Sunday, May 23, 2010

Equipment - Tantos, or HED Bastogne Wheels

So, as you know, I want to dedicate the next few posts to a topic close to my heart, and one that many of you can relate to:


Other than a well fitting frame, I've decided that once you have a minimum level bike, wheels make the biggest possible upgrade readily available to every rider.

In fact, my experience with the Tsunami (official post on it yet to come) has made me rethink my whole aero-road philosophy. I'm ever-evolving, what can I say?

When I got going on structural versus fairing rims, I did some research, trying to find a wheelset available in both types of construction, just so I could post pictures of both types by one manufacturer. I stumbled upon, once again, the HED website. And when I started looking, I started sipping their Kool Aid.

Combined with ads going back to the Miami Vice days of TV (pastels were the rage in cycling, believe it or not), I realized that the HED I knew of - with its cheap, fast, but kind of heavy disc wheels, the Stingers that I never even wanted to try - that the HED I knew of had evolved into a much more sophisticated company.

Correction: They marketed themselves in a much more sophisticated manner. Their wheels look finished, their presentation much more compelling, and I think they honed their product until they had the best wheels in the world, at least for us mere mortal bike racers.

Big words, I know.

I think the first hint of this "progression" was Team High Road's use of HED wheels. With no wheel sponsor (and still no wheel sponsor), High Road (now HTC-Columbia) has to buy all their wheels. I figure that such a buyer will get wheels at a nice discount and all that, but still, they can choose any wheel they want. If they think one disk wheel is better than another, they can buy the better one. And if they think one tall profile wheel is better than another, they buy it.

And they've been buying HED wheels, probably by the dozen.

This prompted me to look at the HEDs for myself, because, like HTC-Columbia, I have no wheel sposnor.

(Which, I should point out, is about the only thing I, as a cyclist, have in common with HTC-Columbia. Okay, the Missus has a Columbia winter coat. But you get the point.)

I already posted on the Stinger 6s, the katana if you will.

Now for the "tanto", the 30 cm dagger samurai sword. In the bike world, the tanto would be well represented by the (sub-) 30mm rimmed HED Bastogne wheels.

For me the Bastognes fulfill three purposes. First, for any really gross riding conditions, they'll be my default wheelset. I even bought 25c tires for them, although they're not mounted.

Second, I'll use the rear wheel on the trainer.

Third, I'll use the front wheel when I'm training or racing in high wind conditions. Or if I feel like using non-aero wheels for whatever reason.

Introducing the Bastognes:

The Bastognes, after a trip to Vegas and a couple rides in the area. Oh, and one race.

If you look at the HED line-up of C2 Road Racing Wheels, you'll notice a few differences between the wheels.

The top of the line Ardennes weigh the least (1430 g), and cost the most ($1050). They have an 18/24 spoke configuration.

Next, the Bastognes come in at 1482 g and $850. They have an 18/24 spoke configuration.

The Kermesse slot in at 1570 g and $750. They have a 24/28 spoke configuration.

Finally, the new Flanders arrive at 1650 g and $700. They have an 18/24 spoke configuration.

Based on these numbers, and based on my planned use of the front wheel (possible racing), I wanted the most aero wheel, and that meant, at least with these choices, the least number of spokes. This eliminated the Ardennes. Plus, for training wheels, they were a bit much.

The Kermesse were out because of their higher spoke count.

I had two choices - the Flanders or the Bastogne. Ever since I read a book in elementary school about the Battle of the Bulge, I've been a "fan" of Bastogne. And for $150, it was worth dropping about 170 grams. I mean, okay, maybe not, but I won't miss $150 in five or seven years, and I figure the wheels will last that long minimum.

Bastognes it was.

No rim visible to the sides.

Unlike the Stinger 6 wheels, the rims on the Bastogne don't extend past the edges of the tire. You see just tire, not rim. In fact, I found that the Bastognes do not interchange cleanly with the Stinger 6 - there is some brake barrel adjustment necessary. The Stinger 6s are wider, so it works out for racing - if I need to swap a wheel, the clinchers will fit in easily. If I'm prepping for a race, though, I need to adjust the brakes out to clear the Stinger 6s.

Bontrager RaceXLite All Condition - seems good for all round training.
Note exposed spoke nipples - good for a quick true.

You'll notice the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde tires. They're Bontrager RaceXLite AC (All Condition) tires. I got them because the team is sponsored by a Bontrager/Trek dealer and offered up some cool gear at good prices.

The Bontrager tires are half-color. It's a bit different but I can handle it. Makes it easy to pick out my wheels, and I feel like a test rider whenever I get on my bike (because I'm testing the tires for myself).

I've used these wheels in Las Vegas, riding over roads I don't know, riding on small or non-existent shoulders covered with bumps, glass, and other assorted road obstacles. They've been fine.

The wheels have flown twice - to Vegas and back. As a unit the wheel/tire combo has been great - the wheels are straight, the tires have been holding up well, I can't complain.

HED makes a point about comfort with the C2 rims. I can't say for sure if they're more comfortable because I haven't ridden the wheels right before or after a similar level 19mm rimmed wheel. However, with the HED tire pressure recommendations in mind, I've been riding at 95/105 psi. This is much, much lower than the 110/115 or so I usually run. The tires seem to roll fine, and although I've nailed a couple holes, I haven't pinch flatted.

Part of my uncertainty is that these are new-to-me tires - I've never ridden them before. I mean, yeah, they're new, but I have no idea how these tires ride on 19mm rims.

I'll have to report more on this later, after I do a ride or three on the old clinchers.

On the bike, with reflections off the reflective decals.

A bit more "Avatar" like in color without the flash.

I realized I never mentioned it, but the skewers that come with the wheels are pretty nice. I'm a snob when it comes to skewers, but HED has sourced some good ones. They close nicely, tightly, with a nice, even increase in pressure. No digital "on/off" feel like cheap feeling skewers.

Don't look at the dirty hub. Please.

All the HED wheels I have came with the same skewers. And, as far as I'm concerned, the same hubs.

The lever has a logo too.

They hold well. And, of course, they have HED logos on them. A nice touch.

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