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Light vs Aero Wheelset

Ok, I want to revisit this topic with the wheels on a P-38.

My understanding is:

Light wheels = faster climber

Aero wheels = fast on flats and downhillis

Is that true?

The P-38 is reputed to be an amazing climber. There are only two ways to ride in arizona; up or down.

I want better wheels to nail these hills.

What choices are there for the 20 inch front wheel (406)? A lot of choice for the 700 c'rear.

Share your exeriences!



Your understanding of wheels is correct. The lightest ones are better for hill climbing, and the aero ones are better for the flats and downhills.

And unfortunately the aero wheels tend to be heavier than non-aero ones. So the two kinds of fast wheels are actually in tension with each other.

It sounds like you are more concerned about weight than flatland speed though, since your area is especially hilly.

Sun used to make a double-walled rim called the M14. It was pretty skinny and lightweight. Velocity probably makes something similar. Pair the Sun or Velocity rim with an American Classic ultralight hub - or some other unusually light hub, and build it with 16 or 18 stainless straight gauge spokes. Use brass nipples, not aluminum ones. Brass nipples are a tiny bit heavier, but will allow the wheel builder to get a higher spoke tension and this will result in a more durable wheel. Hubs with flanges that are CNC machined usually should not be radially laced, and I think the American Classic hubs are like this. Ordinary Shimano and Campy hubs have forged flanges and can be laced any way you like.

There is a website devoted to ultralight bike components at

In terms of bang for the buck, an ultralight crankset and bottom bracket will probably be a better buy than ultralight wheels. At least that is where I would begin. You will want to remove the pivoting stem on your handlebar too.

Before you empty your bank account buying titanium and carbon fiber parts for your bike, you should read the brief article here:

The article is about upright bikes, but the same underlying ideas apply to your Lightning recumbent.

Other riders know much more about this stuff than me, since I am an aero weenie rather than a weight weenie.

Regarding the sterling reputation of the Lightning P-38 as a hill climber: the P-38 really is a better hill climber than other recumbents, even some that are lighter weight. But an ordinary road racing bike still will have the edge when the hills get steep and/or long.

Safe riding,


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