Thursday, July 24, 2008

Throwdown: Super Secret Sexy S...uh... Wheels

Growing up I didn’t ever listen to my parents. My parents were totally square, practical people who didn’t get loose that often or seem to enjoy the finer things. At least that’s what I thought when I was younger since my parents didn’t seem to have a lot of the fancy stuff that other parents had. What I learned later in life, was that there was actually plenty of fancy stuff, but it was moderately practical fancy stuff that was a lot of fancy for the money. After one really big, stupid impulse buy I figured out kind of what my parents were doing. Now I’m all about getting the most possible bang for my buck... almost to the point of obsession.

I’m a classic cheap skate, but I’m a practical one, I like to get MORE than my moneys worth as money comes to me in short, small and all too infrequent spurts. I’m not swayed by trends, and I don’t get all geeked about the new cool wheels that you saw at interbike. What I do get geeked about is something I know I could fix if tragedy struck. I’m sure you’re totally in love with your Rolf Prima wheels, but what happens if you’re just riding along and BANG you break a spoke? Have fun walking home. AND Have fun riding something else for 6 months while your wheel makes its way to and from the factory. I like wheels that any crotchety old bike mechanic in the central valley could fix in an emergency.

For the Death Ride a highly classified prototype wheelset from Torelli made its way onto my bike through my secret industry contact who’s identity must remain forever shrouded in cloak-and-dagger-esque mystery. Although this wheelset appears very similar to their current Bormio Wheelset there are some significant technical differences. First of all there has been substantial weight shaved from the Bormio Wheelset which weighs in around 1530 grams for the pair. The prototype set weighed in at 1380 thanks in part to the 380 gram rim. Attached to these rims were Pillar Aero-Blade spokes, which resembled a traditional bladed spoke, only with a narrower width. The front wheel was a 20 spoke radial laced wheel with Alloy nipples while the rear wheel was a 24 spoke, radial non-drive side with alloy nipples and 2 cross drive side with brass nipples. Hidden inside the hubs were 6 sets of Ceramic Hybrid Bearings with ABEC 5 steal races, Grade 5 ceramic balls, and kluber lube. Any educated bearing buyer knows that ceramic bearings are all about the lube, and if you know your lube you know that Kluber, like the Shamwow, is made in Germany, and you know the Germans make good stuff.

What’s great about these wheels, is they’re dripping in practical frugality. If you light your cigars with c-notes and drink Chopin vodka over Grey Goose simply because it’s twice as expensive these wheels probably aren’t for you. Nay, these wheels are for the savvy rider. These are for the rider who knows his or her stuff, the rider who appreciates the finer things but doesn’t want to spend 1500 dollars to potentially dump it down the drain on a Saturday training ride. My 5 or so regular readers know how much I love to trade in Rumor and Innuendo, but for this I’ve been asked not to and I’ll gladly oblige. I won’t comment on what has been discussed for pricing on these wheels but I’ll tell you this... it will be very, very reasonable. The most important feature for me aside from potential pricing is the fact that these wheels run relatively standard spokes and nipples and can be repaired by any half qualified bike mechanic or DIY bike owner with even the most basic spoke wrench. If you break a spoke you’ll spend a minimal amount replacing it, and you’ll be able to find that spoke at just about any bike shop. The practical magic doesn’t end there, but that’s really where it matters the most.

I did two rides on these wheels. One, short quick out and back with about 700 ft of climbing that lasted about an hour, and The Death Ride. From the first few feet on these wheels I could tell a significant difference from my current wheels which are American Classic CR-420’s. There was almost no drag what so ever and the wheels actually seemed to be pushing me forward. The little bit of climbing I did was completely effortless. The morning of The Death Ride I gave the wheels a quick once over, topped off the tires and rolled out. The first test for me was going to be the steep section of Monitor. Usually I can get my rear wheel to flex and wiggle when I stand up and peddle out of the saddle. When I got to a section of 12% grade on Monitor I stood up and fired it up. Surprisingly, did the wheel not flex, it seemed to ride stiffer than it did when I was in the saddle while maintaining a respectable level of responsiveness. I was riding with a couple guys who I’ve ridden with before who consistently ride away from me at other events, and on monitor the tables were finally turned. Half of the Death Ride is climbing, so essentially 67 miles is going up. In this time I always felt like the wheels were very stiff and quick to respond to any change in gear, cadence or power output. Descending on these wheels was very comforting. They didn’t have a lot of give and transferred a lot of the road up and through the frame but they were stiffer than my mom’s vodka tonics in the turns at 35-40 miles an hour, and quite frankly that’s the way it should be. I’m not much for descending at anything over 45 mph but I was pushing close to 50 mph on these and I felt completely in control. The braking surface seemed to interact with my brakes in a friendly but assertive way, giving me even greater confidence in the bends. Through out the whole ride I felt incredibly liberated, like a weight had been lifted.

Disappointingly I did have to give the wheels back, and since then I’m back on my American Classics. Frankly every time I ride now I feel like I’m pulling a sled full of boulders. Despite my constant phone calls and letters Torelli has refused to loan me the wheels again, a decision they will pay dearly for... for keeping me away from my precious.


Anonymous said...

What no photos of this wheelset? Come on Corey!

Greg E

Dougal said...

I'm sold you sure that aren't paying you?
Let me know when those leave the spook world and us regular folks can buy them...