La Ruota

La Ruota

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Its hard to say precisely where the line lays, but I’m certain I’m well on the wrong side of it. I never notice lines as I pass over them but I can usually tell after I have because it feels suddenly liberating to leave reason, sensibility, and convention behind. I find them very restrictive – claustrophobic, almost. They force me into the same old way of thinking, always within a set of parameters of what is accepted. Parameters are a good thing, to be sure – especially for everyone else – but since I wasn’t involved in defining The Universal Limits of Reason and Sensibility, I can’t be sure they’re calibrated correctly so I prefer to roam freely and am quite satisfied to be considered crazy for the time being.

Just like most of us, I started down La Vie Velominatus rolling along on the wheels my first bike arrived with. I trusted them to be indestructible and always carry me about safely. Then one day while racing my friend, I locked up the back wheel coming into a corner too hard and destroyed it, the illusion of The Indestructible Wheel riding up the road alongside the friend I had only moments earlier been locked in shoulder-to-shoulder battle with. It was also at this precise moment that I faced the reality that a wheel is not only destructible, but a basic element facilitating productive locomotion aboard a bicycle.

I spent the next month shingling the roof of my family’s cabin in Northern Minnesota earning the money to buy a replacement wheel. And, having recently shingled a roof, I was suddenly a Shingling Authority, discussing in depth the merits of choice in color, material, and shingle pattern of every roof I passed by. Similarly, upon having been subjected to the myriad choices of replacement wheel, after purchasing my replacement wheel, I was a new inductee into the The Order of the Wheel and noticed (and commented upon) every bicycle wheel that passed me by. Due more to the volume of by observations than their merit, I was soon thereafter indulged by my Cycling Senseimy father – to help him curate the wheels for his custom Eddy Merckx.

At the time, choices were more limited than they are today; quality of hub varied greatly, as did the rims, spokes, and tires. Everything was limited to an alloy of some kind, though you could have any spoke pattern you wanted, as long as it was 3-cross. At the time there was also a choice between tubular and clincher, which was a relatively new option. We labored over the choices and wound up having two wheelsets built – one clincher and aero; one box-section and tubular – a choice I stand by today.

That was my awakening, but nevertheless, I have throughout my life as a Velominatus had only one wheelset per bike. The lightest for Bike #1. Whenever Bike #n came into play, it received  its own wheelset; as with all the other parts on Bikes #2…n; a hand-me-down from Bike #n-1’s upgrade. (Using the Hand-Me-Down Upgrade Methodology, a single upgrade improves not just one bicycle, but several – with the added benefit of filling a longer period of time moving bits from one noble steed to the next.)

It was only recently, during preparation for the 2012 edition of Keepers Tour over the cobbles of Northern France and Vlaanderen, that I took my own place in the realm of the Specialty Wheelset – which also afforded me another of those moments when I was strangely aware of having crossed one of Those Lines. After all, a big, fat Dutchman can’t be expected to ride over the pavé of Paris-Roubaix – unleashing the awesome wattage of his artillery – on just any old wheelset; certainly not any of those wheels which I already owned. This called for a set of wheels purpose-built for the occasion. Rims, hubs, spokes, and tires were selected with great care and assembled (four times) in a wine-enhanced rite.

Riding these wheels is a pleasure highlighted by the fact that I don’t always ride them. They hang on the workshop wall in a wheel bag, waiting for the Right Occasion to ride them. Those occasions are often anticipated several days – if not weeks – in advance and deliberated over carefully. Then, when the choice is finally made to pop them in for the ride, I wrap myself in the delta between my regular wheels and these. This contrast, like the negative space in a great painting, is the area in which I dwell while riding them. The difference in tire type, width, spoke pattern, weight. The way the wheel feels when the pedal is engaged. The way the wheels and tires flex over a bump in the road or hug the pavement in a corner.

I’ve since embarked on a journey to get each road bike in the house – mine as well as the VMH‘s – on the same drive train in order to be able to maximize the wheel-swapping effect. Each wheel is a new language, each tire a new dialect, and inner tube a new turn of phrase. To paraphrase the nursery rhyme: one for sorrow, two for joy, three for hills and four for stones.

