Living in Northern California the brand Williams Cycling has always been in my peripheral like a good bike shop I’ve heard about but never got around to visiting. I don’t know what makes them stand out at races, but I can always count on seeing a handful of them in my own race group. Maybe it’s the fact everyone is faster than me and, thus, I am slow enough to see what others are rolling.
The wheel business is pretty wild these days. It seems like everyone is making or branding or rebranding a set of their own wheels. There are household names like Mavic, ENVE, DT Swiss, and Shimano. Then there are the halo wheels that are so rare that it feels like a Koenigsegg sighting. At the polar opposite of that spectrum, you can pick up a set of carbon hoops for under $400 on Amazon Prime, if you are feeling reallyadventurous.
And finally you can split the difference and get a set of Williams, such as their System 60 carbon clinchers tested here.
With its 60mm rim height, the System 60 is the middle child of the Stockton, California-based company’s new line up representing a balanced ride between aerodynamics and weight. Measuring 26mm externally and 18.4mm internally, the toroidal-shaped carbon monocoque rim is tubeless compatible and comes with a high temperature resin ceramic fiber composite brake track for consistent performance during heavy uses. The rims are laced to William’s own Virgo 20/24 hole hubset using top of the line Sapim CX-Ray spokes with brass nipples in favor of durability.
The wheels arrived straight and true and setup was relatively straight forward like most high-performance wheels. I did, however, have to toe the brake pads a bit more to get rid of a potentially glass-shattering squeal, but they’ve been effectively silenced since November. I am admittedly a fan of the cork pads that came with my Bontrager Aeolus 3 D3 TLR, but the long-lasting Williams-specific blue brake pads weren’t too shabby and offered a positive, consistent feel.
Weighing in at 853 grams in front and 1,011 grams for the rear with rim tape, the System 60 is a tad heavier than its competitors, but it’s also significantly cheaper at $1,439 per set. The extra grams weren’t that noticeable other than the initial spin-up and the times I did some extended climbing – which, to be fair, is not why one would primarily buy it for anyways. The System 60 excels in rollers and flats where its 60mm rim height shines through with its aero advantage. The toroidal rim shape also handles surprisingly well in crosswind so I never felt as if I was going to get blown off the Golden Gate Bridge.
The System 60 offers a stiff ride but still does an admirable job in soaking up a lot of road imperfections that have been plaguing the Bay Area as of late. They stayed true even after a couple unfortunate encounters with potholes. The skewers, while heavy and gargantuan, were solid and securely held the wheels throughout the test. I did wish the pre-installed rim tape was tubeless compatible though, because why make a tubeless-ready wheel and put away that feature with regular tape?
Overall, the System 60 represents a wonderful option for those looking for a performance upgrade at a budget. It’s the perfect wheel for rolling courses such as the Snelling Road Race and tight office park criteriums. The System is also offered in 45/60 and 60/90 combos for those wanting to mix their rim depths. Lastly, every set of Williams comes standard with a 2-year warranty and a crash replacement program.
Named after the legendary Alpe d’Huez, aka that climb with 21 switchbacks in the Tour De France, the equally legendary Time is back with a bang with their all-new Altitude line of climbing bikes.
At 840 grams (small, unpainted), the Alpe d’Huez is the lightest frame ever produced by the French carbon specialist. Compared to its already feathery predecessor, the Izon, Alpe d’Huez is not only lighter but also boasts a 25% increase in stiffness-to-weight ratio.
What makes Time’s offering unique, however, is its proprietary manufacturing technique. Each frame starts with Time braiding their own fibers in-house to their own specifications including placement of fibers, fiber orientation and fiber material use such as Vectran fibers to absorb vibration and kevlar where high tensile strength is required. Such braiding allows Time to precisely tailor its construction.
The sock-like weaves then undergo what Time calls Resin Transfer Molding (RTM). With RTM, the weaves are wrapped onto a solid fusible core, then resin is injected into the assembly to form their signature uniform, void-free weave. There’s a lot more than doing it just for good looks, as the RTM yields lower weight and more consistent results from frame to frame over the traditional bladder construction. Each Alp d’Huez uses as much as 3km of fibers. It’s also a labor intensive process that takes 22 hours to produce one frame. But Time firmly believes that the extra work produces a better bike overall.
