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ICAN Fast & Light 50 Wheelset Review; One Year of Perfect Performance

I started buying Ican wheels because I simply couldn’t afford the premium wheelsets but I wanted some carbon fiber wheels to improve the ride of my Venge. At first, I figured I stick with alloy wheels on the Trek and pulled the trigger on a set for the good bike. I’d thought about purchasing two sets of the 38 mm standard wheels, one for me and one for my wife, but decided to try them out myself to make sure they were safe and worth the money. They vastly exceeded my expectations. I ordered my wife’s set within a few weeks of receiving mine. Within two months, three more of my friends were rolling on Ican’s 38 mm standard wheels. A fourth bought a set of Fast & Light 50s (FL 50s).

I rode the 38s mostly on the Venge but switched them over to the Trek for 2019’s DALMAC tour – 385 miles in four days and rolled on them for most of a year before Covid-19 hit. Long story short, I did well over my lockdown time off. I received a healthy bonus on returning to the office more than a year ago, now and with a portion of that bonus I picked up a set of FL 50s for the Venge:

The FL 50s were quite a bit pricier than the standard 38s but they’re effectively the same weight as the standard 38s and they’re a more aerodynamically acceptable shape for crosswinds. The FL 50s pick up a little more crosswind than the 38s but not enough they’re difficult in a fairly stiff wind, either.

While I’ve read some not-too-flattering comments and reviews about the Novatec hubs for the FL50s, I have zero complaints. They’ve been straight up solid since I’ve had the wheels. The wheels themselves were true out of the box and after a year of potholes and gnarly train tracks, they’re still as true as the day I took them out of the box and I’ve had them beyond 45-mph without so much as a shimmy.

With at least a dozen century rides, two dozen metric centuries, and an absolute pile of Tuesday Night Club Rides where we average between 22 & 24-mph for the 30 mile route, I can say without equivocation, these wheels are considerably faster than the fantastic set of alloy wheels I had built for the Venge years ago. Ican wheels are an excellent, affordable option for those looking for a wheel and a speed upgrade.

Put simply, I’m ecstatic with all three sets of Ican wheels my wife and I roll. I’m particularly fond of the Fast & Light 50s, though. They’re a stellar bargain in my often not so humble opinion.

The only thing left would be if I could just get them to make me eat less. A fella can dream.

Cycling and Why Can I Feel the Front Wheel “Gyroscoping” When I Turn? This Is NEVER Something to Ignore!

Okay, so there are a few things that’ll cause the front wheel to feel like it’s “gyroscoping” and they’re all important – actually “important” doesn’t do this justice. They’re “pants on fire” urgent.

So, you’re riding down the road and you notice that when you turn the bike, it feels like the front wheel is fighting against the lean of the bike – you can feel the wheel try to right itself. First, this is normal in a wheel. If a wheel is rotating, spinning, it naturally wants to find dead upright. Take your front wheel off and hold it by the skewers, giving it a spin by pulling on a spoke. Now try to tilt the wheel toward parallel to the ground. That’s “gyroscoping”. It wants to roll upright and it fights the tilt to right itself. That’s physics and the non-racist part of geometry at woke. Oh, sorry, “at work”.

For those who didn’t go apoplectic, let’s continue.

That gyroscopic feel shouldn’t translate through the fork in such a way you can notice it. As you get into the deep dish carbon fiber wheels (60 mm+) you’ll feel it more, however. Again, physics and geometry – as the rotational mass of the wheel increases, the urge for the wheel to right itself will increase. On the other hand, if you’re rolling alloy wheels or carbon fiber up to 40’s, you shouldn’t feel much at all. I can feel my 50’s fight me ever so slightly but it’s not much. If, however, you notice you have to fight through a turn, you’ve got a serious problem that needs to be addressed immediately

The simplest to fix is that your quick release skewer could be a little loose. Check them to make sure they’re tight. Easy. Give your bike a test. If that got it, roll on.

