Spinergy Wheels for Heavy Riders: Stealth PBO update

Posted by SuperClydesdale on December 5, 2010 under Road Bike Components, Road Bikes, Wheels | 11 Comments to Read

The Spinergy Stealth PBO wheelset

5/8/12 UPDATE: After my first season, I was pretty high on these wheels.  Unfortunately, the noise under load returned, and the back wheel (rim) developed a crack at one of the spoke holes.  Luckily, Spinergy did replace the rim, but the ongoing challenges of getting the spokes up to the higher tension required for heavy riders is a pain.  I cannot recommend these wheels for someone of my weight (230-240 pounds).

Original article:  Okay, okay…  people keep asking me about how the Spinergy Stealth PBO wheels have been doing.   Now that I’ve worn out the tire that I put on the rear wheel of the Stealth PBO wheelset I acquired earlier this season, I thought it might be time for an update, and a “final” recommendation.

I’ve ridden approximately 1,000 miles on these wheels now, so I at least have enough miles to be able to pass along meaningful insights.

I’ve ridden roads with miles of hand-sized cracks, speed bumps, and some unfortunately-sized pot holes.  I’m also a pretty aggressive rider, and put a lot of torque on the drive side of my rear wheel.

After a bit of a slow start, where the wheels were creaking very annoyingly, the guys at Spinergy got me squared away by recommending an increase in tension on the spokes.  Once the spokes were re-tensioned (a bit of an adventure), the wheels have been quiet.

Better yet, despite some very hard blows from potholes and bumps, the wheels have stayed very true.  I’ve not had to have them adjusted at all.

For those of you that have read my other articles on the Spinergy wheels, you will recall that the fundamental difference between Spinergy wheels and others is the use of PBO spokes.  PBO spoke is not rigid.  It’s floppy, like a thick piece of spaghetti.

Okay, now you pasta purists might say, “wait a minute!   Thick spaghetti noodles are actually called spaghettoni!”   See, if this site was aimed at skinny little whippet riders, nobody would point that out.  Those little weasels won’t eat pasta or they can’t fit into their size M Castelli jersey, which is designed by runts for runts.  I’ll take my XXXXXL race cut and like it (seriously).   We Clydesdales and Superclydesdales eat whatever the hell we want, so we have the luxury of getting to know the many types of pasta.

The PBO spokes are made up of 30,000 strands of polyphenylene bensobisoxazole fiber (say that real fast.  Say it at all) encased in a special chemical and water resistant, UV-proof composite.   The spoke casing comes in a wide variety of colors (white, red, yellow, blue, black, pink, green, and orange), so you can pretty much pimp out your bike as colorfully as you like –  I know how important that is to you.   They are supposed to be three-times stronger than stainless steel — although my spoke-tensioning adventure proved that the strength of the spoke is only as strong as the nipple.  My wheel guy snapped a nipple the first time we tried to increase the tension of the spoke. Then, with a new spoke, the special Spinergy-supplied spoke wrench broke (it came cracked).   The cracked wrench incident left me wondering about the quality control at Spinergy, but what the hell?  It all worked out in the end.

I'm giving a thumbs up to Spinergy Stealth PBO wheels for heavy riders

Once the spokes were tensioned up, the wheels were strong and true, and have remained that way since.   I am now prepared to recommend them as an aero wheelset for heavy riders.

A big plus for me with these wheels is that the supple PBO spokes help absorb some of the road chatter.  I have a ruptured disc in my lumbar, and riding on rough roads can really hurt.  The PBO wheels seem to plush-up the ride a bit, so I can ride farther with less pain.

My one recommendation for Spinergy is this:  offer the Stealth PBO wheelset at a higher tension setting from the factory.  I don’t think its reasonable to expect a customer to arrange to have it done themselves.

The wheels look great – so the bike bling factor is very high – I get a lot of comments on them.   They have  absorbed some very hard blows without going out of true, or needing any adjustments of any kind.   I like  the aluminum brake surface, so it doesn’t require a different brake pad that what I had been using.  Like any carbon, deep-dish aero wheel, they are somewhat heavy at 1695 grams.  MSRP for the Stealth PBO wheelset is $1,199, but you can find them for less.

The Spinergy wheels come with a 1-year warranty.  After that, you pay for parts and labor.  Current labor rate is $70/hour for repairs.    Like other manufacturers, I’m sure there’s a reasonable limit as to what is covered under warranty .   If you crash, ride on a flat, or hit a monster pot-hole and destroy the wheel, they are probably not going to cover that under warranty.  But, based on my experience trying to get the spokes tensioned up, these guys seem like they are reasonable.

Spinergy also offers a “No Fault Replacement” if you destroy your wheel, which is a 20-25% discount on a new set of wheels.

2010 Interbike report: wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on October 3, 2010 under Wheels | 2 Comments to Read

I’ve spent the last few days providing brief summaries of most of the wheelset manufacturers that I spoke to at Interbike.  Still have a few left, but as promised Cialis 10mg, the concise summary in a single table is below.

How I spent my Interbike vacation. Click on the image for a full-size version.

DT Swiss wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on under Wheels | 4 Comments to Read

DT Swiss has a great name in wheels, particularly in the quality of their hubs.  Some manufacturers put their rims on DT Swiss hubs to complete their wheelsets (such as ENVE).

DT Swiss wheels mostly cover only smaller big men, with 220 pound weight limits.  The RR 1850 and the R 1900 both can go up to 242 pounds.

One major problem with DT Swiss is that since they are Swiss, the information on their products is unintelligible.  Even the people at the DT Swiss booth – the “wheel experts” – couldn’t tell me accurate information about their products.   For example, the guy at the booth said that only the RR 1850 is Clydesdale-appropriate, and has no weight limit.  In fact, the DT Swiss Technical Data Sheet specifically says that the RR 1850 has a 242 pound rider weight limit (as does the R 1700 Tricon), while the R 1500, R1700, R 1800, and R 1900 all have a 220-pound rider weight limit.

