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Phantom II Wheel Upgrades?

Thinking about doing wheel upgrades for my Lightning Phantom II (26/20). I wonder if there is any noteworthy new wheel opportunity for improved speed without spending huge money? Anybody with wheels experience to share? I've changed out the stock Primo tires for the 26"x 1.25" Panaracer RiBMO and the 20" Minits -- which are an improvement in speed and flat resistance. The Lightning site shows a 20" x 1" 105 hub wheel option for the P-38 ($175) -- but no 26" options or indicators of anything for the Phantom II. Has anybody changed wheels and found it worth the expense?

Hello Mark -

I think it is a mistake for most riders to invest serious money in so-called aero wheels. They will give most riders the tiniest speed improvement, and cost lots of money. Suppose you can maintain a steady 25 miles per hour on a road racing upright bike in a calm wind on a flat road. Not a brief sprint at 25, but a steady pace. Switching from ordinary wheels to pricey aero wheels will give you a roughly .5 mph speed boost. For a CAT 1 or CAT 2 amateur racer, it is a modest amount of free speed. You need not train to get it. Just lay down your credit card. But for the vast majority of recumbent bike riders, holding a steady 25 mph is not happening. At a steady pace of 18 or 20 mph, the speed increase gained with aero wheels is so small that you will need laboratory grade equipment to reliably detect it.

A better idea is to a) increase your power output with some sustained and systematic interval training, and b) get a substantial aerodynamic benefit with a fairing. Or better yet, do both. Put a full fairing on your Lightning and get really fit, and you will see the other riders shrinking in your rearview mirror as you pull away from them. Even the really strong riders.

Safe riding,
Joel

These three prevent most accidents: seeing, being seen, & (usually) common sense.

One other thing did occur to me. You can get a small speed boost at modest cost with removable wheel covers on your present wheels. Lightning sells these for the 700c rear wheel of the P-38, or at least they did in the past. I don't know if they do for the 20" front wheel and the 26" rear on your Phantom. If you are a do-it-yourself type of person, you can create covers yourself at low cost. Warren Beauchamp has a website devoted to recumbent bike construction and racing at recumbents.com. I think that there are articles there about home-brew wheel cover construction. This approach will give you much better bang for the buck than purchasing wheels from HED or Flo, or whatever is the currently favored aero wheel.

Safe riding,
Joel

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