The second, you’ve got a bearing going in the wheel or the axle assembly is loose. First things first, take the wheels off and give the axles a wiggle. If everything’s tight, spin the axle to make sure you don’t feel any grinding in the bearings. Your local shop can either repair or replace the bearings in the axle. If they can’t, it’ll be time for a new hub and spokes. In some hubs, Novatec comes to mind, swapping the sealed bearings is very easy and takes minutes. All you’ll need is to have the bearings and watch a quick YouTube video.

The third, and worst, is you’ve either over-tightened your headset or you’ve got a bearing going. If you don’t clean your headset bearings regularly, you can kill one in a matter of months riding in crappy, rainy, gritty conditions (mainly the lower, though the upper can get hammered if you’re a heavy sweater and use your bike on a trainer). Incidentally, if your headset is loose, that’ll have its own set of problems. Specifically, you’ll feel a clunk when you hit the front brake for rim brakes or a clunk and pulsation with disks. See, the headset that gets bound up so it can’t move freely, either due to overtightening or a rusted/bad bearing, will transfer that gyroscopic feel directly to your hands and butt. You’ll literally feel the bike trying to ride straight through a turn rather than follow your chosen path.

For obvious reasons, the cause must be found and addressed immediately.

The inspiration for this post is, of course, my own personal experience. Late last season, I developed a creak in the Trek. Naturally, I thought it was the headset because the headset on that bike is notoriously finicky. I tightened it up a little bit and forgot about it. The snow hit shortly thereafter and I either rode inside on the trainer or outdoors on the gravel bike.

Then, January 14th rolled around and we had a reasonable weeknight for a ride outdoors with my weekday riding buddy, Chuck. The roads had been clear for some time so I took the Trek and Chuck, his Tarmac. I knew I was in trouble on the first fast sweeping left turn. Being fairly bundled up didn’t help, but I could feel the bike fight me through the turn, almost like understeer. That was the only turn I felt it on, though, so I checked the steering when I got home, and it was fine (or so I thought), so I shelved worrying about it.

Then, two days later Chuck and I did the deer loop – my first decent ride of the new year. Coming around a sweeping right and trying not to drift into the oncoming lane, I was fighting my bike again. This time, I hit a patch of salt in the road while trying to fight the bike around the corner. I don’t know how I fought it back upright, but I miraculously stayed rubber down. I took the wheels off and checked the axles and hubs the next morning. Nothing. It wasn’t the quick releases, either (obviously, I’d taken the wheels off to check the axles).

Now, rather than simply loosen the headset and hope for the best, I took the bike in for a lesson on how to disassemble and reassemble a Chris King GripNut headset (there’s a trick to it). Everything was lubed and put back together perfectly, meticulously. And, with a fantastic couple of rides this last week, the problem is corrected. It was an over-tightened headset. The bearings, after all I’ve put them through on my rain/trainer bike, were amazingly clean and operating perfectly. I expected the problem to be rotted bearings and was quite happy to be wrong. King makes an awesome headset.

If your steering feels a little off, there’s a reason for it. Best to get it fixed before you can’t fight through a turn and end up in a ditch – or worse, in a crash with your friends or… erm… even worse.

Ican 38 mm Standard Wheels Vs. Fast & Light 50’s

The wheels on the Trek 5200 (right) are Ican’s 38 mm standard wheelset.  According to their website, they weigh in at 1,505 grams (as I remember them, they used to be shown as 1,490 grams + or – 20 grams).  The wheels on the Specialized Venge (left) are Ican’s Fast & Light Series 50 mm wheelset and they’re advertised at a cool 1,470 grams (I did weigh the 38 mm standard wheels, I did not weigh the FL 50’s):

At just $419 US, the 38 mm standard wheelset is an amazing bargain.  After having ridden on them for the last two years, I can’t say enough good about them.  Actually, I can:  I bought my wife a set.  That’s about as much good as any decent husband can say about a set of bicycle wheels.  They roll fast and stay true.  I had them trued after a one-month break-in period and haven’t had to touch them since (though I may have broken one spoke nipple… I can’t quite remember):

