I have been thinking about investing in race wheels, and Flo Cycling keeps coming up in my research. Those of us that get addicted to triathlon usually also get sucked into the gear race. I have tried to moderate my gear purchases for a number of reasons. One of which is that I generally don’t like to spend money. Another is that I don’t want to be the guy that shows up at the local race completely decked out with the most expensive bike and every gadget imaginable only to finish in the middle of the pack. If I’m going to look fast than I want to be fast.
So I have been reluctant to take the plunge into purchasing race wheels. For an age-grouper like me, how much can they really help me? In general, I understand the physics behind race wheel design and the science makes sense. Reduce drag and you go faster. That is the physical part of it. But there is also the mental part. Do race wheels make you feel faster? And secondly, if the competitors around you all have race wheels and you don’t, do you think you are at a disadvantage? In a 140.6 triathlon, the mental aspect of the race cannot be discounted.
As I have done some research, Flo wheels have gotten my attention. They meet my first requirement in that they are inexpensive, relatively speaking, when compared to other race wheels. Depending on what you get, a set of Flo wheels can be purchased for less than $1,000. Compare that to most other wheels on the market, which can run $1,500 or more for a single wheel. Flo seems like a great value. But then there is the old saying: “you get what you pay for.” I don’t always buy into this theory, especially if evidence supports that what I am buying will meet my needs.
Flo Cycling has a great story (read their history here). The mission has been to build a quality race wheel that is accessible (i.e. affordable) to a larger number of athletes (including age-groupers like me). The founders are passionate about what they are doing, and their research and development has been impressive. The wheels have performed well in wind-tunnel testing and the data indicate that the performance is comparable to many higher-end wheels. User reviews of Flo wheels have also been very positive. For those reasons, I am seriously considering investing in a set of Flo wheels.
There are some trade-offs to purchasing Flo vs other wheels. First of all, they are not that easy to get. The company model to-date, is to hold several online “sales” each year. When the sale opens, if you are fortunate enough to get your order in, you will receive your wheels in the mail not long after the sale. However, if you don’t get your order in before they sell out, you have to wait for the next sale. Secondly, there is no opportunity to “try-before-you-buy.” You pretty much have to rely on the technical data and the reviews to determine if the wheels will meet your needs. For me, those are not huge barriers. Almost everything I have read has given me confidence that Flo is the real deal.
So I am at this decision point-to Flo or not to Flo. I have registered for the June sale and I am awaiting an email from Flo Cycling that will give me the specifics and sale date. I still have a few questions in my mind, including:
- Have people had negative experience with Flo including inferior product quality?
- What wheel set is right for me? Would a combination of the Flo 60 front wheel and the Flo 90 rear wheel be the right set-up for me?
- Are there other affordable alternative for race wheels that I’m not aware of?
- Is the small speed improvement and the mental advantage of having my own race wheels worth spending the money at all?
I would appreciate any comments or words of wisdom to help me with my wheel decision.