Here’s a video that gives a look into the construction of an Alp d’Huez frame:
Three models in six sizes will be offered: a limited run of 50 bikes for the top of the line UL team ($16,200 complete); the 01 frameset for $5,150; and the 21 as a complete bike starting at $3,500.
For the Ulteam and the 01, riders will be able to choose the optional Aktiv fork that places a mass damper within each fork leg to dampen out the road buzz. The Aktiv fork option adds an additional 200 grams, but it’s a proven system that might appeal to those who frequent rough roads. All Alpe d’Huez frames can be further individualized with custom paint and components on Time’s website. If you’re wondering where the disc-brake version is… it’s in the works.
Stan’s NoTubes has been one of our favorite wheel makers for many reasons: They’re reasonably priced, durable, and oh so tubeless friendly. As matter of fact, we love our set of Avion Disc Pros so much that we made it our benchmark.
Stan’s has been busy lately since launching their Valor, Bravo and Podium SRD wheels last summer.
New for 2018 are three rims plus corresponding wheel builds: A 325 gram 29er only Crest CB7 rim with a 23mm internal width for cross-country racing and the Arch CB7 with a 26mm internal width in both 27.5″ (450 gram) and 29″ (475 gram) made for the all-around trail and enduro crowd.
The heart of the new hoops comes from Stan’s proprietary RiACT lay-up and rim shape featuring a novel high-impact resistant nano-elastomer resin that improves rim strength with the ability to absorb up to 10mm of radial deflection in such Stan believes that it’s not only stronger, but also allows the rim to roll easier while eliminating the dreaded pinch-flats. All three rims feature Stan’s own Bead Socket Technology (BST) where the patented rim geometry secures the bead of the tire (instead of the sidewall) to enable easier tubeless setups, better seal security at lower pressures, and ensure a rounder tire shape for better performance. The low-profile rim is also lighter and stronger too.
As complete stock build, both the Crest and Arch CB7s will come in 28-holes only laced with J-bend (yay!) Sapim Force spokes to Stan’s own Neo hubset with a Durasync six-pawl freehub rolling on triple bearings and a zippy 10° engagement. The precision-machined hubset is compatible with Standard/Boost spacing, all major axles, freehub bodies, and Centerlock/6-bolt.
For better peace of mind, the CB7 rims and wheelsets come with 2-year warranty extendable to 5-years plus lifetime crash replacement after registration.
Both the Crest and Arch CB7 will be available in 28 or 32 hole configurations this February with the price of $600 for one rim and $1,399 for the complete set.
It’s easy to be dismissive about newcomers to the cycling market. We’ve all seen the woeful pitches on Kickstarter. And the endless articles about new gear, offering the perfect solution to a problem that never existed. But every so often, one comes along that deserves some attention.
It could be a new idea like Strava, or a better take on an old product, like Rapha or Wahoo. Then, before you know it, they’re part of the furniture, as much a fixture as companies who’ve been around for decades.
Princeton CarbonWorks looks like one of those success stories. There are a ton of wheel options out there, sure, but this enthusiastic group of friends have started from a blank page, based their work on a firm foundation of science – actual science, not the stuff that marketing men retrofit to sell us stuff – and travelled the globe looking for the best materials and manufacturing location.
Founded in 2012 by a group of rowers turned elite cyclists, the company’s stated aim was simple and just a tad ambitious: create the most groundbreaking wheels imaginable. Five years later, they believe they’ve done just that.
The Wake 6560 is sinusoidal with a varying depth of 60-65mm, putting it squarely in the aerodynamic-obsessed triathlon market. But with serious aero gains to be made without a weight penalty – it’s a claimed 1480gm for the pair – they’d sit comfortably on any road-bike that isn’t planning an alpine excursion, especially given that PCW are claiming industry-leading performance in crosswinds.
So where did it all begin? We caught up with PCW’s Paul Daniels, a World Champion rower and an eight-time member of the US Rowing National Team, who these days can usually be found clocking up serious mileage on his road bike.
Where did the idea for PCW come from?