The standard wheelset is laced with Mac Aero CN 494 spokes and use their standard four sealed cartridge bearing rear hub with 6 pawls and two sealed bearing front hub.  My wife and I put about 6,000 miles each on those wheels every year and they still operate like they’re brand new – so 24,000 and the only issue is the dust cap loosened up on my wife’s rear wheel and had to be tightened.  For a $420 set of wheels.  My favorite feature is the rear hub with six pawls.  Many wheels’ rear hub (Chris King excepted) have three pawls so there’s a little pause before the wheel catches when you switch from coasting to pedaling.  With six pawls, there’s barely a pause before engaging… and they sound wonderful.  The freewheel makes a very distinct, fantastic sound when coasting.

The 38’s are excellent in the wind, too.  I’ve never had a problem with them and I’ve ridden regularly in wind exceeding 20-mph (steady and gusting).  If that wasn’t enough, and it should be for most, there’s no question they make going fast easier.  They won’t make anyone faster – wheels don’t do that – but they will make your approximation of fast easier.

I just picked up a set of the Fast and Light 50’s last week.  The 38’s are better wheels than their cost, there’s no doubt in my mind but the F&L 50’s are better (at least so far).  A lot better.  First, with a 35 gram drop in weight from the 38’s due to upgraded Sapim CX Ray spokes and better, Novatec hubs, the 50’s are plush.  Fitted with Specialized Turbo Pro 26 mm tires, the 25 mm wide rims flush up with the tire nicely for an obvious aerodynamic advantage.  There are plenty of negative reviews out there for Novatec hubs (enter “Novatec hubs junk” into Google) but mine seem fine.  They’re a little unorthodox in their design, but, should bearing changes be necessary in the future, their innovative axle makes removal simple.

There are a couple interesting items I’ve had to get used to in dealing with the beefier 50 mm deep wheels, such as riding them in the wind.  Even with an improved design for crosswinds, they’re a bit twitchy in 15-mph+ winds next to the 38’s.  Then there’s the gyroscope phenomenon…  The wheel’s rotational mass wants to keep the wheel upright so when you go ’round a corner, you can feel, ever so slightly, the wheel wanting to correct itself and run upright.  This happens with any deep dish wheel, but it’s been interesting feeling it when it happens.

I can’t predict long-term results, especially when we’re talking about Novatec hubs, but if the FL 50’s hold together and last like their less expensive cousins, I’m going to be one happy guy.  I can tell you so far, at $1,064 for two nice sets of carbon fiber wheels weight less than 3-1/2 pounds a set, I feel like I made out like a bandit.

 

A Bike Ride for Tinkering and… Um… Thinkering? Tinkering Yes, Thinking, No.

My weekday riding buddy, Chuck decided to work late, so I was on my own.  I’d already put in ten miles before I’d gotten to his driveway and I was well over a 19-mph average and I had another 19 miles to go (give or take – there were opportunities to cut it short).  Part of me wanted to hammer it out for a 20-mph average.  There was another part that wanted just one more easy evening before all hell breaks loose this weekend with fantastic cycling weather and nothing to do but cut the grass.

After a lackluster performance Tuesday night, I decided, at the very least, I needed another handful of miles at a decent effort, then I could reevaluate.

I’d put my old saddle back on the Venge and, even though it’s massively heavy by racing saddle standards, it’s light by normal standards and it feels like a perfectly broken in baseball glove.  Sadly, my bike goes from 15.5 pounds to 15.8 but I’ll live with it if it’s comfortable to ride on (until I find a better option).  That’ll work out to about 16-1/2 pounds decked out with pedals and cages.

Also, with new wheels on the bike, the shifting needed to be dialed in a little better, something I had little trepidation in messing with.  After I crossed over 20 miles in just over an hour, I decided to stop every now and again and get the rear derailleur set a little more to my liking.  And so it was.  I’d ride a mile or two, stop, dismount, give the barrel adjuster a quarter turn and head out again for another mile or two…  I loosened the adjuster till I got a result I didn’t like, then went back the other way till I didn’t like it, then split the difference right in the middle.  I went from “Okay” shifting with a little drag in the system last year, to zero drag and so much play in the adjuster, it’s actually tough to find dead center – but I found it last night.

