September 28, 2015
FLO Cycling - How to Pick Race Wheels for a Triathlete
One of the most common questions we get at FLO has to do with wheel selection. It's a great question.
Wheel selection depends on a few things. For starters, what you intend to use the wheels for is important. Today, we'll consider picking wheels for triathletes.
I like to break the selection process down and look at each wheel separately. First we'll take a look at the front wheel, and then we'll take a look at the rear wheel.
Picking your Front Wheel as a Triathlete
Picking your front wheel can be a challenge. Most people who are racing try and find the fastest wheel possible. On paper, our front FLO 90 is the fastest front wheel we make. Naturally, many people believe that the front FLO 90 is the best front wheel for them, but that is not always the case. Here's why.
The front wheel is affected by the wind differently than the rear wheel since it has a steering axis (the front fork). When the wind hits the front wheel, it can twist the handle bars. We’ve designed our wheels to limit the amount of twist, but it still can happen in strong winds. The deeper the front wheel, the more this effect is magnified. Since a front FLO 90 is deeper than a front FLO 60, the front FLO 90 will be affected more by winds than the front FLO 60. The same goes for the front FLO 60 when compared to the front FLO 30. Since the front FLO 60 is deeper, it will be affected more by winds than the front FLO 30.
Knowing that the biggest drag component on your bike is your body, it's important for a triathlete to spend as much time in the aero bars as possible. This makes you faster because you are reducing the amount of drag your body produces. The front FLO 60 makes sense for most triathletes because it's fairly easy to control in winds, which allows most riders to stay in the aero bars. With a front FLO 90, more riders will need to come out of the aero bars to confidently handle there bike when the winds pick up. A small amount of time out of the aero bars on the front FLO 90 would cause you to lose more more time during the race, than if you were able to stay in the aero bars with a front FLO 60.
I don't say any of this to discredit the front FLO 90. If you are a very confident bike handler the front FLO 90 makes a great front wheel choice. I also think the front FLO 90 makes a great addition to the front FLO 60, if you have more than one front wheel. Having both wheels will give you a lot of versatility for any race course or condition.
A front FLO 30 makes a great front wheel for light riders or people who hate any type of wind. Female riders often choose a front FLO 60 but some prefer the front FLO 30 because of their size.
About 90% of triathletes using FLO wheels are using a front FLO 60. For a fast and versatile front wheel, the front FLO 60 makes the best choice for most triathletes.
Picking your Rear Wheel as Triathlete
The biggest difference between the front and rear wheel is that the rear wheel does not have a steering axis. Instead, the rear wheel is fixed in the rear triangle of the bike. As a result, your rear wheel will not be affected by the wind like the front wheel. Instead of a twist, you will experience more of a push feeling. While any unplanned movement from wind can be unpleasant, a push is a lot friendlier than a twisting of the handle bars. It's also known that the having a deeper rear wheel in relation to your front wheel moves your center of pressure towards the rear end of your bike. This shift in the center of pressure increases your stability in windy conditions and is the reason you'll almost never see a rider using a deeper front wheel than rear wheel. In the end, can choose a deep rear wheel without sacrificing stability. Since deeper wheels are faster, this is a good thing.
As a quick side note, we believe you should train and race on the same wheels. If you are spending the money to upgrade your wheels, you should enjoy them. Additionally, we feel you should be as familiar with your wheels on race day as possible. Logging thousands of training miles training on your wheels, will make you very familiar with them on race day.
On paper, the FLO DISC is the fastest rear wheel we make. For racing, it's a great choice but for everyday riding and training it's not a great option. It's more difficult to service and some people consider it a party foul to ride on a disc full time. There are also a number of races that do not allow disc wheels to be used. The Ironman World Championships in Kona is one of those races.
In my opinion, our most versatile rear wheel, is the rear FLO 90. It makes a great training and racing wheel. It's deeper profile reduces your drag and increases your speed. You can also pick up a wheel cover from someone like wheelbuilder.com for $99. A wheel cover attaches to your rear wheel and covers the spokes, giving you plenty of versatility and disc-like speed for a fraction of the cost. Wheelbuilder.com has a cover that is custom fit for all of our wheels. They are also a great company to deal with. I highly recommend them.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't buy a FLO DISC. Wheel covers can be a hassle to put on, and since they are not custom molded like our FLO DISC, there is a gap where the wheel cover and the FLO 90 meet. If you have the finances and also want a FLO DISC, you can't go wrong.
The rear FLO 60 makes a great rear wheel for light riders or people who hate any type of wind. It also make a great rear wheel for people who split there time between triathlon and criterium/road racing. You also have the option of using a wheel cover with a rear FLO 60 which gives you plenty of versatility.
Female riders pick a rear FLO 60 about 50% of the time. This makes a lot of sense for women who are lighter weight.
About 60% of triathletes using FLO wheels are using a rear FLO 90, 30% are using a FLO DISC, and the remaining 10% would be using a rear FLO 60. Very few people are using a rear FLO 30 for triathlon.
For a fast, versatile rear wheel, the rear FLO 90 is your go to wheel for most triathletes.
If you have any questions about wheel selection please feel free to contact us in the link at the top of the page.