Should you train on carbon wheels?

The advantages of training on a set of full carbon, deep-section wheels are no secret, with these being faster than your standard aluminium box rim brothers. Here are the main benefits of training with your carbon wheels.

Braking performance: This is a contentious issue, with many still standing by the claim that carbon wheel braking performance is not comparable to aluminium rims in the wet. Many of the latest carbon or carbon fairing rims, such as Zipp NSW wheels with Sawtooth technology that assist in braking in the wet, or the HED Jet Plus range of rims, which whilst not full carbon rims, utilise patented technology that has been shown to actually perform better than standard aluminium rims in the wet. Yes – better than aluminium. Is this true or just marketing? I found it to be true, after testing the HED Jet 60 Plus in the rain, and to my amazement, they were significantly better than my aluminium rims. No lag in braking – it gripped as the brake pads touched – probably too well for what I was expecting.

Perceived performance improvement on race day: Race day wheels will certainly give you an extra boost to your performance, but training on your race wheels is something that should not be snubbed. Learning how to handle your race wheels in training will provide you with an increased confidence with them when it comes to race day. As the saying goes, ‘don’t try anything new on race day.’ If you train to power, then the performance benefit is mitigated and it can actually help you to push yourself further in training. If you are like me, the faster you are riding, the harder you want to push – resulting in getting more out of yourself during training.

Installing race wheels: If you train on a standard aluminium rim, chances are these are ‘old school’ narrow width rims. When it comes to your deep-section carbon race wheels, these will most likely have a wider rim profile. So what does this mean? Firstly, you will need to change your brake pads from aluminium to carbon brake pads. Secondly, you will need to adjust the pad width to accommodate your wider carbon rim. Depending on the type of bike you have, this can be a headache, especially if you are a DIY kind of person. Lastly, you will need to change the cassette from your training wheel to your race wheel – you will require specific tools to change this over, or alternatively, pay your local bike shop to switch it over. If you train and race on the same wheels, your bike will be race ready at all times and you won’t need to get yourself all greased up or spend your hard-earned cash on paying a bike shop to do a fairly mundane task.

At the end of the day, whether you train on deep-section carbon wheels or aluminium wheels, the most important thing to understand is that neither wheel will make you fitter by itself. You still need to get out and ride your bike. Whichever your choice, make sure you get out there and enjoy your riding.

By Ricky Swindale – Pushys sponsored athlete

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