Wheel Depth for Triathlon: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re a triathlete, you know that every second counts during a race. That’s why choosing the right gear, including the right wheelset, is crucial. One of the most important factors to consider when selecting wheels for triathlon is wheel depth.

Wheel depth refers to the height of the rim from the hub to the outer edge of the rim. The deeper the wheel, the more aerodynamic it is, which can help you cut through the wind and go faster. However, deeper wheels can also be heavier and more difficult to handle, especially in crosswinds. So, how do you choose the right wheel depth for your needs? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about wheel depth for triathlon.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the technical aspects of triathlon wheels can help you make an informed decision when selecting the right wheelset for your needs.
  • Bike handling and gear selection are crucial factors to consider when choosing the right wheel depth for your triathlon wheels.
  • By maximizing value and performance, you can get the most out of your triathlon wheels without breaking the bank.

Understanding Wheel Depth


all triathlon featured image

When it comes to triathlon, having the right wheelset can make all the difference in your performance. One important factor to consider is wheel depth, which refers to the height of the rim from the hub to the braking surface. In this section, we’ll explore the key considerations for understanding wheel depth.

Aerodynamics and Performance

Wheel depth can significantly impact aerodynamics and performance. A deeper rim can help reduce drag and improve speed, but it can also be heavier and harder to handle in crosswinds. On the other hand, a shallower rim may sacrifice some aerodynamic benefits but could be more manageable in windy conditions.

Wheel Depth and Triathlon Disciplines

The ideal wheel depth can vary depending on the triathlon discipline. For example, in a flat and fast course, a deeper rim can be more beneficial for aerodynamics and speed. However, in a hilly course, a shallower rim may be better suited for handling and climbing.

Rim Depth Selection for Various Course Profiles

To select the right rim depth for your triathlon, you should consider the course profile. A good rule of thumb is to choose a deeper rim for flatter courses and a shallower rim for hillier courses. For example, a 50mm rim depth can be suitable for a flat course, while a 32mm rim depth may be better for a hilly course.

When selecting a rim depth, it’s also essential to consider your weight and riding skills. A lighter rider may require a shallower rim to handle crosswinds, while a more experienced rider may be able to manage a deeper rim in windy conditions.

In summary, understanding wheel depth is crucial for maximizing your performance in triathlon. Consider the aerodynamic benefits, triathlon discipline, and course profile when selecting the right rim depth for your wheelset.

Choosing the Right Wheelset


When it comes to triathlon, choosing the right wheelset can make a significant difference in your performance. Here are some factors to consider when selecting the right wheelset for your needs.

Front Wheel vs. Rear Wheel Considerations

When selecting a wheelset, you need to consider whether you want to invest in a front wheel, a rear wheel, or both. In general, a front wheel is more important than a rear wheel because it provides the most significant aerodynamic advantage. A deep front wheel can help you cut through the air with ease, which is especially important when you’re riding on a flat or rolling course.

However, if you’re looking for a more stable ride, you might want to consider investing in a rear wheel as well. A rear wheel can provide more stability, especially when you’re riding in windy conditions.

Impact of Crosswinds on Wheel Choice

Crosswinds can have a significant impact on your wheel choice. If you’re riding in windy conditions, you’ll want to choose a wheelset that is designed to handle crosswinds effectively. In general, a shallower wheel is better in windy conditions because it is less affected by crosswinds.

However, if you’re an experienced rider and are comfortable handling your bike in windy conditions, you might want to consider investing in a deeper wheelset. A deeper wheelset can provide more aerodynamic advantages, which can help you go faster on a flat or rolling course.

Disc Wheels and Their Advantages

Disc wheels are becoming increasingly popular in triathlon because they provide significant aerodynamic advantages. A disc wheel is a solid wheel that is designed to cut through the air with ease. It is especially useful on flat or rolling courses where speed is critical.

However, disc wheels can be challenging to handle in windy conditions. If you’re considering investing in a disc wheel, you need to be comfortable handling your bike in windy conditions. You might also want to consider investing in a shallower front wheel to provide more stability in crosswinds.