And the rest of the ride, another six miles, was just a fun cruise home.  I kicked it for a couple of those, but otherwise kept it easy between 18 & 20-mph.

I pulled into the driveway with a little more than 28 miles and a well-tuned ride, ready for the weekend.  Oh, and a happy ass after swapping saddles again.  I’m a little disappointed, of course, that I couldn’t stick it out with the lightweight saddle, but ultimately being a weight wienie has to stop at the comfort door.  I don’t care if I could get that thing down to 12 pounds – if I’d rather ride the 18-pound Trek because it’s more comfortable, why?

What I didn’t do on my ride last night was think about all of the craziness going on.  There are new reports out now about crisis fatigue* in which people are becoming run-down due to bad news.  I don’t participate in that, other than to continually evaluate that which resides in my personal space.  My part is doing what’s right.  As long as I’m doing that, the whirling dervishes shall whirl.  And I think I’ll let them.

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*I didn’t actually read the article beyond the first paragraph.  I have no idea what the rest says, but it’s about crisis fatigue so I linked to it.  As I wrote earlier, I don’t participate in that.

The Trek 5000, 5200 & 5500 in the USA; More Wins than DJ Khaled

In the United States, one bike stands above all as the winningest bicycle frame in the history of bicycle racing history*; the Trek 5000.  First introduced in 1992, the Trek 5000 frame was one of the first production full carbon fiber bicycle frames.  In the US, they caught on like a wildfire and hung on until the 5000 was dropped for the Madone after the 2007 run (only the 5000 was available that year).   Of course, if you look at that 2007 Madone 5.2, you should see some many characteristics inherited from the 5200.  That said, fifteen years is a long time for a frame to hang on.

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On one hand, by today’s standards, the frame is not all that impressive.  There’s barely any “aero” to it (the front fork is kinda aero), and it’s a little on the squishy side when laying down the serious wattage.  On the other hand, with 25 mm tires on a 23 mm carbon fiber rims**, the bike feels like riding a cross between a Corvette and a limousine.  With alloy wheels and 24 mm tires, at the right pressure, the ride is almost as good.

There is a trick to this frame, however.  In the last few years, it’s become popular to use a wider tire than was used in the good old days.  Back in ’99, people were riding 20 and 23 mm tires exclusively.  Nowadays, 25, 26 and even 28 mm tires are the new norm.  If you’re using 19.5 mm wide alloy wheels, there’s a limit to the tire width you can use in a Trek 5000 frame.  Anything more than a 24 mm tire will likely rub the inside of the chainstays when climbing out of the saddle or when leaning the bike into a corner, thus pooching the paint’s polish (or worse). Other than that minor shortcoming, though, the frame is pretty fantastic.

I’ve put upwards of 45,000 miles on my 5200 frame and I bought it January of 2012 and it’s still going strong and beautiful.  I can only imagine how many miles it had on it before I got my hands on it, but it was a lot.  I’ve got a friend who has the same frame, 2003, who has more than 130,000 miles on his.  The word “durable” doesn’t do the Trek 5000 family of frames justice.

*The history of bicycle racing history… the redundancy was for comedic affect.  I’m sorry you missed it.

** 25 mm tires on 23 mm rims vs. 25 mm tires on 19.5 mm rims:  If the two paragraphs dealing with tire and rim widths were confusing, please allow me to explain.  When a 25 mm tire is placed on a 19.5 mm rim, the tire resembles a light bulb – it’ll go wide at the sides before rounding out.  That same tire on a 23 mm wide rim, will just be round.  It’s that light bulb-ing effect that will cause the tire to hit the inside of the chainstays when sideways force is applied to the wheel.  Therefore, with a wider rim (23 mm) the same 25 mm tire will work where it wouldn’t with a narrow (standard) 19.5 mm rim.  The only trick left for that will be the brakes.  My 1999 Ultegra brakes wouldn’t open up wide enough to accept the wider 23 mm hoops.  I ended up opting for Shimano 105 (7000 series) brake calipers so I could use my older alloy wheels or my carbon fiber wheels (as long as I swapped out the brake pads).

