November 30, 2009

HED Stinger 6 Tubular Wheelset Review

Ridin' the Stinger 6 wheelset from HED. The wheelset sports the new wider rim from HED (called C2) that, like the new Zipp rims, is about 28 mm wide at the widest point compared to 19 or 20 mm for conventional wheels.

Point Number 1: Make sure the wider rim fits your bike. And consider that the rim and your bike (yes, even your bike) will flex a bit under hard sprinting. Will it rub? It will on many frames. I can get it to work on my Cervelo Soloist Carbon, but only up to about 800 watts (that's as hard as I can go and still look at the back wheel). I can feel it rub on a good hard effort. OK for a time trial, but not optimal for a road race or crit. Now this isn't HED's (or Zipp's) fault, it is the bike manufacturer's, many of which have fallen behind the wheel makers' trend to wider rims for better aerodynamics, strength, etc. The rim does not flex any more than other quality rims I have ridden (again looking at my back wheel). There just isn't any room for more than 1.5 mm of combined wheel/bike flex due to the wider rim profile. The Stinger 6 is stiff enough for Cav (at least for a front wheel), so they are stiff enough for me. (note: I contacted HED and frame flex causes chainstay rub, wheel flex causes brake rub. Makes sense if you think about it).

Did you notice that Cervelo increased the chainstay width on their premium S3 road frame for us mortals for 2010? That was done in 2009 for the pros, I suspect to allow them to use the new wider Zipp wheels on the tour. Trickle down from the test team is working (but not fast enough). What is the point of extremely aero time trial frames that don't work very well with the most aero wheels on the market? I'm sure it is just a question of time until this is rectified, but in the meantime do you want to buy an S2, P2, P3 or P4? UPDATE 13 Mar 10: Went to the LBS today with my Stinger 6's in hand and guess what? THEY FIT THE P3! To be fair, many other manufacturers have the same issue. Check before you buy.

Point Number 2: The wider rim may not fit your brake calipers either. The wheel does flex more than 1.5 mm at the brake, but that is easily remedied by opening your brakes as required. Assuming they open up wide enough. Doesn't work with SRAM or Zero Gravity - the rim is too wide. Once again, the manufacturers of other components need to catch up with wheel guys. Works fine with Campagnolo and I hear it works with Shimano but I haven't tried it. Those brakes have a wider maximum width capacity.

Point Number 3: I think the wheels are fast. Now I had some pretty good results this year. And my good results were coincident with the implementation of these wheels. I was working on my time trial position at the same time too, so there is a confounding factor. Nevertheless, I squeezed out a couple of extra km per hour at what feels like the same effort (and power measurement).

Point Number 4: The wheels perform well in cross winds as advertised. The very first time I used them, we had an extremely strong cross wind. It was just a club time trial, so I thought: What's the worst that can happen? I was able to ride these wheels when everyone, regardless of wheelset, was complaining about the wind blowing them off the road. Sure, I wobbled a bit. So did everyone else. But I stayed upright and didn't veer into traffic or the ditch. I did find that on a downhill, I had to back off a little bit. At speeds of 50 or 60 km/hr, I did not feel comfortable that day. But on every occasion after this, the wind had no effect on me.

Point Number 5: The wheel graphics are lame, but they peel off cleanly. I prefer the stealth look over HED's graphics. Plus they don't pay me to advertise.

Bottom line. I like the wheels and I like the price point. They are significantly less expensive than Zipps. HED compares wind tunnel performance of their wheels to Zipps, and the HEDs were better of course. Regardless, HED and Zipp share the patent for this wheel design and I suspect there isn't a lot of difference between them in a real world ride. So, being a (cheap) rebel, I opted for the HEDs rather than the more popular Zipps. I don't regret the purchase.

