Sunday, 24 April 2011

Major Tom tubs from Strada Hand Built Wheels

The more eagle-eyed amongst the RvOL turnout a few weeks ago may have noticed the chunky wheels and tubs my bike was sporting on setting out from Barrowford. Or, may have picked up on my slightly giddy tweets by way of tip off...

Either way, I was looking forward to a first proper ride on this much anticipated Strada Hand Built Wheels build of Velocity Major Tom tubular rims with Hope Mono Pro 3 Road hubs and Sapim spokes. They had arrived circuitously from fellow Belgian and Strada originator, Jonathan Day. Circuitously, as writer, photographer and Trophy cross rider Andy Waterman had been trying them out first with some new Specialized cross tubs. More on that later.......

Here's what Jonathan has to say about them:

Like the Velocity A23 and the HED Ardennes series of 23mm rims, the Major Tom rim brings the advantages of a 23mm rim to the tubular market. The Major Tom wheel has a 23mm wide rim allows for better tyre performance, providing a larger contact surface for gluing and adds strength without additional weight (432g). Gluing wide cyclocross tubulars onto narrow rims can often be a challenge and questioning the bond between the tyre and rim is not something that should be playing on your mind as you’re piling into a corner at top speed during a race. The Velocity Major Tom not only gives a wider contact surface but it also features a seam relief channel down the center to help with consistent placement. Additionally, Velocity listened to feedback from ‘cross racers and increased the height of the brake track to 11mm, making it easier for you to switch from your everyday wheels to your race wheels without so much messing around with your brake pad placement. Like the A23, the Major Tom shares a similar semi-aero profile that gives additional strength without adding weight.
We have used Hope Mono Pro 3 front and rear hubs with these rims. They are UK manufactured, reliable and easy to maintain. Available in 6 colours and both Shimano and Campagnolo configurations. 

At this juncture, I should point out that I'm no wheel expert, and to be fair have never ridden really top-end wheels including carbon offerings from the bigger manufacturers. I do however have an extensive wheel collection, many tubular, of more reasonable offerings from Bontrager, Xero, Shimano and a heap of older traditional box section aluminium tub rims in similarly traditional build patterns.

My brief for this review is to look at their on road performance, particularly with the cobbled classics season fresh in the memory as these wheels would seem to have a second home on cobbles, away from their true home on the cross course.

A further cross-centric review will be coming later.....

The Major Toms look quite understated really - minimal graphics, matt black rims with an alloy braking surface, plain silver hubs and spokes. Therein lies much of their charm, as when you pick them up to look at them, the chunkiness of that 23mm wide rim is immediately apparent and they simply shout 'solid' at you.

For all that 'solidness', they are light though - depending on build components you are looking at a 1550g wheelset which is plenty light enough for all but the highest level of cross or road riding.

Gluing a tub on such a wide platform is a dream - the centre seam relief channel makes seating the tub easy and reliable. Stretching a tub on the rim, it was apparent that the surface contact with a 32 or 34mm cross tub would be massive and therefore bond and confidence enhancing as suggested.

Gluing road tubs on however, would take a bit more care I feel, due to the wide rim bed vs a narrow tub. Even with large volume 27mm Vittoria Pavé's on, there are visible gaps between carcass and rim edge. Nothing too major as such, and nothing that restricted my confidence in a 50mph descent followed by a vicious and long 1 in 4 descent with hairpins down Mytholm Steeps during the Ronde. The kind of attention that one would pay to gluing cross tubs would pay dividends here, rather than the usual slap 'em on and rely on pressure to keep them on approach I've often take to road tubs.

And the ride? Plush, comfortable, luxurious, err thesaurus anyone? You get the picture - these are compliant wheels that soak up road buzz easily (and would even without such big volume tubs on). I put the same 27mm tubs on some (cheapish) carbon wheels on the same bike and they rattled me about. No comparison to the Major Toms.

Along the road they feel stiff, solid, quick to spin up, and very, very stable on descents. And that is with a radial front. You can specify your spoking pattern for your build and discuss your personal requirements with the team from Strada meaning you can get a wheelset tuned to you, your weight and your riding requirements.

The Major Toms feel very light and spritely up the hills too meaning they would go well in hillier sportives as well, whilst braking on descents is solid and reassuring on those big alloy braking surfaces.

Guaranteed for 1 yr and with a truing for life policy, they cost £445 complete with natty Ti Strada skewers. Details here

Overall, I think they are good value - a handbuilt and hand specced product for not much more, or around the same as many factory built lightweight offerings from big manufacturers. And that is just as road wheels - I have a feeling they will come in to their own on the cross course. Now, I better get gluing and hope it rains soon to get testing in the mud.....

1 comment:

simondbarnes said...

Nice review.

I want to give tubs a try when the cross season comes along, wheels like these seem ideal :)