Thursday, February 14, 2013

What About Aero?

Aero wheels- Not aero bag
Today I introduced a new wheel set from HED Wheels on Gravel Grinder News that is so new for HED, they haven't given the set a proper model name yet. You can hit the link to see all the tech on them. Tomorrow, my review proper will hit that site. What I wanted to discuss was one of the main features of this wheel set. That being aerodynamics.

Until I was contacted by HED late last year about doing that review, I hadn't given aerodynamics a second thought for gravel grinding, much to my shame. Really, it should be a seriously considered facet of this type of riding when you stop to think about it. I know some riders who have given it serious consideration too. I guess the "aha" moment never sunk in though.

Think I'm goofy? (Well.....okay, I am, but.....) Think about the numbers from a wattage standpoint. If you can save watt expenditures, even if they seem insignificant over shorter distances, that can add up over a longer ride of say- a metric century, or 100 miler. Energy saved that you would have spent on a non-aero wheel set that you could use to your advantage on a longer gravel ride. HED hasn't published data for the wheels I reviewed yet, but for other wheels in the same class that they make, savings are there, and that isn't anything to sneeze at.

This isn't anything new either. Those roadies and triathletes who are reading this are smiling and wagging their heads in knowing humor. They get this stuff, and I think it is rather odd that gravel road aficionados haven't taken to aero wheels in greater numbers. Of course, there are several reasons for this, most likely, but to the degree that it can be of an advantage, (besides the use of aero clip ons), gravel grinders seem oblivious to the possibilities that aerodynamics could have.

One of the reasons could be the perception that aero wheels are too expensive and fragile for this sort of riding. However; with the rims getting a bit wider on the road side, and with  materials technology getting better, I see this becoming less of an obstacle. That road wheels are seeing support for tubeless will help as well.

So, does having aero wheels on your gravel grinder make any sense? Maybe. I think that several things have to come together for that to take greater hold on the gravel grinder set. Tubeless support, wider rims for the preferred 35-45mm tires, and reasonable weights and prices, but it is intriguing to consider for this sort of pursuit. Then again- how many sets of wheels would a company actually sell. A lot of folks see gravel grinding as a place to "use up" equipment and not a place to spend a lot of money on high performance parts and bikes that will get rattled, beaten, and grimed to death.

But then again- you've got yer cyclo cross deal. So there is that to think about too. Those guys and gals spend a mint on wheels and stuff. Especially those tubular tires every season.

Then there are tubular tires. What about those for gravel? Ah...........

That's another post!


Leslie said...

Ya know, that front bag may not hurt as much as you think:

Ari said...

Are you running those MSO tires tubeless on the HED wheels??

Guitar Ted said...

@Ari: I hadn't gotten time to run them tubeless before winter came. If I do decide to try that, I will get new ones. These are so stretched now it would be nigh unto impossible to mount them tubeless on these rims. I test fitted them the other day and they nearly fall off on their own.

Charly Tri said...

Another thought is the law of diminishing returns. Riders are not putting out the same speed as on pavement, thus the benefit is far less. Aerodynamic drag increases exponentially. So a 5 mph increase means a lot more from 20-25 then 10-15. I have also heard/read that below 16mph aerobars make almost no difference. So with the low benefits the price tag seems harder to swallow.

john said...

Mark -
I like the ruff and tumble of the gravel riding and I even like making that ruff and tumble as fast as possible.

Barturtle said...

While aerobars might not make much difference at lower speeds, they are helpful when dealing with stiff headwinds. After doing several rides in Wisconsin, Ohio and Minnesota, I found that "flatland" riding means dealing with headwinds for extended 20-30 mile stretches.

I now have aerobars for dealing with that, and will often switch to narrow(er) tyres

Steve Fuller said...

Even tho the aero benefits might be small, I do like having them mounted on my gravel rig just to give me another seating/hand position to use. My hip position and weight shift a bit when i am on them, and it helps me manage fatigue in my quads and my back.

As someone who spent a few months off the bike due to nerve injury, that extra position is peace of mind as well.