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FAQs for carbon wheels

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If you want to optimize your road bike, sooner or later you will think about carbon wheels. Among other things, a carbon wheelset stands for weight savings and a special look. There are also models on the market for mountain bikes. However, the purchase is associated with high costs. For whom the switch to a carbon wheelset is worthwhile and other questions are answered here.

 

  1. What are the benefits of carbon wheels?
  2. Are carbon wheels faster?
  3. For whom are carbon wheels worthwhile?
  4. Do carbon wheels brake worse?
  5. Why are carbon wheels becoming more and more affordable?
  6. What should I look out for in carbon wheels?
  7. What are the best carbon wheels?

1. What are the benefits of carbon wheels?

Carbon fibres, also known as carbon fibres, are considered to be particularly resilient compared to other materials despite their very low weight. In addition to bicycle frames, wheels can also be made from carbon fibre-reinforced plastic. To be more precise, a full carbon wheel has rims and brake flanges made of this plastic. Carbon wheels are said to have some good properties. This is why they are so popular with both racing cyclists and mountain bikers. Compared to wheels made of aluminium, a carbon wheelset is usually lighter. In addition to the material, this is also due to the fact that fewer spokes are usually attached to the lightweight construction. The stiffness of the wheels makes this possible. Low weight is particularly noticeable in acceleration phases. You can also feel that less effort is needed when going uphill. The low weight makes for more agile steering behaviour. The stiffness of carbon wheels makes for a better riding experience. Since the wheel twists less, most of the body power invested is noticeably converted into propulsion. Higher speeds than with aluminium wheels are possible with less energy expenditure. Lateral stiffness increases the higher the rim height and the wider the rim. Carbon as a material offers rim construction not only possibilities for more stiffness, but also for aerodynamics. The rim height is decisive here. Higher rims can be designed without becoming too heavy. Braking air turbulence can thus be reduced. There is a rim height by which the air resistance decreases instead of increasing with increasing angle of attack. These are so-called aero rims. Cyclists are exposed to various resistances. Air resistance, gradient resistance, rolling resistance and acceleration resistance cost a lot of energy. The aerodynamics of carbon wheels allow for less power demand. Although aerodynamics increase due to rim height, at the same time this makes a wheel susceptible to side winds. Since the rear wheel is not susceptible to side winds, a higher rim can be selected here than for the front wheel.

2. Are carbon wheels faster?

Weight and aerodynamics are considered factors for high speed. Less weight means that less mass has to be moved. This is why particularly lightweight bikes are popular in racing cycling. Less energy is used to create propulsion. The low weight of wheels is particularly noticeable in acceleration phases. Aerodynamics can also contribute to speed. However, only if you ride at a speed where it comes into play. The faster you ride, the more you benefit from aerodynamics. The aerodynamic improvement is only noticeable from an average speed of approx. 30 km/h. To really benefit from your wheels, you must already be trained. Beginners will hardly be able to maintain this performance. It's all about improvement in nuances. Good equipment maximises one's ability. In bike races or a triathlon, this can make all the difference.

3. For whom are carbon wheels worthwhile?

Anyone who discovers a passion for cycling is quickly tempted to invest a lot of money in their new hobby. Yet it is not advisable, especially for beginners, to immediately upgrade to carbon rims. For one thing, it is not foreseeable whether the enthusiasm for cycling will last at all. For another, the advantages of the carbon wheelset only become visible from a certain training level. Only at high average speeds do the advantages of aerodynamics take effect. Riding high cuts is rarely possible for a beginner. If you race or do triathlons, a carbon wheelset can be worthwhile. Since carbon wheels are expensive, a purchase should be well considered. In addition to stiffness and weight, the decisive factor for MTB riders is robustness. Where aluminum rims suffer dents, carbon rims only suffer a few scratches. As a rule, they are better able to withstand impacts. Before carbon rims get dents, however, they break properly and are thus unusable. They are therefore robust for longer, but then they break for good. Aluminum rims suffer damage more quickly, but can still be repaired. In the end, it is up to each individual to invest in expensive bicycle parts. It doesn't matter whether it's an enduro, road or gravel bike. Besides aerodynamics and weight, the look alone can be motivating. The conversion itself is also fun. If you enjoy optimizing your bike and have the necessary change at hand, you should try out carbon wheels.

4. Do carbon wheels brake worse?

Carbon wheels are often cited as a disadvantage due to their braking properties. If you ride your carbon wheelset in combination with rim brakes, you should keep in mind the heat sensitivity of the material. Carbon fibers are bonded together by resin. It can become soft when exposed to heat. The quality of the resin also plays a role. Braking friction therefore puts extreme stress on the material. Frequent braking is often unavoidable, especially on tours with a steep drop in altitude. The rim flank suffers wear as fibers detach from each other. So-called delamination can severely damage carbon rims. If you ride carbon wheels in combination with disc brakes, the problem of heat sensitivity is eliminated. The brake discs and hub are exposed to high temperatures, not the rim itself. This type of brake is now common on both road and mountain bikes. Disc brakes are somewhat heavier in weight, but prevent disproportionately fast wear of the wheels.

5. Why are carbon wheels becoming more affordable?

Carbon wheels were once exclusive and only common in professional sport. This was mainly due to the excessively high price. Today, more and more people are cycling ambitiously and are happy to invest a lot of money in their passion. In the meantime, a carbon wheelset has become somewhat more affordable than it was just a few years ago. On the one hand, this is due to the production of carbon fibres. Their processing no longer has to be done by hand. On the other hand, the way of braking has changed. The disc brake was introduced. In the past, rim brakes were used. Due to the heat sensitivity of the material, high-quality resins and brake pads had to be used to counteract delamination. Thanks to disc brakes, the braking heat no longer has to be dissipated via the rims themselves. Wheels can be designed differently as a result. Cheaper resins for bonding the carbon fibres, other wall thicknesses and geometry in the shape of the rim make for a more affordable price.

6. What do you have to look out for in carbon wheels?

Carbon wheels are robust, but should still be checked carefully for cracks after falls or rough descents. The fact that, unlike aluminium wheels, they do not get dents but break should be kept in mind. Many manufacturers offer to replace broken wheels at the time of purchase. Investing a little more money to have a contact person for ordered parts can be worthwhile. If you need a tyre lever to dismantle the casings, be careful. Some instructions for carbon rims state that the tyres should be fitted by hand. However, tyre levers made of plastic instead of aluminium should not harm the wheels if used carefully. With sufficient liquid soap or washing-up liquid for lubrication, tyres can also be fitted entirely by hand. This is the safest way. If you ride carbon wheels in combination with rim brakes, latex tubes are not recommended. They can burst due to the heat of the brakes. Folding tyres, also called clinchers, have proven their worth. Their low rolling resistance prevails over, for example, glued tubular tyres. Carbon wheels can usually also be ridden tubeless.

7. What are the best carbon wheels?

Brands such as Shimano, Campagnolo, Aerycs, Sram, Zipp, Easton, Mavic or DT Swiss have proven themselves in the production of carbon wheels. In addition to wheels, most brands also manufacture other high-end components for bicycles. There are also regional manufacturers that usually offer fair prices, honest advice and good customer service. Ultimately, the purchase decision remains individual. Depending on what you need and what you value.

Are you looking for a new bike with carbon rims? Take a look at the buycycle shop. There you will find the largest selection of bikes - whether road bike, gravel bike, crosser or mountain bike.

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