An evaluation of the lightest wheels available for a road bike.
For several years, I used a pair of Zipp 404 which are excellent all-round wheels; they are also quite light, yet aerodynamic. However, they are not the best choice for some of the steepest hills.
The combined weight of the Zipp 404 weight pair Tubular front 568g – rear 696g was 1266 grams.
Interestingly the new version of Zipp 404 Firecrest are heavier than my old model. The 2014 Firecrest tubular has a weight of 1470 grams according to Zipp. But, with claims of much better aerodynamics.
AX-Lightness Premium Road
My front wheel is based on a Tune Mig 45 20 hole. Built onto AX-Lightness SRT 22 20 Hole rim superspokes.
This comes in at 365 grams (actual) With a super light track tub, it is only 523 grams.
When I have visitors around, I sometimes give them this wheel to pick up with their little finger. It always elicits an exclamation as the little finger goes shooting through the roof. ‘That’s light!’ comes the cry. – Everybody needs a party piece, mine just happens to be offering a lightweight front wheel to pick up. (maybe I should take up juggling instead?)
The manufacturer claims:
“The light carbon rims are responsible for extremely low acceleration values so they will not waste even the tiniest bit of energy on uphill climbs; the stable rims have a high spoke tension of 1300 N also ensure high stiffness.”
SRT (spoke reinforcement technology) and SBS (seamless brake surface).
Very light, and still quite stiff. Accelerate marvellously up inclines. Handle very well.
The braking surfaces is integrated into the rim of the wheel, there is no separate braking surface. Though braking is fine, I wouldn’t be using in criteriums.
- Zipp 202 front 477 grams -(front – £728)
- Zipp 202 rear 604 grams total: (rear – £924)
- Total Zipp 202 1,081 grams
- Zipp 202 pair at Chain Reaction Cycles (764 + 944)
- Zipp 202 at Wiggle
Zipp 202 were actually used in Paris Roubaix for 4th place finisher. Used also by Carlos Sastre in high mountains during his Tour win.
I bought a Zipp 202 rear for £750 in January 2013 when on special offer at Wiggle. If you can be patient, keep an eye on price and wait for a sale to get wheels at a discount. It is worth the wait!
Very fast and light weight. Good for hilly time trials. They have a good strength. For a rear wheel, I was more conscious of rigidity; this encouraged me to get a Zipp 202 rather than the lightest I could find, as I assumed they must have good rigidity if used in Paris-Roubaix.
Clincher wheels tend to be slightly heavier with tyres and inner tubes and bigger rims. However, recent developments, have helped reduce the weight of clincher wheels. Quite a few now come with carbon rims to help reduce weight.
The Mavic Ksyriums Elite and SL are relatively good value. I had a pair of the SL. There were good, but they didn’t last as long as I would have liked. The bearings went and they proved difficult to mend
- Mavic Ksyrium Elite – Weight – 1520g (Chain Reaction Cycles)
- Mavic Ksyrium SL – Weight (pair of wheels): 1485 grams – front wheel: 645 grams
- Mavi Ksyrium SLR – Weight pair of wheels: 1400 grams. front wheel: 635 grams
Other options for the Lightest Wheels
- Lightweight Ventoux Tubular– 999grams $3,000 – $5,000 a pair!
- Black Tune RCT Carbon Tubular 989 grams a pair – £1,820
Why Do People Say Weight of Your Wheels Counts Double?
It is to do with acceleration and the fact the top of your wheel travels twice as fast as your bicycle. Thus to accelerate, the energy taken to push the wheel is greater than for the bike. Once you have maintained a constant speed, then the weight of your bike and wheels count for the same. But, if you slow down and then accelerate, the energy to move the mass of your wheels is greater than for the bike.
Therefore, a secret of climbing is to try and maintain constant speed and effort. Keep the action smooth (an advantage to maintaining a high cadence and smooth pedalling power). If you have a twisting climb of varying gradients then the effort to move your wheels will be proportionately greater.
Tubeless and Weight?
Another option is to consider tubeless – as you can ditch the inner tube. But, the weight saving tends to be minor, and you get more choice in tubs or clinchers