Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Product Experience: DT Swiss 1450 Mon Chasseral Wheels

A couple of guys on the team have been using the DT Swiss 1450 Mon Chasseral wheelset for training and racing this year. Our newest guy, Chris Laflamme gives his take on these wheels:

Last season I was on the hunt for a pair of solid climbing wheels that would not only aid in my weekend adventures at the hillier New England races but also survive multiple seasons of hard racing: a low budget, high performance wheelset, if you will. I had fairly limited options due to a self-imposed spending cap which is between $500-$800. (With infinite money I probably would have gone for some nifty 404 tubulars for their weight and all around performance, but alas, infinite money is rarely the case.) So, looking down at my wallet that was bereft of substantial biking equipment funds, I narrowed things down to the DT Swiss 1450 Mon Chasserals and a pair of Reynolds. Being partial to unconventional colors I gave the 1450’s stellar looking white rim the nod and looked forward to adding its hue to my bike.

First impressions were moderately good. At a claimed weight of 1450 grams (hence the name) my bike is noticeably lighter and more nimble than when running Mavic Cosmic Elites but also noticeably less stiff. At 1450 grams I was less inclined to be filled with the crippling panic that accompanies descending at 50 mph through potholes on a 1100 gram wheelset and with the Mon Chasserals I found a very good confidence-to-weight ratio that I have not since regretted even though during sprints and on flats I often times long for something more aero and stiffer.

After a season and a half of fairly hard racing over many roads with less than ideal surfaces they have hit the truing stand 2 times and are probably due for another minor tweak soon. The bearings roll as smoothly, or more smoothly, than when they were new, and the braking surface - somewhat unexpectantly - is showing little signs of wear. I keep them well protected by always travelling with them inside the very pro looking wheelbags that were a surprise bonus and included in the package.

The major problem with these wheels is thankfully an easily ameliorated one. It would not be an overstatement to say that the rim strips that come stock with these wheels need to be immediately removed and set on fire. I read a warning that these strips would be garbage from the beginning on roadbikereview.com. But, idiotically, I paid it little heed. The first of three flats caused by these free floating, non-adhesive, chinsy plastic strips was descending down from the start finish of last year’s Sturbridge, MA road race. The subsequent 2 were JRAs while commuting to work trying to determine what was wrong with the wheels. After I took them out and replaced them with the tried and true adhesive Fond de Jante strips I have been flat free.

Overall, I would refer to this wheel as more of an all-around wheel and not a climbing specific one as it’s namesake suggests (Mon Chasseral being a mountain in Switzerland). At 1450 grams it is not light enough to float with the hyper specialized climbing wheelsets out there but is light enough to not be any real liability on the hills. The added weight gives added confidence when glancing over unseen potholes and other undesirable road obstacles and should add longevity. At a retail price of between $700-$800 (depending on where you get them) this wheelset leaves you moderately light, feeling solid and confident in your equipment, but not feeling like you are riding budget wheels.

I don’t think I would buy them again, simply because of the vast array of wheels out there. I would probably spend a little more to try something that is stiffer, more aero, and just as light. But, that being said, I will be racing the 1450’s for the remainder of the season and will not have any qualms about it.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Bad karma. Good racing.

The Lake Sunapee Road Race went fairly well for us last week. It was the first time the entire team had ridden together at once and the results were promising. We made our presence known and did our best to pull back a wide variety of breaks in the first couple laps. The course was challenging, as it features long straight sections into the wind, some rolling hills and a couple rather technical sections as well.

Our only disappointment was not placing a rider in the winning break. This break was only 3 riders strong, so we weren't the only team to miss out. We did, however put two riders in the chase group who were able to pull off 6th and 11th, respectively.

Despite this good bit of racing, we also saw some seriously bad karma amongst the cycling community these past couple weeks - or at least some very bad luck.

In no particular order:

Last Tuesday, our friend Colin Murphy of Kenda / Spooky was on his way to a training race and got hit by a car from behind. We hear he's ok, but his bike wasn't so ok.

This past week during the normally very safe and uneventful Tuesday night race at Wampatuck State Park was punctuated by a very bad crash. A touch of wheels at the front of the group sent several riders to the ground hard. At that moment the race was over and the ambulance called in to assist. Best wishes to those involved.

