I have wanted a new set of road wheels for a while, but I have been putting it off. The Shimano wheelset (I am not even sure which model) that is currently on my road bike is about 3 1/2 years old and has definitely seen better days. After a few mishaps, the rear wheel is at the point where drastically uneven spoke tension is required in order for it to be anywhere near true (trust me, that is never a good feature in a wheel). Yesterday, at the base of the climb up Paris Mountain, the rim started slightly rubbing the brake pads. By the time I reached the top of the climb, it was rubbing so badly that I had to completely disengage the quick release on the rear brake. With no spoke wrench in my seat pack, I had to descend on curvy wet roads with a very wobbly rear wheel and only a front brake. That was not the best part of my ride, but it did help me to decide that I need new road wheels sooner rather than later. Well, NEED is probably not exactly the right word. I already have a few pairs of perfectly good 32-spoke wheels, built with Mavic Open Pro rims around Ultegra hubs. For commuting and on my cyclocross bike, those are the wheels that I use. I built a couple of those wheels myself and I know that they work well, but I have to admit that I still really WANT a new lighter, faster set of wheels for my best road bike.
Show up on a group ride anywhere these days and you will see that most people are riding complete wheel systems from Mavic, Shimano, Campy, Zipp, Easton or some other company. On high-end road bikes, wheels built up from box style rims laced to hubs with triple cross spokes are pretty rare these days. Those cyclists who still ride traditionally laced wheels on the road are generally opinionated about their choice, and I can understand their reasoning. It is certainly possible to build a pretty light 32-spoke wheel with a good rim and double butted spokes. In addition to being fairly light, the wheel will be strong and easy to repair. As I said earlier, I prefer simple, traditionally built wheels for some applications, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting a slick new wheelset for my road bike. Nothing makes a bike ride better than a great set of wheels, so now I just need to decide what wheels are the best choice for me.
Ksyriums would be a safe choice because I think they offer a good balance between performance and durability. They are not the lightest wheels available, but I am pretty hard on wheels, so I don’t want to ride all the time on ultralight carbon-rimmed race-only models. I might still go with with Ksyrium SLs, but there are a few other wheelsets that I would also like to consider. Industry Nine produces wheels right up the road from me in Asheville, North Carolina. I have never ridden on their wheels, but the Ego road wheels (pictured above) look pretty nice and I have heard good things about them. The HED Ardennes also appeal to me for a few different reasons. I have never ridden those either, so I would love to hear from any of you who have. Any additional wheel suggestions are welcome as well. I want clincher wheels that I can use everyday, but weight is still a factor. I am getting older and the mountains around here are not getting any flatter, so I need every slight advantage I can get to make it to the top anywhere near the fast guys. Yeah, I know… I want it all…durability, light weight, aerodynamics, etc. That is why I am asking for feedback on wheelsets. If you can think of a particular wheel that I should definitely consider, let me know… and if you are a wheel manufacturer with a set that I can test ride…well, that is even better.