I have been in search of the best option for wheels on my A.I.R. Carbon base-tube. Wheels are insurance for those days when things don’t go according to plan.. all alone on an XC flight, thermal at the wrong time and suddenly you find yourself paying for some expensive carbon parts (or worse). With that said, I still don’t fly with wheels. I have yet to find anything that looks right on the sculptured A.I.R. base-tube. Sure you can get wheels… that look like they belong on a Farm tractor! Big rubber tires that may be great for landing but not so great in the drag department.
Below is a set of wheel we got (Via, A.I.R.) for Mia’s VS:
Not a bad shape, aerodynamically clean. Very stable on the CB (stays put), can be completely removed to allow the CB to be stored in the D-Cell. Down side?… heavy and sadly jam up, stop turning with any sign of dust (the fine dust of the Columbia basin stops them dead). Better then nothing but….
Next set we had a look at where the “Radsystem” for the ATOS (Radsystem Link)
Nice and light, very clean profile, acceptable size. Unfortunately, same old problems with dust (even worse) plus I don’t believe they are good for the base-tube. They need to be mounted inboard of the carbon stock skid points and it leaves a pretty long lever that is likely to damage the base-tube on a hard landing (that and the fact the contact width of the hub is very narrow, not much area to distribute the load). Oh, and one other nagging issue. The hubs should be left on (because the little tiny screws that hold them in place are most likely to strip or lost. With the hubs left in place you can’t stow your base tube in the D-Cell….. translate : your going to end up with your glider at the flying site and your base tube someplace else? (or at least I would )
So, our most recent look at wheels.. the Whoosh! Wheels by Raven Sports
Below is a photo of the Whoosh! wheels mounted next to a set of Radsystem wheels:
The Whoosh Wheels are heavier then the Radsytem but they are stronger and more durable. They also have the ability to easily remove the hub (which btw, is much wider then the Radsystem hub and requires no tools). So far, they appear to have enough clearance to deal with dust but we have yet to establish if we can expect them to survive. The hubs have both a weak and strong points. They are wide and mount outside the stock skid points, leaving only a short lever and IMO better support for the base-tube. The weakness is they do not securely fasten to the base-tube. To keep them in place you are supplied some bicycle “inner tube” …. not a solid solution. Using some heavy duty shrink wrap over top of some 205 leach line (and some industrial double back tape under both the shrink wrap and leach line) I was able to make something a little cleaner (and so far, more secure):
Still, I find the hub to be the weak link on the Whoosh! Wheels (ATOS version). The special angle machined into each hub makes it necessary keep them where they belong, and they do have a pretty loose fit to the base-tube profile so that looks to be a difficult task. I think, in the end they need some sort of clamp or hardware to gip the hub to the base-tube in a more positive way (might make this one of my winter projects). For now, Whoosh! Wheels appear to be an ok option even with the issues that I have noted (Mia says she is going to continue to fly with them on her VQ)
BTW, I did leave out one of the other options. “Skids”. These are beautiful works of carbon “art” but for mishaps on rough real world conditions I’m doubtful. They come in two versions, with and without rollers (kind of caterpillar track, that I’m sure would die a rapid death in our desert dust) . (you can find the roller style skids listed at the bottom of the A.I.R. parts page)
(Update 13/08/2012). Thought I would add a few more comments about the Whoosh! Wheels.
After a few days of our Mansfield dirt, they simply stopped turning (to be honest, this is probably the harshest environment I could ask any product to perform). I’m a little disappointed as they did look as if they had enough clearance to maintain some moment but the “hinged hub” seems to bind or open with the friction of the dust. I think another issue is the hub can not maintain a good alignment (toe in or out), the twisting of the alignment causes the inner hub to open, acting as a brake.
One other observation, the version of wheels we are testing have the holes in them (to reduce weight). Rolling through our mood dust the holes pick up the dirt and sand and dump it onto the edges of the hub, effectively loading the bearing with dirt. If your going to try these wheels in a sandy or dusty environment, order the “solid” wheels (and yes they will weigh more). Last, the pin/dowels used to assemble the wheel half’s are pretty close tolerances making the process of pulling them apart a little challenging.. .I assume they will loosen up with use.
So for now, I do not recommend the Whoosh! Wheels if your going to be operating in harsh dirt/dusty conditions. Looks like skids will be the better choice…. or the farm tractor tires
Have I given up on the Whoosh! Wheels? Nope…. later this fall I might experiment with some form of hub latch to prevent spreading of the inner hub and maintain alignment. If I can’t get satisfactory roll I will continue my quest for a “better wheel”.