 

The Best Tires I’ve Found for Ican, Superteam and Other Tight Wheelsets (Carbon Fiber or Rolf Alloy)

Folks, I’ve tested a few tires on my carbon fiber Ican wheels.  I started with Michelin Pro 4’s (I love the feel of those tires), but they were extremely tight to get the final eight inches of bead over the rim.  I ended up having to resort to a Kool Stop tire jack (I’ve carried one in my back pocket to this day, just in case).  Even once the tires were broken in, a tire jack was necessary with the Michelins.  Then I switched to Serfas Prototypes that I’m testing courtesy of the local shop – those, once broken in, work without a tire jack.  That, however, does no one any good because they’re prototypes.  Meanwhile, however, I loved the Ican wheelset so much, I bought a set for my wife and I started her on Specialized Turbo Pro tires (26-mm).

Again, the first time the Specialized tires are installed, I like to use the tire jack.  Once they’re broken in, though, they’re perfectly fine going on and don’t require special tools.  I just worked on my wife’s and installed the tire easily by hand just yesterday.

For those not in the know, finding a tire that isn’t impossible to install on a tight-fitting rim a very big deal.  There are rims out there that make you wonder what they were thinking they’re so hard to get tires over for everyone but seasoned shop pros.

So there you have it, folks.  Specialized Turbo Pro tires (or the S-Works Turbo) play nice with tight rims.  I can’t say they’ll work with everything, but they work great with our Ican wheelsets, and those are exceedingly tough.

Specialized Turbo Pro:

 

 

The One, Simple Inescapable Truth about Training to Ride Faster on a Bicycle

I can still remember my first ride on my brand new, never been ridden until I rolled it out the door, Specialized Venge.  I had just removed all of the useless weight (reflectors, etc.) and set the saddle for height and fore/aft position and pumped up the tires that still didn’t even have a scuff on them yet (after the photo session, of course – it’s only brand new once).  The moment of truth had arrived…

I donned my finest kit, strapped down my shoes (I had Pearl Izumi Tri shoes at the time), put my helmet on, and rolled out.  I started fairly easy at first, not wanting to wreck the ride by pushing too hard, too fast, and too soon… sounds like a tragic comedy, actually.  Coming up my favorite stretch of road (at the time), I was absolutely flying.  Faster than I’d ever gone on that section of road.  A wry grin stretched across my face as I pushed harder on the pedals.  My first ride on a real, honest to God, super-bike…

And then it hit me.  I had no more excuses.  If, from that moment on, I wasn’t fast, it was the fault of the engine.

It was a sobering reality.  When I set out for my first ride on my brand new super-bike, the last thing I was expecting was an “oh shit” moment, but that’s what I got.

I didn’t know it back then, but I did have a few small excuses left.  The Venge was a bit heavy out of the box and the wheels that came on the bike were cheap junk, but today all of my excuses are out the window – I literally have everything an amateur cycling enthusiast (with a mortgage, a smokin’ hot wife, and two kids) could want in a bike:

As a member of the B Group in our club, having gone from an average on the exact same course, over 30 miles on Tuesday night, from 20-1/2-mph to better than 23-mph (we were toying with 23-1/2 at the end of this season), there is one simple, inescapable truth about riding fast; if you want to get fast, you have to get used to pushing beyond your comfort zone.

I have my limits, of course, and I think that’s a good thing.  I have a solid core of friends I like riding with and I don’t feel it’s necessary to get much faster than they ride.  In the end, it’s all about being happy, anyway.  I had to pay the piper in puke to get here, though.  There are months spent on the trainer, pushing harder gears than most normal folk would bother putting up with.  There are the spring miles used to get ready for our first 100k of the season at the end of April that we like to do at a 20-mph average…  There are entire two or three-hour rides where I’m thinking, “Dude, why do I do this to myself!?”  When I’m down south, on vacation in the mountains and rather than sitting back and relaxing, I’m hammering up the steepest damn hill I know of so I can get back home and be a little stronger on our version of “hills”.