Try to figure out more… good luck.  The guys at the booth didn’t know, and the web site is nonsensical.   So, despite limited cooperation and knowledge from “Team DT Swiss,” the RR1850 did look like a great option for Clydesdales, so I’ve included it in the “short list” recommendation for Clydesdales.

The DT Swiss RR 1850 wheelset. These are rated to 242 pounds, and weigh 1,842 grams for the pair. At 30mm, not terribly aero, and not the lightest aluminum wheelset out there. For $1,000, there may be better options.

So, since the only wheelset that I could get comprehensive information on, or a recommendation from the staff at the DT Swiss booth at Interbike was the RR 1850, that is the only DT Swiss wheelset listed in the summary.

Crash replacement

No crash replacement program is offered by DT Swiss.

Cassette compatibility

Campy and Shimano are explicitly listed.

More information:  www.dtswiss.com

Enve wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on under Wheels | Be the First to Comment

ENVE's rims on display at Interbike.

ENVE Composites has a great name in wheels – actually Edge Composites had the great name, but after a trademark dispute, they changed their name to ENVE Composites.  So, even though the name is new, the reputation and (albeit brief) history of Edge Composites is what you are buying when you buy ENVE – same company, different name.

ENVE is unique in that all of their wheels are made entirely in the USA, in their Utah factory, specifically

In addition to having the great distinction of being US-made, ENVE also does something fairly unusual – they make the spoke holes at the time that the carbon rim is molded.  Its part of the mold.  Most other manufacturers make a solid rim, then drill the spoke holes later.  This can lead to rough edges in the spoke holes, and could theoretically compromise the structural strength of the rim to some small degree.

ENVE has no weight limits on any of their wheels, which you can have some confidence in, since they have a formal crash replacement program.  Companies that have no weight limits and yet to crash replacement programs are dubious – but not ENVE.   ENVE offers a heavier laminate of carbon on some wheelsets, to assure even more strength for bigger, stronger riders.

The wheel that the ENVE guys recommended for Clydesdale riders discussed (> 220 pounds) is the 45mm Road 45 Clincher.  This is considered a great all-around wheel, and is extremely aero.   It has no weight limit.

The ENVE 45 Clincher. $2,500 for a pair, so one of the pricier wheels, even when compared to Hed, Zipp, etc., up to 28 spokes. Weight given as 1,362 grams for the pair.

ENVE wheels use the Sapim CX Ray spokes, which are very highly regarded in the wheel-building business.  These spokes are extremely aero and lightweight, and Sapim claims that they are “almost as light as titanium” and “stronger than any spoke currently on the market.”  Wow.  That’s a lot of claims.

Crash replacement

ENVE’s crash replacement is primarily a rim replacement, currently priced at $350 (not including shipping), and they will honor that for 5 years from date of purchase.

Cassette compatibility

ENVE wheels are built on DT Swiss or Chris King hubs, and therefore can be made compatible with Shimano, SRAM, or Campy cassettes.

For more information:  www.envecomposites.com

Hed wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on under Wheels | Be the First to Comment

Hed is interesting.  These wheels look solid — like you could put them on your motorcycle and have no problems.   They look muscular.   This means nothing, other than the Hed wheelsets look like they are Clydesdale-appropriate.  There are many options for those 230 and below, and only one option above that.

I came upon into Tom Hed flopping around on the floor of his booth demonstrating how to remove a tire from a wheel using only the lever on the quick-release skewer.   He directed me to a lacky to discuss the “wheels for heavy riders” topic.

Unlike all of the other wheel manufacturers, the viewable surface of Hed’s deep-dish carbon wheels are not hard.  Every wheel that had much of a “dish” to it had a floppy carbon skin that made up the shape of the wheel.  Inside that floppy cover was an actual normal rim.   This is interesting in that it allows Hed to offer different depth of wheels for different aero profiles without having to really design a new wheel – they are just skins on top of other rim sets.  It supposedly allows them to tune the shape of the wheel for optimal performance.

Hed is not focused on the heavy rider, but they do offer “stallion builds” for riders on several wheelsets for up to 230-pound riders.  When you go through all the permutations of the “Ardennes” line, it will  show many options for sub 230-pounder.   A 230-pound limit is still way too light for many of the readers of this site, but it’s nice to see a formal limit stated.  I’d prefer that manufacturers just admit that they are not appropriate for heavy riders than hide behind some “we have no weight limit” claim, then have their wheels need constant truing and/or replacement.

The Hed Ardennes, with the "Stallion build" option are rated to 230 pounds. Several options bring the price range from $750-$1350 for a pair.

The Hed Jet 4 - an aero deep-dish option from Hed. Price is $1,600 for aluminum rim (1725 grams), or $2,100 for a scandium rim (1535 grams). Lots of cash for 190 grams of weight savings.

The Hed Ardennes line has many options.   The most expensive of these is the scandium wheels (the Ardennes FR, and SL) — $1,350 and $1,050 respectively.  A less expensive, albeit 130-150 grams heaver, option are the LT and CL, which have aluminum rims, which are $850 and $750 respectively.  This starts getting down into a realistic “training wheel” price range for me, personally.

Note to reader:  What the hell is scandium?   I was wondering that myself.  Sounds like a made-up material like unobtainium, but it’s a real metal – in fact, it’s an element.  Don’t remember that from high school chemistry?  Me neither. Apparently scandium is strong, yet lightweight, lighter than aluminum, but more expensive.  Of course its more expensive — this is cycling!

Hed also offers a deep-dish carbon wheelset for riders up to 225 pounds as well, the Jet series.  The Jet is not solid carbon, but carbon cladded metal.  Again, they offer an aluminum rim and a scandium rim, either of which is shrounded in that floppy carbon skin that makes up the profile that you see.

Hed has one product that, out of the box, will work for riders up to 250 pounds:  the H3 series (Hed.3).   The H3 is a “three-spoke” solid carbon time trial wheel (no actual spokes – just the three massive blades).  These are rated for riders of up to 250 pounds.  While designed for time trials, the Hed guy says these can be used as a very durable training wheel as well.

The H3. Very earo, but very heavy and expensive. $1,850 for the 54mm depth version (2,113 grams), or $2,700 for the deep version (90mm).

