Apr 28 2006
It’s been a while since I gave the ol’ VeloNews cage a good grab-and-rattle. Part of it’s been that I’ve been busy, part of it’s been that I rarely read their articles anymore (I mean, with so many other options, why bother?), but at any rate, I’ve fallen off a bit in my vituperatives. Then yesterday, that mangy bird squawked louder and more gratingly than it has in some time with this alleged tech article, and I, as always, am eager to correct it.
First things first: “deep section” is a term referring to wheels with high-profile, aerodynamic rims; “deep dish” is a type of pizza popularized in 1940’s Chicago. The distinction between the two may seem pedantic, but “dish” already refers to something specific in reference to bicycle wheels, and the attributes that would actually make a wheel “deep dish” have essentially no bearing on rim depth. Now, Matt Pacocha, as a former MTBer, could be forgiven such a slip-up in what is largely roadie esoterica, except for the fact that he is employed by the most widely-read cycling magazine in the country, and as a “technical writer”, ought to have some expertise on such matters.
Blundered phraseology aside, however, what really boggles me about this article is why it was even written in the first place. I mean, what is the point supposed to be? Sure, pro teams using aero-section wheels in mass-start events was hot news back when Mark Wahlberg was Marky Mark, as pioneers like Lightweight and ADA kitted out big names like Jan Ullrich and Bjarne Riis with space-age carbon rims, when most of the peloton still rode steel bikes. But by 2001, the cat was out of the bag on composite wheels; as this previous Velonews article shows, all the big teams at the Tour rode them on pretty much a daily basis. Nowadays, you’re hard pressed to find a Cat 4 field without a spattering of carbon hoop here and there.
So maybe the message of this article is that people are using them specifically for hilly stages again? I mean, those first deep section jobs, aside from being aero’, were bloody light, but as the demand for reliable, everyday use aero-wheels increased, so did the weight; the once-ubiquitous Mavic Carbone isn’t exactly featherweight, and used to be even heavier. But if that’s the point, still, the use of deep-section rims on hilly courses isn’t news. Though the article cites Hincapie and Popo’s performance in the ’05 Dauphine as an example of deep section’s resurgence in the hills, here’s Stuart O’Grady on a set of Campy Boras at the ’04 Dauphine, about to beat Hincapie over a course with four categorized climbs. And look at what Bobby Julich used well over a year ago at Paris-Nice.
Then perhaps the big news is supposed to be that these Bonti’ Aeolus wheels are tough enough for everyday use? Again, that’d hardly make them unique enough among deep-section wheels to justify writing an article about them. The aforementioned Carbones were general issue as early as 2001, and even when aero’ wheels are not so reliable (search “broke”), teams will still use them, with occasionally race-changing consequences (search “broken”). At any rate, if one really wanted to highlight the toughness of these wheels, he or she could simply note that Hincapie put them on his custom Roubaix bike. Of course, then readers might be reminded of that bike’s spectacular failure, and Trek, the parent company of Bontrager, and likely the only real reason this article exists, probably wouldn’t want that.
Honestly, the article, a sort of infomercial for Bontrager’s new wheels, leaves me with more questions than answers. Is there really anything that seperates these wheels from all the other deep sections out there? What exactly is the difference between a HED wheel and a Bonti Aeolus? Just the inclusion of OCLV 110 carbon in the Bonti rim? Why would you use the Aeolus 5.0 instead of the 6.5? If the focus of the wheel design was aerodynamics, why use a paired spoke pattern, which Zipp (who knows a thing or two about aerodynamics) seems to think increases drag? Why is the Aeolus so freakin’ expensive compared to similar products? Normally, I’d guess it was weight, but I’d have no way to know from the article, as it never once mentions the weight of any of the products it describes. Typically poor excution on a hardly-noteworthy topic from the big guys out in Boulder.