November 29, 2009

Gluing Up Cross Wheels - Glue Plus Tufo Tape Post-Season Update

Cross season is over here and it is cold and snowy outside. Looking for something to do, I pulled off a glued back tire today that has been on since the beginning of September. It was very difficult to get it started and I had to pry it with (plastic) tire irons. I don't think I could get it off by hand without a lot of intensive swearing. Basically, trying to get the glue and tape to roll and release to the side takes quite a bit of force. But once you get enough of the tire off the rim that you can pull the tire in a vertical direction from the rim (about 1/3 off), it gets fairly easy. Make sure you remove the two layers of tape before mounting a new tire. I did find out there was a couple of tablespoons of water in the rim so the glue plus tape technique seems to be robust to water. Now for a caveat - I am using Tufo tires as recommended. Maybe that makes a difference for cross where you are running tires at 30 psi or less. I don't think tire brand matters for road tires due to the high pressures. I am using Vittoria road tubulars with no trouble with Tufo Extreme Tape. From my experience taking this tire off, I find it hard to imagine the tire rolling. Of course, the cross pros seem to routinely roll tires and I am sure they have the best glue jobs around so there are no guarantees (Hmmm. Maybe the Belgian Tape method isn't perfect?). I am willing to continue to risk my hide on this setup. Others aren't. One other difference (besides the tires being Tufo's) may be my use of aluminum wheels versus his use of carbon wheels. Aluminum does glue up better.

My original post is here.

November 15, 2011 -  So three cross seasons, no rolled tires. And don't forget the crits. Also I now have used this method with carbon rims and Challenge tires for cross and still no problems. The only caveat I can think of is that we don't have a muddy cross season. So the tires don't get wet as much or pressure washed as much. That's about it. Works for me. Even when I glue them up in the morning and race in the afternoon. Cool eh?

November 28, 2009

Tufo Elite LPS and Tufo Flexus Primus Tubular Tire Review

I can't compete with the experience and tire selection review that you can find here. A good read by the way. But I can relate my experience with a couple of Tufo tires.
With the price of quality tubular tires, these seemed like the best compromise between tire quality, price and durability. The courses here are typically nearly dead grass that is usually dry and the ground can be a bit rough. Mud is rare and the ground is always firm. Snow is expected once in a while. Some courses use a bit of sand.

The first tires I bought were the Tufo Elites in 32 mm yellow, because for some reason yellow was 30$ cheaper that day. The knobs on this tire are relatively widely spaced and not overly tall. Presumeably a fast, light tire. When I first got the tires, I was pretty happy with their grip, running them at about 30 psi. My cornering courage was more limiting than my traction. But as I started to push the tires on corners, I started washing out the back wheel and slid out a few times. It happened fast and sometimes unexpectedly. Basically, my cornering courage exceeded my traction on a regular basis. They seemed to be fine on the front wheel, but the back wheel seemed to slide out more easily than the competition.

So I decided to buy some Tufo Flexus Primus 34 mm tires (in grey). I was only able to train on them for a couple of sessions and race on them once. But I had a very successful race and once again, I found my traction exceeded my courage. The knobbies on this tire are more closely spaced so there are more of them and they are a little bit taller. Quite a bit more traction than the Tufo Elites - they were not washing out at cornering intensities that would result in wipe outs on the Elites, so I could attack the corners harder. In the race I seemed to be able to pick up a lot of time on a rough downhill followed immediately by a steep uphill, even though these tires are a bit heavier than the Elites. This was my best finish of the year. If I hadn't gotten crowded out on the first turn, I would have had a very good finish. Was the improvement due to the tires? It just might have been. If I hadn't gotten the flu, I could have tried them out more and been sure, but that's how she goes sometimes.

Bottom line - I like the Flexus Primus tires. I wouldn't buy the Elites again. I suppose a highly-skilled rider would find them great, but they just don't grab well enough for me. Tubulars are just too expensive not to get my use out of them so I am going to use the Elites as front tires only with a 32 mm Flexus Primus back tire. Should be a fast combo. By the way, the Flexus 34 mm and 32 mm tread patterns are size specific and are not simply the same pattern on both sizes. Both Tufo tires are very durable - no pinch flats even though I did feel them bottom out a number of times on tree roots, etc. They may not be overly supple compared to Dugasts but they last, which is important to me at this price point. By the way, the best prices I found were at BikeTiresDirect by quite a bit.

