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Lightweight Autobahn VR Riding Notes
The Lightweight Autobahn VR has become my all-time favorite front wheel.
The only reservation I have about the Autobahn VR is the ~400 gram weight gain over a Lightweight Obermayer front wheel, a difference of little importance in most cases, but a factor to be considered in extreme climbing events like the Everest Challenge and Four Horsemen of the Solstice, where every pound counts for 5 minutes or more over the course of the event.
But what the Autobahn VR gains in weight it puts to use with outstanding aerodynamic performance along with outstanding stability on fast high speed descents.
It’s a terrific wheel that is far more versatile and “every day” than I had imagined: prior to use I had serious reservations about its performance in windy conditions, but if anything I now favor it in windy conditions. It can be push the rider around if the wind hits at just the right angle, but one learns to work with the wheel, and it has never been a problem. Moreover, it feels incredibly fast, the low-level sound it makes will psyche out your competitors, and in some conditions actually seems to generate forward thrust at some wind angles.
The Autobhan VR is no doubt hugely undersold for its capabilities based on what I’m feeling on the road. After about 1000 miles or riding, I just keep finding more and more to like.
In the 2014 Solvang Spring Double Century (~193 miles), the Autobahn VR performed brilliantly at all wind angles. It felt fast and efficient at all times and was very enjoyable. It has a sort of hum to it that probably psyches out other riders as they are passed (one rider had heard it whooshing by a rest stop and it definitely can be heard, though not much by the rider when at speed).
Note you author’s seasonal body weight of 168 - 180 pounds, riders weighing 150 pounds or less will have less mass to resist wind forces but will also benefit relatively more from aerodynamics on descents.
Wind conditions have not been troublesome, though with gusts hitting Autobahn VR at ~90° angles, the force can push the front wheel around a bit. That is something one can adjust to, and has not been a problem Two caveats there: (1) riding with both hands off the bar is generally not advised and (2) a bike fit that unweights the front wheel will make any wheel feel unsteady at speed.
Under most wind conditions the Autobahn VR slices through the wind, shrugs it off or actually generates forward thrust, those effects ranging from a feeling of speed and efficiency to thoughts of “this feels like cheating!”.
Wind buffetting at worst-case angles aside, the extra mass of the Autobahn VR contributes to a highly stable feel at speed, with high speed descents particularly enjoyable for the superb lateral stability and predictable handing, even those down King’s Mtn and upper paved Alpine and Old La Honda (some favorite local rides of your author’s). So much so that your author contemplates whether it could be a net win for those Sierra Nevada climbs which also have to be descended. A good test will be the Devil Mountain Double.
- It feels fast, and referencing peak speeds on hundreds of past rides, the hard numbers prove a speed gain of ~1 MPH at 32+ MPH.
- Hazarding a guesstimate based on power meter, I’m estimating a savings of somewhere around 5 watts or so at 25 mph, and maybe 10 watts at 32 mph or so (versus my already good other front wheels). Rough guesses but there it definitely feels like equal speeds at slightly lower wattage.
- It’s a terrific wheel on descents, such as upper paved Alpine Road in my local area; I can rip down with great confidence in supremely precise handling with the Autobahn.
- It requires more attention to cross winds, and no riding with hands off the bar (!), but it is much more stable than I had thought it might be, meaning it can be an everyday choice. Its mass of 840 grams is 85% that of a the set of Obermayer wheels (figures without tire or skewer). Which gives it enough inertia to resist buffeting much better than I had expected, so much so that I’m riding it every day. I have yet to experience a strong side-wind, but wind
- Comfort is excellent.
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