The Quiver of One Wheelset: Why we should move toward the boost 148 spacing for gravel.
If you own a late model cx or mountain bike you could have any of the following rear hub standards: 130 x 9 QR, 135 x 9 QR, 135 x 9 TA, 135 x 12 TA, 142 x 12 TA or 148 x 12... Sigh. Front hubs are slightly, very slightly better coming in at 100 x 9 QR, 100 x 12 TA, 100 x 15 TA and 110 x 15 TA. Ok, catch your breath. That's 10 possible sizes between front and rear. My lack of statistics skills and motivation prevent me from calculating all of the possible combinations that could arise from those variations but suffice to say, it's a bunch! You may be saying to yourself “Who cares”. Well, you do... If you're of limited financial resources and want some sweet new wheels, walk out to your bike, see what it has and order them up. Oh, and then walk over to your other bike, notice the dope wheels you just purchased won't fit... You just spent $1500 to upward of $3000 on a set of wheels that you may only be able to use on one bike. Somethings gotta change!
Well, we had a solution for a hot minute... 100 x 15 front TA and 142 x 12 rear TA. This is all fine and good as many CX, Gravel and mountain bikes share that particular set of axle spacing. Then boost, in all it's glory came along. It promised us stiffer rear wheels and extra tire clearance! For the most part, it has succeeded if not surpassed it's goals. The issue is, mountain bikes have pretty much embarrassed boost spacing yet CX and Gravel have not. Well, why haven't they? Some would suggest that the stiffness and clearance offered by boost isn't needed for cx and gravel. I'm here to tell you, if it's not needed today, it will be soon. That's evidenced by the current trend so stuffing the largest tire possible into gravel bikes. As a frame fabricator, I can tell you a point comes when tire and chainring clearance is minimized based on the width of the rear axle... So, boost to the rescue! The 6 to 18mm (depending on your current set up) could add just enough width at the chainstays to stuff a 2” tire in... Though this isn't as much of an issue with cx, wouldn't it be nice to be able to ride a big fat tire on your cx bike for the one or two gravel races you may do? The front end could become a compatibility issue, cx/gravel have stuck with 100mm spacing (but commonly use three different axles, 9mm QR, 12mm TA or 15mm TA). I'm noticing a trend for cx forks to move toward a 100 x 12mm axle, Perhaps we could get in the manufactures head and let them know about the potential need for a gravel/cx fork that accepted a 110 x 15 axle...
Where am I going with all of this? Here's your point to ponder... Would it be nice to have a Gravel/cx bike that used Boost spacing and had big tire clearance? Imagine being able to tell your significant other that the sweet/awesome carbon, bling bling hub wheels you just dropped 3K on will work on three of your bikes! Gravel, cx and mountain!!! How's that for a selling point? Imagine... three bikes, one wheelset... A boy (or girl) can dream!
If you've been following along you may know that I've been pursuing education on that magical composite, carbon fiber. In fact, I just returned from a repair class with a leading carbon expert, more to follow on that... for now, my point is that I've been studying up on carbon!
Today, I just wanted brush on a topic that get's me going... Carbon wheels. If you know me, you know I love them. What's amazing to me is how adverse many are to carbon rims manufactured in the orient. I believe that when manufactured in a ISO manufacturing facility, Asian carbon wheels can rival, and in some aspects exceed the quality of others. To illustrate that, I'll leave you with a quick video from carbon expert Leuscher Teknik showing cut aways from an asian carbon rim and a US manufactured rim.
Not a lot of words here today... Instead I'm going to show you the difference between the stock wheels on a mid-level triathlon bike (approx. $3500) and a hand build set of Ferretti Aero wheels.
Weight Comparison, Front wheel including tire/tube and quick release.
Rear Wheel: Weighed with Sram 11-28 Force cassette, quick release, tire, tube, ect.
Pricing: Tough to determine...
So surfing around the interwebs I was able to find several sets of the Oval Concepts 950F (wheelset pictured), in used condition, for sale averaging $675. Currently, I'm offering the Ferretti Carbon wheel for $899.
Weight Difference: 275 grams (or 0.6 lbs depending on your preference).
Are you ready for a set?
I've been alluding to this for a while now. Wheels... Yes, frame building is continuing. Wheel building is just an additional service I'm adding!