October 10, 2010 - see update

November 27, 2009

Tacx Fortius Virtual Reality Trainer Review

Very important update here. This trainer ain't quite as good as I thought. In fact, I am very unhappy with how fragile it is.

I got the Tacx trainer early last winter and it is pretty cool. Everybody has trouble sitting on that dang trainer in the winter. Well, with this trainer, I definitely shattered by personal best for hours on an indoor trainer. And the most important thing is.. I don't have trouble doing it again a day or two later. Great for building that base. But you can also do hills, intervals, etc. Kind of a what you see is what you get (ride). The trainer gets hard going uphill, gets easy going downhill. Almost like the real thing.

Basically the trainer comes with software that gives you several ways of structuring your workout. There are a bunch of virtual reality courses that you can choose from. They are a bit cartoonish, but not too bad. The surprising thing is that I really get my head into these courses and can actually feel changes in slope. There is one course where you go over a bunch of rollers and it feels real. My gut does a little flip on top of each roller. The other neat thing is that you save your ride. Then the next time you ride, you can race your previous ride. Ride it enough and you have a whole pack of your previous rides to race. Great motivator to try and beat your best ride. I think the speed I get on the uphills is noticeably better than real life, but that doesn't detract from the workout.

The real life video is another module in the software. You buy various courses that have been filmed and ride them. Some of these courses are real killers. The speed on these courses seems to be pretty close to the real thing for a given power output. When you ride an HC climb that the tour rides, wow. You can really get an appreciation of the power the pros have.. and I don't have. This thing can put out a lot of resistance to simulate very steep hills. When you just want to go for an easy spin, you can turn down the slopes by any percentage you choose. Knock off 50% and an 8% slope becomes a 4% slope. A 0% slope stays 0%. Great feature.

For both of the above modules, there is a bit of a glitch on the downhills. You can push really hard on the downhills, but the unit shows lower than expected power and speed only increases a few km per hour no matter how hard you sprint. I have read that this is because of the 110 v power supply in North America, but I can't verify that. I do notice that some of the built in opponents that I can thrash on the uphills, smoke me on the downhills with speeds it is impossible to match. So the European electrical advantage seems real. Does bug me a bit that my average power is an underestimate due to the incorrect reading on the downhills. But I still get a workout, don't I?

Another module lets you use pre-loaded or create your own customized workouts. No real visuals, but fully customizeable. I set mine up to do an anaerobic threshold test by setting the watts to increase every minute until I can't continue. Also made some nice structured interval workouts. You can set it to maintain the same watts regardless of cadence or set it to any slope you desire, both in any combination.

Really, the software has too many options to talk about here. There are also multiuse and analyzer modules. It would take forever to describe it all. It records heart rate, cadence, power, velocity, distance, slope for your ride. New software does even more, but I haven't tried it or felt the need to buy it (yet).

Great product, although not cheap. The I-Magic version is a fair bit cheaper and has many of the same features. It lacks the motor assisted downhill, which is not needed and is sometimes a nuisance. Also the peak resistance isn't as high, but I bet it's high enough if you are less than pro tour material. May be a good buy although I have not tried it myself..

Hardware is well built too (actually I take that back now - the electronics are not well built). You don't really need the steering option, I never use it anymore. It's pretty quirky feeling and not at all like the real thing. Save your money. But other than that, this is a great training unit if you can swing the financing. Watch the video to see more.

Taking My Airstream Biking

I gotta get rid of some of this stuff!

This is such a great vintage cycling photo. I guess it was a promotional photo for Airstream to show how light and easy to pull their trailers were. Nice hitch on that bike. The cyclist's name is Alfred Letourneur and he was a very successful six-day racer in the 1930's. What I like is the fact that he is pulling it with a fixie. But what would you expect from a track racer? Gears! I don't need no stinkin' gears! (OK, OK, put brakes on that thing).

