I would normally start this sentence with “you know” but in this case I suppose this is more of one of those we do not know situations where a fatty knows better.
After a about six years with this Bad Boy and his various configurations with wheels and tires I believe I have finally come to a very great ride that transformed this machine into what his soul harmonizes with. Before we get into these custom wheels I would like to take a few evolutionary steps back into what has brought the Bad Boy to his current physique.
Half a life ago I was a decently dedicated road cyclist. Through out my high school years in the great Northern Ontario town of Thunder Bay and continuing through University until I slowly moved into Mountain bikes. This was an easy 25 years of riding in various formats. Custom frames from Cyclops, Colnago, etc and a few built wheels. Yes I even managed to build a few sets of wheels and bikes myself. Out of all of this there was two points I came across:
First, frame and fit.
If you have this correct then most the other aspects such as comfort, speed, how light your bike is will all fit into place but quality really does count here. Much like a fine suit if you have this Bespoke then latest fashion craze will be less important, or how light it is.
Second, is the wheels.
Yes various forms of these can make a huge difference in the feel and how your bike behaves. When I was on road bikes I almost always preferred tubular tires for the way they rolled and felt. Their lack of pinch flats over their tubed brother was often a welcome plus on many a ruff road. The downside of course was when you had a flat then the whole tire had to be ripped off the rim, a new one glued on, and the costs where usually multiple times a regular tire and usually you where out of commission for the ride.
Some years later on one of my older Cannondale Mountain bikes I had a pair of wheels built up for me. This was on the a very special hub by Chris King. Though this was still in the days of rim brakes it did introduce me to the point of more engagement points in the free hub. In short this meant before your pedal stroke engages the free hub to generate power the less distance in the pedal rotation you have to go. Also the Chris King quality was also a huge factor with a 5 year warranty.
So this was some of the basics I was carrying forward and why I selected the Bad Boy model I had chosen. I had a great frame that if I decided to upgrade it would not be in vein. Wheels where to be a large starting point.
What can you say about this man and his company besides quality. When I say quality I also mean someone who is not only behind building a very fine and robust product that is built to last, but also supported to last. This goes from his treatment of his work staff with quality food, and a gourmet chef on staff, which if rumour is correct also has meal allowances for the kilometres you ride into work everyday(?). Oh and never mind the Gourmet Century cycling rides and manufacturing in the USA. Add in that all the modern hubs from Chris King can also be totally torn down and rebuilt with all the parts still available and there is often chances to upgrade the axles to larger diameters should one need. In short it is a great investment and starting point for the best custom built wheels built to last at the highest performance levels.
After having ridden for a good 8000 Kilometres on the original Bad Boy wheels on various tires at 25mm widths and experiencing way too many flats from glass bottles being broken by drunken douche bags on the bike paths, to friendly neighbourhood folks with spikes I was about fed up. Also the ride at 100psi was just a little too hard for the comforts of cobble stones that Old Europe loves so dearly, so I wanted to try tubeless road tires. Tubulars costs where just too prohibitive and lacking in logical reason considering the flats I have experienced. This is what lead me into the next part of the wheel build and choice of rims. Stan’s No TubesZTR Crest rims seemed to be the best chance forward. To be compatible with road tires I selected the 700s aka 29er rims.
There was no question that from the first day I had these new wheels on with the Hutchinson Tubeless Intensives I had a much lighter bike. Ride comfort had greatly increased, and oddly enough I could ride at lower 80 psi range and go much faster. In some ways this seemed to defy the common myth that higher pressures is faster. Still after one hell of a fit session on the rims with a few guys due to their tightness it all literally decided to end with a bang.
YES A BANG!
Bike on the patio at work, everything is quite and BOOM comes the loudest pop. The carbon bead had broken and it was the end of the skinny road tires. 29er tires where also out of the question as there simply was not enough clearance to fit in the frame. I did manage to find a pair of Stan’s cyclocross Ravens in 700X35 which just seemed to fit perfect. Actually I really was liking this combination running them down in the 28psi range when it was wet and not having lost any of the speed the skinny road tires had me believed. The benefits of course where a much better traction, the ability to get into the dirt, and actually not be murdered by every little stone, bump, and so fourth that can be found in a city. The only catch was 2500KMs and counting and no more tread left. Add in a 120 dollar shipping cost to Europe and it was time for a rethink tubeless options.
Meanwhile on the second Bad Boy from my wife I was using a pair of Schwalbe Furios Freds in 26. They seemed faster, and offered still better traction and ride comfort with very little loss in speed. I hesitate to say they where faster simply out of pride and not scientific proof at least at that time 😉
With a lot of help from my favourite expert Uwe at bike24 we had tried various wheels in 650b or 27.5 in various volumes. We had determined we could get a pair of Schwalbe Thunder Burts at 2.1 on 650b rims. With good results on the Crest Rims before I got the same wheels built in 650b as I had at 700.
Between the slight rim diameter reduction added tire fatness I actually ended up with a slight weight reduction of a few grams. The benefits where actually quite a surprise and a bit more than I had anticipated. The handling now is much better on most surfaces. No longer do I think can I go off road in the trails where I do a lot of my riding, but I have no issues at all commuting. In short there is no speed penalty and I feel the bike also climbs hills better. If there is a negative it is in long hill decent/runs at 60KMh+ well turning. It might be an illusion but the skinny tires felt as though they could stay stiffer to turn faster. Of course any slight wetness, gravel and you could loose it also much faster or by hitting bumps at high speed and not being able to brake as hard.
In short after a good eighteen to twenty thousand kilometres on various types and configurations of wheels I have learned a few things from the Bad Boy and his wheels. Myths of skinny tires being faster, higher pressure being faster are two of the largest myths that had caused me to think differently on many subject. Another decision that I believe I had decided on when “investing” in a quality product instead of just making another purchase with the Chris Kings has also in my mind been wise. To know you are supporting quality is nice, but the rebuilding of new wheels after 6 years of all season riding through snow, sun, and rain and having them on in better than new state says it all. No question there is an easy 10 more years of riding on these hubs with little down-time.
There has not been many Bad Boy Stories updates lately because I have been out riding every nice moment I can. The thundering sound through the woods, with a smooth and fast ride is simply too addictive. If I was not shelved for a few days due to a virus I suspect this story might not have been told.
It is just fabulous to wake up everyday and feel the difference a few grams and quality can make. People often talk about cars where they loose a bit of weight or change geometry to yield better performance. I call bullshit as a few grams and the right wheel build can be felt with every pedal stroke you take and heart beat that pumps your blood. This is straight through the very core of your system and fibre where one truly is “one with the machine” and the more you ride the more you appreciate this and the importance of quality done right.
Support the Supporters, and crank those gears as it is a great pride feeling when each set of tires is worn out.