KNOW’S NOTES – MORE POSTS, TIRE PRESSURE, WHEEL REVIEWS

A lot of you regular In The Know Cycling readers provided a ton of good feedback to me in our recently completed 10-question reader survey. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve analyzed your input and started taking action on several fronts that you’ll start seeing with this first issue of Know’s Notes.

[For those of you who entered, I will announce the winner of the $100, £100 OR €100 to use at your favorite cycling store next week.]

One common suggestion was to get out “more frequent posts”.

“Magically clone yourself so you can get more reviews faster” was the way one of you put it. That’s a scary thought but I appreciate the sentiment.

Several of you said you wanted “more regular content, even if it’s shorter” while 86% said you wanted posts to remain “Long, in-depth, category-wide reviews and ‘best’ recommendations reviewing and comparing multiple products, like what you see on the site now.”

“Be more concise” was a view expressed by many. Got it!

I’m going to try to do many of those things and other suggestions you had including reviewing gear in some other cycling segments and helping you more easily find the best prices with a price lookup tool I’ll soon install on the site.

Also notable was that over 60% of you said you will make your next online cycling purchase using the links on the site to one of the online stores I recommend. That will help me buy more gear and get out more reviews and some of the other things you suggested I do to improve the site.

All good.

To get on with the more regular content suggestion, I’m starting this regular, Friday morning In The Know Cycling’s notes post or what I’ve called Know’s Notes. In it, I’ll share with you a few interesting things I came to know in the past week including something you commented on or that I’m working on for a post on the site.

I won’t bore you with what I did over the weekend or rehash what I wrote about in the last week. My life isn’t always that interesting and I get that this blogsite is for your benefit, not mine.

So let’s get started.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Tire Pressure – I noticed and posted on Facebook (www.facebook.com/itkcycling) and Twitter (twitter.com/ITKCycling) that, along with announcing their new mid-depth aero SES 5.6 wheelset, ENVE put up a chart of tubeless tire pressure recommendations. After looking at it and reacting with an utterance along the lines of WTF, I sent it out to a few guys in my cycling orbit and called the ENVE contact phone number to learn more about what was behind it.Bottom line, with modern 19C and 21C wide rims and 23C and 25C wide tubeless tires, these recommendations are based on field and lab tests they ran and optimize the tradeoffs to get the best aero performance, rolling resistance, handling, hysteric effects, sprung/unsprung weight minimization, and energy conservation/fatigue reduction on the imperfectly paved roads we ride. Add 5-10 psi for tubed tires.

[Note that ENVE doesn’t list 28C tires as an option for wheels they make with rims less than 25C wide. Kills your aero performance.]

Seeing a full table like this gives me a set of credible reference points and allows me to tell some of my riding buddies and you that you don’t have to ride at 100 psi anymore. But you knew that, right?

Moose, my 200lb/91kg fellow tester rode wheels with 19C rims with 25C tires this week down at 80psi from his normal 100psi and loved it. Weighing in at 150lbs/68kg, I rode on 19C and 21C wheels at 65psi and didn’t notice any mushy handling in turns. We both have a little ways to go in letting some of our air out. You?

And, as I’ve written before, selecting the right tire brand and size for your rims is most important for getting what you want most from your wheelset’s aero performance, rolling resistance, and handling. The right tire pressure can further enhance that performance and make for a more comfortable, better handling, and more energy efficient ride but is only one choice in an interdependent set of decisions you need to make to get the performance you want.

COMMENT OF THE WEEK

Have you reviewed (fill in the name of the wheel brand from your country or region)? – I get that comment/question a lot and unfortunately have to answer it as you see in my exchange with Terrell below.

I’m doing research now for a post I hope to finish in October or November about carbon wheelsets selling in the $1000 to $1500 range. It’s a very hot segment now and I totally get the appeal. Why spend $2000 or $2500 or $3200 if you can get a wheelset that has similar specs that suggest similar performance for half to a third the price.

I posted a request to those of you that follow In The Know Cycling on Facebook (you already do, right?) at the beginning of the summer for wheelsets in this price range that you had heard of and wanted me to check out. I’ve been working through that list and others that I’d heard of or that readers have asked about in the past from comments to my wheelset reviews, as Terrell did above.

Reynolds, which sells $2000+ wheelsets has for years also made the climbing Attack, all-around Assault, and aero Strike that stores sell in the $1000 to $1500 value price range. Other companies, notably FLO based in the US and Hunt and Prime in the UK have also gotten a lot of traction in the market with wheels in the same value price range.

Beyond the spec differences, I’m finding significant differences in how the business model for each company works. That business model affects what you end up buying, riding, may need service on and the whole experience you have with the wheels from first learning about them to riding them hopefully for several good years.

Companies do varying amounts of research, design, component and manufacture specification, manufacturing, sourcing, assembly, testing, marketing, distribution, sales, and after-sales service.

The most integrated companies do most if not all of these things themselves and have multi-region distribution and service networks to create a customer experience unique to the brand. These companies often sell the most expensive wheels though not all expensive wheels are made under this model and the model doesn’t only produce expensive wheels. Reynolds, Mavic, Campagnolo, Fulcrum, and DT Swiss are examples of integrated wheel brands with geographically wide networks that sell carbon wheelset models at both top prices and others in or near the value range.

The least integrated companies are those that essentially source wheelsets designed and made by others and available to most any company that wants to buy and brand them. Most sell them direct to the consumer with little if any after-sales support. These “source-and-sell” brands usually offer the least expensive wheels. You can see how their model allows them to do that and still make a handsome profit.