November 24, 2009

Valve Extenders Review - Tufo versus Zipp

Now for some reason, Zipp valve extenders have some popularity. Basically, these valve extenders, and some lesser known look alikes, screw onto your existing presta valve and allow you to fill your tires on deep dish rims. You have to use plumber's tape to seal the joint. The problem with these designs is that your valve is still at the bottom of the valve extender. So you have to leave your valve unscrewed to fill your tire up with air. That in itself isn't a big deal. What is a big deal is that your valve can gradually close to some extent and then you can't fill your tire. I don't know how it closes, but it has happened to me a couple of times.

I'm not the only one and this isn't the only problem.You have to stick a spoke or something down the hole to deflate the tires. And if your valve leaks a bit when it is wide open, so does your tire. Not a very elegant solution.

If your rim is so deep that the valve sits entirely inside your rim, you can't get at it if it screws up without removing the tire. This is a pain for a clincher rim, and a huge pain for a tubular rim. I have resorted to sticking a spoke down the hole and trying to clumsily, blindly, unscrew the valve on my tubulars. Don't laugh, it can work, eventually. But when you face this problem, particularly just before a race.... well it ain't pretty. The other problem is that if your plumber's tape job isn't great, the joint starts to leak and you can't get your tire up to pressure until you redo it. Pain for clinchers, huge pain again for tubulars.

Now for the Tufo type extenders. They require you to unscrew your presta valve, screw in the adapter, and then screw the presta valve into the end of the adapter. No tape required as the valve extender has a rubber washer on it. Sound complicated? It isn't. Now you basically have the same long valve stem as for the Zipp, but the presta valve is at the end of the extension so you can unscrew it and screw it in at will, just like a regular presta valve on a regular rim!! This system just works - on road and cross wheels.

Bottom line. Zipp has the big name, but their valve extenders and imitators suck big time. Tufo-type extenders are perfect. If you need a valve extender, get the right one.

November 23, 2009

About Bikehabit

Bikehabit is a public service blog especially provided from Canada. Provides a venue for my personal cyclic venting. Can't train all the time and blogging is better than watching TV.

This is mostly about road, commuting, and cyclocross biking with a smattering of mountain biking.

Contact at: Click here to Email. Every comment also gets emailed automatically. Got something to say? Let's hear it then.

View my Profile (for what it's worth)

November 21, 2009

What to Wear Under Your Kanzu

My grandfather told me: Always wear underpants beneath your kanzu before you mount your bicycle. Foolishly I mocked him, and now my heart is a dry ear pod. I was cycling home from the market when a terrible whirlwind blew up my kanzu, ballooning it over my face and lifting me far above the ground. I kept control but when the bike landed I sat down hard upon my testicles, squashing them against the saddle to the flatness of patties. A sharp pain ran through my entire body. Then I felt an inner peace and went into a deep sleep.
-Mzee Oposen

I had a similar experience when I started cyclocross.

Editor's Note: A kanzu is not a bicycle short. Do not wear underpants with bicycle shorts. See this for more useful advice.

November 18, 2009

Sore Achilles Tendon from Biking

I had a chronic injury - a sore achilles tendon that was a result of long hours on the bike.
I tried stretching it more and that helped, but it never went away. After particularly hard rides, it was noticeably sorer. It never got to the point where it interfered with riding, but it was not something I wanted to let continue.

For me, the solution was rather simple. I simply moved the cleat on my bike shoes back (towards my heel) a few millimeters. It took about 5 mm. That's it! Problem solved. Hope it works for you too if you have the same issue. Give it a try anyway - the price is right.

November 17, 2009

Minoura True Pro Truing Stand Review

Good concept - a truing stand that is not too expensive, easily portable, light, adjustable, etc. Not as tough or precise as a more expensive truing stand, but you can get the job done. Not as expensive either. I have built about 10 wheels with mine and use it for truing from time to time.  (Usually, I just true wheels on the bike stand using the brakes.)

Some tips:
  • tighten up the red "dropouts". Mine were loose and flimsy letting the wheel shift while truing. Tighten them up and this problem is mostly solved. 
  • actually, give everything a bit of a tightening. Just don't overdue it and strip something.
  • adjust the center for the truing gauges against a good wheel. The center is fully adjustable, but mine was out of whack which meant my wheel, if built in this position, would not be centred on the bike.
Bottom line, reasonable but not spectacular value for what it costs. Not shop grade, but good enough for your average home handyman. About 1/3 shop grade truing stand price.