It started simply. My friend Marty Crotty had rowed for Princeton, Oxford, and the US team, and he started racing triathlons after hanging up the oars. Most elite rowers struggle with the transition from training to exercising, and Marty was no different. So he kept training, but swim/bike/run instead of rowing and lifting. To call him physiologically gifted would be a bruising understatement, Marty is savage, an absolute animal. His engine, retrained for triathlon, quickly translated to success in 70.3 Half Ironman and three consecutive trips to the World Championships. And while all this was happening, Marty was also Head Coach for Princeton University Rowing, so he had a crazy idea: Leverage carbon manufacturing of the rowing shell industry to create aero wheels. It didn’t pan out, turns out layup of racing boat shells is pretty “dumb” compared to rim profile creation, but Princeton CarbonWorks was born.
There are no shortage of wheel options these days, so what did you guys hope to do differently?
Options are abundant, no doubt. But advanced aerospace engineering and next level design and material science uber-nerds from Princeton and Boston University are scarce.
Bradley Werntz and Harrison Macris met while trialling for the U23 United States Rowing Team, and became fast friends, bonding over engineering. In March of 2014, Marty tapped Brad to design a “radically different, undeniable” aerodynamic wheelset. Brad quickly looped in Harrison and PCW’s prototype V1 was delivered in December 2014.
It wasn’t so much “hope,” it was more about the freedom to source design beyond what’s considered possible by the cycling industry. We sourced speed from outside cycling.
What was involved in developing a new wheel from scratch?
Harrison and Brad delivered a killer design. Best-in-class, benchmark, elite, etc. wheel brands are easy to identify from the podium steps at The Tour and Kona. Their three depth approach makes sense in a practical way: shallow to climb, mid to cover distance with control, deep to haul. The three product approach is an easy out, a convenient compromise. They think “light, stable, fast – pick two of the three” and cover the demands of your potential customers with three wheelsets.
Harrison and Brad were just far enough removed from cycling to forego this convenient compromise. They believed they could design an uncompromising wheel profile, optimized across weight, stability and aerodynamics. And the smart kids were right. They utilized aerospace engineering, computational fluid dynamics, material science, finite element analysis, with the elegantly simple trigonometric function “sine” as the special sauce.
This is a bit technical, but sine provided breakthroughs in high frequency vortex shedding for aerodynamics and stability, while simultaneously aligning carbon fibers into optimized tension. All of which yielded a wheelset that’s lighter than the Zipp 303, more stable than the Zipp 454, and faster than the Zipp 858.
The Wake 6560 is tubeless ready, 1480g, and it’s faster and more stable than profiles 25mm deeper. We’re calling it a quiver killer. We think it really is the one wheel that can do it all, but that is actually motivating us to optimize the shallow and deep categories and see what’s possible. So watch this space.
Were there any surprises along the way?
There were a couple! Prior to joining Princeton CarbonWorks, I’d thought manufacturing facility mattered. Now I know manufacturing facility matters. We visited dozens of facilities across China and Taiwan, and simply put, all “carbon manufacturers” are not created equal. In fact, the spectrum is far broader than most cyclists, and even industry people, appreciate.
The second surprise was how industry benchmarks perform in controlled testing environments verses the marketing attached to them. The performance/marketing spin gap is massive – specifically at the top. It has been eye-opening to see the reality, because I think of myself as a discerning cyclist who felt relatively well informed.
Zipp came to market with a similar design just before you launched. Was that frustrating or a vindication of your work?
Zipp launched the NSW 454 while we were roughly 10,000 miles into testing our V2 prototype. It was a double edged sword – we felt they were validating our concept, while simultaneously stealing our thunder. Truth is, they most likely spent 10x our total research and development cost on the NSW 454 media launch. The real vindication came when we tested the Wake 6560 against the Zipp NSW 454 at A2 Wind Tunnel in the heart of NASCAR, Mooresville, North Carolina. And at every single yaw angle the Wake 6560 outperformed the Zipp NSW 454.
You’ve wasted no time in signing up high-profile athletes.