The H3 are very heavy wheels – there’s a lot of material that make these up.  They probably wouldn’t be a great training wheel for people that do a ton of climbing (unless you subscribe to the Laird Hamilton school of thought, which would apparently dictate that you use the heaviest of everything  so that you’ll be that much stronger for the actual competition).  While heavy, the H3 are extremely aero, so while these will not make a great climbing wheel, they will be great on average terrain, and – of course – for time trials.

So, the three models of wheels that the summary will contain are:

  • Ardennes (FR, SL, LT, and CL)
  • Jet 4
  • H3

Hed offers three materials in its wheelsets:  carbon, scandium, and aluminum.  In the summary table, I show the difference in weight.  Scandium cuts down the weight of the wheelset, but it also adds significantly to the cost.

Crash replacement policy


Cassette compatibility

Shimano and Campy listed.

More information:   www.hedcycling.com

Mavic wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on October 2, 2010 under Wheels | 4 Comments to Read

If you’ve read this site for a while, you’ll likely know that I hate Mavic.   Ever since my Ksyrium SSL SC wheels self-destructed in less than a year, and Mavic would not stand behind them (I had to pay for a total rebuild – which took a very long time to resolve), I have never bought another Mavic product, nor will I.  I sold those wheels and used the money towards a new wheelset (currently trying the Spinergy Stealth PBOs, which have been solid thus far).

Mavic’s problems can be summed up in two words:  they’re French.

That said, I did swing by the Mavic booth to talk to them and see what they had for 2011.

I happened upon an American sales representative who assured me that “Mavic has no weight limit.”  That’s great!  Wow.

I told him about my issue, and then he looked around to make sure nobody was listening and told me, “They’re French.  I don’t think they have any big guys in France.  I’ve never seen them.”  I was taken aback, primarily because those are the exact same words in the exact same order that have come out of my mouth when discussing Mavic before.  It was a Twilight Zone moment.  He went on that “Mavic designs their products for guys 180 pounds and below.”  Really?  I’m shocked.

The one wheelset that the guy did feel comfortable promoting as an all-around wheel for heavy riders is the Ksyrium Elite.  These wheels are non-aero, but have stainless steel bladed spokes.  I know numerous heavy riders that had these come with their bikes and they do seem to hold up.

Mavic was one of two manufacturers who would not give me their price sheet.   If I’m not a dealer, I have no right to that information.  The other was Fulcrum.  Damn Europeans.

Crash replacement

Despite my constant Mavic-bashing, Mavic offers perhaps the best replacement plan:  the Mavic Product Protection Plan.  The plan is required to be purchased at the time you purchase the wheels., and per the guy at the booth, costs 8% of MSRP.  The plan provides protection for 2 years, and it’s “no fault” – no explanation needed.  You only play for shipping.   I was not told about this when I purchased my wheels – I wasn’t given the option.  Certainly I would have sprung for the $80 to protect a $1,000 wheelset.  Perhaps I should be harder on the dealer I bought them from than on Mavic.

Cassette compatibility

Shimano, Campy, SRAM.

More information:   www.mavic.com

Zipp wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on October 1, 2010 under Wheels | Be the First to Comment

Zipp is part of SRAM, so I will discuss SRAM briefly in this section as well.  SRAM wheels are targeted more for the mass market.  That is to say, people who are cheap.   Zipp is the high-end performance-oriented wheel brand in the SRAM family.   Not to say that SRAM-branded wheels are bad, but you certainly come to that conclusion when you ask about crash-replacement, weight limits, etc.   They quickly direct you to the Zipp products.   The guys at the booth said that SRAM wheels have a weight limit of 225 pounds, then guided us over to the Zipp area.

Zipp wheels are just stunning. Sexy.  You want to lick them.  Zipp was the only booth with a cold shower in the corner.

However, rumor has it that the material that they make the Zipp decals out of is extremely expensive because as soon as the slap the Zipp logo on the wheels, the cost of the wheels skyrockets.  While there appears to be some truth to that, and Zipps are expensive, other performance carbon wheels are pricey as well, so they must source their decals from the same place.

Zipp has the patented dimples on the surface of their deep-dish carbon wheels that they claim greatly reduces the air friction as the wheel passes through the air.   They point to golf balls – an undimpled golf ball will travel a dramatically shorter distance than a dimpled one because it doesn’t move through the air as easily.

The Zipp 404 Max Clincher - the heavy rider version of the 404. Rated for up to 275 pounds. Â Â $2,300 for the set, 1711 grams for the pair.

The Zipp 808 Max Clincher - the heavy rider version of the 808. Rated for up to 275 pounds. $2,500 for the set, 1970 grams for the pair.

Zipp has Clydesdale-specific versions of their 404 and 808 wheelsets, although I heard that they are moving away from the “Clydesdale” moniker in favor of something less… insulting.   I guess Clydesdale conjures up pictures of big fat guys, and Zipp wants to divorce themselves of that association.  They are going to be calling their heavy-rider versions “Max,” so there will be Zipp 404 Max and Zipp 808 Max.  I feel better about myself already.

One thing about Zipp – they do back up their claims with data.  They have the only product guides with actual charts comparing their wheels to other manufacturers, and even among their own products.  They have sold enough decals that they can fund some serious time in the wind tunnel.  These guys will tell you how many seconds a given design feature will cut off your time trial (15 seconds off of a 40km TT for example).  There’s a great summary of some performance tests that Zipp did in wind tunnels.

On a side note… the dimples concept got me to thinking what a tremendous advantage it might have to have so-called “cottage cheese thighs.”  Think about it, cellulite has some serious dimpling that occurs naturally.  Imagine the advantage that a rider with serious cellulite could have.  Now, if a rider has cottage cheese thighs, they are probably not terribly fit, so they’re not going to be a speed demon, even on the flats.  But, imagine someone just rife with cellulite, using Zipp wheels, then descending!  They are probably heavy as well as dimpled, so with the aero thighs, aero wheels, and the benefits of gravity, they would descend like an asteroid!

