Well I never thought I would write a blog about bike wheels! I never percieved they would be an interesting subject to me.
Prior to moving to the French Alpes and opening our b&b Le Velo Jaune I had understood about having the lightest bike possible and to me it was important that it looked good, I like ‘nice’ things and am a marketeer’s dream.
Since moving to the mountains, riding up long climbs, Alpe d’Huez, Galibier, Croix de Fer and talking to guests / local cyclists I have learnt a lot about bikes in particular gearing and wheels.
So ‘wheels’ one of the best upgrades you can do to your bike. There are so many factors to consider, weight, alloy / carbon, aero/non aero. For mountains you want the lightest and stiffest alloy wheel you can afford or do you?
Carbon clincher wheels are not suitable for mountains as when descending the heat generated onto the carbon rims does not disapate and it is often the case that tyres blow off, with potentially dire consequences and a loud bang. We have seen this, most notably the guy who was descending Alpe d’Huez to start the Marmotte sportive on a pair of ‘lightweight’ wheels – bang, tyre pops and he’s off. Luckily all ok and he was able to borrow a wheel.
Mavic brought out this year a carbon clincher 40mm wheel with an aluminium insert under the rim in order to overcome the heat disapation issue, they are Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40 C wheels. As ever I am always interested in things that look good and can make my bike look even better and surprisingly (not) the local bike shop Cycles et Sports seems to have worked this out!
This weekend they lent me a pair on test, now I should have said no thanks, why would I want a pair of 40 section, carbon wheels that weigh 300g more than the wheels I have – it goes against everything I have learnt and say to our guests! So I borrowed the wheels and rode the Croix de Fer on Saturday and the Col d’Izoard loop yesterday.
Wow, I never thought I would be able to tell the difference between one wheel and another, well I could and very positively. They were the smoothest wheels I have ever ridden on, no jarring at all, the braking was excellent and when descending I didn’t worry about popping tyres (they say they won’t!) due to heat, the 40mm rims did not seem to cause any wind buffeting and the handling descending was excellent, I had found the handling of my 50mm wheels descending not great.
In conclusion, I loved the wheels not only for all the technical stuff they look superb.
I had to give the wheels back this morning and go back to my very good Mavic R-Sys ones that are alloy and weigh less. They don’t look great as they weren’t bought for the bike I have but they are excellent.
Will I be buying a pair of new heavier, deep section wheels that go against everything I have learnt about cycling up mountains – my head says I shouldn’t too expensive, not a sensible purchase, my heart says, never say never!