// Accessories and Gear // Defining Moments // Nostalgia // Technology

  1. @roger@SimonH

    H Plus Son are far east.  Taiwan I think. Luxe must use HED rimstrips for some reason.

  2. @roger They are just rimstrips.

  3. @Nate Whoops, *snap*!

  4. Cheers fellas. Simple answer for simple question.  I’ll consider thta my Karl Pilkington moment for the week

  5. @Oli

    Ouch, my toes [emoticon omitted].

  6. @tessar

    @SimonH I’ve heard enough stories to never trust carbon on a rainy day, regardless of hyped “new technologies”. For race-wheels, though… SES, Firecrests, HEDs and the latest Bontrager designs make a lot of sense when you think about it. I used to be into Formula 1 and used to pour over the details of every car – armchair aerodynamicist, so to speak – so lots of what’s “cutting-edge” and revolutionary in cycling seems so normal to me. Trek’s hype around the Speed Concept (and now Madone’s) kamm-tail is downright laughable – that’s ’30s tech in the car-world.

    A guy that Marko and I know from waaaaaaaaaay back used to be a pioneer in the competitieve canoe world, which is all about fluid dynamics. Air, of course, is a fluid, but it’s not nearly as viscous as water and design really, really, REALLY matters in boats because of that. I showed him a carbon bike once going “wow, isn’t this amazing that they can do this?!” He openly laughed and said he’d get fired for making something twice as good. It was partly for the carbon layup and part for the shape of the tubes. I think it was the first Cervelo P3 Carbon, but I don’t remember for sure.

    Myself, I’m quite smitten with HED’s Flamme Rouge hubs – pretty light, very cool-looking and a buzz as divine as the Chris Kings. Either that, or the super-quiet whisper of a Dura-Ace.

    I’ve got a set of Hopes. Talk about a sexy buzz. I almost don’t want to pedal.

  7. @oli

    I’m sure you’ve been asked and answerd this question 1000x on the site, but given my laziness and newfound distaste for carbon wheels (at least at a price i’m willing to part with), what wheelset would u deem “the ultimate” for cx racing(not trainers). Assume a basher, punchy rider of 75-80kg lacking finesse. Assume a budget under 700$ (us). Just curious. Tubular to be sure.

  8. @scaler911

    @Oli

    @minion The infamous “rotten spokes” – most of them corroded from the inside out, so not sure if it was the colourisation process or just bad steel…

    Do you remember that short period of time in the early/ mid 90″²s when plastic bladed spokes were all the rage? Of course that turned out to be a horrible idea because of catastrophic wheel failure, but I’m trying to restore a period bike that had them. Do you have any idea of what I’m talking about/ where I might source a set?

    Might be thinking of Aerospoke wheels, iirc they were moulded plastic things.Still available because hipsters like to use them on fixies (so they can unco-ordinate their colours, yo), they wegh about 2kg. Each. They still break too:

     

  9. @gaswepass I’m gradually building what will be my #1 set of wheels for just over $700. White Industries MI16CX rear hub, HED Belgium tubular rims, CX-Ray spokes.

    Right now I only have the rear hub. The rims arrived today. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  10. @G’rilla

    @gaswepass I’m gradually building what will be my #1 set of wheels for just over $700. White Industries MI16CX rear hub, HED Belgium tubular rims, CX-Ray spokes.

    Right now I only have the rear hub. The rims arrived today. I’ll let you know how it goes!

    Sounds pretty cool. After 2 races my rear carbon tub went outta true, necessitating reglue (recessed spoke). My ancient “NOS” cosmic pros (bomber but heavy) got glued to a set o grifos that came from a bad lot- the treads are delaminated and  are going  to be warrantied. Racing on a set of dura ace 7700 hubs laced 3x to mavic classics w older grifos. Gonna go back to carbons one more time then next time outta true (if it happens quickly) done w/ em for cx. It would be nice to go a bit lighter than those older wheels without the carbon headaches. Curious to hear your ‘sperience when it happens…

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    start_el('?display_element(Object(stdClass), Array, 1, 0, Array, '?@gaswepass

    One think I love about my Zipps is the spokes use standard nipple and they are exposes normally, so I can just true them (not that I ever need to) with the same tools I use to build my wheels. Lovely.

