Saturday, May 22, 2010

Equipment - Samurai Swords, aka HED Stinger6

When I first mentioned these wheels, I referred to them as "swords". For whatever reason it seems that I sometimes like to refer to my equipment (or tactics or training or whatnot) in military terms. For example, when I talk about a rider's repertoire of available moves, I may mention their "quiver" (of arrows). It's not just me, just so you know - Zipp likes to talk about "speed weaponry" - for a while their wheels had a decal that said something like "weapon grade equipment".

When I typed out that I got these wheels, I couldn't use the terms "weapon grade" or similar stuff because, well, someone could easily confuse it with a Zipp wheel. Or my describing my tactical repertoire.

Instead, I used the term swords, as in samurai swords. I felt that was appropriate - heritage, weapon grade, saved for use, precious, all that.

What I didn't realize is just how appropriate.

I knew that samurai used the real stuff, katana, for battles. There are some gruesome stories on just how effective these things can be but I'll skip the details (let's say it involves testing a sword's effectiveness on live subjects - the fairy tale phrase "Seven With One Blow" takes a whole new meaning...). I also knew samurai used wooden swords, bokken, for practice because, frankly, a little slip up with a real one in a practice session and your sparring partner will be missing a limb or more.

I figured this concept of "fighting" and "practice" swords would work well with the "racing versus training" wheelsets.

Then, researching the swords themselves, I learned that the swords came in different lengths. I mean, I knew that, but I didn't know the lengths were standardized. Not only standard, they seemed to reflect some similar numbers.

60 cm for the main katana. A versatile one, this; lightweight, agile, but still able to reach out and touch someone. The best all-round sword.

90 cm for the two handed katana - slower, yes, but you could literally cut down more enemy with one broad stroke. Used in certain situations this sword could be extremely effective, but it was too heavy, too long for normal fighting.

30 cm daggers, for "up close and personal" stuff. Usually this consisted of women and upper class people, desperately fighting to the end.

Coincidentally, HED makes wheels in 60 mm, 90mm, and (about) 30 mm rim heights.

Samurai swords it was.

The first set, because they're the ones I got first, are the HED Stinger 6 wheels ("6" because they're 60 mm tall).

Like the standard 60 cm katana, the Stinger 6s are versatile. Weighing a little under 1400 grams a pair, they accelerate quickly. At the same time, with its aero shape, it can maintain high speeds.

In fact, the Stinger 6 convinced me to move all my wheels over to the HED 23 mm wide rim thing.

The main reason for the Stinger 6's aero capabilities is its wide brake track and even wider rim. This is the first wheelset I've owned where the rim is wider than the brake track. By bulging the sides a bit, HED found the wheels got a lot of extra "go". Although I have yet to do any testing back to back, I can verify they definitely don't slow me down.

The problem was when I swapped out the Stingers for a normal 19 mm clincher wheelset - the brake pads are now a huge distance away from the rim. I thought I'd just need to tighten the brake barrel adjuster to regain brake function, but I found that it was quicker just to unclamp the cable, close the brake up, and re-clamp.

This is fine when I'm sitting in the bike room, but out on the road, or in a wheel pit at a race... not so fine. Therefore I needed to get spares that would fit without much trouble.

But that's for later.

First, let's talk about how they ride. Because, frankly, they're awesome. They feel light, agile, and reasonable in wind. I worried about the wide rims in corners but they seemed fine even in flat, high speed, middle-of-an-attack turns.

They accelerate well, as a 1385 gram wheelset should, and their aero qualities, although not necessarily verified by me, seem to be working well. I never felt like I had to push just to stay in the field, a feeling I get with box section wheels.

At some point I'll do something a bit more scientific, maybe do some power versus speed on a stretch of road, one wheelset after another. But for now they're the schnizzle in my quiver of wheels.

I used them for every race at Bethel, a couple training rides in between, and at a couple more races after Bethel.

Although I DNFed at one Bethel and sat up in a training race sprint, I managed to get, in the other races, a 4th, 3rd, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, and 2nd.