When selecting a wheelset, it’s essential to consider your needs carefully. Think about the course you’ll be riding, the weather conditions you’re likely to encounter, and your level of experience as a rider. By taking these factors into account, you can select the right wheelset for your needs and improve your performance on race day.

Technical Aspects of Triathlon Wheels


When it comes to triathlon wheels, there are several technical aspects that you should consider before making a purchase. In this section, we will explore some of the most important factors that you should keep in mind when selecting your wheels.

Material and Technology

One of the most significant factors that affect the performance of triathlon wheels is the material used to make them. Carbon wheels are the most popular choice for triathletes due to their lightweight and stiffness. Carbon fiber is a composite material that is made by weaving carbon fibers together and then bonding them with resin. This process results in a lightweight and stiff material that can withstand significant forces.

Another important aspect of triathlon wheels is the technology used in their construction. Many wheel manufacturers use advanced technologies such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to optimize the shape and structure of their wheels. These technologies help to ensure that the wheels are as aerodynamic as possible, which can significantly improve your performance on the bike.

Tubeless and Disc Brake Integration

Tubeless wheels are becoming increasingly popular in triathlon due to their ability to reduce rolling resistance and improve puncture resistance. Tubeless wheels work by eliminating the need for an inner tube, which reduces the weight of the wheel and allows for lower tire pressure. This, in turn, can improve your bike handling and comfort.

Another important aspect of triathlon wheels is disc brake integration. Disc brakes offer several advantages over traditional rim brakes, including increased stopping power and improved modulation. Many triathlon bikes now come equipped with disc brakes, so it’s essential to ensure that your wheels are compatible with this braking system.

Aerodynamic Enhancements and Wind Tunnel Testing

Aerodynamics is a crucial factor in triathlon cycling, and many wheel manufacturers invest significant resources in developing wheels that offer the best possible aerodynamic advantage. Many wheels feature aerodynamic enhancements such as deep rims, bladed spokes, and textured surfaces. These features help to reduce drag and improve your speed on the bike.

To ensure that their wheels offer the best possible aerodynamic performance, many wheel manufacturers conduct wind tunnel testing. Wind tunnel testing allows manufacturers to evaluate the aerodynamic performance of their wheels in a controlled environment, which can help to identify areas for improvement.

In summary, when selecting your triathlon wheels, you should consider the material and technology used in their construction, tubeless and disc brake integration, and aerodynamic enhancements. By keeping these factors in mind, you can ensure that you select wheels that offer the best possible performance on race day.

Bike Handling and Gear Selection


Improving Bike Handling Skills

Bike handling skills are crucial for triathletes. You need to be able to handle your bike confidently and safely, especially during high-speed descents or sharp turns. The right technique can help you save time and energy while also reducing the risk of accidents.

To improve your bike handling skills, you can practice drills such as cornering, braking, and riding in a straight line. You can also take a course or hire a coach to help you develop better techniques. Remember to always wear appropriate safety gear such as a helmet and gloves.

Gear and Equipment for Optimal Performance

Choosing the right gear and equipment can also improve your bike handling and overall performance. The wheel depth is a critical factor to consider when selecting your gear. According to Triathlete, most manufacturers make a large number of wheels of varying depths, starting with a shallow box section rim, ending with a full disc, and often with three or four rim depths in between the two extremes.

The depth you choose will depend on your priorities. If you prioritize weight and handling, a rim depth of 32mm is suitable. On the other hand, if you prioritize performance, a rim depth of 40-50mm is ideal. Triathlon Health suggests that deeper rims are more aerodynamic, which can help you go faster with less effort.

When selecting gear and equipment, you should also consider the brands and manufacturers. FLO Cycling is a popular brand that offers high-quality wheels for triathletes. They offer both rim brake and disc brake wheels, as well as tubeless and tube options. Their wheels are also tested in wind tunnels to ensure optimal performance.

In conclusion, improving your bike handling skills and selecting the right gear and equipment can help you perform better in triathlons. Remember to always prioritize safety and choose gear that fits your needs and priorities.

