Monday, April 26, 2010

New Wheels

This blog covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from bicycling to cycling and everything in between. Sure, sometimes we get off topic a bit, but it all relates to cycling in some way, at least in my Joycean stream of consciousness way. One thing we don't do, however, is serve as a direct advertisement for our primary sponsor Two Wheel Transit. We don't pitch the specials of the day or go too over the top. Our readers know that we look to Two Wheel for all of our two wheel needs and we are glad to talk about the stuff we ride and race, but no one wants to tune in for a straight-off commercial endorsement. Instead, you would rather hear about Dr. Spalm's latest advice, right? Speaking of which, Dr. Spalm was forced to leave the country under a dispute over his immigration status and his purported marriage to an American citizen, but we hope he will be back at the typewriter soon. So, what is the point to this overly long introductory paragraph? The point is that we don't shill for Two Wheel, but that doesn't mean that they don't deserve their props and today they deserve props.

Last week I busted a spoke out of a Campy Neutron wheel. I have had the wheel for a number of years, first as my primary wheelset, then as a back-up set, and for the last few years as the primary wheelset on my rainy season-commuter bike. In other words, I got lots of life out of the wheelset, but I was surprised that the busted spoke revealed a wheel so torqued that it couldn't be brought back into round. Willy did, in fact, replace the spoke and get it round again, but it was at such a high tension that he thought the wheel was toast, which was born out while it was still in the wheel stand. The spoke popped at high velocity before it came out of the truing stand and the rim is now destined for the rubbish bin.

No problem, though, right? I have other wheels. So, I decided I would put my Bontrager hoops on that bike and suit up my Trek with my racing Zipps for a bit while I decided what to do. Great idea except that the Bontrager rear wheel had a warranty replaceable crack in the rim. Hmm. Now I was down two rear wheels in two days and running low on options.

Up until now, Two Wheel was just doing their normal amount of good service. They were trying to get me on the road quickly again and then they took care of the warranty issue promptly. The superior service kicked in when I decided, with my wife's kind insistence (or acquiescence - is there a difference?), that I get a set of heavier-duty wheels that would be suitable for this bike and serve as a relatively bomb-proof set for things like Ronde Von Palouse.

At that point, the world became confusing. Not only are there lots and lots of factory-made options, there is an even larger group of choices for a set of hand-made wheels. Then it isn't just picking a set of wheels, but picking a rim, hub, number of spokes, etc. It turns out that I just wasn't equipped to make the call on this decision without a lot of input. I needed the advice and input of every person who happened to walk by while I was in Two Wheel Transit, I needed hours of internet research, I needed multiple e-mails and conversations with Rider One, and then I needed more conversations with the guys at Two Wheel. Dave and Willy both offered opinions and input on multiple choices and options. And finally, today, Geoff, Willy and Dave tracked down more answers and more options.

I will share a smidgen of what I explored. I was interested in or looked dozens of options, but the narrowed field included Mavic Open rims or wheels, Hed Kermesses, DT Swiss wheels (in part because I had focused on their hubs), a collection of Velocity rims narrowed down to Aerohead/Aerohead OC or Synergy/Synergy OC, and Bontrager Classic wheels. I was sorely tempted by the handmade wheels using Velocity rims, DT Swiss hubs and made by Willy, but I decided that the lower price point and excellent warranty of the Bontrager Classic wheels made the most sense. These aren't wheels that are going to set any pulses racing, but they should be stiff, sturdy and abuse-resistant. I should get many miles out them problem-free and they are backed by a great warranty if I do have problems.

The thing, though, that stands out for me is the way that the guys at Two Wheel patiently answered all my questions and repeatedly offered their years of experience in giving their opinions (including years of making wheels, not to mention repairing them). If all purchases took this much time and resulted in this little exchange of cash, they wouldn't be in good shape, which ultimately is the test of their customer service approach. They knew this wasn't a transaction they were going to make much money on, but you could never tell that from their patience and detail in helping me make this decision. I genuinely appreciated their assistance and am looking forward to the new wheel and I appreciate knowing that whatever comes along, Two Wheel Transit is going to do whatever they can to help out and keep me on the road. It's a good feeling.

Thanks to Geoff and Tomas and particularly to Dave and Willy.

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