Friday, May 13, 2011


I have been thinking about wheels lately.  Mostly I think about things like wheels when a) I want new ones or b) when I am having troubles with the existing ones.  My thinking in this case mostly has to do with the latter and not the former, although I confess that it is easy to talk me into thinking about new wheels.

I am having issues with one set of wheels that is a race set, but also close to an every day set.  Except that this day I have a loose spoke or something that is causing a problem.  I am having an issue with a set that is really a race set, except that the company touts them as "strong enough for every day", which they are mostly, but they are carbon, require different pads and have an annoying "click" that is probably a valve stem on carbon thing, but could be a bearing thing.  I also have a set of mountain bike wheels that I would like to be tubeless, but they just don't work as tubeless very well after many attempts and related flats.  Square peg, round hole I'm afraid.

And all of this makes me think about compromises in wheels.  For fast group rides no one wants to show up at a gun fight with a knife, and frankly lots of riders are showing up fully ready to fight - lightweight bikes, lightweight wheels, components that are really designed for racing, which means limited use, frequent servicing and early replacement.  I admit I have done plenty of this.  I like cool bike stuff, I like new bike stuff and I figure that I might as well maximize my efforts by having equipment that isn't holding me back (to turn around an oft-stated phrase from a riding buddy).  On the other hand, I don't like mechanical issues, I don't really like futzing with my bike before and after every ride and I don't like stuff breaking.  I think I see the conflict.

I recently switched my daily rider from a carbon race machine to a 15-year old titanium frame.  My riding isn't appreciably slower and, while I didn't worry about it usually, there is some comfort knowing that my frame is likely to stand up to a lot more of a crash or knock than a carbon frame would.  I am in between carbon race bikes, but I am starting to look at the carbon race bike as more of a specialty instrument to be used for particular purposes instead of an everyday machine.  And the same thing goes for wheels.

I am not ready to sell a set or buy something new, but I think that the next set of wheels I buy won't be high zoot, light or fancy.  Instead I am thinking bomb-proof hubs, reasonable heft for durability and plenty of spokes that add weight/are less aero and which will stand up to a gazillion miles of riding with reasonable care and maintenance.  It's a radical idea for me, but it's just so crazy it might work.  I'll let you know if anything comes of it and I definitely will be stopping by to get Steve's opinion soon.

I think this just when from the latter to the former.  Oops.

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