i begin with a brief geography lesson both for those who share my own lack of wherewithal when it comes to placing towns and cities around the united kingdom, and for those who live elsewhere and for whom the following will mean not one whit without appreciable explanation. the town of larbert nestles in falkirk council, north of falkirk town and slightly south east of stirling itself. viewed within the greater perspective of scotland altogether, it is on a similar latitude to that of the north end of jura, islay's neighbouring isle.
wednesbury is a few miles south east of wolverhampton and a slightly greater distance north west of birmingham, all just a smidgeon south of the middle of england. in fact, birmingham is just over 304 miles distant from that of stirling, making the gap between larbert and wednesbury probably around 290 miles. and just for good measure in assisting me with my narrative, the travelling distance between larbert and islay is around half the above at 160 miles.
so, who do we know that stays in larbert that might have any tangible connection to that of islay, or more specifically, thewashingmachinepost? i am glad you asked, for that man is derek mclay, proprietor of wheelsmith and purveyor of pretty much any fine handbuilt wheel you care to mention. on friday 28th september, derek was kind enough to send in my direction, a custom built pair of road wheels for my delectation and subsequent review on the post. i felt in only right and proper so to do after favouring the wheels built by jude at sugar.
there are a great many of you reading on both sides of the pond, and though jude creates some fabulous and beautiful wheels, it does me no honour whatsoever that i had all but ignored the skills on my very doorstep. well, a doorstep that resides 160 miles away. derek and i had therefore conferred and agreed that it would be an excellent idea for a pair of his handbuilt wheels to have a holiday on islay. which is why, on friday 28th september, a pair were duly despatched by carrier to the sceptred isle, and in keeping with modern transport technology, i was sent a tracking number to keep an eye on their progress.
derek, however, beat me to it, sending an e-mail on october 2nd with the following message "Just to let you know the wheels have left Glasgow and are now in Wednesbury, in the heart of England's Black Country. Mental!" it would be very hard to disagree with derek's final exclamation. why in the name of everything that is sane and above board, would you send a pair of wheels from larbert to wednesbury via glasgow when they were originally destined for islay?
i figured i'd ask, so i filled in the query form on the website associated with the tracking number, asking just exactly what they thought they were doing. i received my answer a day later in the form of "This parcel has been sent on to a forwarding agency and this is where they are located" an answer that might as well not have been sent, for all the use it was. keeping an eye on the tracking schedule, the wheels subsequently left wednesbury, travelled north to glasgow, then on to oban, a scottish west coast town ninety five miles north of islay by road. the wheels were delivered around teatime on friday 5th october by the principal glasgow-islay carrier who have a depot at tarbert only a few miles from the islay ferry terminal at kennacraig. they had been delivered from oban to tarbert.
the islay haulage company to which the wheels were eventually delivered, have their principal depot at hillington industrial estate in glasgow, a mere 22 miles from larbert to where logic dictates the wheels ought to have been sent in the first place instead of experiencing a trip of around 700 miles. no wonder carriage costs are on the wrong side of pricey.
mavic's ksyrium wheels have been around since the mid 1990s, becoming at one time, almost ubiquitous as original equipment on new complete bikes. they have been oft imitated by competing firms, yet remained the staple of mavic's current wheel range, presently offered in five different flavours across the price range. i have had a pair of the ksyrium slr wheels on test in previous editions of the post, and remarkably fine if slightly pricey at the slr end of the market they have proved to be. they are hard to fault.
however, like many a shiny component, they're quite wonderful until they aren't, and then the brown stuff hits the rotating object. for the zicral flat bladed spokes that feature in all ksyria are of proprietary manufacture, meaning a quick phone call to whomsoever your nearest mavic dealer might be if one should break for whatever reason. add to that, the spoke nipple itself is also of proprietary manufacture and requires a rather large mavic spoke key to invoke truing. i'm not getting at mavic at this point, for the same could be said about many a bicycle component nowadays; it's simply the world in which we live.
however, it doesn't have to be that way.
the wheelsmith set feature 20 sapim cx-ray bladed spokes built radially up front and four more at the rear built two cross onto an all black 23mm wide, 25mm deep wheelsmith badged alloy rims. add to that, the regular flanged black hubs are a wheelsmith custom design and can be had in sram/shimano or campag pattern (i have the latter version). with black spokes and shod with schwalbe ultremo r.1 tyres, the stealth look is complete. derek considers these to be his ksyrium beaters. weighing in at 1425 grams per pair they're only 15 grams heavier than mavic's top range ksyrium slr. though i intend to explore their ride quality over the next few weeks, perhaps their most obvious advantage is that they're handbuilt in scotland using stock spokes and nipples and come with wheelsmith's 'free spoke for life' service, so confident is derek that they will not break in normal use.
the cost is a quite superb £450 considering they are handbuilt from the ground up, though neither of us can guarantee they'll arrive with the travelogue that the review pair can tell their grandchildren.
tuesday 9 october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................