After you get your tri bike, the next thing you start thinking about is race wheels because all of the cool kids have them.

If you thought purchasing a bike was tough, race wheels are even tougher. Why? Because the majority of the people ride Zipp Wheels and Zipps are expensive. Seriously, a set of Zipps will run more than $2K. That’s a lot of money and you start to wonder what you’ll get in return in the form of time. If there was a chart that had the following:

Zipps $2000 60 Minutes
Hed $1300 45 Minutes
Cheap $200 00 Minutes

The decision would be easy to make. You’d think… “Well, I missed the Kona slot by 45 minutes so I’ll buy Hed.” Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. If you search around, you’ll find endless debates on the superiority of Zipps and why people choose to buy and not to buy them. The good folks at Zipp will tell you that to get to that ultimate level of aerodynamics the cost increases exponentially. But what is that really buying you? Seconds. Once I discovered this, I knew which wheels I wasn’t buying. I am not that fast so the extra money for Zipps is not worth it to me. But that still leaves a plethora of choices and still many unanswered questions. For example: Do I get wheels that are the same size or different sizes? Do I need a disc? And what about that tri spoke?

When I started doing my research, I got in touch with the good folks at HED and asked those questions and more. You start at a depth of 60mm and you work your way up from there. A good set of all around race wheels for a light rider would be a 60mm front and rear. Since deeper is faster, the next option to consider would be a 90mm rear and a 60mm front. At this point, wind can factor into the equation. A 90mm rear will catch more wind and can be harder to handle depending on your size, riding position, and experience. The tri spoke combination would be an even faster combination but a windy day may make you reconsider your purchase.

I had thought the 60/60 combo would be my choice so I started looking at options. HED makes a clincher wheel called the Jet which comes in 60mm and 90mm. It is a carbon fiber faring bonded to an aluminum rim. It’s a reasonably bombproof wheel and people who buy them seem to like them. Zipp makes a wheel under the label of Flashpoint. At the time, they only made a 60mm wheel, the FP60, which is an all structural carbon wheel. Apparently a structural carbon wheel is better than a bonded carbon faring but the added weight of the Flashpoint makes it a wash when compared to the HED. I had narrowed my choice down to the two of them.

After careful consideration and speaking to a billion people, I decided that a better combination would be a 90mm rear and 60mm front. Well, that pretty much settled it; I guess HED would be my choice since Flashpoint only makes a 60mm wheel. As I was about to take the plunge, there was a press release about a Flashpoint 80. Doubt entered my head, the excellent marketing of Zipp had me believing it was a slightly superior wheel and I decided to postpone my purchase. But time was against Flashpoint because I had money burning a hole in my pocket and their wheel wasn’t released yet. I called an online store and they told me the wheel was coming out in a month. I waited for three and finally couldn’t wait any longer.

I purchased a HED Jet 90 rear with a Jet 60 front and I love them. I took them out and was expecting to feel the wind pushing me all over the road. I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t notice anything, they were perfect. Do they make me faster? I have no idea. My first race of the season is on March 29, 2008 and I’ll know then… maybe. But guess what? I’m one of the cool kids now.