Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rolling Along

Better wheels are one of the best bang-for-your-buck upgrades you can make for your bike. The main advantage being that the wheelset, compared to the entry level off the shelf road bike, is that they will be better built. In my case they were hand built by Mercian. As such they are laterally true and likely to remain so for far longer. The hubs, in this instance RG2 Racing Hubs from Miche, contain smoother running bearings in excellent quality hubs all combining with the A417 Mavic Rims and 36 double butted spokes to give small improvements in lateral stiffness and aerodynamics.

100% Made in Italy, the name of Miche is legendary in the production of classic engineering components for cycles and they have been producing beautiful engineered components since 1919  within the factory of San Vendemiano (Treviso - Italy) To build its products, Miche, employs the most innovative technologies, production processes and the finest materials: carbon, light alloys and composite materials.

Mavic is another manufacturer steeped in tradition. The company began in France in 1889 as a nickel plating business but soon moved into the manufacture and the sale of spare parts for bicycles. In the 1934 Tour de France, Antonin Magne tested these new rims in the utmost secrecy–they were banned by the rules, and so were painted in wood colors. Antonin Magne won the yellow jersey and Mavic have been at the forefront of wheel design and innovation ever since.

The actual contact point with the road is through the tyres and I needed to draw a balance between speed, puncture resistance, durability, grip and price. I am not a racer, not even really a tourer, and even less of an expert on the various options on offer. So I put my choice in the hands of Grant and he recommended 25mm Contintental Gatorskins, one of the most popular road tyres in the UK. They grip fine, roll very well, and they are tough through the tread with a TPI of 180.
And so I ended up with a wheelset of distinction, not perhaps the fastest combination, but then the rider is pretty retro too!

Perhaps at some time I may upgrade the tyres to 23mm to reduce friction or even contemplate an American Classic clincher wheel set, but would it detract from the overall look and feel of my dream machine?


  1. Someone has been in touch and wrote about this item. Thought it was worth sharing.

    Back in the day, rims were from Champion or Mavic, they were silver, blue, black or gold. Road race wheels had 32 or 36 spokes and time trial wheels could have 24 spokes. They all pretty much had the same weight but there were some differences in stiffness which were more driven by the height of the hub and length of spokes. strong wheels were built in a way that a spoke crossed of 3 or 4 other spokes on its way from hub to rim. Spokes where stainless steel, preferably chromed and butted (thicker at the last 30-40 mm towards hub and rim respectively). a spoke was from 297-305 mm long. we all had a stack of spokes and we all knew the basics on how to true a wheel - a bit more complex when the wobble is not left/right but up/down, wheel is no longer truly round.

    First time i heard of miche was back in 1982-83 - a friend who later started a bike shop went to NL for easter and came back with all kinds of goodies. Miche is a fairly small brand compared to Campy and Shimano but they have survived as opposed to Stronglight, Sugino, Simplex, Huret etc which are all gone from the racing market. Miche sponsor tier 2 team, Miche Guerciotti. Buddy of mine bought some Miche Carbon wheels and is very very happy with them; http://www.miche.it/en/catalogo-ruote/strada/ruote-supertype-358-3

    When it comes to tires, the last 10 years have seen a return to clinchers but the pros are still racing on tubulars. tubulars are the ones that you have to glue to the rim. when you a flat you had to pry them loose before putting on an old but usable tire. when you came home, you had to clean the rim for old glue and then start all over again. the tubulars were expensive back in the 80s and i used to repair them when i had a small puncture/flat. I would remove the band and the stitches on the back, fix the puncture and sow them back up again. it was tough work to get it done. with clinchers, things are easier. you have a flat, you swap the tube, put the tire back in place and off you go. tubeless have had a lot of promise for a long time but it is messy with the goo you have spray into the tire, particularly if the tire were to explode. not nice.

    what i had found interesting, is that in the last few years there have also been a trend towards wider tires as they have a lower rolling resistance and a smoother ride. back in the day, the narrower the better, the higher the pressure the better it was. found an article on this the other day while snooping on VeloNews - http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/03/bikes-and-tech/technical-faq/tech-faq-seriously-wider-tires-have-lower-rolling-resistance-than-their-narrower-brethren_209268

  2. I had a the same exact wheel set built by Mercian in 2010 and they have served me well. The rear wheel bearings went last year so I replaced them with SKF bearings. They are far superior and the wheel runs true. Combined with the tyre I use Schawble Marathon 32mm, they have proved an excellent combination for long distance touring.