Thursday, April 13, 2017

Road wheel upgrade: DT Swiss 350 hubs with RR411 rims

In 2003 I had the good fortune of being able to order my first full-custom road bike, where price wasn't the main consideration. After test-riding various options in titanium, carbon, and aluminum frames, I decided on a Canadian-made Marinoni Delta Xtra built around a Columbus Airplane tube set with a Columbus carbon fork and rear triangle, DuraAce transmission and brakes, FSA carbon cranks, bars, and seat post, and a set of Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels. Custom painted and decaled in Ferrari red, it was a pretty trick bike for the time, weighing a respectable 17 lbs for a 58cm frame. Since then I've ridden it thousands of kilometers each year, getting in long slow mileage to build fitness base.


Here's me with Guiseppe Marinoni, the legendary frame-builder who made my bike in his Montreal shop, just before a ride in 2016. Pepe was in Almonte to promote a film about his extraordinary career, called "The Fire in the Frame". It's a must-see, even if you're not much of a cyclist. Pepe holds the world hour record for his age, so it was a real honor to ride with him (and keep up!) on a short tour around the local countryside.


Anyway, all this to say that those lovely Ksyrium Elite wheels, despite having performed flawlessly through my abuse over rough country roads, are finally showing their age. Tonight's inspection revealed two fatigue cracks in the rear rim at the nipple holes. Not surprising: this gracious warning is how you want your wheels to fail, rather than via some catastrophe that ends in a hospital holiday.



These are finicky wheels to build and service, and parts ain't cheap. So it was time to decommission the Mavics. Maybe they'll become a winter rebuild project.


Fortunately, I recently built a set of road wheels for a customer and thought it would be a good idea to build a second set at the same time, just in case I needed them myself:


These wheels consist of DT Swiss 350 straight pull hubs laced to DT Swiss RR411 rims with DT Comp spokes and ProLock aluminum nipples. 24 spokes up front and 28 in the rear. Weight is 710g front, 900g rear--just 40g more than the Ksyriums but at about 1/2 the price. Also, they are a tubeless setup. With 25mm tubeless tires and DT skewers, final weight is comparable to the Kysyriums running 23mm tires with tubes.


Unfortunately, I discovered that the rear clearance in my frame is probably too tight for a 25mm tires,  so for now I'm running a 23mm in the rear and 25mm up front.



A short test ride shows they ride flawlessly and are holding air well. A little more shaking with sealant and they should be good for a long ride this Easter weekend. Weather even looks great! 

Update (next day): Went for a 20km test ride and found the Continental 4000 really doesn't like to hold air. Back wheel was fine (used a different tire), but the front leaked like a sieve when I checked it under water. Couldn't get it sealed so reverted to tubes. Will need to research a tubeless-ready tire. At least the valve stem and rim area sealed perfectly. 

Coming soon: I've placed my next order for my Rugged Wheels custom carbon rims and will be building some slick 29er wheel sets for mountain biking, using 350 hubs and an asymmetric profile.

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