Wheel Tunnel Testing at Texas A&M
Nestled in the small university town of College Station, Texas, the Oran W. Nicks Low Speed Wind Tunnel had an undeniable reputation in the 90's and early 2000's as the place to go for cycling related aerodynamic research. With a test section that measures seven feet wide by ten feet tall, adequate flow qualities, and dedicated cycling fixtures, this facility was convenient for industry outsiders while still providing quality data. Tunnel director, Jorge Martinez, has claimed that the wind tunnel balance will provide force data that is accurate to +/- 0.05 lbs. While not as accurate as is desirable,
it is still good enough to identify trends and shed some light on a variety of cycling specific aerodynamic questions. (excerpted from the article that appeared in the May 5, 2003 edition of VeloNews - read the entire article here...)
Wind Tunnel testing is pretty expensive; therefore, we are unable to provide the following test results free of charge.
For a small access fee, one can view the results for the following tests:
Tire width: (20mm vs 25 mm on Zipp 404 and Specialized Tri-Spoke wheels)
CH Aero Wheel Cover vs Zipp 950 disc
(Ritchey, Fir SRG30, and Bontrager Race Lite, Mavic Carbone, Specialized Tri-spoke, and Zipp 404 - plus a bonus mystery wheel/tire combo!)
(wheels used a 700x19c Continental Competition tubular tire and data is presented as the average axial force over a 0-20 degree yaw angle range):
Bontrager Carbon/Reynolds Aero
Bontrager Carbon/Pinarello Shark
plus! - Bontrager Carbon wheel only data!
Empirical Wheel Performance Review/Ratings
One of the challenges in evaluating wheel performance is in trying to create an accurate empirical model that is based on laboratory acquired data. With the creation of this model, one can attempt to answer performance questions about specific wheels/parts even though lab data for the product was never acquired. This approach has obvious drawbacks in that there might be considerable uncertainty in the results. However, general rules of thumb result, and this is a good thing.
We developed a model that was based on several wind tunnel entries, the results of many a theoretical analysis, and experience as a bicycle wheel development engineer. While no one can be completely bias free, BikeTech Review has the qualifications to attempt this objective evaluation of over 100 wheels (and the list continues to grow). We have compiled a table that rates some of today's most popular brands/models including: Zipp 404, HED3, Reynolds Stratus, Lew Palermo, Rolf Prima, HED Alps, Bontrager Carbon, Spinergy Tilium, Mavic Carbone, Nimble tri-spoke, Campagnolo Shamal, Shimano WH-7700, Rolf Vector Pro, Velocity Deep V, Cane Creek, etc...
The analysis was similar to the one done for bike.com years ago - however, only PERFORMANCE has been estimated this time around. The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.
Purchase the Texas A&M wheel data reports now.