Faster. That’s the adjective that every endurance athlete is working towards. We want to go faster, so we train harder, eat smarter, and buy that fancy new gadget that promises a few seconds here and a couple minutes there. For a triathlete, that focus usually comes on the bike. It is simply the easiest place you can “buy speed.” So we look for the best way to spend our limited resources to get the biggest bang for our bucks. One of the most popular ways to get those precious few seconds back is with a set of aero wheels. And with these new wheels from Profile Design, we can save a few bucks, and still get that aero benefit we are looking for!
What are they?
The new 1/Fifty wheels from Profile Design are a lower cost option to their higher end TwentyFour series wheels. As the name suggests, they are 50mm deep carbon clinchers that put them right in that range of all around wheelsets. They are not super deep to only be used for time trials or triathlons, and they are not shallow to mainly be used for climbing or training. That 40-60mm range is really a Sweet spot for rim depth.
What’s the difference between these and the TwentyFour series?
Like I said before, these are the “budget alternative to the TwentyFour series.” Where a full set of 58/TwentyFours will set you back $1398 (Prices have fluctuated a bit since this article was originally posted. As of this update they can be found for $1200), the 1/Fifty’s will only cost you $999. Look for them on sale and you can even snag them for $750! Obviously, my first question in seeing that price difference was “what am I giving up to save that $400?”
There is not a ton of information out there, but through some of my own digging, and then my observations actually being able to ride both sets of wheels I was able to find some minor differences. The first is that Profile Design says they are us using the same rim shape they used on the TwentyFour series which was validated using CFD. What they don’t say is that they validated this rim shape at the 50mm depth. That means this is still a fast shape, just maybe not perfectly optimized for the 50mm vs the 38, 58, and 78mm depth.
The only other major difference I found was that PD also went with round spokes on these versus bladed spokes on the TwentyFour series. This doesn’t seem like a hunger deal, but from wind tunnel test I have heard from the likes of Flo and others, bladed spokes make a big difference. I’m not sure what kind of hit aerodynamically that would be in this case, but I know it’s there.
The final difference is the culmination of a bunch of little things. Both sets come with brake pads, rim tape, skewers, etc. but the overall presentation in the packaging is lower with the 1/Fifty wheels. Obviously, they were thinking about cutting cost wherever the could. I also noticed slight differences in a few other accessories like the skewers. I couldn’t really tell if there was a performance difference between the two, so I reached out to customer service and here is what they said:
“You pay a little more for the twenty four series wheels and that is one of the items that are upgrade from the 1/fifty version. Both skewers sets will do the same job, the twenty four series are just a little bit lighter and slimmer design.”
So there you have it. In my mind it is really like the difference between opening up a brand new iPhone or other Apple device versus pretty much any other electronic. Those of you who have gotten a new iDevice know what I’m talking about. It’s that attention to every last detail and the whole experience that is extra nice. Once you get out and start using it, all of that fancy packaging is gone, so you don’t really care. But first impressions mean a lot.
How do you like them?
The 1/Fifty’s are not bad wheels. Obviously I like the TwentyFour s better, but I hope that would be the case for spending $500 extra. Profile Design touts their number one selling feature to be their best in class braking performance compared to other carbon wheels, and the 1/Fifty’s line right up with the others from Profile Design. I felt a slight drop in performance compared to aluminum wheels, but nothing I noticed too much. These wheels did great in any weather I threw at them.
As far as ride quality goes, I noticed an immediate improvement over my stock wheels, and I know it was worth the upgrade. I could hold my speed longer and I even felt a little smoother ride. I am aware that all of this is totally subjective, but I was pleased all around.
I did have one issue with these wheels. When I installed them, I went for a trainer ride to make sure everything was adjusted properly before heading out to the open road. I immediately head a popping noise coming from the rear wheel accompanied by a jump in the drivetrain. I narrowed down the possible culprits when I realized the rear derailed was not jumping, and the chain wasn’t skipping. It was like the whole drivetrain came loose for a second and then caught itself. That’s the only way I can describe it. My thought was that the hub was defective.
I sent in a request for warranty service and the great people at Profile Design took care of me. They sent me a prepaid shipping label to send the wheels back to them and they sent me a new set the day after they received my old ones. Since I had to ship them across the country both ways it took about 2 weeks to get my new wheels, but in the end it worked out. Obviously I would have wished the first set had been good to start with, but I’m happy with the great customer service and the end result is that I’ve got new wheels on my bike!
I found out after the fact that this was in fact a manufacturing defect. Trisports, where I bought my wheels, sent me an email warning me of the issue and gave me a contact directly at PD. Since I already had the issue resolved I didn’t need all of that. Talking to my editor for Trisports University she told me I was probably “the point of the spear” in finding the defect. It’s nice to be a help… but I’m also glad I didn’t crash on the wheels! As far as I can tell, the wheels on sale now are defect free!
Would you recommend them?
That’s a tough question. It really depends on your finances. If you can snag these for $750 like I saw around Christmas sales, go for it! These are a great buy at that price. If you are paying full price, my main question is if you can afford to squeeze out that extra $400. If yes, then the 58/TwentyFour or 78 TwentyFour wheels are within reach. If you are the type that is going to kick yourself knowing you are not on the fastest wheels around, you need to make the jump up. If you are the type of person who is all about the budget, go for the 1/Fifty’s
At the end of the day, if you get these wheels (without a defective hub lol) you will be happy for a good product that is a definite upgrade from your stock training wheels.
(Disclaimer: yes, I purchased these wheels myself. I got them from Trisports.com over the Christmas season while they were on sale. With Trisports’ change in ownership they no longer seem to be carrying these wheels.)