Triathlon & Duathlon – top End Gear WASTE OF MONEY!

English: Golf ball.
English: Golf ball.

Rear: Zipp 900 Tubular Disc Wheel

Front: HED H3D 650

The Zipp has dimples like a golf ball, the HED is even faster than other HED wheels at more angles of YAW (etc etc Blurb Blurb). Both are £1000+++ each; perhaps not state of the art but probably better than the kit you currently have. Certainly better than mine

Unfortunately they will make little or no difference to your time

I recently did a 20 mile PB on my TT bike with my ‘race’ setup. I changed my current wheels (approx. £500 each) for the new setup as above and a few days later re-did the 20 mile course. Very similar conditions and very similar state of fatigue, hydration, nutrition and general race prep.

Throughout the course my bike certainly felt faster. Unfortunately the time at the end wasn’t…11 seconds slower. My HRav was 2 beats lower, however, and I think I could have gone just a bit faster. Maybe I could have beaten my PB by 10-15 seconds at best, that’s how I felt.

I’m sure the manufacturer tests will prove me wrong at the margins but I’m going to save my money for a nice holiday rather than a new set of wheels that will just look quite a bit nicer.

Just to be clear: Good race wheels WILL make a big difference over bog-standard wheels. However I’m really not so sure that ‘excellent’ wheels will be that much better than ‘good’ wheels.

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4 thoughts on “Triathlon & Duathlon – top End Gear WASTE OF MONEY!

  1. So I’m going to disagree on this one. Making a like for like comparison isn’t going to cut it. Simply looking at numbers on a monitor, unless you’re being tested in a tunnel hooked up to everything, its going to be pretty meaningless.

    However, I would say take the wheels for a month and go play. Compare your average speeds over all of those rides and compare to your previous activities. I’ll wager an e-dollar (given I’ve never met you, know where you live etc.. 🙂 ) that you’ll be generally faster on your aero wheels.

    1. hi Chris and thank you for the comment. I already have aero wheels 50mm and other ‘wheel related aero stuff’ that I won’t go into right now. I would have expected a top end tri spoke and a fairly top-end disc to out-perform what I had by a noticeable margin.

      I’ve now done 3 ‘tests’ and of course I appreciate many of the scientific aspects of wheel design drag reduction etc etc. On none of these did I go faster. I’m not saying that the are not faster, I didn’t GO faster & I REALLY was going for PBs. My HR on one was lower (which you could have argued meant that it really was faster) and on another test I was slightly fatigued, which again could account for the lower performance. The rides felt faster and of course on some sections of the course I noticeably outperformed my performance on those sections previously. The weather was effectively the same. Maybe as it felt faster there was some psychology that told me to ease off. I am a competent enough athlete to go at speeds where aero benefits exist.

      All the efforts were of a near-PB standard, so I wasn’t slacking. I was hoping for something like 20+ seconds improvement from the kit. Even if I had tried harder I don’t think I would have achieved that. Maybe 5-10 seconds, which you can easily get by practising transition.

      I have used oval chainrings for the last 2 seasons – they have made me no faster. Again the ‘science’ would say otherwise. Science is of course linked to selling more kit.

      So I would advise beginner triathletes NOT to believe everything they read AND TRAIN HARDER. That WILL make a difference!!

      My take is:
      1. If you have low-end cheap kit then good kit will make a noticeable difference
      2. If you are a ‘proper’ international athlete then elite-end kit will give you the marginal gains that you need
      3. Elite-end kit for mere mortals will probably give you a marginal gain too but don’t get hung up if you can’t afford it; it probably won’t make as much difference as training a bit harder for a few weeks.
      4. If you are a beginner triathlete, perhaps going for your first event, and not performing too well yet then you probably aren’t going fast enough for any of the aero benefits to make much difference. They tend to offer better gains at higher speeds.

      1. This is a great read and I was thinking along the same lines. I already had a pretty good aerobike Trek Speed Concept 7.0 with Bontrager aluminum wheels. On thinking it would make me “light years faster”, I “upgraded” my Trek to a Fuji D6 with HED 3 Carbon Fiber wheelset, aerobars etc. Sweet looking bike with all the trimmings. To my dismay, I was not faster on the new bike. As a matter of fact I was slower on some of the same rides due to the wind on the new aero wheels whipping me around quite a bit.

        I felt like the carbon fiber wheels made me not have to work as hard but the numbers did not support my “feelings”. My theory is when we spend a lot of money on something like disc wheels, we want to feel validated in our purchase by “believing” we have made big improvements. I mean who wants to admit they probably just wasted $2k on a new wheelset?

        I went back to my Trek bike (for emotional reasons), sold my Fuji and chalked it up to a very expensive lesson. All this newfangled gadetry sounds good on paper, but not really worth the money unless you are fighting for precious seconds which I am not at my current age group status.

        The only thing that has made me noticeably faster is blood, sweat, tears, hard work and good coaching. The rest of the stuff is cool, if you have money to burn of which I do not. Think long and hard before dropping a couple of grand for those carbon wheels or power crankset.

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