Box section and semi-aero wheels

Given that this is your first road bike, and assuming that you are only owning one set of wheels, you should aim for a best set that money can buy that suits the terrain of routes you are likely to take most often.

Before we get to wheel selection though, let’s take a broad look at the three types available to you, starting off with the box section wheels.

Box section wheels

Box section wheelsets are named as such because they are sets that run box rims (i.e. Mavic Open Pro) that do not offer any added aero benefit. When built with high end parts (i.e. Mavic Ops with Shimano Dura-Ace hubs, and Sapim double butted spokes), you can have yourself a bombproof set of climbing wheels. Yes, while most of these wheels are not aero, they are pretty light and are going to give you an advantage during long climbs and steep pitches. As you go down the price band for this group of wheels, the weight increases but durability is typically the norm for these. Pictured below is the Fulcrum Racing Zero, probably the best box section wheelset available below 2,000sgd. It is light at just a tad below 1,500g, very durable, and if you go with the 2 way fit and tubeless tyres, offers a very plush ride.

Aero wheels & Conclusion

Aero wheels would have around a 50-80mm tall profile rim. The most common available types are either full carbon wheels or aluminum rims matched to carbon fairings. The full carbon sets tend to be lighter, and the more expensive ones can even be lighter than dedicated climbing box section wheels! Heading the pack of this line of wheels are the Enve 6.7 clinchers. The more than 3,000sgd tag is justified as these have been developed in the wind tunnel by F1 aerodynamics guru Simon Smart. They sport a 60mm profile up front, and 70mm rim at the back helping it easier to control when riding in a crosswind. Moreover, the set weighs in at ONLY 1500+grams!

Almost as light as climbing wheels, but offering a huge aero advantage. You’d think there were no cons to owning such a set. However, there are. With a full carbon profile, this means that the brake track is made out of carbon as well. No matter what pads you use, the braking performance will never match a wheelset with aluminum rims, especially in the wet. With Singapore’s unpredictable weather, I would advice buying these rims if you are the type who trains with a tight schedule because sporting these wheels mean that you will have to wait for the rain to pass before you get riding again.

Above: The Enve 6.7. ‘Smart’, but at a price. Photo: Enve Composites

As 3,000sgd for a set of aero wheels are likely to be outside of most recreational riders’ budgets, manufacturers are also offering deep section wheels that are basically aluminum rims with carbon fairings. Popular models in this category include the SRAM S60 (60mm rim), Shimano C50 (50mm rim) and come it at around 1,500-2,000+sgd. While they are typically heavier than wheels from other categories, they provide a discernible aero advantage that is most evident when riding on flat roads (think Lim Chu Kang or Dunearn). They also sport an aluminum braking surface which means that you will have some braking confidence even when it begins to pour.  Weight is around 1,600- 1,800g, and this is something you will feel up Mt. Faber. Nevertheless, they are great for riding around a route like Changi Coast Road, and for racing in triathlons or time-trials.

Above: The Shimano C50 Carbon-Alu clincher. Photo: Shimano

Conclusion

So what must a beginner cyclist pick up for his first set of wheels? What you want is one set of “do-it-all” wheels that ride well in any weather, and do not hinder your progress even when the road pitches up. Our choice is either a semi-aero set like the American Classics, or a box section set like the Fulcrums. The American Classics are especially nice because of their relatively light weight, and very affordable price.

While deep wheels add both performance and “bling”, it is best to first know what routes your will eventually ride mostly on, and how much weather will affect your rides before deciding on a set of deep wheels.

Be sure to check out the other offerings from Easton, Reynolds, Mavic, Campagnolo, and the entire Shimano line when deciding on which set to purchase.