So let's talk aero carbon tubular wheels for a second. This is a set that I spec'd up using 55mm carbon tubular rims and personalized hubs. I'll get the big questions answered straight away... 1498 and 899. Oh, that's grams and dollars if you're wondering.
Rims- as I mentioned these are 55mm deep. They are a nice 25mm wide, accommodating the current crop of wide tubulars. Digging a little deeper, you'll notice that these rims are primarily a 3K weave overwrapped with unidirectional cloth for a nice clean look. There's extra 3k at both the spoke and tire bed to augment strength. The front rim is 20 spokes and the rear is 24. If you're a big, powerful rider I can build these up with more spokes!
Hubs- So I'm showing you black, laser etched with my logo... Don't let that stop you from dreaming though! I can build with silver, red, blue and a few even wilder options! Tech wise, these hubs are light and use standard, easily obtainable cartridge bearings. If you're looking for upgrades, we can even provide you with hybrid ceramic bearings! An additional great feature is the alloy driver body has steel inserts, no more gouged driver bodies from cassettes having loose cogs. If none of this suits your fancy, dream big... I can set you up with almost any commercially available hub.
Spokes and nipples... I'm a Sapim guy. There are some great choices out on the market, I've settled on Sapim because of their strength. This set of wheels was built using Sapim lasers. Super strong yet light weight. As far as nipples, black brass. Yes, I could have dropped some weight using alloy nipples but designed these wheels to be all arounders... Race them, train on them, beat them. Light and strong!
So, dream... dream big... Let me know what you'd like and I can get you a price!!! Oh and if you have any additional questions about these wheels, leave me a comment!
A little sneak peak at a project that I've been working on... That's a 55mm deep, carbon tubular. 25mm wide at the brake track, so wide like you like them!!! More pictures and specs to come!
This weekend marks the end of my cyclocross season. It's been a great one too! Lot's of traveling and competing in big races! Anyway, today as I readied my bike for racing I decided to weigh my new tubeless training wheels vs my slightly overbuilt carbon race wheels. It's beyond the scope of todays prose to delve into the nitty gritty of the weight difference, maybe another day when I'm bored. For now, let's just leave it at the weight difference between the two front wheels being a smashing 36 grams. Talk about diminishing returns... I'll break this all down in another blog when I've got a bit more time.
Death of the Tubular?
Almost, but nope. I did get you to click on the link to see what I was going to say this time!
I started riding and racing back in the '80s and I've been on tubulars since then, changing this old dogs habits may prove to be difficult! That said, I spent the weekend giving tubeless tires a real, honest try.
The set up: If you've been following me you'll know that I've been riding a super slick set of wheels that I recently built to really give tubeless a shakedown. The heart of the wheels are the incredible White Industries CLD hubs. The White's, being a boutique hub, are light, strong and in my case, super shiny (I went with the polished silver, they will blind you on a sunny day!). Spoke duty was covered by Sapim's Laser spokes, 24 up front and 28 rear. Rim's are the new(ish) H Plus Son “The Hydra”. I chose the rim for several reasons: it's disc ready (no braking track), it's tubeless compatible (not ghetto tubeless), it's on the wide side (25mm), it's fairly light (455grams on my scale), finally, I'm not seeing much written about them so I figured I'd give it a go!!! The wheelset, sans tape, tire and disc weighed in at a respectable 1625g. Rubber duty is covered by the Clement (now Donnelly Sports) MXP tire. To test, I wanted a tire that I knew well and I've ridden the Griffo tread for quite some time!
Saturday was spent at a practice race. The course was tough and had the usual suspects for course elements, dirt, gravel, mud, grass, bumps, turns, barriers, log jumps... all the good stuff (the only notable item missing was sand). I dialed my pressure to what I'm finding works for me with tubeless 24 front, 26 rear. Here's what I found.
Going straight: if you blindfolded me and switched wheels between this tubeless set up and tubulars, I'm SURE I couldn't tell which were which. Yes, they were that good... in a straigh line...
Bumps: Bumps were interesting. If it was one isolated bump, the tubeless set up felt fantastic. Things changed a bit when it was multiple bumps, like braking bumps before a corner. In this situation the tubeless tires seemed to “rebound” much more. Almost like a car with worn out shock absorbers. The deeper I got into the bumps, the less control I had. I'm going to experiment more with pressure to see if that helps but I could definitely feel a big difference between tubeless and tubular here (with tubular winning).