Let me tell you, I haven't had a streak like that in, well, forever. And although I can't attribute everything to the wheels, I can say that the wheels didn't hurt at all.

So, without any further ado, let me preset: The Katanas, the HED Stinger 6 wheelset.

This is from the Bethel registration shot, but this was taken in the first 24 hours I owned these things.

The day before the first Bethel, when I first rode them, I was astounded by their responsiveness. I even did a big effort just to feel them out, kind of like how, when you get a fast car, you just have to floor it once.

Okay, in a car you can floor it over and over, but before the first Bethel race, with my legs doing the talking, I only floored it once.

Suffice it to say that I like the wheels.

Note the brake track has some extra layers of carbon. The rest of the structural rim is left alone.

I have used normal Kool Stop pads without changing them between wheels. On the carbons I had no problems until the second Bethel, when I rode these wheels for the first time in the rain (and third time ever). I approached the first turn, touched my brakes, and... nothing.

I learned the hard way that you need the right pads for rain conditions. I have yellow Swiss Stops but I haven't ridden in the rain since, so I can't report to you how the wheels stop in the wet. In the dry, with normal Kool Stop pads, they're fine.

Note how wide the rim is compared to the 21 mm Vittoria EVO CX tire.

Two things struck me when I realized how wide these rims really were. First, I had to forget about riding a flat. One advantage of tubulars is the fact that you can ride a flat all day long. With this rim, although I have yet to flat, I think the delicate carbon edges would get a severe beating if I rode on a flat. So if I flat I'll stop.

Second, it made it easy to mount the tire. The tire seat area even has a groove for the tubular tire's seam. The tire basically plopped into place, no fuss, no muss. With the Vittoria EVO CX tire I used, I'd only stretched it out overnight, just enough to make sure it didn't have a slow leak. So without much stretching, with a lot of glue, I ended up with a nice clean glue job.

Definitely one of the easiest mounting tire/rim combinations I've experienced, but not so easy that I worry about rolling a super loose tire.

A lit up shot.

I have valve extenders on the tires, not core extensions. I'll use the extensions next time. Extensions have the disadvantage of having the valves open (unless you remove the extension and close the valves with some narrow tool). This means that if you hit something just right, or the extender gets loose and rubs the valve nib, you'll lose air. Extensions work like a normal presta valve - tighten when done, no problems.

You'll note that the spoke nipples stay exposed. This makes truing wheels easy - no tire dismounts necessary. It also indicates that the rim is structural since the nipples end up anchored in the fairing portion of the rim. I prefer the exposed nipple set up since I tend to knock wheels out of true. So far the HEDs are straight, even though I've slammed into various potholes pretty hard (in a race you don't deviate from your line just to avoid a pothole - if you're about to hit the pothole, it's your fault for not seeing it earlier, so you have to suck it up and figure out a way to ride through it without trashing your bike).

On the last lap of the first Bethel, I hit a parallel groove so hard I thought I'd flip over the bars or at least move them a bit. I think the bars did move but the bike was otherwise fine.

The front wheel? Perfect.

The hubs are all the same so I didn't bother with photographing them. Hubs, as long as they roll, are one of those invisible things. If they work, great. Weight is not as critical, but I'll take a weight savings if it doesn't cost me too much.

Aero spokes, normally not my favorite, round out the wheels. I prefer round spokes up front because I feel they hold a better line when sprinting. With these wheels I'm still figuring out how to keep them planted so I'm not worried about a little line variance.

The wheels feel stiff enough. When I first ordered them, Greg asked me if I wanted the Stallion build, i.e. the "heavy rider" build. He mentioned that some sprinter types preferred the Stallion build wheels for their greater rigidity. I decided to trust HED and got the regular wheels. They've been fine.

Wheels on the bike when loaded out for training in the evening.
(Sorry, I don't have a white garage door for a backdrop.)

The "no-flash" picture - Down Low Glows glowing.

1 comment:

Nathan Griffin said...

Great review! If I ever get the money and the courage to run tubular, I might just get a set.