of the most expensive hoops on the market. The 60s feature brand new hubs, a wide rim for crosswind stability and are tubeless compatible.

The draw: Standout design

Vision’s new take on the tri-spoke is a thing of beauty. Rather than keeping a traditional airfoil profile on the spokes, Vision determined that a wider leading edge paired with a sharp trailing edge made the wheels much faster. The new shape also handles crosswinds better than the tri-spokes of the past. While they are fast, they’re only compatible with tubular tires and were one of the heaviest wheels tested (at 1910 grams without quick releases).