Real Advice: Wheels

Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week Brian, a member of our content team, is going to share with you some thoughts on wheels.

wheels

Several years ago, when I got my first carbon fiber road race bike, I was so amped. It had SRAM 10-speed Rival on it, a full carbon frame and fork, and a carbon seatpost. I’d even splurged on some carbon fiber bottle cages. In those days, this was some pretty heavy artillery to be bringing for the level of racing I was at. Admittedly, I didn’t know an awful lot about bikes at the time, and I hadn’t ridden the bike much before the race. All I knew was I had the latest and greatest carbon 10-speed stuff, while most of those other chumps were rockin’ alloy 9-speed gear. According to all my mental math, I was already standing at the top of the podium.

When the race started, everything seemed to be going fine. I rode well and felt strong. Until I got out of the saddle at speed or tried to sprint in the drops. Every time I did, I could hear the rim hitting the brake pads with every pedal stroke, shedding speed and momentum. When I leaned into a corner, the rims squealed against the brakes the entire time, slowing me down drastically, and I watched furiously as other riders flowed past me, despite me having the extra 10th gear.

After the race, I was fuming. I had just spent all this money on a carbon fiber frame that I believed to be about as stiff as a wet noodle. I ranted to another rider about how flexible the frame and fork were, and how poorly the bike had performed. The other (more experienced) rider took one look at my bike and said simply “dude, it’s not your frame—it’s your wheels.” I did the next race on a borrowed wheelset that proved him right.

For most riders, whether you race or not, wheels are the most overlooked and important upgrade. It’s incredibly tempting to upgrade your bike with the newest drivetrain, or all the carbon fiber you can find. While the performance gains you get from those parts are significant, they still pale in comparison to investing in a great set of wheels. Among the many improvements you’ll get will be stiffer rims, lighter weight, improved handling, and greater aerodynamic performance. But before you buy, here’s a quick guide to help you find the wheels that are right for you.

 

  1. What kind of wheels do you need: The first step to buying new wheels is ensuring they will work with your equipment. It may seem like a wheel is a wheel, but asking a few basic questions can help you get it right the first time.
    • Does your bike have rim or disc brakes? If disc brakes, what kind are they?
    • How many speeds is your drive train (ex: 11-speed cassettes usually require 11-speed freehubs)?
    • What brand of drive train do you have (SRAM, Shimano, Campagnolo)?

    These DT Swiss XM 1650 MTB wheels will work with center-lock disc brakes, Shimano cassettes, and tubeless tires.

  2. Know what you want: Few wheels can really be placed in the do-it-all category. Knowing what you want to get out of your rides can help you narrow things down.

    A pair of lightweight alloy clinchers, like these Easton SLX wheels, can shed significant weight from a bike, making them ideal for climbing

  3. Alloy vs. Carbon: This one is entirely up to you, and a full discussion would be another blog post, but here’s a basic breakdown:
    • Alloy wheels are usually more durable, less expensive, and offer better braking performance, especially in wet weather, but tend to be heavier and less aerodynamic than carbon wheels
    • Carbon wheels are much lighter, aerodynamic, stiff, and (according to some) cooler looking than alloy, but are also much more expensive. Carbon road wheels also can have diminished braking performance, especially when wet (this isn’t a problem with MTB carbon disc brake wheels)

    Carbon wheels, like this pair from Reynolds offer significant aerodynamic and weight savings

  4. Tubular vs. Clincher vs. Tubeless: These are the three basic types of bicycle wheels, and each have their pros and cons.
    • Tubular wheels require tubular tires (tires with an inner tube sewn inside) which have to be glued onto the rim. They are very lightweight, and offer unsurpassed road feel and cornering abilities, but they require a special technique to mount and may be difficult  to change if you flat on the road.
    • Clincher wheels are the most common, and use a tire with a separate inner tube that hooks onto a bead on the rim. Clincher wheels are very convenient for most rides, since it’s very easy to change a flat, and some of the best clincher tires approach the road feel of tubulars. The drawbacks are that clinchers are often heavier than tubulars, and if the tire is under inflated or flat it can sometimes roll off of the rim.
    • Tubeless wheels are quickly becoming de riguer on mountain bikes, and are finding their way onto the road. Tubeless wheels require the use of special tubeless tires and use no inner tube. The bead on both the rim and the tire is made very tight, so as to make an airtight seal when inflated. The benefits of tubeless tires are legion, specifically that they virtually eliminate the chance of flatting. The downside (for the road at least) is that they are the heaviest type of wheels.