Cornering: Cornering was where I felt the largest difference. If the corner was smooth both in texture (bumpiness) and radius, it was a draw as to which I liked better. If the corner had bumps, I felt like the handling of the bike was a bit upset with tubeless as compared with tubulars. It's that rebound thing again... Downhill, bumpy turns... Yeah, give me my tubulars back!!!
Mud: Mud seemed to just amplify the above findings. Straight, I couldn't tell a difference. Turning, smooth was fine, bumpy the bike got wonky.
Off-camber: Ok, I'm not going to write too much here as I need to experiment more with tires/tire pressures. At the tire pressure I set, the tubeless tires fold over to a point they would yank the bars hard enough to make the bike difficult to control. The tubulars didn't do that. I don't want to declare a winner/loser without more experimenting with tires/pressures here.
Ease of set up: Do we even need to discuss this? Tubeless hands down wins for time efficiency. That noted, I've got tubular gluing down to a near art and can get the job done quickly and neatly... But that's from 30+ years of doing it...
Ok, on to Sunday! For sake of time and space this won't be a blow by blow review. Let me just tell you that Suday was spent riding a local mountain biking park on my CX bike. I started the ride worried that I'd be walking home, previously every tubeless tire/wheel combo I've ridden at this park has ended up punctured, burped, broken, dented or a combination of these. I packed a couple of extra tubes planning for the worse and set my pressure just like Saturday. Entering the park there's a little climb leading to a twisty trail that's full of roots. This section of trail is short, I'd guess no more that 2 minutes to blast through it. I hit the gas and hoped for the best... Countless rocks and roots, some pretty bad sounds of bottoming rims but never that dreaded hiss of a punctured tire! Shocked... Well, fast forward an hour of aggressive trail riding and much to my surprise... No flats, no burps, no bent rim beads. This was a first for me! I don't want to jump to conclusions but this wheel/tire combo worked!
So, am I ready to throw out my tubulars??? No. I still feel that in a race situation they handle better. BUT, I am willing to concede that for bombing around in the woods, I enjoyed the tubeless tires! Add to that the ability to change to different treads, having a wheel quiver of one, being able to spend less money on tires... This may just be on to something!
To be continued after more "testing"....
For those of you keeping score at home, you know that I've been dabbling in trying tubeless tires for cx. You probably also know that I've previously had dismal success, swearing off the technology... Well, I have to admit that the tide seems to be changing and my luck with tubeless improving!
Today, I mounted up a set of Clement (now Donnelly Sports) MXP clinchers to my test set of H Plus Son The Hydra rims. To be fair, the tires are not the newest "tubeless compatible" version but a little birdie I know told me that I "unofficially had blessing to use them tubeless".,, So, mounted up and pump in hand, I pumped furiously!!! To no avail... Yup, not seating these without a compressor. Once I fired up the compressor, the tires mounted up just fine.
Of note to the racing set... Mounted on the 25mm wide H Plus Son rims, these tires will NOT pass the UCI 33mm width limit. Mine measured 36mm. Consider yourself forewarned, no crying when the friendly official tells you your tires don't pass!
The ride: So let's start by saying that this is the only tubeless(cx) tire thus far that has made it past ride one and will advance to ride two for me! Usually, my testing has ended with a cut tire, burped tire, cursing and a walk home from the trails... Not today! I started out 2 PSI higher than my usual tubular setting and headed toward my local park. Once there I noted how stiff and generally terrible the ride and cornering was. I grabbed my pressure gauge and quickly lowered my pressure to where I run my tubulars... MUCH better! After cruising a bit more, I decided to push my luck and head over to the MTB trails. When I arrived, I dropped the pressure a bit more (1.5 psi lower than my preferred tubular setting). Much to my surprise, these tires worked! No burps, no flats, decent cornering and an excellent ride. Are they tubulars, no. Are they close, absolutely. I'll check back with you all after a few more rides!
So as unhappy as I am about it, there's no avoiding the fact that winter is coming... If you live in an area like I do, that means snow. Which in turn means yucky roads. Which then means you probably don't want to ride your super nice wheels outside! No worries about that, I can build you a nice set of winter wheels that won't break the bank!!!
Pictured above is a set of winter commuting wheels that I built for a client in Boston. He specifically wanted disc brake, tubulars to ride. Being a big dude, weight wasn't a primary concern so we beefed things up! These wheels feature 23 mm wide Kinlin tubular rims, 32 stout 14 gauge Sapim spokes with brass nipples and finally, 6 bolt mountain bike hubs. All said, these wheels will be super strong and weigh in at a respectable 1700 grams (did I mention how stout these are)?
