Several of us at changecyclingnow have some pretty big wheels, so we’ve been testing a lot of them to see how they compare. We’re also quite interested in aerodynamics, so we’ve been looking at wheels that are designed to bring less drag to the table. What do we think? Check out our top ten list to find out!
Deep aero wheels are more than just a way to make your bike look cool—they’re an important step to getting the fastest and most aerodynamic ride possible. With aero wheels, you can get the speed you need for training, but also retain the comfort of a wider rim. Furthermore, deep aero wheels provide stronger braking, provide a smoother ride on rough roads, and reduce wind resistance. So, which aero wheels should you get?
Aero wheels are all the rage these days, but aero wheels, in general, have a fairly negative reputation. Many people believe that they are too difficult to maintain, and that you’ll need to buy new wheels every year. If you’re interested in aero wheels, but are put off by the idea of having to replace them on a regular basis, you might be interested in the wheels on this list. They’ve been labelled as “best aero wheels” in the lab, and have been tested for aerodynamic properties.. Read more about best all around carbon wheel depth and let us know what you think.
The original version of this story appeared on 220Triathlon.com.
Which deep section wheels are the fastest? Let’s have a look!
Along with your helmet and gear, deep-section aero wheels provide some of the most significant performance advantages. In a 40km bike segment, the gap between basic training wheels and the best in this category may be as much as four minutes. In summary, once you go from finishing to competing, you’ll need aero wheels.
Super-deep wheels, like the 70mm-plus hoops shown here, are specialized racing equipment for flat and rolling courses. They’re quicker than normal wheels, but they’re a little heavier than shallower carbon wheels, and even the best of them get tossed about on windy days.
You should have a set of lighter mid-depth wheels for hillier races if you’re competing on varied terrain. As a result, two mixed depth wheelsets with deeper rears and two mid-depth approximately 65mm pairs have been added to provide more rounded choices and to test whether deeper is always quicker.
We’re looking for speed, crosswind stability, efficient all-weather braking, and strong lateral stiffness for handling and responsiveness, as with any tire test. While speed is essential, braking performance and, in particular, stability are critical to ensure that you can comfortably utilize your finest wheels regardless of the circumstances.
With new rim designs and brake tracks, the leading manufacturers have been working hard on stability and braking, so we were excited to see how far they’d come in our quest for the finest deep aero wheels.
How did we do our research?
There was a lot of work that went into this. We spent a day in the wind tunnel at the University of Southampton collecting accurate aero data from two yaw angles to mimic calmer and windier circumstances.
Prior to that, we put each wheelet through its paces on the road, covering more than 2,000 kilometers in a six-month period, frequently in competition and in all types of weather. We used Michelin Power 4 Competitions as control tyres (except on the Mavics, which have specific tubs), running them all at 100/105psi and noting the inflated width measured with a caliper to see if it matches the rim, and you can enjoy the rolling, comfort, and grip benefits of a 25c tyre over a 23.
Every tire was put through its paces using the provided brake pads, and we weighed them all as well. We tested stability, braking, and stiffness on the road, as well as a subjective sense of speed, by riding fast on well-known routes and looking for crosswinds. As a product tester and racer, your tester has a lot of expertise with this kind of wheel.
Testing in a wind tunnel
The University of Southampton’s R. J. Mitchell wind tunnel is regarded as one of the best in the world. Prior to our testing, we spoke with several top aerodynamicists to determine the best method, and one of them referred to this tunnel as “the gold standard” because of its excellent flow control systems, which ensure that the chop from the fans is smoothed and the air meeting the test subject is uniform. It’s no wonder, therefore, that Team GB, as well as many other professional teams and manufacturers, use it.
The airspeed may be adjusted up to 90 mph, which is sufficient for testing scale models of airplanes and racing vehicles.
We tested the wheels on a tri cycle with a pedaling rider at two angles, 5 degrees and 12.5 degrees, based on expert advise. Because it’s in the wind, we utilized control tyres and even control cassettes, with a 28t top sprocket. The test rider has extensive racing and wind tunnel experience and understands how to maintain a stable position.
It’s thrilling to first walk inside the tunnel and tiptoe about as if everything is delicate, which it isn’t.
Your bike is balanced, which is a gadget that measures the drag force. This is similar to a set of scales, except it measures how much the passing air pushes you back – the more aerodynamic the whole bike and rider system is, the less air pushes you back.
The balance, like the scales, used to be analogue but is now digital. The airspeed may be adjusted up to 90 mph, which is sufficient for testing scale models of airplanes and racing vehicles. We conducted all of our tests at 30 mph, which is the speed at which most manufacturers test and which provides more data resolution than lower speeds.
