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Wheel life Carbon vs. Aluminum

Apr 16, 2009
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I have a set of Rolf Vector Comps that I've used for 11 or 12 years, and in the last year I've had a little concern that I'm at the end of their life. These wheels have been great! NEVER once have I had to true them or replace a spoke. Only once have I taken them to the shop for work, and that was for attention to the rear bearings a year ago. However, the braking surface is starting to look eaten up(the rim is concave). This leaves me looking for new wheel options.

I plan on sticking with clinchers. For the most part these are Aluminum, but there are a number of carbon clinchers now available. So my question is this: How do these wheels compare in terms of braking surface life? Carbon vs. Aluminum.
 
Apr 16, 2009
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Three weeks later now, and as I reread the post I see that I poorly worded my question so I'll give another shot. I was wondering how a carbon braking surface compares to an aluminum braking surface. In terms of braking surface, is the life of a carbon wheel comparable to the life of metal wheels? I'm not expecting my next set of wheels to last 10 years (mainly because I'll probably buy more frequently) but I would like them to last more than 2 or 3 years. Thanks in advance for any input or advice as I begin searching for a new wheelset.
 
Jul 27, 2009
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Isn't it about cost too?

Some carbon clincher rims have an aluminium braking surface, so I'd imagine that the braking surface life is gong to be pretty much the same as an all-aluminium rim.

Even if all-carbon rims have a longer life than aluminium rims, they cost at least five times as much as a aluminium rim, so it's hard to see the value proposition if that's your primary concern.

If you want to go carbon, why not get a cheap set of aluminium clinchers (or perhaps just get a new rim on your existing hubs if they're still OK) and save the carbon for racing/other special rides?
 
Mar 4, 2009
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Provided you're using proper pads, carbon braking surfaces are remarkably durable and generally only show appreciable wear if there are embedded bits in the blocks (like aluminum shards if you use the same pads for two sets of wheels and don't check the pads first when swapping to carbon rims).

So in that sense, yes, they'll last longer than aluminum rims but as one poster already said, they're generally a lot more expensive. More importantly, braking quality isn't as good as on aluminum. Even with good pads, low-speed braking can be a little grabby, braking in the wet is notably less effective, and if you're in a mountainous area and tend to use your brakes a lot, carbon rims build up a lot more heat and more quickly, too (to the point where clinchers can blow off the rim or tubular glue can soften).

If you're specifically after rim braking surface durability, you might want to think about swapping your pads depending on what you're using. But either way, switching to a handbuilt wheelset that uses a standard - and easily replaceable - aluminum rim will probably be your most economical option in the long run.
 
Dec 10, 2009
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i think about swapping your pads depending on what you're using. But either way, switching to a handbuilt wheelset that uses a standard - and easily replaceable - aluminum rim will probably be your most economical option in the long run.
 
Dec 18, 2009
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