the story so far: over a year ago, derek at scotland's wheelsmith posted a photo on twitter of his latest aero build. so impressive looking were these deep alloy rimmed wheels, that i suggested it might be a whizz bang idea if he were to kindly send over a pair of thes for a brief holiday on islay. to this he readily agreed and only a few days later, a tall, narrow cardboard box arrived by carrier at thewashingmachinepost croft. more impressive though this wheelset was in the flesh (so to speak), it took only a moment or two to realise that a) there was no braking surface and b) there were six bolt holes on each hub for the affixation of disc rotors.
these aspects were not in themselves a disappointing feature of a particularly inviting set of wheels, but in view of my not possessing a disc equipped bicycle on which to fit them, my only pragmatic option was to apologise profusely to derek for my short sightedness and offer to return them forthwith. mr mclay is obviously a more optimistic gent than myself, declining their return and willing to wait until either i purchased an appropriate bicycle, or a suitable applicant arrived for review.
that moment, as described above, arrived only a matter of weeks ago when a bicycle, yet to be reviewed, turned up at the croft in a surprisingly large carboard box.
i have recently described the next hurdle that required to be overcome on discovering that the freehub was configured for a ten-speed cassette and the review machine was an eleven. once again, derek saved the situation by sending a shimano pattern eleven-speed freehub. simplicity itself. in order to ease the wheel transition from the factory builds to the wheelsmith aeros, i purchased an appropriately sized pair of disc rotors (160mm) at which point, we were good to go.
even after so many years of reviewing various items of cycling paraphernalia, i still have frequent cause to doubt my own abilities as a competent witness to the efficacy or otherwise of that under scrutiny. the wheels fitted as standard to the anonymous bicycle (which will be reviewed later this week) were actually rather spiffing, achieving greater heights than i was expecting. thus, i had grave doubts that fitting the wheelsmiths would elicit any notable difference. fortunately the wheels were far more impressive than my scrutineering skills. it is remarkably difficult to put into words just how much of an edge the wheelsmith aeros provided over the stock wheelset.
there's a sprightliness and sure-footedness that announces itself in a totally unfussy manner. many of you might consider that, weight being equal, one set of wheels will be pretty much like another, but take it from one who thought he wouldn't notice, that is very much not the case. i am, by personal admission, something of a wheelaholic; very much of the persuasion that proabably the finest upgrade you can ever make to your bicycle(s) is to fit a better pair of wheels. i'd love to say that choice can easily be made on the basis of price, that more expensive is always better, but several of derek's wheelsets speak to the contrary.
it's possibly not giving too much away to mention that the bicycle in question is of the cyclocross genre, so the wheels have experienced both on-road and offroad. in my opinion, they excel on both smooth and rough surfaces, but if anything, i'd favour scrabbling about in the undergrowth. on road and off, the wheelsmith aeros wore an excellent pair of challenge limus clinchers, with only the pressures altered to cope with the different impositions on traction.
allegedly, deep rimmed aero wheels are consituted to cut through the air at impressive speed, with a possible downside being susceptibility to strong crosswinds. however, the wheelsmiths have been ridden in nothing but strong to galeforce winds, acquitting themselves impeccably in each and every instance. not unsurprisingly, aero really has little place in cyclocross, but the deeper rims offer greater strength and less deflection in the face of adversity.
now that i've mostly got the hang of the offroad habitation, these provided a greater dollop of confidence to the temeritous amongst us. built on wheelsmith branded, sealed cartridge bearing, disc hubs and sporting two-cross 24 sapim x-ray spokes (brass nipples) both front and rear, these are a testament to the wheelbuilder's art. the disc interface is the international star-shaped six point standard fitting, onto which i bolted a pair of shimano deore 160mm rotors. they're also available with 15mm thru-axle up front and a similar style 12mm at the rear.
as it turns out, despite the length of time these have rested in thewashingmachinepost bike shed, they are to all intents and purposes, prototypes, not quite yet to be found on the wheelsmith website. however, the sharp intake of breath comes with the price; a mere £480. that's the sort of number at which you'll be continually refreshing the page, just in case it's an error likely to be hurriedly corrected. but no; four-eight-zero it is.
whether you're a confirmed roadie who cares not one whit for the rough stuff, or a rider who feels the mission has failed unless arriving home under a thick coating of mud, these truly have to be one of the finest upgrades you could offer any disc-equipped bicycle.
monday 23 november 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................