November in the wind tunnel: "semi-aero"

Tunnel testing alloys was actually more exciting for us than it should have been.  While a lot of people choose to buy builds from us with the rims on test, this essentially amounts to a "public good" test, simply because these rims are so widely available.  The excitement mostly came from the fact that the internet was seemingly ready to have an aneurism there was so much demand for us to do this (which is a funny concept when you think about it - no one else spends the money to do this for people, not even the rim makers), and because so many "eyeball wind tunnel" experts had definitively pronounced the results long ago. 

We have to once again stress that directly comparing this test on this day with that test on that day is a fool's errand.  The way that we have designed our testing protocol, we will always be able to make significant back-references, but direct comparisons between different tests are worthless. Relative results of one wheel vesus another from test to test are valuable, which is why we have tied ourselves to the benchmark of the 404 wheel we used in our original test.  We will always keep that wheel as the reference standard. 

We tested these with a 23mm Continental 4000s II tire - one tire used in all tests, as it must be. That is perhaps the most popular tire used with the rims we tested, and is a standard for the wind tunnel.  Significantly, you must take note of the tire width as it is on each wheel when looking at these results.  The same tire will inflate differently on different rims: the wider the interior dimension between the brake tracks, the wider the tire will set up.  Among the rims in this part of the test, the differences are fairly small.  As we get into other rims, this difference will become more significant. 

 The biggest lesson out of this test is how much closer the Kinlin and Pacenti rims come to the performance of carbons than what the A23 did.  The overall delta between worst and first in this test was much smaller than it was the last time.  Tony Martin's not going to read this and think "you know, maybe I ought to use some nice mid-depth alloys in my next time trial," but the gap is much smaller.  Again, we are only able to make this statement because the A23 was tested against our reference wheel using the same tire (although we used a different type of tire last time), and the same reference wheel was used to measure the gap this time.  There is the noise of "maybe that's just a particularly bad tire for the A23" in there, but that's at most a very small part of the story.  Using our back-check method, the Rail 34 is faster than an RFSC38, while the alloys in this test are slightly slower.  

The Kinlin was the faster alloy.  As we will explore later, the tire's increased width on the Pacenti may account for all of the difference between the two.  It is impossible to normalize one tire to the same width on two different rims, and you wouldn't want to anyway.  What you could do is test a narrower tire on the wider rim and interpolate from there, but with these rims we were more interested in seeing if there were any gross differences between the two, and how they stacked up compared to the carbons on test.  We will explore the effect of inflated tire width in more detail in subsequent posts. 


Back to blog


Brian – Here you go –


Hello, I have been looking for the overall aero tests of the Rail 52 vs the enve and 404, but I haven’t been able to find it. I found a used set of Rail 52s and was curious about if it was worth it to purchase.

brian Lee davis

In due time. There is a lot of information to present.

Dave Kirkpatrick

When would we be seeing any Rail data side by side others tested?

Chris Joyce

Why bother is pretty simple. Testing and measuring wheels on as many dimensions as possible – aerodynamics, actual weight, rim inside width, actual tire width, stiffness, rolling resistance – helps us both manufacture better products and also recommend the right wheelset to our customers. Since we need to know to run this business the way we want, why not do it all publicly so everyone else benefits? Because we designed the Rails not solely for aerodynamics, but for whole-wheel performance, we're in the unique position among brands about not being afraid to conduct a test where we don't end up first. And also, come on – if we said we tested faster in the tunnel than Zipp and Enve would you really believe us? But if we show you that giving up some speed in the tunnel for some speed in cornering or stability or rolling resistance, we're hoping that you take a more holistic view of what constitutes a great wheelset, like we do. Fastest in the tunnel is not necessarily fastest period. In fact, knowing what we do now, it seems more likely that fastest in the tunnel can't possibly mean fastest all around. You have to give up quite a bit of what makes a wheelset great to really kill it in aerodynamics.

Mike May

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.