    I’m not sure why people are recessing the nipples; wind tunnel test have shown that because the nipple travels in the slipstream of the rim, there’s a negligible aero benefit to doing that.

    The Richters which I expect to receive today, I believe, also have exposed nips. That will be very helpful after they inevitably go wobbly.

    @DavidI

    *shudder*

  12. @frank

    Awesome looking wheels. Looking forward to the report.

    The thing about the carbon wheels, to me, is i dont think i can emotionally handle breaking 2k$ wheels (when much less expensive do a similar job) at my performance/competition level. Fortunately the arms race at master c is more clincher v tub, gettin the pressure right, mebbe carbon v alloy frame. So, i wont lose much worse based on that. And not judging anyone who wants to race on zipps or more esoteric- more power to em! I know i break shit, thats just too much for a disposable (until i get my sponsored contract next season…).

    The other thing is I’m not sure whats ideal in cx racing, absent carbon deep dish rims  w disc hubs from hope or ck. the study as i recall was a benefit at 40kph and mebbe also in deep deep sand but only for some people. And once again, even if it is te best i am drawing line at budget for me. I am looking for the combo of unassailable hub internals, bomb proof build and light and truable without disassembly.

    Now for road racing, carbon much different deal, and much more interested in that. Xmas is coming….

  13. @frank First, thanks for the shout outs. And reposting a wheel in progress really helps my ego too! I hope they arrive in time as I spent $160 to get them there for the weekend! And I hope they don’t suck.

    All, as I have been away from the laptop – yes, building some wheels, trying to get the web store designed, chasing my 4 year old around…oh, yeah, I just refinished my bench top too, so between the linseed oil and varnish in the shop, I am probably the walking stoned. But since this is all about the most important part of the bike, a close second is the front derailleur, and I am in the start-up of my own little hoop operation, here are more than V points from my little melon…

    I – the essence of the wheel is the spokes. Then the hubs, then the rims. Everything about the spokes – strength, flex, brand (its SapEEM bitches), lacing, tension, lube for the nipples, these elements are what untimately make a great wheel over a good wheel. For your viewing pleasure, as set of vintage rebuilds with a crowfoot pattern…

    II – Rims, carbon and alloy both make great wheels, just as box and aero. Just remember than anything over 30mm deep and you will feel the cross winds. May not hurt your Spartacus rinding ass, but you will at least feel it.

    III – NO matter where it was manufactured, by whatever great or shitty brand, it can and has failed. Sometimes, not even because the Cat 5 superstar smashes it against the curb looking for his results! Love that!

    IV – Why buy it if youi ain’t gonna ride it.

    V – HTFU

    VI – I love wheels. I am riding one of my own set of 38mm tubs right now. For carbon tubs, since clean up is such a bitch, I recommend using tufo tape and tufo tubs. That said, Veloflex and FMB are the bomb, Conti makes a carbon specific glue. If you are using carbon CX, Belgian glue them – YouTube it, but it is glue-tape-glue. And Belgian.

    VII – Handbuilt over factory, however, if you go with factory, Shimano, Campag, and Mavic are tough to beat. I will ride a set of 1900g Mavic Cosmic Elites (32mm alloy rim) on some horrible Alberta roads. And with just a 20/20 spoke count, they are strong and stiff. Heavy as a fat bitch going up Kootenay Pass a couple of years ago – my box still hurts just thinking about it.

    VIII – As Frank has mentioned, he will be testing a set of CX wheels and some climbing wheels for me. Since I want to launch a good line-up of wheels, I really need the good, the bad, and the ugly from the reviews. Of course, I am terrified and excited all at the same time, but good feedback will only help what will be my standard line of wheels. I want to get up and running soonish, however, the realities of nearing the end of the season here in Canada, if all goes well, I will be able to offer a pre-order for the start of next season. Of course, I will be offering a standard line of my own wheels (alloy and carbon) – built here in Canada, but there will be options for custom wheels too using some of the best brands out there. I am going to offer the typical sundry items that are related to wheels too – tubulars/tires, tubes, pads and some clothing too. Oh, and the V will be a part of things too, but I will let Frank talk about that once he breaks my wheels. More to follow once we have more worked out!

    PS – NEVER use latex tubes in carbon clinchers!

  14. @frank can’t wait for those to go into production.

