Carbon wheel evolution

Everything about building wheels, glueing tubs, etc.
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by Lightweenie

Hello all,

For various reasons I have not been following road bike technology in the last 7-8 years. Coming back, many things seem to have changed drastically! Today I read in the Tour-magazine a short part about wheels being used at the Tour de France. The following caught my attention:

1. Aluminium wheels and clinchers have completely disappeared from the peloton.
2. No super light wheels with carbon spokes are used because riders consider them not stable enough at high speeds and also the mechanics would have to be more careful when working with them.

My question is wether 1 and 2 are really accurate, since I find them both quite surprising. On one side 7-8 years ago, aluminium wheels were still used by many, mainly because of the braking problems with carbon rims, especially in the wet if I remember correctly, and on the other side Lightweight wheels with carbon spokes were the pinnacle of road wheels - I remember pros would even rebadge them to be able to use them in races. What kind of specific technological changes have made that happen?

Also while googling a bit about all this it seems to me that in the meantime Mavic has a Lightweight similar wheel set (at a better price than Lightweights :)) with carbon spokes that was used at the tour. Doesn't this already contradict point 2 above, or am I missing something else here?


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by sungod

1 - clinchers aren't generally raced as if they flat things are usually much worse vs. a tub, plus they're heavier, were they ever common in pro racing?

2 - pros still ride lw and rebadging is alive and well... ... that's no zipp on the rear, he wasn't the only one

for light weight and maybe stiffness too carbonsports still have it, not sure about the discs but spoked the aero performance is not so good vs. more sophisticated designs

cost is more likely a factor, carbonsports doesn't sponsor any of the the wt teams, so either a rider has to fork out for them personally or the team does (and that'll be only for a limited number of riders)

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by sedluk

I think it can be entertaining to looks at what the pros are riding. Years ago it was a challenge to build a bike that weighed only 15 lbs. Today it is a challenge to build a bike and make sure it weighs at least 15 lbs.

Today there is little incentive for a pro team to pay big money for a set of light carbon wheels and then pay more for lead weights to weigh down the bike.

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by Lightweenie

@sungod, i agree with what you say about clinchers, but am still surprised that aluminium wheels would have completely disappeared. As for 2. The article said light wheels with carbon spokes are not anymore used (I suspect that this is an implicit reference to Lightweights, but TT equipment is a different story i suppose).Perhaps it is indeed due to the aerodynamics of the spokes, as you say...

@sediuk, very true, but isn't this one more argument to use aluminium wheels (say ksyriums or something similar that was used 8 years ago) and also have a much better braking surface?

All in all, the only reasonable explanation i can see about aluminium rims having disappeared, is that braking on carbon rims has really caught up to braking on aluminium rims, and although I have no recent experience, I don't expect this to be true in bad weather.

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by Marin

I have a set of 2014 Chinese carbon rims with hight-temp resin brake tracks.

I recently rode them in a timed 200km sportive with 7000ft of climbing/descending. The last 2 descents were in pouring rain. I had no problems slowing down, I just had to brake the rims dry, same as with aluminium ones.
Last edited by Marin on Fri Aug 08, 2014 11:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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by djconnel

I wonder about this question myself. Are my 2008 and 2010 tubular rims worthless now? (The edge certainly is, because they warp: envies are better)

Last time I did Mt Hamilton RR I got popped on descent because of lack of oractice on technical descents with my carbon rims. On hillclimbs, which are pretty much the only sanctioned racing I've done the past few years, braking doesn't matter. Same on races like Berkeley Hills with nontechnical descents. So return on investment going to more modern carbon would be very small.

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by tharmor

Lightweights aren't super visible in the pro peloton due to big brand sponsorships (ie. Shimano). Shimano requires, in many cases, that in order to get the group set, the team must also ride the cockpit + wheels.

If racers were forced to purchase their own wheelsets, I'm confident the peloton would look a bit different than it does.

Just my 2¢

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by sawyer

Interesting thought as to what pros would buy if they had to ...

Bearing in mind 6.8kg limit I doubt it would be a rush to Lightweights tbh ... aerodynamics and braking surface of other carbon wheels have moved forward faster. Suspect Shimano and Campag (esp new iterations) would still be popular.

Anyway, to the OP ... Mavic CCUs are still raced by pro teams sponsored by Mavic and have been in action for 6 or 7 years IIRC ... they have carbon spokes.
Stiff, Light, Aero - Pick Three!! :thumbup:

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by Lightweenie

Thanks a lot for the replies. So, I understand that the part of the article about carbon spokes is BS, and that Lightweight wheels are not used so much because their difference to other (sponsored) wheels is not anymore what it used to, and it saves a lot of hassle and money to just use what your sponsor provides.

However one thing I am still not sure about, why no aluminum wheels anymore? Most brands (if not all) that sponsor pro-tour teams also offer wheels with aluminum rims at presumably only slightly higher weights. So what I am wondering about is why would a rider prefer a carbon wheel on a rainy and long mountainous stage? It would make sense if braking performance is not significantly worse than with aluminum wheels - which seems to be what Marin suggests. On the other hand djconnel reports a different experience, but his wheels are slightly older now. Perhaps indeed there have been massive improvements in raisins and brake pads during the last few years, which I think is also what sawyer implies....

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by aaric

Carbon wheels are a lot lighter at deeper depths and wider widths. Most teams are running 35-50mm rims on flat stages, and swapping out pads etc would be a chore. Additionally, carbon wheelsets are more expensive, and what the sponsors want to be selling. Lighter wheels also feel snappier.

Here's an article from last year about the end of aluminum in the peloton: ... ton_281545

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by ToffieBoi

I believe its all about the money.
If sponsors says something, they have to do. Thats simple.

If a Mavic sponsored team uses aluminium clinchers on a rainy, descenty day; potential customers will think that carbon mavics are not good enough for these conditions.

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by Lightweenie

Hi thanks for all replies. I think I start getting an idea on what is going on :)

Also one more link I found useful: ... -wheelset/

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by NiFTY

Also the Winium MCC has been used by astana for years. Carbon spokes. Ambrosio nemesis aluminium tubs were commonly used up until recently at roubaix. I think last year (2013) was Boonen's first year riding carbon wheels there. Most of astana were still on them this year.

Re: No clinchers in the peloton, Tony Martin (3 time world ITT champ) has quite famously been riding clinchers (carbon clinchers) selectively in TTs due to their decreased rolling resistance.

It seems Tour is talking crap, 100%.
Evo 5.02kg SL3 6.77 Slice RS 8.89 viewtopic.php?f=10&t=110579" onclick=";return false;" onclick=";return false;

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