Most people who struggle to ride fast think the folks at the front are up there hammering the group down the road, passing bon-bons back and forth, talking about the latest market changes and the fed’s quarterly plan for the interest rate.  Nope, they’re struggling too, just like everyone else.  Some have just learned to push through it a little better than the average bear.

While all of the trinkets and do-dads are worth a mile an hour (maybe 1-1/2), in the end, what really matters is the engine.  A high-end bike won’t fix low-end legs©.

 

The Five Road Bike Upgrades You’re not Supposed to Need (One of Which, You Do. Real Bad)

I read a neat little article on Bike Radar that itemized five big road bike upgrades that the author suggests you don’t need.  Folks, I’ve never met an upgrade I didn’t like, but let’s dig into this with a little gusto, eh?

I’ll be frank, Frank.  I agreed with two. A couple were half “needs”.  One, the author is bat-shit crazy.  You need the upgrade, straight up.

First, let’s define “need”, because if you’re talking about needing a $4,000 high-end road bike, nobody “needs” one, but I’ve got $6,000 into mine, and I’d argue, if I didn’t need everything, I’d have put the money in the bank and let it sit there earning… oh… s#!+… what, $0.42 a year?

Look, it’s all “depth” of “need”.  Do I need a top-of-the-line road bike?  Of course I don’t!  To even suggest such a thing is ridiculous.  On the other hand, hey, I worked hard for the money to be able to afford a nice bike (or four err, five… six) – my only vice.  Also, as a recovering alcoholic who was once a scourge on society, having turned my life around and become a productive member of society, I’m perfectly at peace with allowing someone else the burden of guilt over a bicycle (or six).  Finally, if you’re going to ride with the crowd I do, at my age, every little bit of mechanical advantage you can buy will help.

With the cow pucky (guilt) out of the way, let’s look at what Bike Radar says are unnecessary upgrades in their article:

  • Electronic shifting – I know, everyone who has electronic shifting is jumping up and down, going, “But dude, it’s the bees knees, man!”  I know, I’ve got three friends who have it and they all say they’ll never go back to mechanical.  I’ve got another two who ride eTap and they can’t say enough good about it.  One guy has eTap on three of his bikes (one Pinarello F10, a Colnago C60, and… oh, does it matter?).  Point is, I know how great it is.  We’re talking about need, though.  E-shifting comes close, but not quite.
  • Tubular tires.  What you need, if you ride tubs is a crew to feed you new wheels when you flat one of those tubs.  I’m all on board with not needing tubular tires.  Still, I have a couple of friends who ride them…  They are light, I’ll give ’em that.
  • Next up is Disc Brakes, and this is my “half”.  Look, bro, or sis, as the case may be…  Disc brakes are the cat’s pajamas.  Having ridden them on my gravel bike (cable) and my mountain bike (hydraulic), they are almost marvelous enough to be a need.  Need or not, I won’t be buying a new bike without them (I think).  They’re that good.
  • The next ‘half-a-need” is an Aero Frame.  Yeah, you really don’t need one… but the real question is, “would you want to live without one?”  No I would not.  Once you’ve ridden a standard frame enough, you can feel the difference drafting in a pace line, between a standard frame and an aero frame.  It’s a small difference, but there is an unmistakable advantage.  Unmistakable.  Now, to be fair, most cyclists aren’t going to bother training to ride fast enough to get full use out of an aero bike frame.  For those who are willing to ride at a 20+ mph average (34 km/h), that aerodynamic frame moves precariously close to a need.

Now I’m going to break with my protocol, where I try to find common ground with the original author and I’m going to call BS on the last one.

Carbon fiber wheels.

