So you’re wondering why track bikes have solid wheels instead of spokes? If you’re a cycling enthusiast, you may have noticed this unique feature. Solid wheels, also known as disc wheels, offer some notable advantages over traditional spoked wheels. In this blog post, we’ll explore the reasons why track bikes have solid wheels, the benefits of using them, and how they affect the performance of cyclists on the track.
Why Do Track Bikes Have Solid Wheels?
The purpose of disc and solid wheels on track bikes is to enhance performance and improve aerodynamics. These type of wheels have a lower moment of inertia, making them lighter and more maneuverable.
They are also less likely to get caught by crosswinds. Solid disc wheels, in particular, have low aerodynamic resistance, making them a popular choice among pursuit track cyclists.
While there are challenges with using a front disc wheel due to difficulty steering in windy conditions, the aerodynamic benefits of such a wheel are undeniable.
Additionally, with no brakes on track bikes, solid wheels provide more stability and control on the track. However, it is important to note that there are advantages to using spokes over solid wheels as well.
Improved Aerodynamics with Disc/Solid Wheels
Having solid or disc wheels on track bikes helps provide superior airflow and reduce drag around the bike, enabling riders to make the most out of their energy and reduce their time trials’ times.
By smoothing out the passage of side winds, these wheels reduce wind turbulence and drag, leading to faster times.
Solid disc wheels are typically preferred over spoke wheels in certain events like pursuit races, as they offer better lateral stability due to the rudder effect.
Solid discs have lower drag than spoke wheels and help carry momentum better once they are spun up.
This makes a significant difference in races where every second counts, which is why solid wheels are considered the best ways to improve a time trial bike’s aerodynamic performance.
Despite the advantages, front disc wheels can be challenging to use due to crosswind issues as the wind can affect steering.
Preference for Disc Wheels on Certain Courses and Days
On certain days and courses, track cyclists tend to prefer using disc wheels over traditional spoke wheels.
This is due to the fact that disc wheels fare better in closed environments with minimal crosswind resistance, resulting in lower turbulence and drag, which can lead to faster times.
To improve handling in windy conditions, some riders opt for shallower front wheels and deeper rear wheels.
However, using a front disc wheel presents some challenges, as it can reduce handling and make steering difficult.
Low Aerodynamic Resistance of Solid Disc Wheels
Aerodynamic drag is the primary resistive force in cycling, and reducing it is critical to improve performance.
Solid disc wheels, in particular, have been found to have low aerodynamic resistance, making them a popular choice among pursuit track cyclists.
They allow for better airflow and reduce wind resistance, leading to faster speeds and improved performance.
Although there are challenges with using a front disc wheel, the benefits of using solid disc wheels outweigh the drawbacks.
Additionally, the construction of solid disc wheels using carbon fiber makes them lighter and stronger, further improving their aerodynamic properties.
However, it’s important to note that spokes still have some advantages over solid wheels, such as being more maneuverable and less susceptible to being blown around in crosswinds.
Use of Solid Disc Wheels by Pursuit Track Cyclists
Pursuit track cyclists prefer using solid disc wheels, as they offer several benefits during intense races.
The low aerodynamic resistance of solid disc wheels allows the rider to cut through air with minimal resistance. This results in lesser energy wastage and a higher speed overall.
Additionally, solid disc wheels provide lateral stability due to the rudder effect. The rider can have more control over their bike, making it easier to maneuver in sharp turns.
With fixed gears and no brakes, track cycling is already a risky sport, and every little advantage counts.
Therefore, opting for solid disc wheels on the back or front of the bike is a popular choice for pursuit track cyclists, especially during competitions like pursuit races.
Its aerodynamic shape helps riders optimize airflow around the bike and achieve even higher speeds.
However, they must be cautious of the crosswinds as they can easily affect the bike’s steering ability.
Challenges with Using a Front Disc Wheel
One major issue is the increased sensitivity of steering, as the turning radius and wheelbase of track bikes with solid discs are smaller.
There is a need for more spokes on the front wheel, to deal with the force created by the disc.
On windy days, it can be difficult to maintain control, as the wind catches the disc, causing the bike to shift unexpectedly.
However, pursuit track cyclists may still opt to use solid disc wheels, as their events involve timed individual or team pursuits, where the focus is on achieving the fastest time possible.
Nevertheless, it’s important to note that track bikes don’t have brakes, so riders must rely solely on their own skill and technique to safely navigate the course, including with the use of a front disc wheel.
Lack of Brakes on Track Bikes
One of the features that distinguish track bikes from other types of bicycles is the lack of brakes. This is because track bikes originated from velodromes, where the use of brakes is discouraged for safety reasons.
Consequently, fixed-gear bikes used in track racing have a single speed and no brakes, leading riders to rely solely on their own physical control and judgment to regulate their speed.
This lack of brakes also makes track bikes lighter and more aerodynamic, which is advantageous in a closed environment.
However, this design is not suitable for everyday cycling on the street. That said, many cyclists choose to ride fixed-gear bikes on urban streets, but such bikes need to be modified with brakes to meet safety regulations.
Construction of Solid Disc Wheels Using Carbon Fiber
Carbon fiber is the material of choice for constructing these wheels because of its superior characteristics.
Carbon fiber is lightweight, strong, and stiff, making it ideal for creating a solid disc wheel that can handle the rigors of track cycling.
These wheels are also built using other lightweight materials like carbon fiber hubs and spokes to reduce weight even further.
While solid disc wheels may not be as versatile as spoked wheels, they are perfect for track cycling where aerodynamics play a critical role in achieving top speeds.
Carbon fiber’s use in these wheels also ensures that cyclists can rely on their equipment to perform optimally, without worry of structural failure.
But There Are Advantages of Spokes over Solid Wheels
While solid disc wheels offer superior aerodynamics in track cycling, there are still some advantages of spokes that make them a preferred choice for certain applications.
For outdoor cycling, spoke wheels are more maneuverable and better equipped to handle crosswinds, making them a more practical choice than solid disc wheels.
Spoke wheels are also more cost-effective and easier to repair since they don’t require specialized equipment.
Additionally, spoked wheels allow for more customization in terms of rim size and spoke count, enabling athletes to fine-tune their equipment for optimal performance.
While solid disc wheels may be preferred for pursuits and time trials, spoke wheels still have their place in outdoor cycling.