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 pavĂ© 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. @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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. @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.

  5. @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

  6. @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.

  7. @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…

  8. Beautiful work, Dan.

  9. @Dan_R

    Are you weighing those wheels on a Richter Scale?

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

  10. haha!

  11. @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

  12. @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.

  13. 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)

  14. @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.

  15. @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….

  16. @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…

  17. @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…

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

  19. 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!

  20. @minion

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

    Nope. Not those either.

  21. @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!

  22. @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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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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