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Why I’ll always ask

If you have been reading you’ll know I recently bought new wheels to replace the HED’s I’ve had since I bought my Cervelo. I took my first ride with the Ksyrium‘s on the club (PAA) ride on Saturday. The first thing I noticed was the way these handled bumps. They were much smoother and sounded much different than the HED’s. They were also less ‘jarring.’

Stiffness or deflection under load is important, and to me, these wheels didn’t feel as stiff as the older wheels at least when it came to bumps in the road. Since they are supposedly stiffer than the Bastogne’s this was mildly worrying.

The second thing I noticed was the sounds under braking. These wheels have a special finish on the aluminum to help with braking. Mavic calls their technology for this “Exalith 2.” When under light braking they make a sound kind of like a turbo charger starting up, only in reverse. high pitch, lowering pitch and volume slowing down. Unless you increase pressure then it gets louder. If you grab the brakes hard then they make a god-awful screeching that sets your teeth on edge. It’s so bad that your first instinct is to make it stop by letting up on the brakes, not a good idea if you need to, well, actually STOP. Now I was told to expect that they would make noise, but WOW. Supposedly this will get better as they age. I sure hope so. I make a┬áconscious effort to pull only as hard as I need to minimize the screeching. Later on in the ride we were caught by a much faster group and as we approached a stop light about half the guys in this group had brakes that made the same racket. That made me feel a little better about mine.

Otherwise I couldn’t really tell a big difference between the Mavics and the HEDs. The roll seemed about the same, both very good. The freewheel hub is quite a ┬ábit quieter on the Mavics but not a ton.

These wheels came with tires, or tyres if you like the european spelling. They are Mavic tires and I rather like them. I think I do anyway. About 3/4 through the club ride I get a flat. A pinch flat by the telltale ‘snakebite’ pattern on the tube. I didn’t think too much about this at first. I finished up the ride happy with my purchase.

The next day, Sunday, I wanted to see how they climbed so I decided to ride Glendora Mountain Road, Glendora Ridge Road to Baldy Village and back. At the last minute I realized I didn’t have a spare tube, but it was too early to find a bike shop open. I had a patch kit so I decided I would chance it.

This was a decision I had chance to regret.

The climb was fine and uneventful, though I did feel the effect from the day before’s ride in my legs. I wasn’t as strong as I was the last time I rode this route. I made it to the village, refilled my water bottle and decided to see how I felt riding up toward the ski lifts. Turns out not so great, so after a mile or so I swung around and headed back down. These wheels descended great. The more comfortable handling of bumps made the wheels feel much faster.

I went through the village and started back up GRR and all off sudden the rear wheel shifted under me. Damn, another flat and I had no tube. So I stopped, pulled off the wheel and started hunting for the hole. As is standard a few folks asked if I had everything and for awhile I said sure. Then as the frustration of not finding the hole increased, I broke. The next time I was asked I said no, ‘Do you have a spare tube?” He did, I replaced it and started again.

I managed about 12 miles when “POP, sissssssss!” This time, no graceful, slow deflation. No, a quick POP and all the air left in just a couple of seconds. So I pull over, frustrated right away this time. I think about walking awhile until it dawns on me I still have 9 miles to go. 90% downhill, but still 9 miles. Have you ever walked in bicycle shoes before? 9 miles is LONG way in cycling shoes.

So I stop, pull off the wheel and the tire and start hunting for the puncture. This time I didn’t say ok to the first rider that came along. I asked the first one if he had a spare tube. Turns out it was three gentlemen from the Downey area heading back. Turns out I had also used up all my CO2 so not only did I need a tube I needed a pump. Thank goodness they came along. After swapping out the tube and pumping up the tire I asked if I could descend with them in case I had another blowout.

I would have loved to push harder on the downhill, but my confidence that my tire would hold was gone. I took my time. I could tell with the descent that the wheels were stiffer than my HEDs no matter how they handled bumps, but I didn’t dare push too hard for fear of losing it with a puncture. I could just picture myself doing a “Beloki.” He broke his pelvis and basically ended his career with a rear tire puncture. So I took it easy. But I could tell there was a LOT more speed in these wheels if I dared.

I made it back to the car without incident. Thankfully. I thanked the guys with me, loaded up the car and headed home. I cleaned up and went straight over to the bike shop to get tubes and rim tape as I figured that would help. When I talked to the guy helping me, he said I shouldn’t need it and to bring the wheel(s) in to check it. I didn’t have the wheel with me and figured I would bring in later.

To better understand what was happening I sat in front of the TV and patched all three tubes to see if the punctures were consistent. 2 of the 3 did have ‘snake bites’ but the 3 had a puncture next to the valve stem. I had noticed that the hole in the rim was a little rough in that area.

I have had a similar issue before when I switched tire brands. I finally gave up and went back to Vittorias I have had success with. I like the Mavic tires on these wheels, but I may end up switching back if these punctures continue.

More as I know . . .

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