At the start of each run you have to hold still for a calibration, then the fans start and you begin pedalling, which brings a big surprise. The rear wheel is on a drum with a big flywheel. Once spinning, it only takes about 150W to keep it going but getting it moving in the first place takes a big shove. In total we were riding for about two hours, always concentrating hard to hold our best aero position, and don’t mind admitting we were pretty tired by the end.
The Enves established new benchmarks for braking and stability.
- The price is £3,100 / $2,700 / AU$TBC.
- Weight: 1,696g
Enve’s 6.7 and 8.9 have been replaced with the super-wide 7.8. Those are huge shoes to fill, but the 7.8 acquitted itself well in our test.
In the wind tunnel, it was the quickest at both angles, and it feels that way on the road. Furthermore, its braking and stability establish new benchmarks for deep carbon wheels; the former is incredible for a 71/80mm wheelset, so you’ll never be scared to ride it even when the flags are straight.
The new machined brake tracks need a little amount of pad toe-in before providing extremely powerful and progressive dry braking as well as superb wet braking with almost no delay before the pads bite.
They’re also stiff and light. Because the 7.8 is tubeless ready, 25c tyres fit well and aren’t too difficult to change. Enve’s carbon hubs are more expensive; they’re £3,100 on R45 hubs and £3,500 on Enve hubs.
Conclusion: Outstanding. The fastest speed, the most steadiness, and the most carbon braking. A new standard, but at a cost.
NSW Zipp 808
The Zipp 808s feature a new profile that is said to be quicker.
- £2,350 / $3,400 / AU$TBC
- 1,795g (about)
This elderly dog has picked up a few new skills. The 82mm depth is retained, but the NSW generation 808 gets a revised profile that is said to be more stable and slightly faster, new dimple patterns and laser graphics so they aren’t covered by decals, new grooved brake tracks, new carbon hubs, and the clever Axial Clutch, which disengages the freehub when coasting to reduce friction drag. The latter will increase speed on descents and will be evident in group rides.
Bags, QRs, pads, extenders, tape, and tubes are all included in the large bundle. A 25c tyre fits nicely, and stability is excellent, but not quite as good as the Enves.
Some of the weight is compensated by the rigidity. They performed well in the wind tunnel at 5 degrees, but were shockingly sluggish at 12.5 degrees.
Conclusion: A high yaw test result detracts from an otherwise excellent wheelset with innovative technology.
6.9 HED Jet
The HEDs are reasonably priced.
- £1,600 ($TBC) / AU$TBC
- Weight: 1,722g
If you’ve been riding long enough to remember, HED wheelsets were aero pioneers; what really raises eyebrows is that this fast and light wheelset is a mixed depth 60/90mm combo with alloy rims, placing second only to the mighty Enves on overall aero performance and fourth just behind the same on weight.
Because the aero fairing is made of wafer-thin carbon fiber that is bonded to the rim, it is loud and must be handled with care. The Jets are very stable because to their mid-depth front and highly developed form, and the machined, anodized brake track provides stopping power that rivals disc brakes.
They’re also tubeless-ready, and they look great on a bike, making this a really complete wheelset.
Conclusion: Unbeatable value, top-of-the-line brakes and stability.
The Knights are the test’s deepest wheels.
- £8,449 / $TBC / AU$TBC
- Weight: 1,896g
The deepest wheels on test have an excuse for being the heaviest at 1,896g, but they must convert their depth into speed to justify the weight.
On the road, they seem to come alive above 25 mph, eagerly clinging to inertia, and this is confirmed in the tunnel, where they came in third on combined drag, only 1W behind the HEDs.
The Michelin 25c tires inflate to 26mm for perfect alignment. The weight dampens acceleration, yet they’re rigid and very stable for such a large surface area. Although a tubeless upgrade is on the way, the tyre fit is already tight.
Wet braking has the usual delay and then bites very well. The Aivee hub option brings the price down and makes the 95 one of the most affordable wheels designed with in-depth proprietary R&D, though higher spec hubs push them close to Zipp.
Conclusion: Extremely quick, excellent value, and more steady than you’d expect, yet hefty.
65 RRC DT Swiss
One of the shallowest wheels on test is the DT Swiss RRC.
- Price: £2,000 (about $3,090) / AU$TBC
- Weight: 1,659g
The 65 RRC, being one of the shallowest wheels on test, outperformed its peers in the wind tunnel, coming in fourth at 5 degrees and sixth at 12.5 degrees, although with drag closer to the wheels below it than above.