Are wheels from source-and-sell brands any good? I find it hard to see a justification to buy and test them not knowing that if I have a problem I’ll be able to get it taken care of and whether the model I tested and reviewed will perform the same if they change their sources.

The challenge/opportunity is to identify and find wheelsets from companies that do enough of the product design, have input into or a role in the manufacturing, assembly and testing processes, have the wheelset model I want close enough to the time when I want it, and provide a support network near where I live or a return process to wherever to take care of me quickly and without a big expense.

After identifying companies or models sold by companies with those basic requirements, I’m willing to buy and test a wheelset to see if the performance justifies the price if a) there appears to be something distinguishing about the wheels, and b) the wheels are sold and supported widely enough for In The Know Cycling readers wherever most of you live.

This makes it hard for regional brands or ones that are a generation or two behind in rim profile or width, brake track design, weight, hub flange size, etc. Unfortunately, that is the case when I look at a lot of these lesser known brands.

In preparation for the review I’m hoping to finish this fall, I’m working through the list of wheel brands now to see which category they fall into. I’m finding there are a whole lot of source-and-sell brands and another large group of brands that are too narrowly focused in one country or small geographic region (regardless of whether they offer something that distinguishes them for the rest of the crowd) to make it worthwhile reviewing them.

More on this later.

IN THE REVIEW QUEUE

I shared a closeup of this photo on our FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts earlier this week to give you an idea of some of the new product categories I’m hoping to cover in response to your survey input.

On the left is ENVE’s new G23 gravel wheelset and on the right is Bontrager’s new Aeolus XXX 6 mid-depth aero wheelset targeted to flatlanders, triathletes, and time trialists. Coincidentally, both arrived at ITKC HQ (aka my house) on the same day.

The G23 is my toe in the water attempt at gravel gear testing. As you can tell by my inability to come up with a better-suited metaphor, I’ve not added gravel riding events to my riding palmares just yet. It seems, however, that every third enthusiast I ride with is doing some dirt ride or another every month now and there’s no lack of talented riders I know ready to step up and test this wheelset out. Rawson, a rider I’ve known and unsuccessfully tried to chase down on the roads for a dozen years now will be leading the testing on these hoops. He told me he has several gravel events on his calendar in September alone and just the right tires to use with these wheels.

While we’ve tested 60-70mm deep aero wheels before, there’s a new group of them out now and it’s time for a refresh. The Bonties and two other models are on tap here and my roadie friend and triathlon racer Don will join Nate and me in testing these out. These will go nicely with the best aero helmet for road cyclists review I posted this summer (here. Sorry, proud of that review).

Don’t think that I’ve hollowed out the roadie core. Far from it. Nate, Moose and I tested out and I wrote up individual reviews of the carbon clincher all around Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST, Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4, and Zipp 303 Firecrest rim brake wheelsets that posted late last month.

Later this month I’ll combine and compare these with a couple more wheelsets I’m evaluating now in this category including the new Zipp 303 NSW tubeless and Roval CLX 50. That will all be put into the ITKC mix master (my spinning brain and our copious evaluation notes) to come up with the 2018 comprehensive, comparative (i.e., long and detailed) review of this carbon clincher all-around category including our latest Best Performer and Best Value recommendations.

I’m also hard at work finishing up our reviews of the best carbon disc wheelsets, the all-rounders for those who’ve switched to road disc bikes. New and updated wheelsets have been coming into this category so fast it’s been hard to keep up. You’ll see individual reviews on the new Zipp 303 NSW and Reynolds Aero 46 DB carbon disc wheelsets go up (or drop) on the site this weekend and the full category review later this month.

I’m getting some sage and complementary input here from another trusted roadie who has completely shifted to road disc and gravel disc bikes, has a set of Lightweight road disc wheels as his regular training hoops, and sprints the way his massive quads and calves 2X the size of mine suggests he should.

So that’s a little bit (or perhaps a lot) about what’s in our queue for now. I have no inside information and stay away from marketing hypefests like the Interbike trade show that starts in Reno Nevada the end of next week but there may be some new products announced there that are worth getting in for testing to add to what is already a pretty full plate.

Updates on shoes and power meters and a new review on sunglasses are all in the early stages of selecting and ordering gear to test. If you have a particular category you want me to review in the next bit of time, let me know using the survey below.

That’s it for this first week of Know’s Notes. The next one will be shorter, I promise.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions below. Have a good, safe week out on the road.

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7 comments

  • Great work Steve!👊

  • thank you very much Steve! keep up the good work 🙂

  • Keep doing the good work Steve – learning lots from your site

    Would be very interested in you reviewing the wide carbon wheels from Hunt here in the uk, although not manufacturing their own wheels I’ve heard they offer great follow up support and the product is very good i.e. wide rim,stiff and lightweight:

    • JP, Thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated.

      Regarding Hunt, I’ll give you the same answer I gave to another reader who asked a similar question late this week.

      I’ve decided against reviewing Hunt wheelsets for now. I asked to talk with them or have them respond via email to several specific questions about their products, product and customer support, market coverage, design and testing, the answers to which I’d need to feel comfortable about before buying their products as a consumer or recommending them to fellow enthusiasts. They were interested in doing a media type interview but have not been willing to answer the questions I asked from a consumer perspective. Until they do, I won’t review their wheels or suggest readers consider them. Steve

  • Terry Sappenfield

    Steve,
    I’m wondering what tire pressures are recommended by Enve or some of the other wheel makers for tubulars?

  • Good stuff Steve, love it!

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