Sunday, May 24, 2009

Reynolds SDV66T wheelset impressions

This weekend marked my first foray in to the realm of tubular wheels. I, uh, accidentally picked up some SDV66T wheels off fleaBay last week, and quickly tossed a Red 11-26 cassette on them, mounted them on the IF, and headed to CT for the weekend.

SDV66T stands for Super Deep V Tubular, and that's what they are. They are 66mm deep, and are touted by Reynolds to be the most aerodynamic wheel available on the market and are also UCI legal.

The first thing I noticed upon unpacking the box was that these things are REALLY light. The weight weenie within was tickled pink. Claimed weight is 1350 grams, which, in my opinion, is just ridiculous for a wheelset this deep. Reynolds is usually right on target with their weights, and have even been known to undercut the claims on occasion. Today I weighed the rear wheel without a tire and cassette and it came in at 751 grams. Since I know the front hub is roughly 140 grams lighter than the rear, I can estimate it's weight to be a little under 600 grams.

The wheels came glued with Continental Competition 22mm tires. The glue is Tufo Extreme tape. Exactly what I would've chosen myself.

On Saturday, I headed out in pretty windy conditions with occasional strong gusts. A great way to learn very quickly how to handle the deep rims. The sink or swim method...

Immediately upon leaving my parents driveway there's a pretty fast descent where I quickly get up to nearly 40mph. Right away I could tell I was on a very different riding pair of wheels. Rewind a bit first, just climbing their driveway, I could feel the rotational weight reduction from my other wheelset. They felt snappy and light. Did I say they look really neat? They do. They scream GO FAST.

Back to flying down my first hill, I felt myself having to fight a lot more to keep the bike in a straight line. It was manageable, but it's certainly more of a challenge to descend at high speeds with cross winds on these wheels. The more I rode them throughout the day, the more I got used to the descents, and now, after two days and 200 miles, I'm quite satisfied with how they handle and could see myself using these wheels every day.

On the flats, these wheels really shine. They make a really cool sound when zipping along, and they look cool. I said that already, but they really do. I denuded them of their very loud stickers and they look ultra stealth, and fast. Really fast. It might be placebo, but I felt like they held higher speeds easier. And, for the fifty miles I rode with 3 others, it was obvious these wheels descended way faster than those fancy Ksyriums the others were on.

Day 1, Saturday, was a 102 miles but not much climbing. Only 4k total. On the flats, it was very easy to sustain a 23 to 27 mph average speed on these wheels. I'm really convinced I save a bit of energy.

Day 2, Sunday, I rode back to Manhattan from my parents house, which, for those of you who have read a post or two, know this is the ride I complain about every time I do it. It's brutal! Nearly 100 miles one way, it also has a LOT of climbing. Basically, it feels like you are climbing for the first 65 miles. Which, in reality, turns out to be true. I can't say these wheels feel like they climb any better than my other super heavy 1500 gram 27mm aluminum wheelset. They look cooler, though.

I didn't get a flat, so I didn't have the pleasure of changing a tubular on the road. When I got home today, I decided I better learn how to deal with the tire, so I ripped the rear tire off. I'm glad I did this. The tufo extreme tape is VERY, VERY difficult to remove when it's not heated up - something I hope happens when riding it - and I had to take a hair dryer to it. Once heated, it came off pretty easily. It left a lot of nasty, very sticky residue on the rim, and I spent the next 6 hours cleaning them. There's still some residue left, but I can't take it anymore and will just leave it! Tomorrow I'll mount a fresh tire, and see how the 2nd stage goes. Thus far, I'm a little concerned about tire removal on the road. More research is required. But, I think I may switch to the typical tubular glue since it's supposedly much easier to remove.

Some initial thoughts:

These wheels are bad ass. They ride super smooth, feel fast as hell, and look really neat.

If you are not a confident descender, or are nervous about cars blowing you off the road, these are NOT the wheels for you. Lighter riders also may find them more than a handful.

More on these bad boys later. And a pic I took today while playing with them:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mad $'s vacuumed away

In my constant pursuit for perfection with my gear, I've been battling with my shoes and pedals. I've used Speedplay for quite a while now with intermittent interruptions with other companies' pedals. The list has grown to encompass nearly every pedal manufacturer out there: Look, Shimano, Time, Crank Brothers, Speedplay, Bebop...I'm probably leaving a few off.