In addition to dimples, Zipp also has another new option for the 404s and the 808s.  It’s called the “Firecrest” profile.    This profile is targeted at reducing drag specifically on the rear wheel.   I came away from Interbike that the Firecrest profile was only available in tubular versions, but was recently informed that they are, in fact available in the 404 and 808 clinchers.  That’s good news, as the aero data on the Firecrest wheels is exciting.  Plus, the shape is apparently even stronger than Zipp’s other rim profiles.

Aero is great, and it makes a tremendous difference in time trials, and for people that primarily ride in flatter terrain.  Where I live, people also want “climbing wheels,” which is all about the weight.  You can be as aero as you want, but up a long steep climb, that means nothing.   I happen to have several sets of wheels one for aero, and climbing.  So, while these Zipps (404s and 808s) are sweet, for a nasty climbing ride, you may want a different wheelset.

Many/most manufacturers have major portions of their manufacturing in Asia, then either drop ship from there, or bring the components back to the US for final assembly.  Not Zipp.  Zipp wheels are made in Speedway, Indiana.  Production and design are in the same facility, which I can tell you from personal experience means a much tighter loop between design/test/manufacture that virtually guarantees more rapid R&D, and quicker resolution to problems as they occur.  And of course, having the factory in the midwest, the availability of parts for the American market is another benefit.  I can tell you from reading the many e-mails I get, this is a problem for some manufacturers.

Crash replacement program

Zipp does have a no-fault crash-replacement program, but describe it only as a “deeply discounted repair.”  For a 404, Zipp says “approximately $400, including shipping.”  For an 808, Zipp says $440 including shipping.

Cassette compatibility

SRAM, Shimano, Campy.

For more information:  www.zipp.com – look for the “Max” wheels.

Cole wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on September 30, 2010 under Wheels | Be the First to Comment

Cole is an uncommon name to many cyclists, but the wheels look rock solid (for what that’s worth).   Their spoke system, called DSA for Dynamic Spoke Alignment, allows for very high spoke tension.  The high tension wheels are supposed to offer a high degree of wheel stiffness, resulting in “crisper acceleration” and durability.  While high spoke tension sounds like a faster way to busted spokes, Cole wheels also have a very large spoke head at the hub (called the Fat Head), to allow for this high degree of tension to be spread over a large area, which they claim results in much fewer spoke breaking, which should certainly be of interest to Clydesdales, who break more spokes than Tiger Woods does wedding vows.

The hub of the C50 Lite wheel from Cole shows the DSA spoke system with the cylindrical spoke ends at the hub.

The DSA spoke system, however, appears to be pretty durable, although I am suspicious that they might lead to spoke creaking on the drive side of the rear wheel (like my Spinergy Stealth PBO), when ridden hard by big strong watt machines (aka “Clydesdales”).  My Spinergy wheels croaked like frogs with every pedal stroke when climbing.  I had to crank up the tension on the spokes to quiet them, so perhaps this will be less of an issue with the Coles.  Also, since Cole spokes are metal throughout, and the hub flange is metal, they could always be lubricated should creaking begin (unlike Spinergy wheels).

Cole has no weight limit, which is a big red flag.  While these wheels look solid, and the DSA system sounds terrific, Cole has no wheel replacement program, which to me puts the veracity of their durability claims in doubt.  They also only test their wheels to 230 pounds, and anything above that they say “call us.”   I heard that a lot from girls in college.  I hope Cole works out better.

Since they claim no weight limit, technically all of the wheels in their catalog should be Clydesdale-ready.

But, after talking to the Cole representative at their booth, we focused on two wheelsets:

  • The Rollen eLite (aluminum)
  • C50 Lite (solid carbon)

The Cole C50 Lite wheel. Tested to 230 but with no formal weight limit. $2,195 for the set. Pair weighs 1720 grams.

The Cole Rollen eLite wheelset. Tested to 230 pounds, no formal weight limit. $595 for the set. 1650 grams for the pair.

Crash replacement

A big downside for the Cole wheelsets is that there is no official crash replacement policy.  Every crash will be handled on a case-by-case basis.  That concerns me, because after my disastrous experience with Mavic wheels – and Mavic’s response, I want to know up front what the policy is.  I can’t imagine spending $2,000 on a wheelset without knowing what the crash replacement policy is.   One pothole away from a big expense.

Cassette compatibility

Cole only lists SRAM and Shimano compatibility on their price sheet (no Campy).

For more information:  www.colewheels.com

American Classic wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on under Wheels | Be the First to Comment

This is a brief summary of the conversations I had with American Classic representatives regarding what wheelsets they offer and recommend for heavy riders.   When talking about wheelsets for Clydesdales, I am not just talking about the smaller big men, but the real hulks among us:  250+.  I get notes all the time from competitive riders that are 250+, so a wheelset rated for 220 pounds only serves a small portion of the Clydesdale population.  And, these guys are not just on pleasure rides, they are hammering these wheels – climbing, sprinting, etc.

At the end of this week, I will be posting an matrix of all manufacturers I felt worth mentioning with model numbers, spoke counts, weight, MSRP, etc.   Stay tuned.

But, regarding American Classic:

American Classic designs their entire wheel:  hubs, bearings, spokes, and rim.   80% of their products are built in Taiwan, and the remaining 20% in the USA.

American Classic recommends three models for Clydesdales:

  • 420 Aero 3 (aluminum medium-dish wheel)
  • Hurricane (aluminum wheel)
  • Carbon Clincher 58 Series 3. (carbon deep-dish wheel)

The AM Classic 420 Aero 3. A $1,100 wheelset rated up to 225 pounds. Weighs 1530 grams for the pair.

One of features that American Classic stresses is their spokes, which are designed by them.  They are called AC spokes (which simply stands for American Classic spokes).  These are stainless steel, and they claim superior metallurgy which make them strong and of uniform quality which allows them to build the wheels more predictably and make them more stable.    While they love their spokes, they also offer Sapim spokes.

The AM Classic Hurricane. A $900 wheelset rated up to 240 pounds. Weighs 1600 grams for the pair.

AC also is very proud of the nipples that attach the spokes to the rim.  I’m a fan of anyone who is proud of their nipples.    While still aluminum, to allow for a low rotational weight of the wheelset, AC claims that the design of the nipple allows it to be much more durable than conventional aluminum spoke nipples.  I want durable nipples!

