The best wheels for longer rides

People inquiring about wheels are generally quite good about including the relevant information we need to make a good recommendation, but one usual inclusion leaves me a bit confused - length of ride. 

Apart from when I would be sure to use alloy wheels on rides where there were going to be big hills, which were almost always "long rides," I've never differentiated wheel choice based on ride length. You could certainly make a case for going with something somewhat less deep for a long ride, as if you're fighting a wheel in cross winds, then that would get tiresome over time. And you know, a rear disc would be pretty not so fun over a long ride unless you were racing a long tri leg or something. 

The parameters have got to be speed and comfort, which are to some degree at odds and to an overwhelming degree dependent on tires. Which puts us back at matching wheels to intended tires. A long ride with less than paved sections will call for wider tires, which calls for wider rims (All Roads being the most differentiated on that score). If you're doing something like the 80-ish mile Mass-Sky loop I used to love, which is all on road and has a lot of flats and a lot of up and down hills, you'd probably be on 25-28mm-ish tires and in that case anything from Boyd Altamont Lites to Cafe Racers would be superb. Unless you were using much wider tires, in which case we're maybe back to All Roads.

But the big thing there is that I can't see doing anything differently just because of the length of the ride. Comfort becomes relatively more important, but in the global picture I see bike fit being really important there, and then tire choice and tire pressure also being key. I don't see the difference between Cafe Racers and RCGs or Belgium+ wheels being determinants of comfort, at all. Of course speed is a thing, and the aerodynamics would favor a deeper wheel which might come at the cost of needing to pay a bit more effort fighting winds, but both effects are pretty small across the range of what we build. You might get a few minutes out of Cafe Racers versus something much shallower (like GOATs) on a long ride like the Mass-Sky, but the GOAT's lighter weight and lower depth might help you feel a bit fresher and gain some of that back.

So at the end, I'm really at a quandary of how to help people are better selections based on ride length. Any ides out there?


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  • Dave on

    Chup – I don’t think that there will be an enormous difference, no. The inner widths of the rims are just about the same (within 1mm), and I see that as the biggest driver here. The aluminum spokes might contribute to some “buzziness” in the Fulcrums, similar to the way aluminum frames are more buzzy than steel frames, but I think if you use good tires and inflate them to a reasonable pressure, then that should be a pretty small effect.

  • chup on

    Do you think Fulcrum Racing Zero Carbon DB with the aluminum spokes and the “G3” lacing would be more harsh than the Altamont? Does lacing pattern or material of the spokes contribute more to the harshness/compliance? Thanks!

  • David on

    Tires. I can’t speak to the effects of deep aero rims because I don’t use them, but I have been moving all my wheels to wider 25mm tires and using the Tire Pressure app to determine pressure. I can report that more supple tires (Schwalbe tubeless and Vittoria tubular) using the correct pressures yield a feeling of floating over the road that can be sublime, if you are paying attention enough to notice it. My next round of tire purchases will be aimed at 28- and 32mm widths. They say the only way to really know how much is enough is to find out how much is too much.

  • Dave on

    Two hands for the taco, Dave. Multitasking is so over.

    Bicycles, catastrophic wheel explosions should be a total non-issue at this point, but I guess it might imply a little extra insurance against “what if?” And yeah, supple good riding tires are mandatory. I HATE crappy tires.

  • BYcycles on

    Does “best wheels for long rides” mean which of them are least likely to catastrophically explode when you are 80 miles deep into “Deliverance” country? Maybe that’s what they mean when they mention ride length? Otherwise, yeah, the optimum speed/comfort blend seems to be pretty much about proper fit, tires, tire pressure, and what your goals are for your “long ride”. I go for alloy hand-builts 32+ spokes with “indescribable” lo-pro rims that take at least 35mm tires because I’m never gonna set a new land-speed record no matter what…and even though I like banjo music I don’t wanna hear it while I’m dealing with a busted wheel “out yonder”.

    BTW, this here: https://janheine.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/12-myths-in-cycling-1-wider-tires-are-slower/

    says you can go wide and not be slowed down by it if you run “supple” tires. It has proven to be true in my case.



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