Expert Corner: A Scientific Insight into Wheels

By Christopher Ashley

The shape of your wheels matters more than you think. And as our scientific understanding of wheels improves – so does the marketing. So, whose opinion should you care about when you start thinking about wheels?


As a cyclist and aerospace engineer, Hambini has a passion for demystifying the mechanics of cycling. Often confrontational, Hambini’s analytical eye qualifies the statements he makes about the hardware he reviews. But Hambini also credits good design and always educates. Let’s look at Hambini’s analysis of a wheelset:

I like how Hambini compares the aerodynamics of a wheelset to opening the windows of your car at speed. The pressure change is something we’ve all experienced, and who else would have thought to draw the comparison with cross-winds?

Bill Mould

When Bill retired from the US Air Force he decided to live his dream and become a bike mechanic – the most fun job he’s had. Aside from his Trek and US-Cycling Race Mechanic qualifications, he’s earned 3 other US mechanic qualifications and graduated from the Sapim Wheel Building School at Antwerp, Belgium. Bill is methodical, as the following video demonstrates.

Where Hambini entertains us with qualified opinion, Bill is measured and calm. Bill gently introduces more advanced concepts for those cyclists weighing up whether to graduate their cycling obsession to a mechanical obsession. According to Bill, there is a “fair amount of math… but no calculus”.

Respectable publications

There are plenty of great media outfits that will give you their honest opinions about the latest set of Zipps. The important thing to remember is that these will give you limited scientific analysis but they will definitely let you know how new wheels feel, out in the real world.

Wheels are easily overlooked when buying a bike but, as a component in their own right, you quickly learn that there’s a dark art to finding the right ones for you. And that’s where your opinion matters. Only you know if you’re looking for racing wheels or commuters, whether you’ll be riding gravel or racing time trials. And the more you know – the more valuable your own opinion.