The AM Classic Carbon Clincher 58 Series 3. A $1,429 wheelset rated up to 235 pounds. Weighs 1880 grams for the pair.

Crash replacement

AC has a crash replacement insurance program called the “Crash Rebuild Program,” which must be purchased within 10 days of wheel purchase, from authorized dealer.   Prices for program are based on rim material:   $200 for aluminum, $300 for carbon.   This will cover an in-house (done by American Classic at their facility) rebuild of the wheel.

Cassette compatibility

American Classic hubs can be ordered with Shimano, SRAM, or Campy compatible freewheels.

The American Classic nipples. You've got to love a good nipple.

For more information:  American Classic web site:  www.amclassic.com

2011 Interbike report: Performance wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on September 29, 2010 under Wheels | Be the First to Comment

I am constantly asking, and being asked about wheels for Clydesdales.   This year at Interbike, I spoke to every major manufacturer of performance road wheelsets.  In the interest of keeping the content as searchable as possible, I will be publishing a series of articles, one for each manufacturer spoken to, with respect to what they recommended for the heavy rider.  These will begin tomorrow, and go on until each manufacturer listed below is discussed.

With each manufacturer, I asked about:

  • Wheelsets in their products line that are designed for or that are recommended choices for Clydesdales
  • Warranty policy
  • Crash replacement policy
  • Weight limits by product line (for those lines with Clydesdale-appropriate options)
  • Price (MSRP)
  • I asked for recommended training, and recommended performance/race wheels.  Some manufacturers recommended the same for both.
  • Any differentiating value of their product vs. the competition (their sales pitch)

Some may read these and think that I simply asked, “what is your most expensive wheelset?”   While that may be how it looks, I can assure you that this is not the case.  This summary is for people who are looking for the highest performance wheelset they can find, and are prepared to pay for it.   If you are a big guy simply looking for a durable wheelset for your commute, and weight is not a priority, then this is not the summary for you.   There are plenty of other articles on this site about finding and/or building a solid wheelset.

So, this wheel guide is for:

  • The “avid amateur” trying to keep up with a competitive riding group (or continue to crush them).
  • A competitive rider.  Or someone who wants to be.  Or, thinks they are (even though everyone else knows the truth).
  • Those with low self esteem and feel its important to have equipment better than everyone else, even though you suck (note: you do not want to have $2500 wheels if you’re always the last guy in).
  • The big & tall weight weenie (which makes no sense, just by that collection of words in that order).  Other arrangements make more sense.  Perhaps big weight, tall weenieBig weenie tall weight?    As silly as it sounds, there a lot of big & tall weight weenies.  I’m one.  Sue me.
  • Someone with a ton of cash.

I went by most manufacturers, but have produced a summary that does not include every manufacturer.

An important factor for me is whether or not a manufactrurer has a formal crash protection or wheel replacement program.  If I’m going to spend big dough on a performance wheelset, then I want to know what happens when I hit a rock and crack the wheel.  This is particularly Pokies important to a heavy ride — I didn’t get the title “Pinch Flat King” for nothing.   A road hazard that might cause a lighter rider to flat could destroy my $1,000 worth of bike bling in an instant.

Many of the comments included in the summaries are out of the mouths of the “wheel experts” at each manufacturer that I spoke with.  If there is a model missing, then they didn’t recommend it for Clydesdales, or simply overlooked it in their conversations with me.

Even with a crash replacement or repair program, you should consider the appropriateness of a given wheelset to your weight.  A manufacturer with no weight limits could mean that the wheel will not outright break, but may require constant truing.  Truing is not covered in a crash replacement program, that’s on you.

These are wheels that I would consider for myself, and therefore I am comfortable recommending that you consider them also.

The manufacturers in this summary are:

This article only looks at 700c clincher wheelsets, which is what I prefer.  If there is sufficient uproar, I may provide a similar summary for tubular wheelsets.

On wheel weight

Many manufactures offer very similar wheelsets (same width, depth, same aero profile), but with changes to the materials that shed a bit with weight.  With this slight drop in weight comes a tremendous cost.  You might pay a few hundred dollars more for a wheel that weighs 50 grams less than a very similar product.  Since there’s 453.59 grams to a pound, that’s a massive premium.  Shave 50 grams, and you just reduced your bike weight by 1/10th of a pound for $300.   For a rider that weighs 230 pounds, is that worth it?  Should you send your money on something else – something that will make a profound difference (like longer cranks)?

Some things for consideration not in the summary

In order to keep the summary from becoming an eye chart, I didn’t provide information on every aspect of every wheel.  The intention of this summary is to get my readers a short list of wheels to consider.  Then, it’s up to you to make the call.

You may be disappointed with some of information in this summary.  That likely reflects the disappointment I felt when talking to the company.   If they had few products for the heavy rider, then that will show up in the summary.

Be checking in over the next week or two as I finish compiling the summary of the manufacturer’s performance offerings for heavy riders.

Update: Spinergy wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on July 29, 2010 under Road Bike Components, Wheels | 6 Comments to Read

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the Spinergy experience to date.  After returning from my business trip, I was able to run the Spinergy wheel to my local bike shop (couldn’t get to Don the Whippet in time) to have them true up the wheel with the new spoke tools I received from Spinergy after the defective one that came with the wheels broke.

The S-Works with the Spinergy wheels back on. They sure do look good. Notice that I still have not transferred my beloved Selle-Anatomica saddle over yet

I want to use the new wheels on a ride I’m doing this weekend, the Shasta Summit Century, so I was in a rush and the LBS was nice enough to true up the wheel immediately.  The wheel needed to be trued because:

  • The rear wheel was making a lot of noise.  Spinergy said that all of the spokes had to have their tension increased in an effort to stop the squeeking.   I guess I’m too damn heavy for limp spokes.
  • In the process of tightening the spokes to Spinergy’s specifications, the metal on the end a spoke snapped, and the spoke had to be replaced.  Spinergy mails some new spokes.
  • The new spoke came and as the wheel was being trued when the special Spinergy spoke tool that came with the wheelset broke.  Spinergy mails a new spoke tool.
  • New spoke tool came, off to the local bike shop….