Despite the fact that the tubeless-ready rim is smaller than usual, a 25c tyre will inflate to 26.5mm. Because it is broader than the wheel, a 23 would be more appropriate and perhaps quicker.
In the wind, the stability is adequate, but lighter athletes or those who are unfamiliar with deep-section wheels might be better suited elsewhere. The 65 RRC has two flaws: one is its poor braking performance on both dry and wet roads, and the other is its high pricing.
These are good wheels at an obscene price. They’d have a chance if they were £1,400 / $1,700, but they can’t withstand the competition at £2,000.
Conclusion: One of the fastest wheels is hampered by poor braking and a hefty price.
Mavic CXR 80T Mavic CXR 80T Mavic CXR 80T
For pro roadies, the CXR 80s aren’t legal.
- Price: $2,899.90 / AU$TBC / £2,050
- Weight: 1,723g
There aren’t many tri-specific wheels, but the clip-in’blades,’ which flawlessly smooth the transition from tyre to rim, are a smart concept that elite roadies can’t use.
The CXR 80 is almost four years old, yet it’s still a force to be reckoned with. It’s tubular only, and it comes with Mavic’s own tyre (which lowers the price), which has a pattern intended to affect airflow.
In the dry, grip and braking are excellent, but in the wet, they are practically non-existent. We experienced a frightening slip at 35 mph in a curve, and although most carbon wheels have a delay before braking comes in the rain, the CXR 80s just do not.
They’re stable and proven to be very quick in the tunnel at high yaw, but strangely sluggish at low yaw.
In crosswinds, it’s fast and stable, but it’s awful in the rain and low wind, and it’s tub only.
The Metrons are bulky, and the brakes are just sufficient, but they’re a fantastic deal.
- £1,749 ($TBC) / AU$TBC
- Weight: 1,823g
Because the test set of 55/81 clinchers was already in testing and unavailable for the studio, the wheels shown are 81mm tubs.
Despite the fact that the tubs are lighter and the deeper front is quicker, the mixed combination is much more attractive.
Even with its depth, the 55 front is solid, giving it an edge over all except the Enves and HEDs.
Because rear wheels have no bearing on stability, the larger 81 in the back makes sense for adding speed. They’re fast on the road, but not as quick as the best, and the tunnel backed that up with a respectable mid-table finish.
They’re a little hefty, and the braking is barely adequate, but the price makes up for it. These are worth a look if you’re on a budget and worried about riding deep wheels on less-than-ideal days.
Their major issue is that the HEDs can accomplish everything they can do better and for less money.
Conclusion: Good value and stability, but hefty and slow.
78 78 78 78 78 78 78 78 78 78 78
On the road and in the tunnel, Profile Designs’ wheels seemed slow.
- £1,800 ($TBC) / AU$TBC
- Weight: 1,884g
The unusual term alludes to the breadth and depth of Profile Design’s current generation’s highest rim. Our control tyre was inflated to 26.5mm, which was larger than the rim, thus a 23 would be preferable.
The 78 never seemed particularly quick on the road, and it was much worse in the tunnel, where it came in eighth on combined drag, just ahead of the duds.
The rigidity and stability are excellent, mirroring our experience with the 58mm version, but the considerable weight is noticeable, and they frequently seem sluggish.
While dry braking is adequate, rainy braking is terrible. Although the pricing makes them seem attractive, the HEDs and Knights suffocate them, and even a decent pair of complimentary tyre levers isn’t enough to save the 78 from being average.
In most respects, it’s unremarkable, with the exception of the wet braking, which is abysmal.
CLX 64 Roval
The CLX 64s are a cross between broad rims and the CLX 64s.
- Price: £2,400 / AU$TBC / £1,770
- Weight: 1,596g
You think you’ve seen wide rims until you see the CLX 64, which needed half-worn pads in our Orbea TriRig calipers and pushed the 25c tyre out to 29mm when inflated.
We believe that the additional frontal area is to blame for the poor wind tunnel performance, but it had no effect on the HEDs.
Furthermore, the CLX suffers from a severe lack of stability in windy situations. The Rovals are the lightest on the test, but you only notice it in your hands since there’s so much flex that brake rub is a constant companion, even during modest efforts out of the saddle.
The excellent braking of the finest non-machined carbon rims becomes a double-edged sword at such situations. Even yet, a TLR rim’s tyre fit is simple.
Conclusion: Slow, jittery, and flexy. The replacement is on its way, and it can’t arrive fast enough.
88 Progress Space
When the weather got even somewhat windy, Progress’s Space wheels were terrifying.
