IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR A NEW FRONT WHEEL, WHAT'S HOT AND WHAT'S NOT?
Former multi national champion and record breaker Ian Cammish (that’s me) has used a countless number of different front wheels over a career spanning almost 50 years. The list in chronological order goes something like this:
Campagnolo Record l/f q/r on Ambrosio gold 36/36 Berg 14/16g d/b chrome spokes (bought from Reeds of Wimbledon ... remember them?))
Campagnolo Record l/f q/r on Super Champion Medaille d’Or 28/28 Berg 14/16g d/b chrome spokes
Campagnolo Record l/f q/r on Mavic OR10 gold 28/28 Berg 14/16g d/b chrome spokes
Mavic s/f q/r on Mavic cx18 24/28 stainless aero spokes
Campagnolo Record s/f q/r on Assos silver 20mm 28/28 Berg 14/16g d/b chrome spokes (competition record wheels built by Rourkie)
Suntour Superb s/f q/r Assos black 18mm 28/28 DT aero stainless steel spokes
Suntour Superb s/f q/r Mavic M2CD2 28/28 DT aero stainless steel spokes
Zipp 3000 trispoke
Aerospoke (5 spoke)
Campagnolo Shamal 12 spoke
Campagnolo Ghibli track disc
Planet X Pro Carbon 50
Planet X Pro Carbon 101
Xentis TT 4 spoke
Planet X trispoke
The earlier combinations were prone to rims splitting and spokes breaking, and at the time there can’t really have been much between them all it time-wise. It wasn’t until we saw the emergence of very good quality spokes and V section rims that aero advantages became possible. Even then though, some wheels were of better quality than others. I’m still using some of my 25+ year old Assos and M2CD2 28s built by Gary Proud and Mark Minting which says something for the quality of both the product and the expertise of the wheel builders. On the other hand, my Ambrosio and Super Champion offerings hit the skip a long time ago.
I think it might be safe to say wind tunnel testing doesn’t always take into consideration the rider’s pedalling action, changes in wind conditions and direction during a ride ... MY testing was carried out over several years in actual competition. So setting aside expensive wind tunnel testing, which has actually been found to be the fastest and ‘best’ to ride in ACTUAL real term conditions?
When I first joined Planet X I got hold on my first ever Carbon rimmed wheels ... the Pro Carbon deep sectioned 50 and 101. I used the 50 when I won the National 12 hour so rate that one without a doubt ... but there are faster / better wheels out there. The 101 isn’t one of them! The first time I used mine (EVER) was in a 100 in East Anglia. I hadn’t even used it to try out in training ... just straight into it! BIG mistake. Despite it being a very early start without much traffic around at all, I realised as soon as the first lorry passed me that it was going to be an exciting event! VERY hard to handle and probably why Planet X don’t sell them as front wheels any more.
The first ‘aerodynamic’ carbon composite wheel I tried was the Zipp 3000 trispoke. Opinion? Looked nice but the spokes were oblong shaped and not very aero (IMO). They weren’t really strong enough either as every time a spoke came around I could feel a slight bump as the rim ‘gave’ a little. They were sold on to Steve Brown of the East Bradford CC and (I believe) might well have played a part in some of his RTTC competition record successes.
The 5 spoked Aerospoke was far too heavy and flexy. Having said that, they’re pretty robust as I’ve still got them and use them occasionally if it looks like rain and I want something easy to clean afterwards. Good resale value as the fixie brigade in the City love them. Make me an offer I can’t refuse and they’re yours ;-)
The Hed3 is one of the best! It must be ... because so many of the top guys use them. The only reservation I have is that they’re lethal in strong crosswinds. I’ll never forget riding the O2 once and getting blown across to the fast lane when I was heading northbound and a gap appeared in the hedges near the chicken farm. Who needs chammy cream eh?
Better still (IMO) is the Xentis TT. I used one of them for two years in EVERY event I rode ... regardless of the conditions. Absolutely superb! No problems whatsoever in ANY wind. That’s the truth!
What we really need now is an amalgamation of all the plus points of the best wheels ... something that is relatively light (around the 750 gms mark), strong and rigid (so it doesn’t ‘bounce’ every time a spoke comes around ... nor rub the brake blocks every time you get out of the saddle), doesn’t flick you into the fast lane every time a wagon passes you (passing wagons are supposed to help not hinder ;-) ) and is correctly shaped to cut through the air properly (ask yourself why aeroplane wings and raindrops are the shape they are).
What we also need is someone who has tested all the ‘fastest’ wheels and is prepared to say “these are the best I’ve ever used ... if they weren’t I’d be selling the ones that were”. Well that’s me!
TO SEE WHICH I'M RECOMMENDING, GO HERE