Nobody at the local bike shop had virtual online casino ever seen a PBO spoke.  I showed them a loose spoke, which looks like a thick piece of limp spaghetti, and there was a lot of gathering around, “hey, check this out!”  Everyone passed a spoke around and just smiled with amazement at how floppy it was.

This shop is the same shop that custom made my other wheels, so they know wheels and they have seen pretty much every brand under the sun — until Spinergy.  I guess they are pretty unusual.

I gave the owner, who is also the head mechanic, the wheel and the spoke tools.  He put the wheel on the truing stand and got to work.  He was amazed at how difficult it was to turn the Spinergy wrench.  He had to insert a small awl through the wrench just to get enough leverage to turn it, and remained nervous that the spoke or the tool or both would snap at any moment due to the incredible amount of force he had to use to get the thing to turn, saying “I’ve never seen such a crappy design on a tool.”

The small Taiwanese children that probably make these things must have incredible strength to be building these wheels  for 20 hours a day.

After about 10 minutes, though, the wheel was straight and true, and its back on the bike.

So, the bike is back to looking sleek and sexy with the Spinergy wheels, and now awaits some big climbs this weekend on the Shasta Summit Century.

Stay tuned…

First take: Spinergy wheels for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on July 27, 2010 under Road Bike Components, Wheels | 2 Comments to Read

After my experience with Mavic SSL SCs, which was a $1,000 set of wheels that proved to be far too flimsy for the massive weight and power of an aggressive Clydesdale rider (a.k.a, “me”), I retreated to the relative comfort of a 32-spoke traditional steel-spoked wheelset.  In exchange for the extra weight and utilitarian appearance, I was told that these wheels with Dura Ace hubs and laced to Mavic CXP 22 rims with heavy-guage spokes were supposed to be indestructibly Clydesdale-proof.  I figured, what the heck – as a Super Clydesdale, why do I need to have sexy wheels?  The entire package (me on my bike) is so over-the-top great looking, I really don’t need any bling to look freakin’ terrific.

In lamenting my wheel problems, I often get notes from big guys about their wheelsets.  I hear all sorts of comments:

  • Try brand XYZ, they are bombproof
  • “I rode this wheelset for 1,000,000 miles with no problem”
  • “I weigh 900 pounds and I’ve been using the same wheelset since I was 19 with no problems.”
  • I use these wheels on my bike and my car, and they are terrific.

Some of these are wheels that I know for a fact are not meant for heavy riders.  I can only wonder how some people ride.  They must ride in some sort of Cyclotopia – where the streets are all downhill, smooth and prestine.   Not me.  I ride hills, lots of hills, with significant climbing (> 10% gradient is not uncommon).  In both directions.  I ride patchwork quilts of potholes that pass as roads in El Dorado County, California.   They are not technically roads in the strict definition of the term.  These are roads that were chipseal during the California Gold Rush, and have since been maintained by the El Dorado County Department of Transportation – which is like having your dentistry work be done by a carpenter – he doesn’t know what he’s doing, doesn’t have the proper tools, but at the end of the day, the job will be called “done” so he can go grab a beer.

To compound the pressures on my wheels, I get out of the saddle a lot.  And I occasionally sprint.

If you are just going to sit there and grind it out, then perhaps any old wheelset will do.  Not for me.    That indestructable Dura Ace/CXP?  Less than a season.

So, I got a wild hair and thought, “What the hell?  Wheels don’t last me more than a year anyway without some major re-work – go for a performance wheelset.”  And so the journey began…   again.

Spinergy PBO Wheels for Heavy Riders

My first stop was Spinergy.  My wife has been riding Spinergy wheels for about two years now.  They look great and the PBO spokes provide for a really plush ride.

The super-sexy Spinergy Stealth PBO wheelset

The super-sexy Spinergy Stealth PBO wheelset

For those who are unfamiliar with Spinergy’s PBO spokes, the concept is pretty unique – instead of a stiff spoke, these are like rope.   30,000 strands of a special fibre made of polyphenylene bensoxazole, coated with nylon.  The spoke material themselves are supposed to be three times stronger than stainless steel, at half the weight.  I like the sound of that.  I have a ruptured disc in my back, and I read that the flexibility of the PBO spokes will take some of the road chatter out of the ride.

When first looking at Spinergy wheels, my first step was to call Spinergy.   I told them my weight, and that I was considering the Xaero Lite wheels.  They told me that the Xaero lites would work for me, but that they would need regular truing.   Instead, they pointed me to the Stealth PBO wheelset – which is a 43mm carbon aero wheel.   I was shocked that they recommended carbon over the aluminum Xaero, but the guy at Spinergy said that they are plenty tough and won’t need as much truing.  They had many Clydesdales using these wheels.   Because of this, I was willing to try a wheelset that only had 20 spokes in the rear.

Yeah.  Right.

While I cannot reveal the weight of my wife, lets just say that she’s at least 100 pounds lighter than I am.  Any lessons from her Spinergy wheels are not applicable to me.

I was excited about Spinergys because here is a wheel that is a very light performance carbon aero wheelset that the manufacturer was recommending.  To me!

Of course, I ordered them immediately.

The wheels are beautiful.  They make me look faster.    Unfortunately, I’ve had them for about four weeks and so far, I’ve only been on one ride.   Here’s why…

I had an initial bad impression when opening the box for the rear wheel.  In it, I saw a little baggy that had a spoke wrench.  It’s made of aluminum and is designed specifically to fit in the rim itself, into the little hole drilled through the aluminum wheel into the carbon, where the spoke comes through from the hub.  I looked at the spoke wrench, and I notice that it has a crack in it.  Whatever, I probably won’t ever need that.  I don’t do my own wheel maintenance so it was sort of like looking at a museum artifact – it’s interesting, but I don’t ever see myself using it.