- The price is £1,495 / $TBC / AU$TBC.
- Weight: 1,745g
Progress is a Spanish brand that so far has focused its R&D efforts on construction over aerodynamics. This 88mm rim uses an old-school V-shape profile yet features basalt brake tracks and a titanium insert in the rim to boost impact strength.
If you damage them during the first year, Progress will give you a 50% discount on a replacement. The rigidity is reasonable, and the braking is really very excellent, but it all falls apart after that.
These wheels were sluggish in the tunnel and downright terrifying on the road, with a degree of instability that made them almost unrideable even in mild wind.
Progress is releasing a new U-shape rim that will be considerably more sturdy, according to the company. When we get ahold of them, we’ll put them to the test.
Conclusion: Good braking, but sluggish and unpredictably unstable. Avoid.
Finally, the finest deep aero wheels are…
The group of ten wheelsets broke into two parts after the most thorough testing we’ve ever done. The extremely unstable and sluggish Progress 88, at the bottom of the list, is one of the worst wheels we’ve ever tried, and its successor can’t arrive fast enough.
The Roval is likewise a letdown, while the Profile Design, DT Swiss, and Mavic all fall short of expectations.
Much better is the Vision Metron 55/81 combo. Although the performance isn’t spectacular, they’re less expensive than others and a decent bargain.
Because we can’t separate the Knights and Zipps, they’re tied for third place. The Zipps are better built and offer stronger braking with lower weight and more in the package (plus a famous name if that matters to you) — if you can afford them, they’re worth the extra. The Knight 95s were a fraction faster in our tests and are usefully more affordable; the Zipps are better built and offer stronger braking with lower weight and more in the package (plus a famous name if that matters to you) — if you can afford them, they’re
The HED Jet 6.9 comes in second place and is a no-brainer for greatest value. Because it utilizes an alloy rim, the braking and price are excellent; it’s stable due to the combined depth and refined form, and it’s quick because HED understands what it’s doing. It’s incredible that it’s also light – that shouldn’t be feasible. You can shop with confidence.
To defeat them, you needed something unique. The Enve 7.8 is that one-of-a-kind pair of wheels. It was a resounding victory – quickest in the wind tunnel from all angles, third lightest behind two mid-depth wheels, best carbon brakes, and most stable. It’s also TLR, comes with a fantastic guarantee, and is available in more inexpensive builds. This version with Enve’s carbon hubs is our favorite, but everyone else should go with the 7.8 on Chris King R45s.
Drag when combined
At 5-degree and 12.5-degree wind angles, the total drag of each wheelset is calculated.
What the numbers imply
This graph depicts aerodynamic performance at a 5-degree and a 12.5-degree wind angle, respectively. The lower the number, the better. Now it’s time for the science.
The drag in the wind tunnel is measured in Newtons. The University of Southampton’s mathematicians then translate this number into the amount of power (rounded to the closest full watt) needed to maintain 30 mph for our test rider in his posture, skinsuit, helmet, and bike.
Comparing these power figures, with the wheels as the only variation, reveals the relative speed of each wheel.
In general, 10W is worth approximately 1s/km, thus the best and worst of these wheels can save up to two minutes in a 40km bike leg, and even the slowest of them is considerably quicker than a simple alloy training wheel.
Because the overall bike and rider system drag is larger, even if the contribution of the wheels is lower, the power numbers in our results graph are higher for the bigger 12.5-degree wind angle.
Why are deep-section aero wheels faster? is a good place to start to learn more about why deep-section aero wheels are quicker. 200Triathlon.com is a sibling site of ours.
Thank you to…
Michelin for providing a control tyre in the form of the new Power 4 Competition clincher. This was our first time using this tyre, and we were really pleased. It feels quick, handles well in both wet and dry conditions, and just one puncture occurred. The 25mm tyre inflated to a neutral round form, making the test fair. Other Power 4 variants are also available.
Thank you to Prestige Cycles for arranging the wind tunnel test for us. Prestige offers triathletes aero set-up sessions at the University of Southampton, as well as bike fit clinics in-store. They’ve just become the UK distributor for Dimond tri bikes, as well as a variety of custom road bikes.
It’s really easy to spot a deep aero wheel. Deep aero wheels have a large aerodynamic profile, and the aero benefits are visible from a distance. A deep aero wheel is more expensive, but it also performs better in the wind and remains stiffer in crosswinds.. Read more about hed wheels and let us know what you think.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- best aero wheels for the money
- aero wheels
- aero rims bike
- road bike wheels
- bike aero wheels