i have already detailed at length the rather circuitous route taken by an innocent pair of wheels from larbet based wheelsmith, but now that they're here, it seems only fair that i propound further upon their efficacy for the job in hand. both 25mm deep, matt black rims and slightly glossier black hubs are wheelsmith branded parts, the latter having been constructed to derek mclay's requirements. the two components are conjoined into a rather impressively stealth looking pair of wheels by means of twenty, black sapim cx-ray bladed spokes at the front and four more at the rear. the flanges of the hubs have been thickened to allow a radial spoking pattern if required. the front is laced in exactly that fashion, while the rear is more pragmatically laced two-cross, as there are differing forces to be dealt with at the back.
derek rather thoughtfully shod both wheels with a pair of schwalbe's ultremo r.1 smooth race tyres which but add to the black stealth appearance. at a retail price (without tyres) of £450, they comfortably undercut the mavic ksyria slr with which they are intended to compete, yet arrive at only a smidgeon over 1400g. i have been at pains over the course of several years to underline what i believe to be the advantages of a handbuilt pair of wheels. though these are more or less a stock item in terms of their build components, the value-add here is the fact that as a potential purchaser, you're working with a builder who can take your riding and human frailties into consideration.
a handbuilt pair of wheels almost always features standard stock spokes, meaning that any breakages can be easily replaced, either by yourself if you're up to that sort of thing, or by returning the offending hoop to wheelsmith. derek offers a 'free spoke for life' service, principally because he's confident that, in the course of normal riding, they simply won't break. faith like this transfers to the ride, as in why should i worry?
the hubs are available with either a shimano/sram pattern freehub or the deeper and chunkier campagnolo version. as i was sent the latter, the wheels have been cheerfully fitted to the colnago master, a bicycle which changes gear via some campagnolo centaur gearing. the hubs feature cartridge bearings rather than the more prevalent cup and cone versions proffered by the corporates. adjustment is via a similar process to that employed by many others including chris king. an allen key in each end twisted in opposite directions will allow removal of the end caps and subsequently the axle and freehub assembly.
i have proved, to my own satisfaction that, as far as ten-speed systems are concerned, whether the freehub bears a campagnolo cassette or a sram/shimano version seems to have little bearing on the quality of changing at the rear. i realise that there are white coated gents in vicenza and japan now running hither and thither shouting "make it stop", but facts is facts. assuming this state of affairs to remain, i'd be quite happy to fit the selfsame wheels with a campag hub to either my cielo or ibis hakkalugi, both of which feature sram changers. knowing that a pair of wheels can be seamlessly swapped between bicycles rather fills me with joy.
i removed a pair of mavic r-sys slr wheels from the colnago in order to fit the wheelsmiths, gratifyingly noting after having done so, that there was little if any change in the overall weight of the bicycle. a good, well-built pair of wheels ought to have been properly de-stressed by the builder, something i usually remember in the process of leaving the building with relevance to any that i have built myself. if not, the first few pedal strokes will inevitably result in a flurry of ping, ping, pings as the wheels are placed under even light riding stress. up till this point, the wheelsmiths have yet to utter a sound.
actually, that last statement is a lie. these, presumably due to the depth of the alloy rims, exude an utterly fabulous whooshing sound across any form of tarmac you care to mention. it's the sort of sound that really ought to be digitally sampled and sold to accompany lesser wheels. i can attribute this sound to the rims rather than the wheels, for it seems independent of how poorly i have inflated the ultremos (of which more later).
islay is a wheel reviewer's paradise, aided and abetted by a veritable excess of crappy road surfaces and all too frequent cattle-grids. it makes little sense to pussy foot about, eternally searching for smoother tarmac to save any blushes. if there is a failing in these wheels, i have had more than just a few opportunities to discover them, but so far they have remained resolute of purpose. the road kept purely for special occasions has been ridden in both directions, augmented by a herd of cows who not only fail to clear up after themselves, but seem undecided as to which is the better side of the road to be on when passed by a repeatedly conversing cyclist.
(this latter conversational feature is a safety aspect; you do not want a cow to discover your presence as you pass in close proximity to its hind legs.)
though an experience that can be placed at the door of the bicycle's rear triangle just as nuch as at the rear wheel, i am a great believer in fitting the rear pads as close as i can get away with at the rear, before giving it serious welly in the big ring up a scary incline. if there is any lateral twisting of the wheel, there ought to be rubbing on each pedal stroke. the colnago master features a carbon b-stay which, in my many years of experience, simply doesn't budge under pressure. in this case, neither did the wheel. heavy footedness failed miserably to instil any sense of brake rub.
an unhealthy diet of cattle grids similarly had no adverse effect, though the same could not be said of their impact on the rider. i really should know better by now. i unintentionally provided the wheels with more of a challenge than is truly appropriate, perhaps giving derek the opportunity to cite his under normal riding conditions clause had there been any untoward results from my incompetence.
intent on a quick early morning ride before heading into work, i clambered into my secret identity before breakfast, washed the dishes and dragged the colnago kicking and screaming from the bikeshed. the more observant amongst you will have picked up that i have omitted the important check the tyres stage. this sort of came back to bite me as i hurtled (it's all relative) along the abattoirenberg forest, beginning to wonder if i had a slow puncture at the rear. in such cases i figure it's much better to adopt a head in the sand approach until the horrible bump, bump, bump or the valve indicates a serious loss of pressure. that is, embarrassingly, the stance i adopted in this case.
pedalling really hard did not seem to be resulting in even the slow forward motion i would have expected. riding through treacle would be a reasonable simile. soft tyres are never a great idea on a road bike, and on the roads travelled, not the kindest thing to do to wheel rims. the tyres are now inflated to a satisfactory pressure, while the rims bear not so much as a scratch. acceleration is as good as it's going to get for an aging roadie, while the handling is impeccable.
these are really, really good at a disarmingly good price, and the all-black look satisfies my notions of speed. ok, so colour, or lack thereof, hardly promotes unheard of velocity, but i'm a firm believer that if it looks fast, it is fast. basically these offer a superbly handbuilt (in scotland) pair of wheels, with easily maintainable hubs and the promise of free spokes for life, consequent on your not tackling the downhill course at fort william.
my faith in handbuilt wheels has gained bolstering reinforcement, while my secret identity has gained a bigger smile in the process.
wednesday 17 october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................