Friday Group Ride #278

Friday Group Ride #278

I don’t know when I stopped thinking in “bikes” and started thinking in “parts,” but it’s been a long time. Of course, the part I think about most is the frame. It’s the most consequential part, the one most likely to look different from bike to bike and the one that most clearly expresses the character of the ride. I could look at disembodied frames all day, and sometimes do.

After the frame, the greatest arbiter of ride quality is undoubtedly the wheels, right? Am I jaded, though? (Don’t answer that.) I have a hard time looking at any of the wheels on the market and thinking THAT’s the one for me. Oh sure, there are a lot of good wheels out there. I like the Mavic R-SYS SLRs, the HED Ardennes line, the ENVE Classic 25s.

You can see the kind of wheel I like. I’m not much concerned with weight or aerodynamics. I go for a real balance of performance and durability. I ride everywhere, all the time, and I’m not persnickety about maintenance. I beat on my stuff, so to be sexy, a wheel has to last.

Another real thing for me with wheels is the decaling. WHY? Why do wheelmakers insist on turning their rims into rolling billboards? It’s like they’re trying to jump in front of the frame, to steal back some of the attention. I know I can peel the decals off most rims, but I hate that. I just want you to sell me a wheel that looks good, where looks good doesn’t equal taking every inch of rim space with a multicolored logo.

See, I am jaded.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what wheels do you lust for? What is important for you in a wheel? I don’t race, so deep section carbon rims, don’t appeal to me, but perhaps that’s where the real head-turners are in the market today. What bothers you about wheels? Have you been riding the same wheel for a decade, or do you bounce around from wheel to wheel, looking for something, other than roundness, that you’ve never quite discovered.

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14 comments

  1. harris

    Over the years I have accumulated several high spoke Mavic Open Pros laced to various hubsets – Record, White Industries, Chris King – all of which are awesome, and can go anywhere and do anything. My favorite factory builts are Ksyriums. Even though, like you, I don’t need the deep section, I have always lusted for some Boras. If I had the scratch, I would get some Shamals with the dark labels. I like that as the antidote to the ‘wheels as ads.’ But, just like everything else for me and cycling, it is legs – not wheels – that determine the speed.

    1. Scott

      I agree on the Ksyriums. I had the good fortune to score a new pair of aluminum bladed SSLs at an extremely low price about 10 or 12 years ago. First generation probably. I put well over 50,000 miles on them with annual hub maintenance being all they required. Mavic replaced a worn hoop on the rear after about 30K before I broke the hub in a crash in ’09. I still have the original front wheel from the set. The brake surface is worn so thin that the factory flat surface is dished in to the point it’s scary. But the damn thing is still as true as a ruler. Still fast. And it’s still my Plan B when lesser wheels fail.

  2. Marc Lindarets

    Robot,

    I’m with you- something that can be ridden day in, day out, without undue drag or weight but with the ability to stop in the wet… I’ve been on a couple of generations of HED Ardennes wheels for seven or eight years and the reflective decals are one of the things that brought me back for seconds. It’s a ‘why not’ kind of thing- it doesn’t hurt weight-wise and every little bit of visibility helps.

  3. Peter

    The old trusty wheels are my Fulcrum Racing 3’s. Simple, look clean, and hold up to my heavy self when I really step on it. And they last forever which is the paramount concern.

    I guess what I am lusting after now are Zipp Firecrest 404 and Flo 60. I have never owned a deep section wheel. The Flo’s are leading due to price point and the ability to customize just how the wheel looks–whatever logo colors and backgrounds you want. I’d probably go with subtle black on black just to keep them quiet. I agree with the sentiment from Robot that I think the frame is what expresses the primary difference of view. Plus, the flo’s have a clydesdale option which seems like the best way to make my wheels last.

  4. August Cole

    I had a set of Hed C2s built around Shimano CX disc hubs on my steel Seven Evergreen by Ride Studio Cafe. I asked for a Classics bike I could ride singletrack on, and these are unbelievably well suited wheels for the mix of long road rides, roots and park trails I ride around Boston. Mostly with Open Pave 25s. Finally faced Robot’s Choice again as I wanted a second set to permamently mount CX tires. Nearly went with the same setup, just the wider C2-plus rim … But I ended up giving the new Mavic Allroad a try on the shop’s suggestion for a future-proof hubset and tubeless compatibility. I’ll be on those wheels soon.