    These Reynolds Assault CX tubulars are perfect for cyclocross season

So there’s a basic breakdown of wheels. For a little more information on other upgrades you can make, check out this article in our Learning Center.

Say Hello To The New Louis Garneau

A couple of months ago, when the Performance Bicycle Group Ride of Excellence was assembling after work, we all noticed Jeff and Chuck wearing a previously unseen kit. It looked lightweight, comfortable and definitely had a pro fit. They were all decked out in the new Louis Garneau Course kit, ready to take it for its first test spin. We all agreed that it looked great and that the test would probably be more effective if we each had our own set of Course jerseys and bibs to test out.

Feeling cool in the Louis Garneau Course kit

Sadly, this was not to be, so over the next 40 or so miles, the rest of us sweated it out, jerseys were unzipped, and baselayers were cursed while Chuck and Jeff still looked cool as cucumbers. After the ride, they both agreed that it was by far one of the most comfortable kits they’d ever worn. The chamois was incredibly comfortable, the shorts offered amazing compression and stayed in place, and the jersey offered, as Chuck would later say, “absolutely incredible breathability”. Indeed, the new Course jerseys are almost transparent, they’re so thin. Chuck later tried riding on a 90 degree day in the Louis Garneau Course jersey with a baselayer on, and still found it to be comfortable and cool.

A few days later we got a glimpse of the new Course Aero Helmet, which graced the heads of Tommy V and the Europcar crew at the Tour de France, and the new Course shoes, which feature an all-new fit, razor thin carbon soles and new BOA-style lacing system.

Pierre Rolland’s Course helmet looked great in polka dot

If you’d like to know more about the Course helmet, here’s a video from our Learning Center.

These were just the first glances we had of Louis Garneau’s new 2014 line up, and everything we’ve seen since has lived up to the incredibly high standard set by the Course line. Every jersey, every pair of shorts, every helmet and every pair of shoes has been redesigned for a new, sleeker fit, updated graphics, and all-new ergonomics that improve the fit, breathability, and weight of their gear.

The crowd went wild when they saw how great Thomas Voeckler looked while wearing Louis Garneau Course shoes, bibs, jersey, and helmet.

If you’re looking for a kit that delivers a next-to-skin fit and pro-level performance without the bleeding edge advancements, then check out the Louis Garneau Elite series. The Elite jersey and shorts have the competitive and fast enthusiast rider in mind. For most of us here at Performance, there is at least one of these kits in the quiver. They’re excellent for longer rides, fast group rides, racing and everything in between. The next-to-skin fit is super comfy, and the incredible chamois pad keeps you comfortable all day long.

Louis Garneau Elite jersey

The Louis Garneau Performance line was designed for the enthusiast rider. A more relaxed fit keeps things comfy for those long, wandering rides or for the rider who prefers not to feel like they’ll need turpentine to remove their jersey after a ride. But don’t let that fool you. This writer has more than a few miles laid down with the Performance jersey and bibs, and has found that they are excellent for high mileage days. The jersey is highly breathable, while the bibs offer plenty of support with a great pad that’ll keep you from squirming in the saddle. The updated graphics help take this kit to a new level of finish that always looks great.

Louis Garneau Performance jersey

The folks up in Quebec have been busy, and it’s paid off big time. To browse our full collection of Louis Garneau clothing, helmets, and accessories, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about the Louis Garneau brand, Mr. Garneau himself reflects on thirty years in the cycling business below.

Wordless Wednesday

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Wordless Wednesday

Spin Doctor Old Tools Quiz

Spin DoctorOur head Spin Doctor, Gaynor, likes to create challenges to test the Spin Doctor mechanics in our stores. Last week he created this tricky “old tools” identification quiz, although perhaps “old” is the wrong word – let’s just call them “seldom-used”. In any case, we thought you might like to play along at home, so here are 8 images to test your obscure bike tool knowledge.

Post your answers (or guesses) in the comments below. We’ll even give you some hints to get started: Tool #2 is actually parts of a tool (think steering) and Tool #5 is not a 4th hand cable puller (think wheel). Good luck!

Tool #1:

Tool #2:

Tool #3:

Tool #4:

Tool #5:

Tool #6:

Tool #7:

Tool #8:

Wordless Wednesday

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