Sunday, May 4, 2008

Williams Wheels

Trying to put together a light set of "race wheels" and doing so without breaking the bank is nerve racking. Dollar for dollar and gram for gram each decision is a pain. I could have gone the easy way and got some Zipps and a crash replacement plan (do they even offer that if you are a Cat 5?), but I wanted to see what I could do for cheap, and I really didn't need jaw dropping light. I just needed lighter. Something lighter than what I train on and sturdy enough to race without constant maintenance. I am not delusional about my potential and am probably too pessimistic about the survival of gear in road racing. After several iterations of excel charts comparing price,weight, rim height, etc., I decided to go with Williams Wheels Wheel System 19s. A fairly traditional set up, but they past the test in the dollars per gram analysis. Placed my order and everything went smoothly. Wheels arrived on time. No headaches-which was something I was nervous about, but they have the logistics end down.
Straight out of the box, I was happy but not blown away. They felt light
and were packed well. They were true out of the box.I went with the silver wheels cause they were more traditional looking to match the more traditional box /low profile rim set up, and they are pretty traditional rims/wheels/skewers/spoke pattern etc, so maybe that was why I felt slightly underwhelmed. Logos were minimal and tasteful-a nice change of pace compared to some of the competition. The front hub looked like an American Classic micro and the rear hub looked like a cut
rate track hub. I don't believe in frills for frills sake(wrapping
aluminum in carbon for example), but I was hoping the rear hub performed
better than it looked. It had a not quite high flange look with very
little machining or work done to it. That said, they a had a nice polished shine(more than Campy can say now a days!) and if they work well I will be looking forward not down. They aren't totally traditional though-hybrid ceramic bearings are hidden inside and the rims are niobium super alloy. So there is some stealth tech in the traditional looks!
I mounted Veloflex Corsas with Michelin air lite tubes (ooohhh I might have saved 20 grams over a regular tube-watch out skinny kids!). The Veloflex/Williams combo proved to be a tight fit and it was work to mount these tires. Veloflexs go on very easy on other rims I've used (mavic open
pro, ksyrium, campy), but it wasn't the end of the world. I love Veloflex
Paves and can only hope the lighter Corsas live up to their heavier cousins
track record. Corsas run 170 grams per tire.
Got lucky with timing as the wheels arrived around my birthday and thanks
to several people's generosity, I put of a Chorus cassette 12-25. There
goes another 13 grams that I would have had to carry if I went with
Centaur. 13 grams? Who can win races dragging that around?

So front wheel in total weighs 955 grams (with tire,skewer,etc). Rear wheel is at grams1430 grams (tire,skewer,cassette). So total 2385 for the pair
This is lighter than my other main wheels (old Kysrium Elites with Veloflex
Paves and Centaur cassette) by 13 ounces! Which is nice if all you are is a
weight weenie, the bottom line is how do they feel on the road????
Why didn't I just measure the wheel weights? Cause I wanted to compare the total package since in reality that would be what I was pushing around-not just the wheels minus everything you need to ride.

Threw them on and took them for a spin on the loop I use for hill repeats. I am not very good at first impressions(I would fail a blindfold test for sure). I could tell they were lighter, but there was no huge difference. I was excited to race on them that Sunday. Took them out for a 40 mile ride on Saturday and they felt killer. Definitely started to notice the missing weight. Rear wheel especially. First race! First lap-loud bang-tube blew out and blew the tire off the rim! WTF?? As stated many times this year, I am cursed! So much for light weight inner tubes. Race over with no real performance to report on. Got home and threw in a new tube- a regular old "heavy" tube. Switched between the ksyrium and williams rear wheels for a few weeks. Next two races I used the ksyrium rear cause the races were hilly and I had a 27 on the mavic cassette. Switched back to Williams after that and at that point could really feel the difference. Super smooth , they spin up fast and corner well. My side by side comparison was further skewed by having to buy a new frame after a crash demo'd my other frame, but having used them for 2 more hill repeat workouts, they clearly are lighter and stiffer than my old set. Thumbs up on performance.
Bottom line was these are the lightest wheels for the price that I could
find and they are (after only a couple hundred miles) performing better than I would have expected. As far as the tires and tubes. The Corsas are reinforcing my love for Veloflex tires. Very nice road feel, supple, etc. Ultra light tubes get the gas face!
I have to pay my respects to the Kysrium elites that have been my main wheelset for almost 5 years -and in that time they have been problem free! No broken spokes, never out of true. They are/were total worry free workhorses that I still haven't put out to pasture. Hopefully the Willims 19s will live up to this standard-they are off to a good start. This company has excellent service and hard to beat prices-check out their deals on carbon fiber 38 and 58mm profile wheels! Williams supports racing-check their blog.
Lastly stumbled across a review at this site Cool site. Looks like we are in agreement.

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