My wheel/tire/helmet choices in 2013

While it was easy to see that I changed bike frames in 2013 (switched from a Cervelo P3 to a Quintana Roo CD 0.1), I also made significant changes to my wheel/tire choices.  I switched my training set-up to a Reynolds Attack wheelset with Schwalbe Plus HS 399 tires, and my racing set-up to a Reynolds Aero 72/90 wheelset, with Schwalbe ZLX tires.  Also, in the helmet department, I switched from a Rudy Project Wingspan to a Giro Air Attack Shield.  I’ll review my choices below…

Training Wheel/Tire Set-Up


Wheels – The Reynolds Attack is a light, shallow, carbon clincher intended for high-usage training and/or road racing.  I’ve abused the hell out of my Attack’s over the last 8 months, riding over 1000 miles per month.  But they’re still rolling just as fast and true as the day I took them out of the box.   The hubs aren’t showing any meaningful wear, and the spokes have all held their tension perfectly.  I’ve also been impressed with the carbon braking surface.  Since I’m currently living on the side of a mountain in Boulder, I spend a LOT of time going downhill at high speeds, but I’ve never had any issues with the brakes overheating, slipping, or accumulating grime/dirt (fyi, I used Reynolds “Cryo Blue” brake pads).

Tires – My entire goal with a training tire is to ride something “bombproof”.  The Schwalbe Durano HS 399 performed beautifully for me in that area, as I only had two flats in all of 2013, which is remarkable considering how much I rode this year.  I went through two sets of them this year, meaning I got about 4000 miles out of each set.

Racing Wheel/Tire Set-Up


I’ve always raced on tubulars, but for 2013, I switched my racing set-up to clinchers.  Why?

-On race day, if you’re riding tubulars, you have to carry an entire extra spare tubular tire with you.  But if you’re riding clinchers, you only have to carry a spare tube, which is much smaller, lighter, and more convenient than an entire tubular tire.

-If you mess up your flat repair on race day, it’s generally easier to find tech support for a clincher than for a tubular (i.e. tech support always has extra tubes… but they don’t always have extra tubular tires)

-Don’t have to worry about your tire rolling off your rim when cornering hard on clinchers.

So… with that, I started looking for a new set of race wheels, and I settled on the Reynolds Aero 72/90 set (72 mm rim in front, 90 mm rim in the rear).  Why did I go with Reynolds?

1) Some very fast athletes have been turning in smokin’ bike splits on Reynolds wheels in recent years

2) Because of a very strong recommendation from Will Jurkowski, who is the owner of Transition Rack, in Ann Arbor (recently named by as one of the top 50 triathlon shops in America).

3) Because of the wind tunnel data.  It’s not a wheel set that just “feels” fast:  the data actually backs it up.

4) Excellent customer service from Rob Arguelo and Peter Gast.

So if aerodynamics is the name of the game, why did I go with a 72 mm rim up front instead of the 90 mm?  Because last year, I was on a set of 80 mm Zipp rims, and I got terrifyingly dangerous speed wobbles while descending at 50+ mph at Leadman Bend.  After that experience, I wanted a front rim that was both more stable, and was a little shallower (so it wouldn’t catch as much wind).   I settled on the 72 mm Reynolds, and I’m very happy with the choice.  It was fast on the flats and climbs, and solid as a rock on descents.  Even while bombing down to Keene at Ironman Lake Placid, and flying down Brockway Summit at Ironman Lake Tahoe,  I didn’t even feel the slightest hint of a wobble at 50+ mph.  It was wonderful…

For tires, I finally took the plunge, and went with a “pure” racing tire for the second half of 2013.  What I mean by “pure” racing tire is that the tire is as light as possible, with ultra-low rolling resistance.  But, the trade-off is decreased puncture resistance.  I chose the Schwalbe Ultremo ZLX, and it worked out very well.  I raced 2 half-IMs, and 2 full IMs on the Ultremo ZLX.  Smooth, fast riding, and zero punctures.  So yeah, they worked out, haha!

Racing Helmet Set-Up

After racing in the Rudy Project Wingspan for 2+ years, I ditched it in the middle of 2013, and went with the Giro Air Attack Shield.  The Wingspan is a great helmet, so why did I switch?  Head position…

I tend to ride with my head angled down, and tight into my body (sometimes described as a “turtling” position).  I do this to reduce neck strain, and also because I have a tall frame, so I “block” a lot of wind, and “turtling” helps me duck out of the wind a little bit better.  But when riding like that, the tail on the Wingspan helmet sticks straight up into the air (as would the tail on any “tailed” aero helmet), and blocks the wind.  Tailed aero helmets work great for some people, and not so much for others… it’s completely individual.

So, I to switched to a “no tail” helmet, and chose the Giro Air Attack.  It seemed to work out well, as I turned in fast bike splits in the Air Attack, and it was comfortable at every race.  I also liked the visor with magnetic attachments, so I could flip it up or down, depending on the weather conditions (this came in very handy at Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Lake Tahoe).  I like the Air Attack, and racing on it next year would be fine.  But do I plan on also checking out the new Rudy Project Wing 57 this winter, as it’s “snubbed tail” could be perfect for me.  I guess there’s only one way to find out… haha!

Until next time… keep training hard, and resting harder,

Doug MacLean

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