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Your Race Wheel Demo Program: ENVE, Profile Design, HED and Zipp.

By Tom Demerly.
Experiencing the benefits of race wheels yourself is the best way to feel how much faster they make you.

How much faster will race wheels make you? Which ones should you buy? What do they feel like on the road? In a crosswind? On a climb?

In 2008, in cooperation with several wheel manufacturers, began a program to ship wheels to customers for evaluation prior to purchase as part of our Wheel Demo Program. While test rides are not a strong evaluative tool for bike purchases due to fit and position variables every customer can ride the same race wheels and experience the ride quality, performance improvement, handling and overall feel of race wheels. For wheels, there is no fit and position issues as with a bike. You either feel the benefit or you don’t. The overwhelming response is that customers do feel enough of a benefit with aerodynamic race wheels to make a purchase.

The wheel demo program is not a race day rental program. The problems associated with using new equipment on race day make race wheel rental an iffy proposition. The Race Wheel Demo Program does allow a controlled exposure to riding with race wheels on roads you are already familiar with.

Ready to Ride. ships race wheel sets complete with Shimano/SRAM compatible 10 speed cogsets, tires and quick release skewers. When you receive the wheels just slide the skewers in, air the tires and install the wheels on your bike. On tubular tire wheel sets the tires have already been glued by our mechanics. All you have to do is put them on your bike, air them and ride them.

A benefit of the Wheel Demo Program is comparative analysis of wheel brands. demos HED, Zipp, ENVE and Profile Design Wheels. Reasonable demo prices enable you to try different brands with the demo cost of the wheels you buy being applied to the wheel set you decide on.

The Wheels:


ENVE builds all their wheels by hand in Ogden, Utah. Formerly Edge Composites, ENVE has extensive carbon fiber fabrication experience in wheels, carbon frames and components.

ENVEmakes hand built, US made wheels in their Ogden, Utah facility. The company includes a staff of industry experts who have worked for Specialized, Schwinn/GT, Felt, Reynolds and Easton. Their engineers are in-house, along with their fabrication. This provides a level of material quality, attention to detail and nimble design ability only a domestic wheel builder can offer.

ENVE uses Sapim bladed, aerodynamic spokes with internally housed spoke nipples for improved aerodynamics. Most ENVE wheelsets use a 20 spoke radially laced front and a 24 spoke cross-two pattern in the rear. ENVE 45’s measure 21.8 millimeters wide actual (measured) dimension. This is a slightly narrower design compared to Zipp’s new Firecrest and HED’s new wider cross section wheels.

ENVE is a lightweight leader, with a pair of ENVE 45 carbon clinchers weighing only 1454 grams measured weight. Hubs are Swiss made DT with a patented, high load limit ratcheting system that is more durable than conventional designs. Each demo wheelset is shipped with carbon specific brake pads for use with ENVE Composite wheels.


Top pros like Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington have raced and won on HED wheels for two decades.

Steve HED invented the deep section aero wheel. In early wind tunnel tests with Chester Kyle and others Steve Hed conceived the wheel shape that shaped an industry. The HED legacy of innovation lives on with the new HED SCT or “Stability Control Technology”, a new proprietary rim profile to enhance performance and stability in cross winds. The end result is not just a more stable wheel, but a stronger, faster and more durable HED wheel than ever before. SCT profile joins the new generation of wider section wheels for improved aerodynamics. Use these wheels with 23 millimeter tires (supplied on our demo fleet).

HED wheels use proven alloy brake tracks that work with conventional brake pads- there is no need to change your brake pads on race day or for your wheel demo. HED’s weight limit of 190 pounds rider weight mean these are a great choice for the middle 90% of athletes.

HED wheels are economical and use up to the minute technology to give you a race day advantage. When you demo the HED deep section wheels you’ll feel the difference in performance, ride quality and weight.

Profile Design.

Profile Design was an early innovator of aero accesories for triathletes going back to the mid 1980's. Their new Altair aero wheels continue that legacy of innovation.

Few companies can boast the history in our sport of Profile Design. As an original triathlon accessory brand from the mid 1980’s Profile Design has sold nearly every accessory an athlete needs to compete, including bike frames. Adding aerodynamic wheels to the mix was a natural.

The Profile Altair 54 wheels are economical at $1729.95 per set. the rim shape was designed using the latest computational fluid dynamic design principles. Spoking is 20 radially laced Sapim bladed spokes in the front and 24 Sapim bladed spokes in the rear laced in a two cross pattern for better lateral stiffness and vertical compliance. These wheels use 23 millimeter (or wider) tires. rider weight limit is a high 220 pounds making these a robust choice for Clydesdales. Carbon specific brake pads are included with Profile Design carbon rim wheels.


The most popular aero wheel: The Zipp 404, now better than ever with the new Firecrest design.

From the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii the to the local triathlon: Zipp owns the aero wheel market. No brand is more popular, more prevalent. More athletes race, and win, on Zipp wheels than any other brand. Zipp is born in a racing community. Their designs were conceived three blocks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Zipp has done composite repair on Indycar and Formula 1 race cars for years.

The new Zipp 404 Firecrest is a completely redesigned Zipp aero wheel from previous versions of the 404. Faster and more stable in cross winds, lighter and stronger than ever before this is the most winning wheel in history- only better for 2012.

Zipp’s internal testing and manufacturing set the standard for design, performance and quality control in the composite wheel industry. With Firecrest they’ve exceeded their own internal standards. Zipp uses a new hub design with more precise bearing adjustment than ever and performance better than almost every aftermarket ceramic bearings in a more dependable steel bearing. If you demo a set of Zipp 404 Firecrest wheels your search for the ultimate race wheel may be over.

Additional Race Wheel Resources on TSU:

Profile Design and ENVE Composite in-depth review.

Zipp 404 Firecrest in-depth review.