Maximizing Value and Performance


When it comes to selecting a wheelset for your triathlon bike, you want to maximize both value and performance. You want a wheelset that is affordable, durable, and lightweight, yet still provides the aerodynamic advantage you need to push yourself to new limits. Here are some tips to help you balance cost and quality and make the most of your investment in a new wheelset.

Balancing Cost and Quality

Finding the right balance between cost and quality is essential when shopping for a new wheelset. While carbon fiber wheels are popular among triathletes for their lightweight and aerodynamic properties, they can be quite expensive. If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to consider an aluminum wheelset instead. While they may not be as lightweight or aerodynamic as carbon fiber wheels, they are much more affordable and can still provide a significant performance boost.

Another way to balance cost and quality is to consider the durability of the wheelset. A more durable wheelset may cost more upfront but can save you money in the long run by reducing the need for repairs or replacements. Look for a wheelset with a high spoke count and a sturdy rim, such as the Princeton Grit 4540, which is designed to withstand the rigors of triathlon training and racing.

Recommendations for Diverse Budgets

Regardless of your budget, there are wheelsets available that can help you maximize your performance on race day. Here are some recommendations for different budgets:

  • Budget Option: If you’re on a tight budget, consider the Shimano RS010 wheelset. While not as aerodynamic as more expensive options, these wheels are still lightweight and durable, making them a great value for the price.

  • Mid-Range Option: If you have a bit more to spend, consider the Mavic Cosmic Elite UST wheelset. These wheels are made with a carbon fiber rim and provide excellent aerodynamic performance at a more affordable price point than some of the more expensive options.

  • High-End Option: For those with a larger budget, the Zipp 404 NSW wheelset is a top-of-the-line option that provides unmatched aerodynamic performance. These wheels are made with a carbon fiber rim and feature a unique dimpled surface that helps reduce drag and increase speed.

By considering your budget, durability needs, and performance goals, you can find a wheelset that provides the perfect balance of value and performance for your triathlon training and racing needs.

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the benefits of using deep section wheels in a triathlon?

Using deep section wheels in a triathlon can provide several benefits. Firstly, they offer better aerodynamics, which means you can ride faster with less effort. Secondly, they provide better stability and handling, especially in windy conditions. Lastly, they look cool and can give you a psychological boost, making you feel faster and more confident.

How do you determine the best rim depth for your triathlon bike?

The best rim depth for your triathlon bike depends on several factors, including your riding style, the course terrain, and your personal preferences. Generally, deeper rims are better for flat and fast courses, while shallower rims are better for hilly and technical courses. It’s also important to consider your weight and power output, as deeper rims require more strength to maintain speed.

What are the pros and cons of mixed depth wheelsets for triathlons?

Mixed depth wheelsets, which feature a deeper rim on the rear wheel and a shallower rim on the front wheel, can offer the best of both worlds. The deeper rear wheel provides better aerodynamics and speed, while the shallower front wheel provides better handling and stability. However, mixed depth wheelsets can be more expensive and require more maintenance, as they use different rim depths and spokes.

How do 45mm carbon wheels compare to 50mm ones in terms of performance?

In terms of performance, there is not a significant difference between 45mm and 50mm carbon wheels. Both offer good aerodynamics and speed, although 50mm wheels may provide slightly better performance in crosswinds. The choice between the two depends on personal preference and the course conditions.

What rim depth is commonly used by professional triathletes?

Professional triathletes typically use rim depths between 60mm and 80mm, depending on the course and conditions. However, it’s important to note that professional triathletes have access to the best equipment and have spent years training their bodies to handle the demands of deep section wheels.

Are there any drawbacks to using wheels deeper than 60mm in a triathlon?

There are a few drawbacks to using wheels deeper than 60mm in a triathlon. Firstly, they can be heavier and more difficult to handle, especially in crosswinds. Secondly, they can be more expensive and require more maintenance. Lastly, they may not be suitable for hilly or technical courses, where shallower rims are more appropriate.

Scroll to Top