So you're probably wondering "why tubular"? Well, these hubs have the ability to run many axle configurations. They are currently set up for standard 9 and 10 mm axles but simply changing endcaps will convert the front to 15mm thru axles. The rear is almost as simple to change to a 12mm thru configuration. Back to that "why tubulars" question... The client is mounting up super tough Tufo Tubulars with sealant, virtually eliminating flats and also meaning... the ability for these wheels to serve as pit wheels at the local cx races!!! Win, win, win!!!
As you can see, the ability to change configurations makes it easy to switch these wheels between bikes.
I've been saving the best part for last. The price... As configured, this set of wheels sells for $490. Want something different??? Let me know and I can give you a quote!!! Tubeless compatible clinchers more your style? I have tubeless road wheels starting at $450!
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
-Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin'
Any of you who know me well know that I DISLIKE TUBELESS TIRES for anything other than mountain riding. When I say hate, we are talking the kind of dislike reserved for root canals and DMV's. Yeah, I don't like them at all. I'm that curmudgeonly old guy that revels in huffing mastic, only the finest tubular for me. So let me surprise you all with a set of wheels that I just built up for some serious testing. I'm not going to beat around the bush, they're tubeless and pretty awesome so far... For the times they are a-changin'.
You may be asking yourself what in God's name made me, a confirmed anti-tubeless and ordained Tubularophile build a pricey, light set of tubeless wheels? Well, that's a great question and it stems more from my customers than me... It seems that everyone wants tubeless. Cyclocross and gravel riders everywhere are flocking to the tubeless camp, claiming ease of set up and comfort second to the ability to run low pressures. I can understand where they are coming from but I'm by no means a tubeless virgin... I've tried many set ups with varied results... burps, flats, hitchhiking and one tire so stuck on the rim it took bolt cutters to cut the tire off! So... since I don't want to become a glue huffing dinosaur I figured I need to start testing more combinations to see if/what works!
To start, I made my checklist of my wheel requirements- relatively light, relatively strong, easy to set up, easy to service and aesthetically pleasing.... Oh and carbon performance at alloy prices (I can dream, right?). Lot's of choices out there for parts so I picked some of my favorites... White Industries CLD hubs and Sapim Lazer spokes. Can't go wrong with either! When it came to rims, tons of choices... I settled with the newish H Plus Son “The Hydra” rim. It's a true tubeless design that's disc only, wide and relatively light. It's beyond the scope of what I'm aiming for here to get into the technical mumbo jumbo of any of these components, if you want more info about any of them leave me a comment or ask Uncle Google, he know's everything!!! (Just so I get this in here somewhere, this set of wheels is 24 spoke front, 28 rear and weighs in at 1625 grams with brass nipples).
Tires- For me it's the time of year that I do lots of endless, mindless miles in preparation for my events of next year. Lot's of those miles are on dirt or in inclement weather. I decided to go with a gravel tire... I'm sure I'll be swapping around a bit to try setting up different brand of tires, testing how well they hold at low pressures and such but for now, a gravel tire. This time I went with a set of Panaracer Gravel King 38c Tubeless.
Initial impressions: Set-up. The tubeless set up was simple. I wrapped the rims in one layer of Orange Seal 18mm tape (I should have used wider but that's what I had). I mounted up valve stems, dumped a splash of orange seal sealant and grabbed my floor pump! Oh, I should have mentioned that before... One of my criteria for tubeless is that it has to set up with a floor pump... I don't want to have to use a compressor to set up tires! That said, I started pumping and after oh, maybe 10-12 strokes, I heard a reassurring “Pop, Pop”. Ok... that was easy! Tire/wheel two, same thing! I pumped both tires up to 30 psi and let them sit for 12 hrs. After 12 hrs one wheel still had 30 psi and the other 27. Not bad for a new install. The tires measured 40.7mm mounted and inflated to 30. Ride: So this is an initial impression. A quick 20 mile ride on road and a little dirt... These wheels roll fast! On first ride, they seem plenty stiff when standing and sprinting. Super comfortable too, though I'm attributing that to the BIG tires. So far, super impressed!
Moving forward I'll try a few different tire combos with more terrain. Obviously I'll keep you up to date but for now, you guesses... The times they are a-changin'