  15. @gaswepass

    @frank

    Awesome looking wheels. Looking forward to the report.

    The thing about the carbon wheels, to me, is i dont think i can emotionally handle breaking 2k$ wheels (when much less expensive do a similar job) at my performance/competition level. Fortunately the arms race at master c is more clincher v tub, gettin the pressure right, mebbe carbon v alloy frame. So, i wont lose much worse based on that. And not judging anyone who wants to race on zipps or more esoteric- more power to em! I know i break shit, thats just too much for a disposable (until i get my sponsored contract next season…).

    The other thing is I’m not sure whats ideal in cx racing, absent carbon deep dish rims  w disc hubs from hope or ck. the study as i recall was a benefit at 40kph and mebbe also in deep deep sand but only for some people. And once again, even if it is te best i am drawing line at budget for me. I am looking for the combo of unassailable hub internals, bomb proof build and light and truable without disassembly.

    Now for road racing, carbon much different deal, and much more interested in that. Xmas is coming….

    Unless you have deep mud and sand to ride through on your CX circuit, I would go with low profile alloy wheels in your case. We have some dudes in Master Slow Sport riding Enve tubs, but our tracks are dry and hard, thus brutal on wheels. And nobody cries about tacoed 550s…

  16. @Oli

    @DavidI

    Thanks for the reply, but those aren’t it. The ones @Oli posted are close, but not the right ones. They’re shitty spokes anyway, so I’m thinking I’ll just use DB SS spokes.

  17. on phone so hard to find who said it exactly, but i have some busted up hed stinger 6 wheels.  the hubs in them are still fanny tastic.  if anyone wants them, just let me know

    flamme rouge. shimanko splinedd. 18×24. maybe 800¥ on them. barely broken in.  not too many 18h rims out there, that might be tricky to find outside of velocity.

  18. @Dan_R

    The beauty of pacific NW cross is we start out on dry dirt and sand then migrate to foot deep stop every 15 minutes to clean off 5kg+ of mud because the wheels literally won’t roll. It takes a phd in wheel science to cordinate wheels, tires pressures with the actual physical capabiity to pilot them thru. And then the ability to suffer. So what are you recommending for the deep deep mud?

  19. @gaswepass

    Skids.

  20. @Dan_R

    @gaswepass

    Skids.

    more familiar w skidmarks… but I will take it under advisement.

  21. Been hoping to upgrade the wheelset on my #1 for awhile. For two years been riding some Neuvations that fit into my Budgetatus. They’re pretty light and have done well for the price. Starting to break spokes though and the VMH has okayed using some wedding gift money for them! I think this will equate with 2-3 of her special tea cups…

    During a group ride yesterday a dude I know told me he’s selling a wheelset. Mavic Ksyrium SL Premiums, pretty much brand new, all black. I’ve checked out some reviews, which are good/bad. Not aero, too expensive. Strong, light, durable, stiff. Seems like a lot of folks had these on some pretty fine road bikes a few years back, before all the deep carbon became the rage. He’s asking $400. Actually have a pair of Ksyrium ESs from this guy and they’ve been great for cross riding.

    A nice wheel at a good price? Or, better stuff to be had at this price?

    Not interested in tubular of carbon at the moment. Don’t road race, weigh 65 kg, want a relatively light durable wheel for some group rides, lots of solo riding. They’ll be set up with Continental GP 4000s. This would also save me from shopping around/bidding, which with all the late season sales going on, could be an endless mission.

  22. I’ve also seen the Cosmic Elite at a few places online for $500 with free shipping. That would be about even considering I’d need to pick up skewers & a freehub body for the set from the riding pal. And new comes with a warranty.

    I guess the Elites are more aero, the SL Premiums less but maybe a better, stronger, lighter all around wheel?

    Again, I’d like these for all-around riding. Some hills here and maybe even (finally) getting on over to Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway this fall. I’ve done just fine with my mid-profile Neuvations on group rides/races. Either of these wheelsets I’m sure would be a nice upgrade.