I've managed to use less shoes, but this year decided to replace my very nappy looking Northwave's with some fresh new kicks. I got Lake cx330c. They are very well made shoes, extremely light, and I love the lacing system. But, the first pair I ordered seemed to be a tad on the short side so I sold those on fleabay and ordered up another pair a half size larger. The length seemed right on these, but after a few rides something still didn't seem right. My foot seemed to slide around inside the shoe, and only stopped if I really cranked the BOA lacing down, but then the shoes felt too tight. I decided these shoes just didn't fit my foot properly.

So, back to the web for more research. I landed on Shimano's website and noticed they had semi-custom footwear - the 310 model. I decided to go try them on at my local chi chi boutique bike shop, Signature Cycles, who also had the custom fit system, and finally cough up the dough for a proper fitting shoe instead of relying on the Internet guess and check system. Upon initial fitting, I decided the shoe felt like a slipper. Could it get even better with the customization?

Having your foot vacuum sealed for a few minutes is not the most pleasurable experience! After various steps of baking parts of the shoe in a small Shimano oven, a hose was attached to the shoe, a bag was placed half way up my leg, a strap latched the bag to my leg, and the vacuum was turned on. Quickly, the air was sucked out and immense pressure was placed on my foot. The pressure gained. My foot hurt. My foot fell asleep. Ah, happy numbness, this isn't so bad. Repeat the procedure on the other foot. Pain, tingles, numbness, bliss.

After all was said and done, I had a visibly tweaked shoe on both feet. My feet felt like they were in a glove now instead of a slipper. It was interesting to see my right foot was clearly smaller in circumference than the left. I never knew this.

Summary: the shoes kick ass. They look pretty good, have an excellent carbon sole, and have the holes drilled exactly where they should be. But, they cost a ton of money. $400 after taxes!!!! Today I rode them for the first time, and I must admit they are far superior to any shoe I've used. There are so many neat little parts to the shoe they are too numerous to mention. I have to list one though - the inside lining. It's like a lint brush; smooth stroking down and very rough going up. This really helps lock the foot in place and even makes the shoes a bit more difficult to remove! The previous Northwave's I had I would've labeled before the Shimano's as good to great since they fit me fine and basically I forgot about them when cycling. Now I must admit they are simply average. They worked. They are for the average Joe.

Since I got new shoes, I decided to give the Dura-Ace pedals a shot again. The Look pedals I recently got for my mountain bike have almost no float, and provide a very secure, locked in feeling. I really like that feeling. The Dura-Ace offer a similar feeling while having an even larger cleat to work with. I've always shied away from pedals that really lock you in to one position, partially because I drank the Speedplay Kool-Aid and believe that they offer "knee saving rotation", and partially because they are simply easier to set up. Worry about fore and aft, who cares what direction they are pointing, just make sure the cleat is on the proper shoe! Well, since I shelled out the $$$ for the shoes, I decided to drop even more $$$ for some retail Dura-Ace pedals knowing I would be looked after at Signature Cycles. They did not disappoint. They cleats seem to be set up perfectly by them, and I was really enjoying the shoe-pedal interface during today's morning ride. Did I finally find the holy grail of pedals and shoes? So far, I think so. But I need a lot more rides to reach a conclusion. One thing's for certain - the shoes are awesome.
On this one you can see how it's curved around the heal. It was not like this before the fitting.


Last week I changed my saddle on the road bike for a test run of a new one made by Bontrager - the inform RXL. I learned about it the week before, and became interested when I discovered the 90 day comfort guarantee. That's a first in the saddle biz for me. Try it for 3 months, full refund if not satisfied??? Wow. Sure, why not. I ordered one and tried it for the first time this weekend.

The saddle is well made, lightweight at a claimed 200 grams, and has plenty of space for fore/aft movement on the rails.

I immediately noticed I had nearly zero pressure in the ABC region, much less than the Aliante, which I've noticed seems to be slightly greater than some saddles, but, for me, not so bad that it causes any numbness. Even in the drops, I could wail away for an hour at a time with no feeling of cutting off my blood flow.

The second thing I noticed was the firmness of the saddle in the rear. This is definitely not a saddle for cruising around at 10mph on a leisurely Saturday morning ride. I prefer the firm padding, which is one of the reasons I picked this saddle over a lesser model. I've progressively gone to less and less padding to now where I prefer hardly any. The Aliante is a bit too squishy for my tastes I've decided, which is a shame because it's the most comfortable saddle I've ever been on. During long rides the mushiness creates some discomfort in certain areas better left out of this post.

So, if you are in the market for a saddle, I think this is one that is definitely worth checking out, especially with the 90 day trial period.