Or not. The image above beautifully sums up the fact that throwing loads of money at a bike won’t suddenly turn you into a cycling style icon. Not only does Lord Sugar look like a hairy old troll dressed as a court jester, he is standing next to the very definition of a midlife crisis bike.
We are talking wheels today, so what is wrong with the examples Lord Sugar is rocking? Well, they are Zipp clinchers. I hate Zipp clinchers. They are heavy. They look crude. They’re just not sexy. They’re just like those original Mavic Cosmic Carbones that were basically an aluminum rim with a carbon aero fairing. I hated them too. Mainly because they weren’t the real deal. Those Zipps probably ride well. I bet they’re stiff, and they probably brake pretty hard. But I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.
Fancy wheels are, for 95% of us, an expensive irrelevance. They’re probably more relevant to those of us who time trial, but unless you’re pushing the low 20s for a 10 mile or sub hour for the 25, I reckon your money is better spend on sorting your position, coaching, and training harder. On your standard road bike, they are just an unnecessary luxury.
But unnecessary luxuries are what often makes life worth living. The beuatiful leather bag my girlfriend bought be from the Dover Street Market sale for example. Now I could get the train to London and spend the day carrying my bits and bobs from meeting to meeting in a Sainsburys plastic bag. Tough, resilient, capacious. But also ugly and uncomfortable. I put my things in the Comme des Garcons number? Instantly my day gets better.
Lets face it – having and using tasty kit makes you feel good. The exception that proves the rule is the satisfaction of hammering it past someone on a bike (preferably someone like Lord Sugar) that clearly cost a fortune whilst you yourself are on something ancient / knackered / extremely unfashionable. My old, paint-stripped Cannondale was such a bike – perfect for pasting some AmEx gold card sporting weekend warrior. Alas, when I swapped that frame for a Litespeed (albeit a second hand Tuscany) I immediately had to watch out for fast guys on 20 year old 12 speeds. This phenomenon will be crucially important to me when my English arrives. Despite the fact that my training is supposed to be focused on certain key events this season, the reality is that I will be training to ensure that no-one overtakes me on that bike. Ever. The point at which the owner of a fancy bike decides that being overtaken is not such a big deal is, quite possibly, the most tragic point in their riding career. A point of no return. A veritable nexus, where all dignity dissolves, and they find themselves taking all their mirrors down…
Anyway. Back to wheels. Fancy wheels are, for me, an exercise in aesthetic statement making. Light weight, stiffness, ride quality and longevity are of course considerations too, but they are of less interest.
So, first up we have Zipp. Tasty looking wheels, as long as they’re tubulars. I wouldn’t mind a pair of 303s on my English, but they’re getting fairly ubiquitous on the roads (as far as fancy wheels are concerned anyway), especially when you get nearer London. There is also the triathlon connection to bear in mind. Not something that particular bothers me, but some folk have an issue with anything that looks like it should be bearing the weight of a dripping bikini-wearing bloke with numbers drawn all over him.
Corima. I was never particularly fond of Corima in days gone by. Rather like Spinergy, I thought the four spoke wheel not quite as appealing visually as the trispoke. I have relented somewhat as of late, and indeed recently purchased a Corima back wheel for Project Lo Pro. This decision was based on my desire to maintain something of a late 80s / early 90s look with the bike. The wheel in question was a bargain buy on eBay, and should lend the machine a suitably vintage speed machine look. I don’t think I would put such a wheel on the English though – it could start to look too much like something this NYC uber commuter might ride.
Next up we have, for many, the ultimate choice. The CarbonSports Lightweght. As German as Jan Ullrich, wearing lederhosen, drinking beer and anticipating his next sausage.
The Lightwheel wheel system is pretty awesome. Light as a feather, stiff as corpse, with stealthy all-carbon good looks. Also fiendishly expensive. I’d have a pair. Dunno about the clinchers though, and there’s the rub. With the ultimate wheels, you’d need to be rocking tubs I reckon. Fancy tubs at that – either FMB Records or Veloflex Extremes. The more money you spend the more deliciously impractical your ride should be. So Lightweights for me would always be the icing on the cake – for when I’ve got my training wheels, nice summer ride / race wheels, and then have enough cash to blow on something for really special occasions. In the meantime I leave you with Jan riding his Lightweight rings around Mayo-naise and Lance on the way to another not quite really special occasion.
Now, Madfiber is a new(ish) kid on the block, and a company I have been paying more and more attention to as of late. Their wheel design is spectacular and exudes a similar weapons grade aerospace feel to the Lightweights. These wheels look mean and fast. They are apparently planning to bring out a set of clincher versions before too long, but I must admit that I’d be pretty keen to pimp the English with a set of the tubular versions. Again, very tasty…
Next, Enve (previously Edge Composites). The connoisseurs choice perhaps. These are Rob’s favoured high end rim, and I do like the idea of having him build the entire bike, wheels too. Perhaps with these Enve 45 clincher rims built onto Extralite or Alchemy hubs. Fiendishly light, nicely aero, and exuding deliciousness.
Last but not least, the local option. I’ve already been in touch with the guys at Strada about some carbon-rimmed wheels for my new Whyte hardtail. They are best known for their road wheels though, and have various options including these lovely 50mm carbon rimmed lovelies. Seriously tempting.
I have a few months yet before I have to make my mind up. I will almost certainly get Rob to build up a pair of training wheels for the bike – probably Kinlin rims on Alchemy hubs – which will be more than adequate to be getting on with. Ahhh, this is so much fun…
(Thanks for Bikesnob NYC for drawing attention to the uber commuter above.)