The second hit to my view of Spinergy was an aluminum shard still stuck to the spoke hole.  I put on the rim strips (the ribbon of material in the rim that protects the tube from the spokes – or in this case, from being forced down the “spoke holes” which would have caused a rupture to the tube), and I ran my hand around the wheel.  I noticed a rogaine vs propecia lump in the rim strip.  I took off the strip and found about a ¼-inch-long piece of aluminum left over from when the rims were drilled at the factory – still attached to the wheel.   Additionally, the holes drilled into the inner part of the rim have very rough edges.   Although they are covered with the rim strip, I was left wondering why Spinergy wouldn’t smooth out the edges of those holes just a bit.  It would prevent the wayward shard that I discovered, and give the wheels a finished look.  This is, after all, the point at which the customer’s first impression is going to be made – when putting on tires for the first time.

Admittedly, both things are minor, I took off the aluminum shard, and the rim strip was smooth enough.  I drilled a new hole in the spoke wrench to allow a different rod to be inserted to turn the tool.  To me, it reveals a lack of quality control by Spinergy, who certainly aspires to be a top-tier manufacturer of performance equipment.   Spinergy has a lower price point than Easton and Zipp, and I am thinking that its because of these little trade-offs that have been made, which lead to lower quality control.

But, whatever, the wheels were just gorgeous, and I threw on a cassette, some tires, and took off on my maiden Spinergy Stealth PBO voyage.

My first ride had quite a bit of climbing.  Although a moderate-distance ride of 41 miles, it had 3600 feet of climb, some of which was quite steep (one mile stretch had an average grade of 16%).  I had an 11-25 cassette on the back wheel.  I was out of the saddle on climbs, and had my 195mm cranks, so lots of torque on the back wheel.  As a result, by the end of the ride, the wheels were creaking pretty badly.  Every pedal stroke, it sounded like I was stepping on a frog – not that I’ve done that, but if I were to step on a frog, I imagine that it sounds like a Spinergy Stealth PBO wheelset being ridden by a 225-pound rider.

Riding a creaking wheelset will not do – will go insane if I have to listen to expiring amphibians on every pedal stroke of every ride — so I sent a note to Spinergy.  Spinergy told me that I need to add 3Kgf tension to the spokes in the rear wheel.  “This is something that we recommend for Clydesdales or performance gurus.”    I don’t understand the performance guru part of that recommendation.

My comment back to Spinergy was that I am not accustomed to having to retension a brand new wheelset.  I don’t even own a tensiometer.  Furthermore, having me go in and start mucking with my wheel is like giving a handgun to an infant.  No good will come from it.  Luckily, I know a whippet – the guy who bought my Ksyrium SL SSC’s from me – who builds wheels.  Very nice guy who did the Markleeville Death Ride with me last year.  Don the Whippet.

This is where the adventure begins.  As tension was being increased, one of the “three times stronger than stainless steel” PBO spokes snapped.  Actually, it wasn’t the spoke, it was the metal (I suspect aluminum) housing that is fused to the top of each spoke.  It’s bonded to the PBO material, and has threads on in to allow for tensioning of the spoke.

The broken spoke -- actually the metal end with the threads snapped

So, I’m watching the retensioning of the spoke, and I heard that sickening “snap” sound of the spoke failing.   I knew that I was going down a bad path.  Here I am, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and cause damage to my wheel.  Unhappy.

Send a note to my Spinergy guy, he says, no problem, I’ll send some spokes, he says.

Three days pass, spokes arrive.   Back to Don the Whippet’s place to replace the spoke and have another go at retensioning the spokes.

Put in the new spoke, tightening it up, hear another “crack.”  This time, it’s the damn Spinergy spoke wrench  breacking – the other end.  The part the goes onto the spoke has cracked and the retensioning effort must again be suspended.  Why can’t they make the spoke wrench out of steel?  Obviously, since it’s broken on both ends after relative light use, aluminum is a very poor choice of materials.  How could I be the only person experiencing this?

The original spoke wrench that came with the wheelset -- now broken on both ends with very little use, and the new replacement spoke wrench that Spinergy sent, along with the tool to keep the spokes from turning (one didn't come with the wheelset originally)

So, as I write this, I am out of town on a business trip.  A new spoke wrench has arrived, and as soon as I get back into town, it’s back to Don the Whippet’s place to try to get the spokes re-tensioned and the wheel re-trued.

A month later, still only able to ride a total of 40 miles on my new Spinergy PBO wheelset, I am supremely frustrated.

It’s painful.  I want to like Spinergy.  They are a small company.   Every message from them ends with “Ride And Smile.”   They are American – based in Carlsbad, California (although I’m sure their stuff is made by the same small Taiwanese children that make most every other bike component).   There stuff looks great.   They are trying to make these wheels work for me.

For now, I can only conclude that for a Clydesdale, PBO is an acronym for “Pretty Bad Option.”

Stay tuned…

Nimble wheels

Posted by SuperClydesdale on December 28, 2009 under Road Bike Components, Wheels | 6 Comments to Read

I stumbled upon these guys yesterday.   I was thinking about what wheels I was going to ride in the upcoming Amgen Tour of California, and found these.  A company called Nimble (www.nimble.net), who make competition-grade cyldesdale-specific wheels and hubs.   They offer bladed wheels as well as spoked with 28-spoke front wheel and a 32-spoked rear wheel.  The spoked wheels look to be rated for up to 250 pounds.   Now, this is a company that has not only clydesdales, but super clydesdales and “pachyderms” as well (over 230 lbs).

The carbon bladed wheels look like they are rated up to 280 pound riders.   Those will be my time-trial weels.  I’m an unnamed alternate on the 2010 Team Radio Shack — I’m the time-trial expert.  If Lance has explosive diarrhea, I’m the go-to guy for TTs.

Photo from Nimble web site

From the Nimble web site

I’ve never used these nor do I know anybody that has, but they may certainly be worth a look for those of you that want a competition-grade wheelset that will not crumble like paper mache when a super clydesdale is on them.  The pricing looks to be pretty good (approx $600 for a full wheelset for spoked wheels).

Nimble is American made, in Austin, TX.   These guys look like they have re-started operations after their entire factory burned down in June of 2008 (that’s interesting — a factory for high-end bike components burns just as the economy is taking a major digger…. hmmm…..).   They restarted limited production in June, 2009.  Don’t know if they are back to full production yet.

