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Friday
May122017

Stuff we like - Vittoria Corsa G+ tires and Kool Stop pads

Writing ad infinitum about wheels is all well and good, but wheels alone don't work. They need some other stuff. So here we will describe some of the other stuff that we like. 

927 joyful miles on them as of right nowHaving been long time devotees of Conti GP4000s for tubed tires, and Maxxis Pardrone and Schwalbe One and Pro One for tubeless road, I've been on 25mm Vittoria Corsa G+ with Vittoria latex tubes for almost a month and 927 miles of riding. Granted, that is not a lot of time, but so far I'm in absolutely zero hurry to switch to anything else. 

The lab tests on these tires say they're big league fast: not quite as fast as their world-beating but tissue paper thin Corsa Speed brethren, but equal to the Conti GP4000 which is the usual benchmark for rolling resistance. The Schwalbe choices are right in that cluster as well. Though some have said that their wet grip is somewhat meh, I have not had that experience in the few wet rides I've done with them. In dry conditions? Cornering on them is so fun it should require a license. The comfort with latex tubes is blissful, and they make a slight but mesmerizing hum when you're really hupping along. That's probably a bad thing, since noise made is energy lost somewhere, but I do enjoy it. 

Size wise, they are exact analogs of GP4000. The 23mm size is just about 26mm actual, with the 25mm size really being 28mm actual. Be sure your bike has the clearance, Clarence.

They also come in gumwall, which I will use when these wear out or they get passed along to Mike, whichever comes first. Gumwalls are making a strong comeback these days, and I've definitely got the fever. Bob does, too - we finished these wheels for him yesterday. 

Since they'll be covered in drool all the time, the wet grip better be good.With all that speed, sometime you're going to have to slow down, and for that I've long trusted Kool-Stop. Their Dura 2 pads are slightly shorter top to bottom, which works well with a lot of the narrower brake tracks that rims have these days. It doesn't seem to compromise functionality at all, and while it might cost them a little bit of lifespan, it does make setting up your pads quite easy. 

Mixed in the front, black in back

My personal choice is to use the dual compound black/salmon in the front (salmon is the rain compound) with an all black pad in the rear. This is still a very very rim-friendly setup, but you have that bit of extra when you get caught in the rain without having to sweat pad swaps. While the compound really is rim friendly, the performance is great. Good modulation, great feel, good overall power, no noise ever. Of course there are specific rims where you need to use a specific pad, but for your all around alloy rim with machined brake track, you can't do any better than these. 

Friday
May052017

RFSW3 Love letters

We don't normally publish any sort of reviews on the site because we just don't think they're credible - too many "give us a 5 star review and we'll send you a coupon for 50% off your next purchase" incidents out there. But the feedback coming in from RFSW3 owners has been great. Here is a sample:

"These things are awesome they ride better than my carbon tubs!" 

"Lovin' these things with corsas and latex (man that sound like porn)"

"But initial impressions -- couldn't be happier with the wheels and your service.  Period." 

"Lastly, I can’t say enough about the build quality of these wheels. They feel bomb proof. Thank you so very much for the work you and your staff put into them."

"I love the AL33s.  I'm on pace for my first ever full month averaging 20 mph."

"So far, loving them. ~550mils and they ride great. Running Michelin Power Competition 25s with Latex tubes."

Erik got the crazy spokes. Never be shy to ask for off the wall stuff.

Of course this needs to be taken with a whole shaker of salt, but I'm among the people riding them. My experience after a bunch of miles last year was enough for us to really get behind the project, but of course pre-production is pre-production and picking a pair of random rims off the rack and experiencing what customers are, in real time, is a better gauge.

Deep in the heart of Texas with this one

My overwhelming impression after about 600 miles, in keeping with my initial impression, is of how solid they are. There is no unwanted movement, you feel like you could drive them into a brick wall and they'd just laugh, they corner like a cheetah on the serenghetti (humor me - I was trying to avoid saying "like they're on Rails") and my average speed is up at least 1mph* since I've had them. I've got one big road race on them, and used them to great effect in slicing through the field on a downhill after being caught on the wrong side of a split. With Vittoria Corsa G+ tires and latex tubes, they not only feel smoother than velvet fog and faster than a kitten on caffeine, they make that mesmerizing "you're going fast now" hum when you're going fast. 

I'm using the machined brake track version, and the braking with my preferred alloy pad setup of Kool Stop Dura 2 dual compound front and dry compound rear, the braking is fantastic. Absolutely zero pulsing or grabbiness. 

Our initial take on weight guidance may turn out to be conservative. My sprint sucks, plain and simple, but even with a 160 pound rider of slight build ripping off Greipel-esque 1100w sprints, a Powertap rear would show any waggle that there is to show. There is none to show. The front? HAH! I don't think you can do a turn that they wouldn't eat up. 

We're shipping machine brake track builds on the regular, with ceramic rims coming back into stock in force at the end of the month (we have one set of 24/28 ceramics now). Ceramic versions are now shipping with SwissStop BXP pads included, which are proving to be a great mix of stopping, wear, and brake track friendliness.

