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Great Wheels: Two of the three most important parts of your bike

Posted by The Dr. on

Frame. Front wheel. Rear wheel.

Next to a sound frameset, wheels contribute by far the biggest proportion of your bike's total performance, feel, security and fun. So it pays big dividends as a cyclist to invest well, and it's the reason that we as a bike company devote so much of our time and effort as well as our scarce resources to creating truly high performance wheels at Big-Name busting prices.

The heart of every bike is its frame and the ideal frame fits the rider and all the other components that make up the bike / rider machine perfectly. In practice this is rarely the case unless your frame was custom fabricated precisely and just for you. We can help with that too!

The frame is the chassis upon which all the components necessary for fast, fluid and precise cycle motion are hung. The way a frame performs under load determines the overall ride characteristics of the bike: a flexy frame steers and goes poorly, whereas a vertically stiff frame transmits vibrations and saps the rider’s energy.

Assuming you got your frame right, then the biggest single impact on your bike’s performance comes next from your wheel & tyre combination. Upgrade a groupset or seatpost and you won’t see much if any gain in performance. Swap out your bike’s stock, machine built wheels for a pair custom hand built precisely and just for you and you’ll fly.

Why is that? Well, bikes mostly come with wheels designed & built first and foremost to be reliable and cheap. This keeps complaints and costs down and margins high.

The easy way to make reliable and low cost wheels is to choose strong but heavy materials & components, then mass produce them with as much machine automation as possible. Most wheels on the market today - yes, even the big name famous ones - are mass produced and machine built. This means when you order them, they arrive via multiple middlemen, and were picked off from an anonymous warehouse shelf where they’ve been awaiting their new owner. In other words, these wheels weren’t made especially for you. No account was made when they were built of what makes you unique – important information in fact, like the type of riding you do, your weight, and just how much power you generate.

Building wheels from lower cost materials means more weight, and weight is the enemy of all cyclists as it is the enemy of acceleration. And cycling is all about acceleration – even when you’re riding in a straight line at constant speed, the continuous minute steering inputs necessary to stay upright on two wheels means you are in a constant state of acceleration.

The more weight you have, the greater the force needed to move it around, change direction, go and stop. And rotating weight brings an even more complicated array of forces into the equations of motion. So, lighter wheels have dramatically much more impact on your ride than a lighter frame or rear mech.

But great wheels aren’t just about weight. They also need great dynamics, precision, strength and reliability. And perhaps most of all, they need to continuously serve up your tyres to the ground with the optimal contact patch required for the lean angle of your bike. 

So what makes a great wheel? Like all great recipes, it starts with the best ingredients

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