Tuesday 26 April 2011

Mavic neutral service at PR 2011

Buckle up, it's a wild ride......

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.....

Wednesday 6 April 2011

More RvOL pics

My personal selection of some of the great images from David, Laura and Ady at Sportsunday ........

Monday 4 April 2011

The event that isn't an event - RVOL

Twitter colleague and resurgent climber (of rocks), Steve Riley alluded to it in a comment after the event. I had been musing over the nature of what the Ronde had become - for me, for others around me and for those new to the whole idea.

My regular physical taskmaster, I mean training partner, Dave Haygarth had pointed out the string of riders snaking over the Widdop Road in front of us and said 'You did that!' as he he encouraged me to take a moment to savour the turnout of 60-70 riders for last Saturday's event.

I hadn't thought about it in those terms either before or even after that moment - the Ronde for me was, is and will always be an extension of my slightly (rather?) too intense love affair with the humble cobble and the art of riding a bike over them. Of course we don't have the cobbles of Belgium or Roubaix here in Lancashire, or the UK as a whole. But we do have some extraordinary relics from a bygone Industrial era here in this Eastern corner of the County, as well as some stunning countryside and lanes.

And that's all it is really - a combination of cheeky cobbles and great riding roads, all of which just happen to have a serious dose of contours in their midst. It combines nicely to recreate, for me at least, some of the intensity of riding in Flanders, all on my doorstep.

Perhaps others too feel that yearn to find those short sharp climbs, cobbled or otherwise, and go and play in their midst. The social aspect too can't be overlooked. It was after a brief spell riding big organised sportives that I began to think in different terms - don't get me wrong, I enjoyed those sportives and their superb routes, and usually great organisation. But the thought dawned on me after a while - why I am paying good money to ride round places I often know, and often with people I don't know?

As a teenager and young adult, I used to pore endlessly over OS maps, imagining trips, runs, rides, anything really, in the terrain mapped out. The maps told me so much about an area, apart from what it looked like. The excitement was in the discovery of the new, and in discovering it with friends. Fast forward a good few years and the same process led to seeking out the nooks and crannies of my (new to me) local area. Combined with a desire to experience cobbled riding by way of training for a virgin trip to Flanders and the massive sportive there, the idea of the Ronde was born. My new found neighbour and riding buddy Mark, suffered many of those proto Ronde trips, guinea pig to my cobbled obsessions. I vividly remember the look of disgust on his face as I hauled him up one particularly steep and rough cobbled climb on a Sunday morning. He has come round somewhat since....

Thinking about it, I don't intend to actually write a blow by blow report (the report that isn't a report) - Saturday's Ronde 2011 will mean so many different things to so many different people but feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Thanks for the thanks! I hope that my efforts not to make this into an 'Event' in a competitive, organised sense have in fact created an 'event' with a small 'e' - something people can look forward to, meet up with new and old friends, chat about, laugh about and experience in their own way.

I can't however thank enough David, Laura, Clare, Cath and Ady from Sportsunday for banter, cake and a great visual record of the day.

And finally, thanks to all that came and rode, some making very long journeys to get there. Hope to see you next year - I can't see how I am going to get away with avoiding running it again......

Check back again soon for a pic dump of further images from the day.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Ronde van Oost Lancashire 2011 - report coming soon

Pic: Andy Waterman

Sportsunday photos.......

As you will have been aware, the Sportsunday team - David and Laura (photographers at Heptonstall), Clare and Cath (cakestop) and Ady (photos at Ford) - were out in force, capturing pics and fuelling our ride with their awesome cakestop.

Please check out their pics here and perhaps by way of thanks, purchase a momento of your day out in East Lancs.