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Training wheels or race wheels...what the best way to bike?

Posted May 06 2011 9:26am

Pothole_Big-300x225 Potholes suck!  “Duh”, you may be thinking, but here me out.  They suck because in addition to causing undue crotch pain (especially if you didn’t see one and rode over it) or a bike wreck, they can cause some major equipment damage.

As I have progressed through the triathlon racing stages (Beginner, Intermediate, Competitive Age Grouper), I’ve learned a lot about equipment.  With that education comes spending more money on higher end gear like a true triathlon bike, aero helmets and aerodynamic wheel sets.  I’ve had the “factory” wheel sets that are slick looking and functional, but anyone that has dabbled in the sport aspires to ZIPP 1080’s and Sub 9 disc wheels.  It’s just the natural progression.  They have performance edges over typical wheels and for the most part, they just look cool (if you have money to toss around on “looking cool”).

A two to three year old ZIPP  404 clincher wheel set may set you back $1200 on ebay or craigslist.  Planet-X 82/101 tubular wheel sets may set you back $500 used, which is still a lot of cheddar for the “average joe”.  Once you get into ZIPP 808’s or anything higher end, you’re aiming over $2000 for a nice quality used set (Of wheels that is.  Keep it clean out there).  Aero ain’t cheap!

That’s why I’m a little dumbfounded when I see people in group bike trainer classes or training rides using their thousand dollars racing wheels.  Why would you risk hitting a pothole and cracking your rims or put undue miles on them on the trainer?  You’re eating up tire “tread” on trainers.  If you flat, 404’s or anything deeper requires valve extenders (realized this the hard way in a 2010 IM race – “duh” moment) and if you’re riding tubular, good luck with rim tape and a spare tube on the side of the road.

Now, if you sold your factory wheel set, all your unused gear, car and house to get those 1080’s and that’s all you have, then you have no choice.  But if you have the cash to drop on those wheels, hopefully you kept the original wheels or hit ebay for a used pair for around $100.  It will be the best $100 you will ever spend when you hit a pothole and bend the rims instead of cracking your $2500 carbon race wheels.

Take for instance Coach Liz.  HERE’s her post from July 2010 where she cracked her ZIPP 404’s on a training ride.  Luckily Coach Liz had enough moxy to wrangle a discount and upgrade so it wasn’t a huge loss.  But, I would venture a guess 95% of use can’t throw on a swim suit and talk our way into a nice set of wheels.

Ebay wheels

There’s also the aspect that if you are using your race wheels for training, you’re not challenging yourself on training rides.  You’re going to work harder on a set of 1980’s steel wheels than a 2011 carbon fiber race wheels.  That’s a simple fact; work harder in training so the race comes easier.  That’s a whole other article altogether, and I’m mainly looking at giving you advice to save money and heartache.

I’m not going to write this and claim I was with this plan the whole way.  I got my first ZIPP 404 clincher set and life was good flying around Kansas City rural roads on those mean puppies.  At least with flats on clinchers, changing a tire is a lot easier.  In retrospect, if I cracked them on a pothole, then I would have had a meltdown.  I’m now riding Plant-X 82/101 tubulars and my time is well worth it to switch out to my factory wheels for training rides.

So, if you don’t have that bikini body (sorry guys) and can’t make lemons into lemonade, then be smart and get a set of training wheels.

Runfinish Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog , married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans.  Ryan is also the Kansas City Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughts HERE and he collects race reviews at .  Contact Ryan at: or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan .

*Expressed opinions are not necessarily that of

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