November 16, 2009

I Need to Pulse My Resting Rate

Garmin Edge 705 Cycle Computer Review

The Garmin Edge 705 is a global positioning system (GPS) bike computer. It records just about everything: speed, location, time, distance, altitude, calories, cadence, heart rate, power, and all kinds of averages, maximums, etc. for those. It also shows where you are on a map. The display is totally customizable and you can pick what you see and where you see it on the screen for two screens of data, one map screen, and other screens I never use. It works with power meters which is a strong point and I use it with my Quarq. It was easy to pair up with the heart rate monitor and the power meter.

How well does it work? Well, it's not perfect. I bought it last winter and have had mixed results. It seems every second time I download and install the latest version of the software, it screws up something. Sometimes pretty badly. One "upgrade" for some reason I don't recall, made the unit almost unusable. Then you have to wait for the next version to get it working as well as it used to because you can't go back to the old version. Right now it is screwing up my peak and average power readings (they used to work fine). The data are all there and show up fine when downloaded into my software. The instantaneous data are correct. But the post-ride peak and average are wrong on the Garmin itself which makes it hard to brag after a race. Other than that it is working pretty well right now, so I'm a little tentative about downloading the next upgrade.

An interesting feature is the ability to plot a ride in Map My Ride or other mapping websites out there and download it into your Garmin (although Map My Ride is getting worse to use). Then the Garmin prompts you turn by turn to follow the route. Most of the time it works great. But if you pick a route with too many twists and turns it screws up. I have one convoluted route touring acreages that gets totally mixed up and shortcuts in places where there is no road. If I unload the map, then load the route, then reload the map, it shows the route correctly on the map. But the latest software download I have doesn't navigate it properly. Which is a shame because it worked on an older software download I had. If only I had been satisfied with that version.

The unit is a bit clunky for racing, but fine for touring. I still use it for racing, including cross and mountain bike racing and it seems immune to the associated bouncing and shaking. I have also used it in the rain and snow with no ill effects. I did get a plastic film to protect the screen from scratches from Zagg - highly recommended. The rubber cover for the USB port did fall off after a while. But I was able to glue it back on with contact cement.

It is nice to be able to switch freely between bikes without worrying about wheel size calibration. Of course it is wireless which is also great. The batteries last a long time - 10 hours or more, if you don't use the backlighting. Enough time for most of us, even for an epic ride. The screen is great, with fully customizable lighting. The GPS portion is cool and you can use it in your car, hiking, etc. The base map is crude, but you can buy much better maps that are quite good showing detailed street names, contours, etc. The unit is pretty accurate and even works indoors. In terms of hardware, it is a good little receiver.

The Garmin also comes with software to download your rides, see it on a map, and look at your training data. Good map interface, poor training inteface implementation. I also had that software crash on one of my laptops and I can't seem to reload it. It partly loads, then kicks out of the software. No idea why, used to work. And I am running Windows XP. Works on the other computer I tried it on, also running XP. I don't actually use this software any more, preferring Training Peaks WKO+. So I haven't worried about this particular glitch.

To be perfectly honest, I use the GPS less and less and just focus on the data screens. When I go to a new city or vacation destination, it comes in handy again. But I could live without it, especially if the alternative was a cheaper, more svelte unit. Wait a minute! That sounds like the Garmin Edge 500!

Garmin needs to get serious with the software for this machine. It is a good piece of hardware that only suffers from the software implementation. When they get the software running properly, this will be a great toy - I mean training tool. Right now it is just OK. I'm thinking the Garmin Edge 500 may be a better choice for racing, but I haven't tried it.

I guess I should bite the bullet and download the new software upgrade. Keep your fingers crossed. Maybe everything is fine now.

January 8, 2010 Update: So I updated my Garmin software and guess what? The average and max power readings are bang on again. Yay.

November 15, 2009

Quarq Power Meter Review

The measure of a man is what he does with power. Pittacus
And now you can measure it accurately!