Before and After

A buddy of mine, six or seven years ago, having just bought his first carbon fiber wheelset, called me up to let me know I needed a set of my own.  I didn’t heed his suggestion.  He was right.  Having gone from riding alloy wheels for years, to carbon fiber in the last couple of months, I can state fairly, they’re as close to a need as you get in cycling.  Carbon fiber wheels make a bike better.  If you’ve got a great bike on alloy wheels, carbon fiber wheels will make your bike spectacular.  If you’ve got a good bike, they’ll make it great… etcetera  on down the line.  Now, because my readership is generally exceptionally bike-savvy, you noticed I skipped “top-notch”.  If you’ve got a spectacular bike, you’ll already have carbon fiber wheels on it.

I want to go to what the article says, though, to add a little clarity:

Carbon wheels are AWESOME. Everyone thinks so. They look cool, they sound cool and they’re more aero so you’ll go faster, right?

Well, maybe, but full carbon wheels are incredibly expensive and if your bike has rim brakes, the braking is almost invariably worse than with cheap alloy rims, especially if it’s raining.

If you’re a lighter rider, deep section wheels will make your bike harder to handle because they catch more wind. You could swap back to your regular wheels when the weather’s bad, but don’t forget you’ll have to change brake pads as well because carbon requires special pads.

Does it still seem worth the effort?

Okay, first, everyone “thinking so” about the awesomeness of carbon fiber wheels is useless.  Discard that.  “They look cool” and “sound cool” are equally useless.  Discard that.  “You’ll go faster, right?”  Bingo.  Yes you will.

The braking does suck, though it’s not all that bad.  I don’t ride the good bike with the carbon wheels in the rain, so that doesn’t matter – if I get caught out with them, I’ll have to be a little more mindful of the stopping distance.  Simple as that.  If you’re a lighter rider, you will get blown around a little more – so you don’t buy 80’s, you go with 38-40mm for the depth of your wheels (not exactly rocket science there).

Now that last point, about swapping brake pads for the alloy and carbon fiber wheels, that gets interesting and the point probably deserves its own post…  If you’re frugal, like me, you just say, “Hey, I’ll just ride the carbon wheels in the nice weather and put the alloy wheels on there if there’s a chance of rain.  I’ll bet I can get away with using the carbon fiber brake pads on my alloy wheels…  Yeah, I’m brilliant.”

You’re a smart cookie.  That’s what I thought, but I know some of my harebrained schemes can be a little… well… harebrained, so I looked it up on the interwebz:

Can you use carbon brake pads on alloy rims?
Yes, it works but alloy pads perform much better on alloy rims and the change from alloy to carbon rims can be dangerous for carbon rims. Any alloy bubble in the carbon pad can destroy a carbon rim in only a few braking intervals.

I didn’t think of that but it makes a hell of a lot of sense.  You may or may not know that it’s common maintenance to clean out your brake pads a time or two every season to make sure you don’t have any small bits of rim-metal stuck in the pads.  Well, if I switch my wheels to use the alloy rims in the rain and I get a bit stuck in the carbon-friendly pads… well, you get the idea.  That’s a fair amount of work to get around – and one missed piece of aluminum in a pad could spell curtains for one of your rims (assuming, of course, you could get another rim).

In that case, no, swapping the wheels is not worth the effort… so you get a rain bike to ride in the rain.  Bingo!  Bob’s your uncle.

Look, we’re going to upgrade our bikes.  It’s what we do.  So the first place I’m going to go will be the wheels.  Nothing will make an instant difference in riding speed and the weight of a bike like a decent set of wheels – and if you’re able to go from alloy to carbon fiber, you’ll get the added benefit of exponentially improved ride quality to boot.

Do I need carbon fiber wheels like I need food?  No, of course not.  But now that I’ve got them, I needed them.  Know what I mean?

Of course you do.