On our way home from that same race, our group was nearly hit by a car. In a moment of inattentiveness I ran into the back of the rider in front of me and toppled to the ground. No serious damage done, but more bad luck.

In another freak accident, the father of one of the IF Team riders hit a pothole, snapped his handlebar, fell to the ground and broke his nose and suffered a host of other injuries.

Somewhere in Pennsylvania one of the Rapha Team riders had an unfortunate run-in with a car and spent some time in a hospital.

It just seemed that in a short period of time so many cyclists close to us had accidents. Thankfully, most of the riders mentioned above are fine and will recover shortly. It has made me a bit more jumpy than normal.

This weekend we're off to a unique event: A gentlemen's race in New Paltz, NY put on by Rapha. I don't really know what this means, but it's sure to be a good time. More on that when we return.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Sterling Road Race Disaster and a Little Redemption

We all have them: The races that, no matter what, we just can't master. Every year I come in to the Sterling Road Race with good form and decent results in the preceding weeks. Every year I give Sterling my all and every year it goes sideways for me. Sterling is my white whale, and for another year I've yet to slay it.

On paper, Sterling should have been a good race for us. The course is great, our whole team was there and in good form and we were coming off of several solid results in the previous weeks.

The pain started on lap 2 of 10, when I found myself in a break with Justin Spinelli (Kenda/Spooky), Robbie King (I.F.) and eventual race winner Dan Vaillancourt (Colavita). I had no business being out front with this crew and within a lap I fell back to the field. From there, the race spiraled out of control. Bradshaw found himself stuck on the front, chasing the break almost single-handedly for a couple laps. We missed key secondary breaks due to inattentiveness, fatigue and bad luck. With two laps to go, Bradshaw's cassette loosened, causing his drivetrain to lock up. (Subsequent forensic analysis revealed stripped threads on the lockring as the culprit.) He was out.

Josh and Jay made valiant attempts to pull back breaks, but we found ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time at just about every turn. Another year, another Sterling, another disappointment. But this is bike racing and that's the way it goes sometimes. I'm sure I'll be back next year to give another attempt at slaying the beast.

The next day, we decided to race the Wells Ave. training crit in Newton to possibly redeem ourselves a bit. We took the bulk of the primes and Jay took the overall win in a competitive field. Sure, it was a victory at a training race, but it was a victory nonetheless and a solid boost to our collective ego after the previous day's bruising. Plus, as David Phinney says, "Every victory counts."

Tip of my hat to the Metlife team, who raced fast and intelligently and for being generally good guys at this race.

On to Sunapee tomorrow.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Notes on Team Equipment

Part of our team mission is to help provide content for Embrocation Cycling Journal. A good portion of that is to figure out some way we can provide some level of honest product assessments. Not reviews so much as experiences, good and bad.

Our road team has no official equipment sponsors other than Gaulzetti Cicli. We do have very close relationships with several product distributors, which gives us easy access to basically whatever we want. We made our equipment based on a few factors: Cost, performance, durability, accessibility and aesthetics in some cases. Here's a quick breakdown of some of our choices and why we chose them:

Gaulzetti Frames
We started out knowing we wanted to work with a local company. It just so happened that Craig Gaulzetti was starting production on his latest project exactly when we were in need of bikes. The timing was perfect, it provides a story worth telling and the bikes are really cool. We've received four so far with a few more inbound. We'll be talking more about these bikes later on at length.

SRAM Groups

All four current team bikes are equipped with SRAM Red groups. The decision to go with SRAM was really motivated by the cost to performance ratio, which seems be the best currently going right now. As a long-time Campy devotee I was inclined toward that, but I did not feel comfortable stretching the team budget for parts that arguably aren't any faster. A Record 11 group costs several hundred dollars more than a Red group. At the time we were acquiring team parts availability of Shimano's new 7900 group was not solid, so I dismissed it as an option. Subsequently, it's also proven to be much more expensive than previous versions of Dura Ace. So far, so good on the SRAM Red equipment. We've had a few snafus, but nothing that wasn't resolved shortly. All in all, good racing components. I'll go through some of our ups and downs in subsequent posts.