  23. @Ron Ksyrium SLs new(ish) at that price are a great deal.  You won’t fault them once you buy them and ride them, especially the higher end ones. I get the feeling if you get to test ride them you’ll really, really like them. Mavic is out of fashion on the internet but that doesn’t have sweet FA to do with how they ride. I’m getting increasingly skeptical about people who tout the latest and greatest in wheel technology, especially when the increasingly marginal gains ad thousands of dollars in premium to the price.

  24. Hi Minion. Thanks for the reply. That’s what I was thinking. They seem to have sold for $1000-$1200 USD new so I thought that was a great deal. Plus, I’m already riding ESs (special edition Ksyriums with the silly red spoke) on my cross bike and they have been very, very nice. Zero problems, no noises, lots of cx abuse.

    Yeah, I’m just after an upgrade and these seem like solid wheels at a good price. As scaler stated above in this thread, even lower end Ksyriums of today are as nice as very pricey wheelsets from 15 years ago. I definitely don’t need PRO-level wheels, just something pretty good and durable. I think these are far above pretty good and have done really well for most riders. And, this will be short and sweet – I can ride over to his house one night this week and pick them up. No endless search for the ultimate bargain or bidding wars.

    I too like new/nice stuff but I try and balance that with a bit of reality. I like quality stuff but at some point it just becomes consumerist lust, no different than obsessive buyers of anything.

  25. @Ron

    @minion

    I ride Ksyrium Elites (2012). They are just great. Bombproof, really. Not gone out of true in just over a year of use; never trued them. Light enough and as for comfort, I’ve never noticed that they’re uncomfortable. Smooth roads here, though, so I can ride what I like.

    I find it weird they get grief online.

  26. @Blah

    @Ron

    @minion

    I ride Ksyrium Elites (2012). They are just great. Bombproof, really. Not gone out of true in just over a year of use; never trued them. Light enough and as for comfort, I’ve never noticed that they’re uncomfortable. Smooth roads here, though, so I can ride what I like.

    I find it weird they get grief online.

    I have been riding Ksyrium SLR Premuim wheels for three years and have just loved them.  Very strong and light.

  27. I agree that as far as factory hoops go, it is hard to beat Mavic. I would never call a set of wheels “bombproof,” but when I built up a pair of Excellites for a buddy, he wanted, “bombproof, like my Mavics.

    Go for it and get those wheels.

  28. Buck – Hmm, it can be confusing with all the letters and names but sounds like you are riding the same wheels I’m considering. I think they’re the Mavic Ksyrium SL Premium in all black, a few years old, so that would make sense. You were riding yours in VT? Not as many mountains where I am these days, but they aren’t far away and been wanting to hit them up. Yeah, this guy only has quality stuff around and has always given me good deals in the past. Do you use yours for everything – training, Cogals, races, climbing, etc.? And, what tires do you have on them? (I’d be getting clincher wheels, by the way)

    Any problems with spoke noises? I’ve also read the skewers can rattle. Never had a problem with my other Mavic skewers though.

    Dan_R – Cool. Thanks for the feedback. Coming from a wheelbuilder…that’s pretty good! I’d love some custom wheels but just not in the time/$ budget at the moment. But soon!

    And bombproof – Ha! I haven’t used that word since I ODed on it when hanging around too many fixsters during my former big city days. “Are they bombproof?” Do you mean because you need to crush it 1.8 kms on your way to the philosophy class you are late for because your were combing your hair over? Oh boy.

    And on the topic of wheels – are Ti skewers worth it? Or, just stick with Dura Ace or Record and be done with it?

  29. @Ron

    Ti skewers are pure weight weinie-ism.  The rotating mass of the rim & spokes are so much more significant than saving a few nonrotating grams at the axle.

  30. @Ron LOL, fixsters. I use a set of Campag wheels on my fixie, its called a track bike. They are stiff and strong and oh so aero!

    Once the company website is up and running, I will be offering a budget set on top of custom options. I will try to keep that in mind. A good set of ally clinchers for a reasonable price. You like eyelets? hehe

  31. @Ron

    Yeah, all black with carbon hubs. I bought them new in 2009.   Skewers make a bit of noise now, but not for the first two years.  They were the ones I used in VT.  Currently use them for everything but now that my stuff that has been in storage for the past four months is here, I will be using my HED C2 tubs and the new Easton EC90 wheels that I just ordered.  But I will continue to use this set off and on.  But I did use them for everything for two and half years and they never let me down.