Wonder Twin powers - ACTIVATE!!!

In separate news, our "at least a couple of times a decade whether it's needed or not" kit order is now live. In order to have delivery on schedule in mid-June, we have to have final numbers in by Thursday the 11th. Please refer to the sizing guide and if you are in doubt it's safer to size up. It's not speed suit sizing, but it is race fit and not club fit. 

Have fun watching the Giro!*no it isn't

Tuesday
May022017

#newkitday (almost)

A few weeks ago, I was on a long ride and discovered that, though I was wearing my best bibs, the chamois was completely wore out. Not that fun. Of course, said bibs were new in February 2014, so this should have come as less of the shocking revelation that it did. 

We're doing new kits. They're awesome. Mike has a blog somewhere in his back pocket about all of the smashing kits he'd like to wear if the world's secret best kit designer (who shall remain nameless) wasn't on the case on our behalf, but he got jammed up with some other stuff so I get to talk about it.

Etch-a-sketch, etch-a-sketchOnce again, we will be partnering with the fine folks at Verge Sport. Verge has always done a great job for us, and it's worth noting that I took for granted that three+ year old bibs would still be in great shape (and I actually do ride a lot, so they haven't been pampered). They make really good stuff. 

We will be using the Strike+ jersey and bibs - just jersey and bibs. The Strike+ is a fully featured and functioning race jersey and bib, but the cut is "slim and trim" based, rather than "suck it in while your maidservant straps you into your sausage casing bodice aero cut" like our current kits are. Some of us have the fine figures to make the aero cut work, some of us don't. At least much of the year. You're not going to be riding around in a t-shirt and Bermuda shorts, but it's a bit more forgiving. Please be sure to check the size chart

The pricing is noted on the relevant product pages. We're not saying it's going to be exactly that dollar for dollar as we don't know precisely what the final price is, but it's going to be awful close to that. We'll do a pre-order once we have the final proofs and then delivery will be a few weeks later - we're targeting early- to mid-June for delivery. In order to hit that, we need to be prompt once we get the final proofs, so this is really more like a "ready! set!" thing than a "go!" thing. But there won't be three weeks to dilly dally and maybe I will maybe I won't once the pre-order opens. Kind of more like three days.

New blue, new you

The final colors are going to differ from the sketch above. I was limited by Sharpie's rainbow, as my Crayola 64 box is in the shop. The red is accurate, but the blues will be darker. The main body blue will be more like the IAM cycling blue, while the logo blue will be... logo blue, with which many of you are familiar. 

There's been a lot of enthusiasm for this coming out of the gate. We won't be keeping score and thinking you're a jerk if you don't get some, and we're not doing it as a money making thing at all. What we categorically WILL think you're a jerk for is giving the finger to cars or yelling at people or peeing on people's front yards while wearing our logo. We think you're a jerk of you do that stuff anyway, but more so if you do it in our kits, so please don't. There, I said it.  

Again, not yet but soon, it's going to be lovely, the jersey will look just smashing with black bibs (one of the design considerations), it will be high quality stuff, and have you looked at kit prices out there? A freaking bargain. 

Monday
May012017

Fit for the purpose

I raced on Saturday at the Quabbin Road Race, which is thoroughly unremarkable and would have been more so if it hadn't been my first road race in over a year and just my second in almost three years. Almost replaying one of my favorite moves, I nearly missed the start gabbing with a friend. A bunch of kids on development teams like Hot Tubes, CCB, and CCAP quickly put paid to any delusions I may have had that generally being kind of fit is enough to do better than hang on for dear life in a very hilly and aggressive race. After the 90th time we had to find out who could do 500 watts for a minute, my legs finally told my will to go do anatomically improbable things to itself, and I took the last half mile climb at gentlemen's pace and staked my claim at mid field. 

Still life with Dave's legs in a wood chipper

Nonetheless, it was very very fun, about as good a result as I could have hoped for, and it was great to see so many people in shape and psyched to race. Rumors of road racing's death turn out to be greatly exaggerated. One thing about which I was very curious was how many disc brake bikes I'd see, the answer to which was one. And this is not because people haven't bought new bikes. No, there were plenty of this year's model (also one of the best records ever) on hand, it's just that the (overwhelming) majority are still racing rim brake bikes. 

Which leads me to the next topic that came up out of the weekend, as I got to have a bunch of conversations with people about wheels, rims, materials, fried chicken, and life in general. Rail customers generally understand where we've come from in the decision there. Note that our decision process wasn't "oh my gosh, we were totally wrong with our old wheels and now you have to buy our new ones which are so much better" and I have no idea how the guys who did that didn't have people with torches and pitchforks outside their front door. Rails are still great wheels, but there's so much to the story of the right material for the purpose. Who'd have thought that after all this time, I'd be recommending HED Jets to people who have a use for really deep road clinchers? But this review makes crystal clear every reason why I do - so much so that I'm half tempted to sell them on our site. For that purpose, they make the most sense.