FSA Cranks

Our frames have BB30 bottom bracket shells and I wanted to take advantage of that by using true BB30 cranks as opposed to standard cranks with adapters. The original plan was to order complete SRAM Red groups with their new BB30 cranks. These cranks have been in extremely short supply and to this day are largely unavailable. We also discussed our crank needs with Cannondale, the original inventors of the BB30 system. They were enthusiastic about the project but ultimately could not supply the needed parts in time. FSA makes a wide variety of BB30 cranks but their top-end K-Force Lite crank is not inexpensive. I contacted FSA and was pleasantly surprised when they reacted positively to my proposal. Three team bikes are now running the FSA K-Force Lite carbon crank with ceramic BB30 bearings. Josh was keen on using his SRM equipped Shimano crank, so we fitted his bike with the reducer adapters instead.

3T Bars and Stems
All four team bikes are running some variety of 3T bars and stems. 3T offers 3 levels of product and two distinct bar shapes. Morrison and Bradshaw are running the Arx Team stems and Ergosum Team carbon bars. These are 3T's mid-range components - a light aluminum stem and a carbon bar with a really nice ergonomic shape. Josh is running the aluminum Ergosum Pro bar and matching Arx Pro stem. Jay opted to go with 3T's lightest components and is using the carbon ARX Limited Stem and the super light Rotundo Limited bar, which is a more traditional round shape.

Selle Italia Saddles

Selle Italia offers a dizzying array of saddles. To simplify things we narrowed the options down to the core of their saddle options: All team members were given the choice between Flite and SLR series saddles. All chose the SLR with 3 on the standard SLR Ti saddle and Jay on the SLR Kit Carbon Gel Flow.


Things get a bit more complicated when we're discussing wheels. Wheels will be the focal-point of our product testing in the near future so a few varieties are floating around amongst the team members right now. Most of us will, at some point be riding Reynolds wheels during the course of the year. We have their price-point clinchers, the Assault and the super light DV46T UL in tubular. We'll also have some of the MV32T UL tubulars this year for the mountainous races later in the year. I've long been impressed with the Reynolds products and since they switched to a DT Swiss hub this year their products are hard to resist. Also in play we have Fulcrum Racing Zero tubulars and Racing One clinchers. We also have riders using DT Swiss 1450 Mon Chasseral wheels and Easton EC90 SLX clinchers. We'll be publishing our impressions of all these wheels shortly.


This is pretty much the same situation as wheels. The exception is our tubular choice - we're devoted to the Vittoria Corsa Evo CX. It's the king of tubular tires as far as I'm concerned and costs less than many inferior options. On the clincher side of things we're using the Vittoria Corsa Open tubular (clincher version of the tubular), Michelin Pro 3 Race and a variety of tires from Maxxis, one of the most underrated road tire manufacturers currently on the market. We'll be giving extensive impressions of all our rubber options in a bit.

Other stuff

There's not official team pedal, but it just so happens that everyone is very happy with Shimano's SPD-SL system. We've been using SRAM's various bar tapes including the awesome Superlight faux leather stuff. We're also using their white shifter hoods on a couple bikes.

We'll have individual assessments of each of these products in the coming weeks. Stay tuned...

Friday, May 1, 2009

How to back out of a race with dignity and grace

I received this email earlier today in reference to the Jiminy Peak Race this weekend. All racers who read this take note: Let this be the archetypal form of the back-out letter to your teammates.

Straightforward and to the point? Check.

Humorous delivery? Check.

Co-opting of current events to enhance comedic effect? Check.

Repeated self-deprecation? Check

Attempted effort to mollify spurned teammates with promise of food and drink? Check.

From: Joshua Gunn

Subject: Not racing tomorrow

You've been dreaming all week of racing with me. You have a poster of me on your wall. You want to wear my socks and own my signed, limited edition saddle that's custom crafted for the wattage cottage.

Nothing lights a fire like a dream deferred, gentlemen. To that end, I must announce that I will not be racing this weekend. Under advice from the team doctor, Dr. Rosencrantz, MFA, I can't race with this lingering cough -- the direct offshoot of the H4V2 miniature horse virus that I contracted from the miniature horse that was malingering near the feed zone at Frog Pond.

In the words of Dr. Rosencrantz, "You don't want to mess with the miniature horse virus!"

Also, I should reveal that Jill is out of town this weekend, so if anyone wants to come over and drink some beers and poach some turkey burgers on Saturday night, we could hang. It's just an idea. I have a big empty house, and I don't feel like watching re-runs of "Alf" alone.

I'm not contagious anymore. Just slow.