  32. @RedRanger

    @frank can’t wait for those to go into production.

    Thanks! Production takes as quick as I can make ’em! I am wrkign on getting my website launched and getting some stock built at the same time. As I am nearing the end of the season here in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, I plan on taking pre-orders once the site is up and running, with the present stock being available for sale. If all goes well, I should be able to bring in an other wheelbuilder to keep up with demand. To whet some whistles, I just finished this set (50mm clinchers) an hour ago…

  33. Beautiful work, Dan.

  34. @Dan_R

    Are you weighing those wheels on a Richter Scale?

    Thank you, and good night… I’ll be here all week.

  35. haha!

  36. @brett

    @Dan_R

    Are you weighing those wheels on a Richter Scale?

    Thank you, and good night… I’ll be here all week.

    Gold……  just gold…….  laugh ….. I laughed incredibly hard …. very humerous sir

  37. @brett

    @Dan_R

    Are you weighing those wheels on a Richter Scale?

    Thank you, and good night… I’ll be here all week.

    Nicely done.

  38. I’m a bit confused – do Mavic wheels need Mavic-specific Shimano/SRAM or Campa freehub bodies?

    Or, can you put a Campa freehub body on a Mavic wheel? (Of course I’ll need a Campa or SRAM/Shimano cassette depending on the gruppo)

  39. @Ron

    I’m a bit confused – do Mavic wheels need Mavic-specific Shimano/SRAM or Campa freehub bodies?

    Or, can you put a Campa freehub body on a Mavic wheel? (Of course I’ll need a Campa or SRAM/Shimano cassette depending on the Gruppo)

    The freehub needs to be compatible with (1) the hub model (i.e., Mavic, Royce, Shimano, Campagnolo) and (2) the cassette (i.e., Shimano/SRAM or Camapgnolo).  For some hubs the other kind of freehub body is readily available & reasonable to switch, others not.

  40. @brett

    @Dan_R

    Are you weighing those wheels on a Richter Scale?

    Thank you, and good night… I’ll be here all week.

    Nice, I’ll have the veal!

    If you want a seismic shift in your riding….

  41. @Dan_R just remember that while your season may be coming to an end, there’s a whole other hemisphere down here that may be suffering from the upgrade itch in prep for the upcoming season…

  42. @Dan_R

    @brett

    @Dan_R

    Are you weighing those wheels on a Richter Scale?

    Thank you, and good night… I’ll be here all week.

    Nice, I’ll have the veal!

    If you want a seismic shift in your riding….

    I do. Not a faulty set though…

  43. @scaler911 Spinergy? The freaky plastic spokes that thread at the nipple?

  44. Nate – got it, thanks!

    Just thought I’d check, since I have some friends who made the switch from Campa to SRAM (but they’ve already cleaned house) – does anyone have a Mavic-wheel Campa freehub body collecting dust that they’d like to sell off? Thanks!

  45. @minion

    @scaler911 Spinergy? The freaky plastic spokes that thread at the nipple?

    Nope. Not those either.

  46. @Mikael Liddy I have a buddy down under, actually the young man schooled us at the USMC Trials Road Race with a 5km breakaway, so I am keen on keeping my fellow colonials in mind. The rough part is shipping from Canada to Australia, the cost can be prohibative.

    @brett
    Faults? Merckx no!

  47. @Derek

    @Chris Hi, I love those Golden Ticket rims.  Can someone please post a link or a phone number to the shop where one may purchase such rims.  Thanks, Derek

    If you are in the US, Backcountry/Competitive Cyclist have them in stock right now.  You can also buy from this vendor on Amazon.

  48. Parameters are a good thing, to be sure – especially for everyone else – but since I wasn’t involved in defining The Universal Limits of Reason and Sensibility, I can’t be sure they’re calibrated correctly so I prefer to roam freely and am quite satisfied to be considered crazy for the time being.

    This just became one of my favorite quotes… Instant winner.

  49. Slowly acquiring the pieces to build my own wheels.

    Today I ordered a front hub (Chris King classic cross), spokes (Sapim CX-Ray), and nipples (brass). Have rims (Hed Belgium tubular). Hopefully late next week I’ll be rolling on (at least) a front wheel that I built.

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