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Sunday, December 24, 2006

New Wheels for the Fuji

I'd been riding the American Classic 350 wheels that came with my Fuji Team SL over the last year or so. As wheels go, they work. But they came out of true quickly, and the spokes are so thin that when I try to true them I'll get the wheel true in the truing stand, stress relieve, and they'll pop right back to where they were. And then there are all these stories about rim failures and bearing failures. I'm unconcerned about bearing failures --- you can almost always limp home about those, but the stories about rims breaking loose because they are so thin worry me on my descents.

So I ended up building a pair of new wheels. Front was a Campagnolo Chorus front hub with 36 WS DB15 spokes and a Velocity Aerohead rim (silver), and rear was a Shimano DuraAce hub with 36 WS DB15 spokes and a Velocity Aerohead OC rim. To my chagrin, the front wheel despite my extreme lubrication of the spoke threads had a few nipples seize up during the wheel build, so I did not tighten up the rim as tight as I normally would have. I again overlubricated the rear spoke threads, and the rear wheel came together perfectly.

The front Campagnolo Chorus hub was bought because it was (1) cheaper than the equivalent DuraAce front, and (2) it advertised a very nice, easy adjust cup and cone bearing setup that only needed 2 5mm allen wrenches to take apart and a 2.5mm allen wrench to adjust. Sure enough these were amazing. I could have overhauled this hub even without instructions. While they're not quite mainteneance free, I have no concerns recommending these to people who want an easy to service, traditional bearing hubs. And yes, the hub does roll extremely smoothly.

The rear Shimano DuraAce hub had a traditional cup and cone plus locknut system which required buying 2 14mm cone wrenches. I had a former mechanic at work show me how to adjust them, and they definitely are a major pain. Since you do have to take apart traditional bearing hubs every 3000 miles (which is about 15 weeks of riding for me), this is definitely a hassle. I definitely think that this is one of those things that's worth paying someone else to deal with. Thumbs down for the Shimano. Matt saw us adjusting the bearings and he said, "I'm definitely feeling very Phil Woodish." To make things worse after you ride on them a bit, the labyrinth seals on the hub weeps, leaking grease. This isn't a big deal on the road, but off-pavement it attracts a lot of dirt and you have no easy way of cleaning it off without risking contamination. Needless to say, it looks like bike cleaning is something I might have to do more frequently now.

On the road, the new wheels are just a little (about 200g) heavier than the old ones. This translates to slower acceleration, and just a little bit more honking and standing up on climbs than with the 350s. The wheels do roll along very nicely, and the DuraAce cassette hub is definitely quiet. Because these wheels are quite a bit stronger (and definitely feel more solid!), I take corners a little bit more aggressively on them and feel more confident when riding them on and off road. I'm glad I spent my money, but I definitely understand why American Classic does have a market for those 350s. Those 200g on each wheel do make a difference.

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