Ican 38mm Carbon Fiber Clincher Wheelset 1,000 Mile Review

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I picked up my Ican 38mm clinchers at the beginning of September and rode them most of that month and a few times this month – when the weather gets cold and the toe covers/over-shoes come out, that bike takes its place in the bike room in the house. I’ve got 1,100 miles and change in September and 600 so far for October, so I’m pretty sure I passed 1,000 miles on them somewhere. The importance isn’t the exact mileage, though, as they’re the same today as the day I took them out of the box… Rock solid, fairly true, fast, and smooth.  On the fairly true part, well, they came out of the box with a minor wobble in the rear wheel – less than a millimeter and it just wasn’t a big enough deal to mess with.  Most people wouldn’t even notice it, I’m just that picky.

Shod with Michelin Pro 4 Service Course 25mm tires (which were an absolute bear to get on the rims – but that has more to do with the tires than the wheels – Specialized Turbo Pro tires are much easier to work with), the wheels are smooth as glass, and we’ve got some pretty rough roads we ride on. It used to be my Trek 5200 was a just a touch more comfortable than the stiff Venge with the rail for a saddle but that’s not the case anymore. With the Ican wheels on there, I have a hard time reaching for the Trek. The ride is exceptional.

With that, 1,000 miles in, I don’t have a bad thing to say about the Ican 38mm carbon fiber wheels.  At $400 they’re a steal.

As a final note, I had a conversation with one of the mechanics at the local bike shop about the wheels, specifically the less expensive Chinese carbon fiber wheels.  It was his opinion that if the company that makes them (Ican, Superteam, etc.) is willing to put their name on the wheels, they’re pretty solid.  It’s when you get into the off-brand wheels that he sees trouble.  As far as Ican goes, I feel like I got away with something every time I ride my bike.  They’re that good.

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Check them out here:  Ican

A Prayer Answered on an Otherwise Gloomy Day…

The Weather Channel had forecast rain over the weekend, while Dark Sky said overcast, but only a slim chance of rain.

The Weather Channel appeared to be wrong and we rolled out at 7:30am Saturday. I chose the Trek due to the chance of rain, but opted to go with my best set of wheels as they roll a fair bit faster. It was the first time I was able to use my Trek for the intended purpose I used to justify upgrading the bike’s drivetrain in the first place; to make swapping wheelsets betwixt the two bikes as simple as possible.

The wheel-swap took seconds and two turns of the rear derailleur’s barrel adjuster. It worked perfectly.

My buddy, Phill was the only one to show, and my wife was riding, so it was just the three of us.

Our ride was fantastic… I’m trying to think of the phraseology to describe it… It was slow-ish, but enjoyably slow. Simply put… it was fun. We pulled into the driveway with 42-1/2 miles in 2:22:21, an 18mph average.

The joy I get from spending time with my wife on two wheels is as good as it gets.

As for the prayer answered, I commented on a post early yesterday morning. The blogger is a preacher and his devotional for the day really hit home for me, so I let him know that in my comment. In his reply, he added, “I pray you are able to get in a couple good rides this weekend.” 42 miles without a drop and the forecast had called for rain just a few hours earlier… I’d say it worked. Couple that with the enjoyment factor, and it’s enough to make a fella smile.

For a capper to the morning I took my father-in-law to the newly renovated bike shop so he could see how far it had come…. I also took the pedals and bottle cages off the Trek and slid it into the car. While my dad was looking around I took the Trek out and wheeled it to the back of the shop where I used their scale to learn its official weight* with the good (read that, light) wheels.

My buddy, Mike was being pretty cocky, suggesting I’d wasted my time (and money) upgrading the bikes. He said, “Look, when you get down to 18 pounds, let me know”.

18.45 pounds (8.37 kg). And yes, I let him know. Pre-upgrade, the official weight was just over 19 pounds. So, for less than $300, the Venge dropped from 15.9 pounds to 15.5 and the Trek dropped from 19.1 pounds to 18.5… my friends, that’s the cheapest half-pound I’ve ever cut from a bike, and I cut it from two.

*Official weight of a bike: The proper way to weigh a bike is without the cages, pedals, saddle bag, light, etc. attached to the bike. While we all ride with those things, especially the pedals and bottle cages, they don’t count against the weight of the bike – pedal weights vary… some are heavier than others. Obviously, water bottle cages vary as well… with those things removed, everything is apples to apples.