  5. Michael

    I am with Harris – Mavic Open Pros on Chris King or Dura-Ace or any good low-maintenance hub. They handle tires up to 28s really well, and I’ve run 32s on them (a little squishy), and finding spokes is not a problem even in tiny towns in countries where I don’t speak the language.

  6. Pat O'Brien

    Dependability, staying true, and easy to service are important. Lust? No lust, just steady love over the years. Mavic open pro and 105 cup and cones. And I have them, plus beer money left over.

  7. Aar

    As a Clydesdale for life, bombproof wheels that are not too heavy; roll really, really well and are readily serviceable nearby are the order of business for me. So, I look for the wheel builder that all local mechanics respect, get to know them and have the build my wheels. Thus, I am on 32 hole HED C2 rims, one pair laced to DT 240 hubs with ceramic bearings and the other pair laced to a PowerTap SL+ rear and Campy Record front.

    My dream wheels are ENVE SES 6.7 clincher laced to DT 240 or King hubs because they not only seem to be leading edge aerodynamically but also have a reputation of being bombproof. I need to make peace with disc vs rim brakes before shelling out that kind of coin. Shy of that, I’m already riding my dream wheels.

  8. thirdwigg

    I buy for durability, and ease of maintenance. So, no carbon rims, no aluminum freehub bodies, and never fewer than 28 spokes.

    I think I lust more often for new wheels than for new bikes.

  9. rich

    I’m light enough to ride any wheel. I’ve broken exactly 1 spoke in my life. I Love my Rolf prima Elans and lust for a set of the ares4. The Elans are a 22 wide rim and I would never go back to a narrow old rim.

  10. Tom in Albany

    For ten years, I rode the original Mavic Open Pro’s that the shop had recommended when I bought my Serotta in ’99. I bought a pair of Ksyriums and rode those until I trashed the rear wheel in a pot hole. I hated the Ksyriums because they were a deep enough profile that I struggled to ride no-handed becuase, I figure, I don’t have the engine to keep them turning in even a slight cross-wind. I’m currently on Fulcrum 5 CX racers. Much lower profile. No-handed riding is back with gusto! I’ve been primarily a commuter since 2006 so, I’m just looking for something bomb-proof that will hold up like those original Open Pros. I have no wheel lust. I really don’t even have part lust. I just have riding lust. I want to keep on riding.

  11. Phaedrus

    The Enve font is extremely appealing. It looks cool in much the same way Bontrager doesn’t.
    The Enve logo looks great on wheels and forks. I have no idea if they are better, but they look fantastic.
    With that said, I ride with the Dura-Ace CL 24’s. They are light and seem to take any beating I give them. They ride great (for clinchers) and are all I really need for training.
    I get side tracked by shiny and cool looking things (like Enve font), but if I step back and think about what I really need – I make better purchasing decisions.

  12. Roberto Quinones

    I just recently re-laced my 2006 Campy Record hubs to a set of HED Belgium Plus rims (they were laced to Open Pro rims), which I had also built and never gave me problems. I love the wider Plus rims because I can run the tires with much less psi in them and they’re very comfortable. I’ve also been riding my Ti bike much more on mixed terrain lately and the wider rims are stronger, faster and more stable. I have a soft spot for wheels and after the frame, that’s the component I’m most attracted to but my wheels have to be reliable and easy to fix. For me, hand made wheels are the best. I don’t nearly ride my factory made wheels as much as anymore.

  13. Ryan

    I lust for dura ace hubs laced to shallow rims, like open pros. Sometimes I’ll trade the open pros for something tubeless. 14-17 gauge spokes, at least 28 of them, 32 is better, 3x lacing.

    In terms of what is important, it has to be serviceable by virtually any bike shop. I ride a lot. I don’t want to spend my time waiting for an obscure hub part to be shipped, or find out the shop I’m at can’t service my wheel because it has unique spokes/nipples, etc.

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