Power meters are the next big thing for training technology. They let you target your training to specific levels of effort to achieve your training goals. Before Quarq, you needed to buy an SRM powermeter to meter off the crank and they were very expensive. The advantage of measuring power off the crank versus off a wheel is that you can switch wheels at will and still get your power measured. Quarq brought crank-based power measurement to a more reasonable price point - $1495 plus cost of the crank, plus cost of the receiver. I use a Garmin 705 to receive and store the data which cost $500. Crank cost $300. Overall, about two-thirds to one-half the cost of an SRM system. Still not cheap, I admit.

How does it work? It works just fine. I have had it since March and haven't changed the battery yet. By the way, the battery is easily user replaceable unlike SRM. I have used it in rain and snow, at temperatures from 0-30 degrees C. I have pedaled thousands of km with it. I have used it on both my road bike and my cross bike. Calibration should be done each ride, and is critical if there are big temperature differences between uses. You can get obviously wrong power values if you don't. To calibrate you just pedal backwards about 5-10 revolutions. That is more than Quarq says, but it seems to work this way.

I have had a glitch on 2 occasions. When I calibrated, the power reading locked up at 0 watts. I had to turn the Garmin off and back on to get it to work again. If I didn't calibrate, the wattage was recorded normally. It happened once in August and once in October. Why? I have no idea as it worked fine the next day. Is it the Garmin or the Quarq? Is the battery getting low? Who knows. The Garmin isn't perfect by any means.

Duct tape, the handymen's friend

How about service? I crashed a few times in cross season and one of those times another rider crashed into my bike. Well the battery cap broke in half. When I emailed Quarq for a replacement, they sent me 2 for no charge or shipping fee. They must have heard about my cross skills and figured they would save some postage. Whatever the reason, I was impressed. In the meantime, the crank worked fine with a fancy duct tape battery cover.

What could be improved? Component makers need to make more really high quality, three-piece cranks that can be adapted to power meters. But that's not Quarq or SRM's fault.

Bottom line? If you want a very durable power meter that runs off the crank, this one works well. Available in road and compact cranks, but not mountain bike cranks.

November 14, 2009

Williams Cyclocross Tubular Wheelset Review

So this fall I finally bought a frame, built it up and about 3 days later started cyclocross racing. Probably the most fun kind of racing ever. But we all know that (now).

Now for the wheels. Williams Cycling builds wheels for direct sales via mail order. And of course, I bought the cross wheels. Delivery was quick - less than a week to Canada. When I opened up the box, I was a little worried. I was hoping the tire bed would be a bit on the wide side - but it wasn't. The concern of course was gluing up fat cross tires on a narrow road-width tire bed and running them at 25-30 psi with hard cornering. I wasn't sure my gluing skills were up to it and rolled tires would result. The other thing is I hate that glue so I took the lazy approach and used a tape/glue combo. I used Tufo Extreme Tape on my road wheels, and liked it so I decided to try it here - with a bit of glue for extra insurance. Mastik glue on the rim, then Tufo Extreme Tape, glue on the tire, then put the tire on the rim. Want more info - go here. I also sanded the rim gluing surface and cleaned it with alcohol before gluing. What's the worst that can happen, right?

Well, I'm happy to report after about 10 races plus a couple of months of training, no rolled tires. Temperatures ranged from 0-30 degrees C. And even with 15 or 20 psi I can push hard on the tire and it won't roll off. I did check it after every race however.

Nov 29 Glue Plus Tufo Tape Update:  Cross season is over here and it is cold and snowy outside. Looking for something to do, I pulled off a glued back tire today that has been on since the beginning of September. It was very difficult to get it started and I had to pry it with (plastic) tire irons. I don't think I could get it off by hand without a lot of intensive swearing. Basically, trying to get the glue and tape to roll and release to the side takes quite a bit of force. But once you get enough of the tire off the rim that you can pull the tire in a vertical direction from the rim (about 1/3 off), it gets fairly easy. Make sure you remove the two layers of tape before mounting a new tire. I did find out there was a couple of tablespoons of water in the rim so the glue plus tape technique seems to be robust to water. Now for a caveat - I am using Tufo tires as recommended. Maybe that makes a difference for cross where you are running tires at 30 psi or less. I don't think tire brand matters for road tires due to the high pressures. I am using Vittoria road tubulars with no trouble with Tufo Extreme Tape. From my experience taking this tire off, I find it hard to imagine the tire rolling. Of course, the cross pros seem to routinely roll tires and I am sure they have the best glue jobs around so there are no guarantees (Hmmm. Maybe the Belgian Tape method isn't perfect?). I am willing to continue to risk my hide on this setup. Others aren't. One other difference (besides the tires being Tufo's) may be my use of aluminum wheels versus his use of carbon wheels. Aluminum does glue up better.