In a roundabout way, this is to say that we do - and have - thought that there are applications where carbon is a great fit for purpose in bike wheels. In road tubulars, carbon's wert braking still more or less sucks but you can make a nice tubular that's giving you zero aerodynamic handicap and have it come in reliably under 400g per rim. The nature of the structure of carbon tubulars means that you can take away a lot of material compared to a clincher, plus you have that big gigantic air cavity to sink and dissipate the brake heat, and the relatively easy molding process for tubulars gives them less of a cost premium to aluminum. We're somewhat more than idly looking for a product to use there. 

For disc brake rims, carbon has an application for sure. The cost will for sure be higher than comparable aluminum, but you're getting a couple of real benefits: resilience and weight. There are two caveats there, though. The first is that all these disc rims that you see advertising themselves as being made with high temp resins? That's the opposite of what you want to do. High heat resins are more difficult to mold and are way more brittle than low temp resins. Unless you need to mold with high temp resins, you don't. And bead hooks are always going to be problematic in carbon wheels, so we've got no interest in using carbon rims with bead hooks. 

Believe it or not, there is more than one carbon rim I have in mind as an ideal product for a purpose. The Enve 4.5 AR is pretty attractive, so long as you're willing to shell hard for wheels. If that describes you, we're happy to build you a set. But beyond that, I haven't yet seen the product that I think is the right one. Maybe it will turn up, and if it's from a very reliable supplier, and we can make it work with the byzantine insurance stuff, there's no reason we wouldn't do it. It's just all about having the right tool for the job at hand. 

Wednesday
Apr262017

Mike's new wheels (that Dave stole already)

You might assume that we're always rolling around on the tip top latest and greatest, and for the most part you'd be wrong. Most of the time, I (Dave) am trying to test something to see if we want to use it, or to see if some combo works, or just to put miles onto something. This usually means a mismatched set using some number of parts pulled out of the spares drawer (to be fair, our spares drawer would provoke acute lust in most), but it's almost never an "I am using these because they are directed toward fulfilling my specific needs or use case" deal. Mike, on the other hand, is pretty quiet about his wheel wants and needs and has been using older wheels that just plain work. Lately, he hasn't been using anything thanks to an ACL injury (that's what he gets for playing soccer), so there's that. This season, that's changing.

Pick all three, or four, or whateverThe first set up is Mike's, which I will be using through a few events in the late spring/early summer, Killington Stage Race being the main one. These started off aimed directly at me, but then somehow it made more sense for me to pass these on to Mike after those events and do a different build. 

Anyhow, the specs:

A-Force Al33 machined side wall rims (20/24 lacing)

CX Ray spokes front and rear non-drive side, CX Sprints rear drive side

Powertap G3 rear hub 

Industry Nine Torch Road front hub 

Black aluminum nipples

25mm Vittoria Corsa G+ clinchers with latex tubes

Though my favorite mountain bike wheels have I9 hubs, neither of us has ever long-term used I9 road hubs. We've built lots of them, and pined for them, but never owned them. Since Mike is coming back from an injury, and I am coming back from sloth and cheese cake, using power makes a heck of a lot of sense for both of us. It's the task master that we both need, even if what it's been saying to me lately isn't particularly fuzzy and warm. My inner weight weenie (I didn't even know I had one!) chose the alloy nipples, which is a fine choice if you are at all careful about how you treat your wheels. Our wheels may usually be mongrel mashups but they do get looked after quite well, and when you're racing up East Mountain Road, every little bit helps. 

As the world has generally become very aware of, there are huge gains to be made by using the right tires and tubes, or not tubes. The Vittorias are known to be FAST, although the tubeless versions are even faster. This is one of those "we had these in stock" things, and I'm glad we did. I LOVE THESE TIRES. They feel plenty fast, the grip is quite good, and the feel is just wow. So smooth. They're right around 28mm wide on the A-Force rims, which is just about as big a tire as my bike fits. From the "pretend that you're a consumer" perspective on the tires, the only time I ever seem to flat is at critical moments in races (my last coming while I was in the break that created the GC at Killington a couple of years ago, that was a real heartbreaker) and I love riding on good tires/hate riding on garden hoses. And tires just aren't all that expensive in the grand scheme (especially when you use wheels that do every little thing and more that wheels costing 3 or 4x do), so I comfortably say that this is a move I'd make even as a consumer. 

The A-Force rims were an obvious choice. The ceramics are in short enough supply that we weren't going to usurp a set for ourselves, plus these machined brake track ones are awfully nice. They all build up really really well, they're robust beyond their weight, they look totally sex bomb, and they feel super solid. 

My time with these is going to be composed of 3 to 4 training rides during the week, and generally a race and a training ride on the weekend. A few gran fondos and stuff will be thrown in there too. I can't think of any better setup for all that stuff, which should be evident from the fact that I started with a totally blank sheet and had unlimited product choices.