I like the name… “Nimble,”   but for a clydesdale wheel, I don’t know if that’s has the right ring to it.   For me, “methodical” or “plodding” might ring truer.  Perhaps they can do a custom decal for super clydesdales and pachyderms.  I think “Non-Competitive” or “Pass on the Left” might be popular.  ”See you at the top” would be good on my special climbing wheels.

I’m curious about these guys.   If you have used these wheels, please send me a note.

Wheels for Clydesdales

Posted by SuperClydesdale on August 3, 2009 under Wheels | Be the First to Comment

For any big guy that rides a lot, and may even do a lot of climbing (gasp!), the rear wheel of the bike is going to be of concern.   The latest bladed carbon aero lighter than air wheelset is incredibly alluring.   Everyone wants bike bling it seems, and the wheel set is one of the most visible components.

If you have cash to burn, and want to look cool on your next century ride, go for it.  I understand you can get a 734 gram wheelset from Lew Racing (I’m going to contact them for the clydesdale version — it will probably weigh a bit more, perhaps 800 grams).

Hint: make sure the ride has sag wagons that can loan you a new back wheel after you crush the light one.

Perhaps you’ve bitten off more that you could chew by signing up for an overly challenging ride, and need an excuse to explain your DNF (did not finish), then perhaps a flimsy wheel is right up your alley — “guys, I would have finished, probably in record time, but my Bontrager Race Lite wheelset snapped a spoke…”

Forget all that.  You need bomb proof.

You weigh 200+ pounds.  You don’t need a racing wheel set — or rather, your racing wheel set is not other people’s racing wheel set.

Besides, as it turns out, an aero wheelset does not have nearly the impact of something like an aero helmet. My buddy Neil pointed me to some research done by the MIT cycling team that sheds some light on aerodynamics.    So, you don’t have to tell your riding buddies that you’re too fat to use the same rims as them.  You explain why you’re wearing a dorky looking time trial helmet on all your team rides — MIT says it’s the smart thing to do.

Unless you want to be stranded with an broken wheel (been there), get something that you can train on dependably.

Here’s my lesson:

I got all excited about Mavic Ksyrium SSC SLs, because it looked like a lightweight high-performance wheel that might actually hold up for a heavy rider.   I’m not one to normally drop $1,000 on a new wheelset, but the spokes are so thick, the look like they’d be practically indestructable.   I rode with them for about 600 miles, then heard a “bang!” which was one of the spokes snapping on the back wheel.   No pothole, no bumps, just riding on smooth pavement.   The wheel instantly went so far out of true that it made it impossible to ride.  I was very thankful that it didn’t happen on a high speed descent.  I stopped and undid the brake caliper adjustment all the way, which allow the wheel to turn, but it still made contact with the brake pad on every turn of the wheel — it was clearly severely warped.   Afraid of riding on the wheel and damaging it further, I was able to get a ride home.

I took the wheel to the local bike shop where I got the wheels, and replaced the spoke, as well as a couple of others that looked like they were stressed.   The mechanic said that it was not uncommon for drive side spokes to snap on these (drive side being the side of the wheel where the cassette is) as that is where the torque is heaviest on the spokes.

A few weeks later, I snapped another spoke.   Back to the LBS.    He looked at the wheel and said that the rim was now bent.   He contacted Mavic on my behalf.  Since I only had about 600 miles on the wheel set, I assumed that Mavic would repair it under warranty.   Mavic requested that the LBS ship them the wheel for them to look at to decide the next course of action.

Mavic said that the wheel needed to be entirely rebuilt.  I was very disappointed to hear that Mavic would not cover the needed repair under warranty.   After 600 miles, the wheel was pretty much totally destroyed other than the hub.   What kind of crap is that?   That’s like buying a Yugo, then having the engine blow after 10,000 miles, and having the dealership tell you…   wait a minute — bad example.  Anyway, I will never buy another Mavic wheel set.  Any company that does not stand behind their products is not a good company.

For reasons neither I nor my therapist can explain,  I decided to have Mavic repair the wheel, on my nickel.   Now, afraid to use the wheelset, I have them hanging in my garage and only use them as bling on “special occasions.”  They’re like my fine China.  Too nice to use, I’ll just look at them.

I don’t think that Mavic expects a 230 pound rider to use their wheels, or at least have done the testing required to understand what will happen when one does.  I don’t think they have heavy people in France — I don’t recall seeing any.  If they did, they would have a “maximum rider weight” rating on their wheels.   I think that Mavic must have looked at the wheel and thought that there was no way that the wheel was showing normal wear and tear of an average Frenchman riding on the wheels.

What I ride now is a custom-made set of wheels with Dura Ace hubs and Mavic rims — Open Pro front, and CXP 22 back (Ug!  I bought the rims before Mavic told me that they wouldn’t repair my Ksyriums under warranty — never again).   32 spokes front & back.   Even with the 32-spoke approach, I had to learn to increase the thickness of the spokes.   I snapped two spokes at two separate parts of the 2008 Tour De Tahoe.   Then, another spoke about 2 weeks later.    After that, I had the back week re-built with 14-gauge spokes.  Since then they have been absolutely bomb-proof.  4,200 miles with lots of potholes and some pretty hard climbing, no issues.  The Dura Ace hubs are wonderful.  Very high-quality bearings.  And, very reasonably priced as opposed to the Kysriums.  I could have (and should have) gotten 2 sets of Dura Ace wheels for the price of the SSLs.  I think that you can get these wheels or something very similar at many LBSs without having to have them custom made.   That’s just what I ended up doing.

July 7, 2010 update: My “bombproof” Mavic CXP22 rim has cracked.  Lasted about a year, and I didn’t use them all Winter — I used another wheelset as my poor-weather wheels.  So, I am now convinced that for a Clydesdale, Mavic=crap.

September 2010 update: My visit to Interbike 2010 allowed me to talk to many wheel manufacturers.  You can read the summary, as well as many individual articles on wheels such as Zipp, Hed, ENVE, Mavic, etc.