i'm happy to consider myself something of a trekkie, perhaps not going quite so far as to dress as lieutenant worf and carry a sharpened battleth by my side, but i can just about handle going where no-one has gone before. i was there in the sixties when the first episode aired on british television, entranced by dilithium crystals, tribbles and hoping to live long and prosper. my interest, occasionally bordering on infatuation has continued through star trek: the next generation, deep space nine and star trek: voyager while only in the last couple of weeks i watched star trek: into darkness twice in as many days.
gene roddenberry has a lot to answer for.
though the early episodes harboured stage sets alluding to far away planets constructed from polystyrene and fibre-board, it can't have been too easy trying to create other worldly landscapes on a limited budget and without the benefit of modern computer techniques and green screens. similarly, these landscapes required to be populated by peoples or creatures with appropriately interstellar names. and the inspiration for such nomenclature had to come from somewhere.
which is, i presume, where the association with xpelair units came from. in point of fact, it was their competitors that lent their name for a particular planetary population in one less than memorable episode of the next generation. the ventaxians (i kid you not) were one of those peoples visited by captain picard and will ryker, though for the life of me, i haven't the faintest idea why. and while you're all bemused by this inexplicable digression, if i were to inform you that the ventaxians lived on vigor alpha, i doubt too many would pay a great deal of attention or, indeed, be prepared to argue the point.
though the moniker vigor alpha does indeed sound if it was inspired by gene roddenberry, in actual fact it comes from the home of paired spokes in eugene, oregon. it's not so very long ago that i reviewed rolf's deep section carbon rimmed ares 4 wheels, rather fine, fast hoops that provided their own brand of scariness when hit by galeforce crosswinds. as a result my remarking upon this state of affairs, uk distributors 2pure elected to send me the less sail-like vigor alphas with a mere 33mm rims as opposed to the ares' 46mm.
however, the principal differentiation between the ares and vigors is that of construction. though both make use of the same paired-spoke technology which really ought not to work but bizarrely does so remarkably well, the vigor wheels have an aluminium rim, yet only adding around 100g to the weight. rather obviously, wheels need tyres, in this case a pair of clement strada lgg 700x25c clinchers, the exact same tyres as fitted to the carbon ares and also distributed by 2pure. i loved them then, and i loved them this time too.
though 33mm is less deep than 46mm, it's still deep enough to need a 60mm valve stem, something disappointingly absent from thewashingmachinepost bike shed, having to settle for the smaller 40mm. those just peeked through the rim, and ingenuity had to resort to one of those little brass adapters that allow inflation via the schrader end of the track pump. tired of having sore thumbs from hours of attempting to fit recalcitrant clinchers on previous rims, 'twas a pleasant change to find the clements almost rolled themselves onto the rim.
the ares, if you will recall, were less than completely true at point of fitting, though refused to budge throughout the review. the vigor alphas were immaculate in their trueness, demonstrated by running both brake calipers mere millimetres from the shiny braking surface. according to a tiny sticker on the rims, the rolf prima hubs cossetted some ceramic bearings for easy road rolling. the shimano/sram pattern freehub is long enough to accommodate both manufacturers' recently added eleventh sprocket, but each pair arrives with a thin aluminium spacer if fitting only ten.
though i'd hate to admit it to the folks kind enough to send wheels for review in the first place, i don't tend to show a lot of mercy, because that would rather seem to miss the point. though i believe there are some fragile, activity specific wheels on the market, i am firmly of the opinion that survivability ought to be first and foremost. there's not much hope of travelling at hitherto unheard of speeds if something breaks. and despite a deeply held belief that a 1.5kg pair of wheels with only 30 spokes between the two of them (14 front, 16 rear) should fall apart when lifted from their box, they resolutely failed to prove me right.
i count myself fortunate to live midst a particularly fine cluster of cattle grids, many of which are in less than pristine condition and eager to eat wheels for breakfast. but in this, they are far from alone, for the roads bordering many of these grids are, if anything, even more set on physical destruction. i will allow that i am the archetypal ten-stone weakling, and that the carbon colnago c40 to which they were fitted doesn't give even a set of digital scales much to worry about, but nonetheless, i hit everything as hard as i could.
for a set of wheels, of whatever hue or spoke count that cost nigh on £900 ought to see off anything short of the grand canyon placed in their way, in my humble opinion. taking into consideration that i kept the calipers at their scary closeness to the rim, by the time they were being cleaned and polished for return, they hadn't budged a millimetre. that's big and strong in my eyes. and though i was unable to find a crosswind of the magnitude experienced last time round, there was enough of a draught in the wrong places to convince that these would be the preferable hebridean option. there was never even the hint of a nudge up, down or round about.
the clements were magnificent all across three weeks; i do so like these tyres, but next time i'll get a pair of inner tubes with longer valve stems.
straight line speed was remarkable easy to attain and almost as simple to maintain, while the colnago's chuckability was immeasurably improved over the previous incumbents. i confess to having experienced minor juddering at the front wheel while braking, but that may well have been due to having fitted brand new pads only days before fitting the rolfs. and it does not seem too superficial to mention the distinct advantage of aluminium rims in not needing to switch brake pads, as is almost necessarily the case with carbon rims. and on a purely superficial level, i'd love them to simplify the levers on their quick-release skewers, purely on an aesthetic level, you understand. they're a tad on the curly side for my liking.
i still do not, however, quite understand how rolf wheels keep their structural integrity. i've watched the videos and read the technical info and i cannot deny that it all makes perfect theoretical sense. but a mere fourteen spokes up front are enough to make your kneecaps crinkle at the very thought. however, as this is the second pair from rolf that i have ridden without even so much as a hint of anything going awry, i cannot but declare myself a convert.
the proof is in the pudding as kenny van vlaminck would say.
friday 26th september 2013