So much for the glue. How about the wheels? Well the wheels are a deal. 369 bucks for 2 wheels, a t-shirt (kinda cheap white shirt) and 2 water bottles. Shirt fits a bit small by the way. Go up a size.

So how do they look? Actually, they look pretty decent. If you look really closely, you can see the paint is slightly uneven here and there, but your buds will never be able to tell. They come out of the box nicely trued and they don't go out of true after a couple dozen hours of cross riding. They are nice and tight. Hubs feel smooth when you spin them in your hand. Freehub is aluminum, so cassettes with cogs that are not pinned together can score the splines a little bit. But more expensive wheels have the same issue.

I found the wheels to be very strong. They have good strong aluminum rims and pretty thick black spokes - straight 14 gauge stainless steel. Nice standard spokes - easy to replace if necessary. Wheels stayed in true no problem. I did have a few crashes, but only one that affected the wheels. A goof cut me off on the start and his pedal went into my front wheel spokes. I went over the handlebars. I put the chain back on and started pedalling and my wheel was definitely out of true. I almost packed it in worried that the wheel was going to fall apart on a downhill, but I decided to keep going. What's the worst that can happen, right?

Anyways, did manage to pass lots of folks in the race and definitely got a good workout as usual. At the end I looked at the wheel and it was out of true enough to rub on the brake pad. Those thick black spokes weren't noticeably bent though, just scratched a bit. Maybe it helped that they were straight gauge and not double or triple butted. It only took a few turns on a few spokes to true it back up and its been running fine since. This was the only time I trued these wheels all season.

So would I buy these wheels again. Yes. And I did near the end of the season. Now I have 2 sets. Are they as light and aero as wheels costing 1 or 2 K? No, but my bank account thanks me. I don't worry about running them in the sand and mud. And I don't worry about the sound of dirty brake pads grinding on the brake track (just scrapes off the glue I slopped there). And I also know they are more durable. Mine have taken lots of hard knocks including bottoming out the tires on roots, etc. with no damage. Can you win races with these wheels - yes. I didn't, but it wasn't the wheels' fault. They are decently light and only give up 400 g to $2000+ wheels.

Could they be improved? Well, perhaps Williams could offer an option with lighter butted spokes. According to my calculations and spoke weights from Weight Weenies, they should be able to get these wheels under 1500 g. I'd pay another 50$ for that. But as built, these are very tough wheels.

You could probably break someones crank if their pedal got stuck in the spokes of a Williams wheel - the Jens Voigt of cross wheels.

For those with typical disposable incomes, these are a great way to get tubular wheels for cross. And we all know how much better tubulars are for cross. I also see road tubular wheels weighing about the same as these, but costing at least $150 more. Buy 'em and use 'em for both.

November 15, 2011 Update - check this out if you really lust for carbon tubulars

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

Feeling slower as you get older? Discouraged? Don't be.

The Veteran's Time Trial Association in Britain has set up a very cool system to compare time trial performance between different age groups. In a nutshell, you subtract everyone's time from the standard for their age to get a score. The person who beats their standard by the biggest margin wins. So now you can compare your time to those elite riders and see how you really did. Of course this only helps for the more mature riders out there.

If you are more motivated, you can use this system to rate an entire race or series of races. Like Crankmasters did to determine the Maurice Johnson Award

If you need motivation, take a look at the record times on the VTTA website. Wow. I guess that could be depressing or inspirational, depending on how you look at it. I'm shooting for inspirational.