So you're thinking of getting a disc wheel eh? But what sort? There are lots out there and I've been lucky enough to have been in the position to try all shapes, weights and makes. So which have been the best?
In my last year with Planet X I was given a number of different ones to ride and report back on. I'd already ridden the likes of the Campagnolo Ghibli, Araya track, Corima, Gravity Zero and Planet X's own branded one and had them all on the kitchen scales (as I never really believed the maker's claims about the weight of their own products ... and justifiably so it seems!).
I soon found out that weight wasn't necessarily the biggest factor in what goes to make a fast disc wheel. I found the lenticular shaped 'hollow' Ghibli and Araya discs both noticeably faster than the solid flat sided competition. One of the samples came in at 1300 gms yet I opted to use that one in preference to the superlight Gravity Zero (which came in at about 300 gms lighter) ... simply because it 'rode' better and was faster.
Unfortunately, the Ghiblis and Arayas of this world cost an arm and a leg but there is still plenty of choice at a fraction of the price. Take a look at the Citecs for example. They're hollow, lenticular and VERY light. Pound (£) for pound (lb) they must be the best thing out there. I've used them in the past and can't rate them highly enough.
Well ... do you REALLY need to spend i) a fortune on a bike to go fast and / or ii) is it all money down the pan?
In short, and in my opinion, i) no ... and ii) probably for most of it.
Let's face it, as long as your position is good and your transmission isn't knackered (for example, do you regularly check your balls?) ;-) you should be able to go reasonably fast without having to take out a second mortgage. What I can't understand is why people pay a fortune on a decent pair of wheels then go and stick what are virtually hose-pipes on them! The same goes for the latest fads in carbon frames ... why spend £000s on the latest 'super-brand' product, when you can pick up a Chinarello for Chinvelo for less than half the price?
For example ... take the frames I've been using for the last few years and in particular the one I was using during 2012 (below) ...
Doesn't it look remarkably like the Cinelli WYSIWYG? (I hope Cinelli
sacked the mechanic who put that together as it's hardly an aesthetically
pleasing build is it?). The cost of mine? A third the price of the Cinelli.
Let's face it, there are only three points of contact on the bike ... the
rear-end, the hands and the feet (ok four if you want to count the elbow
rests on your tri-bars ... and six if you want to count the hands and
elbows individually ... or eight even, if you want to count your 'cheeks'
as two). What's the point in shelling out your hard earned dosh on
something that isn't going to make a ha'p'orth bit of difference to your
position if it's already achievable on something costing a fraction of the
For now, I'd say get your position right and then spend money on a fast pair
of wheels and TUBS. Get the right combination there and it'll be like coming
down from altitude!
For time trialling in the dry ... Dugast Pista Diamond silks.
Can't beat them for speed!
For the fast time trial in any conditions ... the Dugast Pista Diamond cottons.
If I were still racing, there's no doubt in my mind I'd be using one or other of them!
Tubs v clinchers? No question IMO if you really want to go fast. But what's the best ... IMO (again!)?
Having spent a few years dealing with all different sorts of cyclists at Planet X ( I worked there for a while), I soon realised that not everyone was as convinced as I was about the 'pros' of tubs weighed up against the 'cons'. 'Clinchers are easier to change in the event of punctures' I was told time and time again. Okay I can understand the philosophy of that for training but there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that tubulars are faster AND you've got a wider choice of weights, widths and treads.
I remember turning up on the Boro one year (when I was a 'wannabe') with my Clement 9s (quite a nice smooth-treaded cotton track tubular tyre) and couldn't believe it when I saw Phil Griffiths (multi- national champion and record holder) using Seta Extra No 1s ... on the road ... for a 50 for goodness sake! I can't remember whether it was something he said or that fact I got slaughtered but ever since then I've always taken the view that if you want to compete with the best you've got to use the same as the best - particularly where tubulars are concerned. There is SO much difference, you're already giving away time to the opposition if you're not using the same tubs as them (or a very good equivalent).
Next time on Boro I had some No 1s ... and even used No 3s for a 12 hour (at least) once.
So what's a good fast tub now?
When I reverted to amateur in 2001 I approached Helmut Burns of Sonic Cycles to see if there was any chance of some 'help' with Tufo tubular tyres. I'd seen them in the press and was impressed with their 'claimed' weights and wanted to know more. To cut a long story short, since then I've been using Tufos on and off for 12 years or so. I'm aware of some of the reviews claiming them to be 'poor' on rolling resistance but I honestly don't know which model of Tufo they've been testing because I've certainly had no problems. In fact I've ridden them to a 1hr 40 min '50' and even won the National 12 hour using them. If they're that bad I wonder how much faster I'd have gone using something else?
Or better still ... if you've got the 'cash to splash' and you're really serious about your racing ... how about Dugast Pista Diamonds in either silk or cotton HERE