Clydesdale Chronicles: Wheels for heavier riders, Part III. The wheels I buy

By | September 4, 2014

Wheels for heavier riders, Part III.  The wheels I buy

Anyone who is a Clydesdale and puts on a fair number of miles, like me, has likely gone through a wheelset or two.  I discussed the topic at length in the blog as follows:

Front Mavic Open Pro with Ultegra hub has served me well!

Front Mavic Open Pro with Ultegra hub has served me well!

Some time has past since my last article.  The difficult part of starting not one but two businesses is that money for cool bike toys can be hard to come by.  In an effort to save money, I bought a used set of wheels from Craigslist for $100.  They were garbage, requiring nearly constant work to keep them true.  However, I got every penny’s worth out of the $100 I spent for the wheels.  By the time I retired them after 1.5 years of use, the spokes were making all sorts of noise and the hubs felt like they were full of gravel.  I replaced my front wheel with a wheel I had left over from a previous set.  It consists of:

  • Rim:  Mavic Open Pro
  • Hub: Shimano Ultegra
  • Spokes: 32 DT Swiss Competition Double Butted with red alloy nipples

I built this wheel myself.  It is showing some wear, but rarely requires truing.  I replaced my rear wheel with another used wheel purchased for $65 from BPA in Seattle.  I knew I was riding on borrowed time with this wheel.  It had 24 bladed spokes and felt riding a wet noodle.  I had a lot of spoke noise with the wheel and had to true it several times.  I was actually surprised this wheel lasted nearly 1,500 miles.  Last Friday, I broke one of the massive bladed spokes on the final climb to work.  It was only a broken spoke, but it would be difficult to replace.  This wheel is clearly not worth the effort.  So once again, I find myself in the market for wheels.

Being without my bike sucks.  I only have one real option for my commute and weekend road rides.  Until I get a wheelset, I am stuck driving and getting fatter and more stressed by the day.  The faster I can get my wheels, the better.  Unfortunately, like most people, I cannot drop thousands of dollars on a set of wheels.  Plus I would like to get a new bike in the next year or two.  If I do, I would likely still use my Giant for commuting.  My new wheels will have to be tough!

I took to the internet, and my local bike shops looking for options.  A lot has changed in bike wheels in the last year.  I found a set of Enve $2900 carbon clinchers with a 5 year, Warranty.   This is an impressive Warranty for carbon wheels, and the rims were dead sexy, but these wheels might be a bit much for a 10 year old Giant.  However, if the fine folks at Enve want a Clydesdale to torture test their sexy wheels at no charge, I am the guy.  🙂  Sad to say despite the many changes in wheels in the last year, not much has changed for us Clydesdales.  My budget conscious options were limited to the following:

  • Revolution Wheelworks is a tiny company with a great reputation.  All of their wheels are hand laced by one of two guys.  I met one of their customers on RAGBRAI who highly recommended them.  He could not say enough about their build quality and their customer service.  I still intend to buy a set of their wheels.  However, seeing that I am in a hurry, this was not the best option.
  • Custom Built by local bike shop.  I could get everything I wanted from a custom built wheelset.  I can choose every part.  I would also have to buy one wheel.  I have a perfectly good, front wheel and enough parts to rebuild it when the time comes.  This is the option I eventually chose.

burienI found a new, local shop close to where I live called Burien Cycle.  They offer free lifetime truing on custom wheel builds.  Considering the trouble I have had with rear wheels, I felt that this level of service is worth it.  Since their close, I can take them up on this service easily.  The wheel I am having built matched the front with:

  • Rim:  Mavic Open Pro
  • Hub: Shimano 105
  • Spokes: 32 DT Swiss Competition Double Butted with black brass nipples.

In the end despite the fact they weigh a metric ton (nearly 2,000) grams.  My Mavic rims have been the favorite wheels I have owned.  They should hold up to years of commuting and training rides.   I can still upgrade to a set of Revolution Weelworks for weekends when I need a little extra help to keep up on my Saturday club rides.  I am excited to get my bike bike and will keep you posted as I put few miles on my wheels.

I went to a lot of Seattle area bike shops researching my wheel options.  Some shops amazed me with their total lack of customer service while others were fantastic.  Next week on the blog, I will discuss my favorites.