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Recent Build

Climbing Wheels for For Ben

Design Brief .

This summer saw me return to a traditional road bike and indulge in my love of riding in the mountains by heading to the French Alps for two weeks of climbing heaven. I had purchased a Canyon Ultimate AL SLX 8.0 road bike for the job, and while the standard Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels were acceptable workhorses, I wanted something a little more specific to my requirements, that I knew I could climb and descend on with total confidence. I am a tall rider at 6’1”, riding a Large size frame, but with a reasonably low weight of 73Kg. I had firm Ideas in my mind regarding what qualities the wheel needed:

REVIEW .

Out on the road these wheels were exactly how I imagined them. Laced two-cross front and rear the wheels were exceptionally stiff: there was no noise from the rear spokes under heavy load on a steep gradient and power transfer felt remarkably good for an 11-speed wheel.

This stiffness was complemented by my running of 25c Continental GP4000s tyres at 85Psi: leading to a wheelset that descended with massive levels of grip and stability, inspiring great confidence after a few years away from big descents. Over the course of 2 weeks I rode 1060Km with 29,083m of vertical ascent and the DT Swiss hubs required no maintenance or adjustment whatsoever.

Despite being a tubeless ready rim, tyres were easy enough to remove by hand with no tyre levers. Alloy rims meant that braking on wet mornings in the mountains was still powerful and predictable, and there was no chance of over-heating on long descents.

COMPONENTS EXPLAINED .

Mavic Open Pro UST rims were chosen for this build due to their low rotational weight. At 430 grams each they are about as light as you can sensibly build with an alloy rim before making serious compromises in terms of brake track thickness and long-term durability. The new wider profile combined with a single eyelet design and some clever rim machining from Mavic meant the wheels could still be built very stiff and with a high spoke tension despite their low rim weight.

DT Swiss Squorx alloy nipples were perhaps a little overkill in a build of this overall budget: at £0.70 per nipple, BUT: they are already impregnated with a thread locker, are incredibly light, and I consider them a sturdier option than Sapim Polyax nipples. My only real reservation with them would be their long-term resistance to corrosion on salty UK roads. Mitigation against this comes in the form of Dynax UC anti-corrosion wax inside the rims, in the unlikely event these wheels will see action in bad weather.

Spoke selection on this build was critical. Ultimately, I used Alpina F1 bladed spokes to help keep the budget under control. At £1.75 per spoke compared to Sapim CX-Ray’s at £3.24 per spoke, they represent a significant saving. While there is a small penalty to pay in rotational mass, the slightly thicker Alpina spoke builds a stiffer 11 speed wheel on the symmetrical Mavic rims, while still having the qualities we expect from bladed spokes (good torque transfer and compliance during impact).

DT Swiss 350 hubs feature the same layout and driver design as their more expensive 240s and 180 Ceramic cousins. There are no bearing pre-loaders to adjust and basic maintenance or field servicing requires no tools. Yes, they are a little heavy, and they aren’t the prettiest hubs out there, but I have total confidence in them to roll smoothly for a long time.

Finally, the eagle-eyed may spot that I’m running Paul Components Steel QR’s with the wheels: at 73Kg I’m not a heavy rider, neither am I a sub 60Kg world-tour machine! These closed cam QR’s look the part, and their steel axles ensure maximum stiffness in a large bicycle frame with fewer problems of brake rub while climbing.