Hamish Bond is the embodiment of Princeton CarbonWorks – former elite rower turned elite cyclist. He podiumed at the New Zealand TT National Championships last year with 10 months on the bike, so he’s living the PCW team dream and applying the legs and lungs engine developed over more than a decade of World Championship/Olympic rowing onto the bike.
He’s racing the Wake 6560 in the NZL National Championship Road Race this year. His team wanted to independently test the wheels against the HED Jet 9+ prior to using it for the TT, which is totally understandable. We know we have a superior product, but it takes time to develop credibility for equipment changes at that level. We look forward to their testing.
What’s next for PCW?
The Wake 6560 is going into the wild. We’re fulfilling Batch 1 end of January and Batch 2 will follow mid February. And custom orders are being accepted for USA hand-builds with Chris King hubsets. Meanwhile, disc testing is complete and production will begin in March, with first retail availability in April. It’s a kick-ass wheelset – you need to ride them!
And thus theoretically I should have known what I was getting myself into.
The thing is I am a black or gray kind of guy. It was a pretty radical move for me a couple of years ago when I started wearing white cycling shoes. But as sweet looking as a pair of clean white cycling shoes may be, it is a losing battle from the very second you step out the door.
So I decided maybe it’s time to change it up a bit. Hence the fiery red Giro Prolight Techlace.
They’re as red as the Louboutin bottoms that seem to be roaming all over San Francisco these days. I don’t know how comfortable Louboutins are, nor will I ever have the aspiration to give them a shot. What I do know is that after riding with the Prolight Techlaces since July, they are a pretty unique pair of shoes and I now embrace the color red.
Coming off a pair of the Empire SLX which I’ve grown to love, the transition into the flagship Prolight Techlace was an easy one. The shoe shape and the adjustable SuperNatural insoles felt pretty much identical.
What was immediately noticeable was how light they were. My pair touched the scale at 311 grams for a size 43. The weight reduction was noticeable whenever I switched shoes, thanks in part to the new Textreme carbon outsoles with non-adjustable titanium cleat mounts which amount to being 22% lighter than the already feathery Easton EC90SLX2 plate.
The upper material, a monofilament mesh with welded Tejin TPU exoskeleton, is an interesting one. It sounds like a really badass engineering exercise reserve but it’s very breathable – perfect for those hot summer days. You might want to add thicker socks or shoe covers for fall/winter riding though.
Further, the upper is also more pliable than any other cycling shoes that I’ve tried. While I enjoyed the way they hug my feet, I sort of miss having that extra structural support from uppers made with other thicker material. As fragile as those mesh uppers may seem, they held up surprisingly well. The heel cup, while not as rigid as some, was slip-free and comfortable.
And then there is the Techlace closure system. I was skeptical about the hook-and-loop that just seemed a little too thin and slip-prone, but they never budged during the past four months. I love being able to adjust them on the fly and also have the benefit of shoelaces. That said, shoes with traditional laces and Boas will give a tighter, locked down feeling that some prefer.
So is being the lightest and most ventilated worth the $399.99 price tag? I love wearing mine and the fit happened to work out for me. That said, the Prolight Techlaces are definitely not your typical kicks. They felt like specialist racing shoes targeting a specific audience like the Mavic Ultimate Tri for triathlons or the Bont Crono for time trials. As a flagship above the Empire SLX, the Prolight felt a tad like how the iPhone X is nice to have while the iPhone 8 will do just about everything in the same capacity with a lower price tag.
If you’re looking for the absolute lightest and most ventilated shoes for those hot days on the mountain, though, the Prolight Techlaces may just be the kicks for you.
By the way, the Prolight Techlaces are still cheaper than those Louboutins.
Welcome to InterBike 2016! Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
PURPLE PURPLE MORE PURPLE PLEASE Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Everyone seems to be making their own cycling computers these days but one thing that caught my attention about this Stages Dash computer is its claim of 30-hour battery life. Hey, you can now record your entire 24 hr bike race in one charge! Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Shouldn't this fall under the e-motorcycle category? Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Otso Voytek got a good buzz throughout the show. Carbon frame that can take 27.5+ or 29+ AND up to 26 x 4.6” tires on 70 mm rims? Sign me up. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Lightweight's amazingly light Meilenstein has finally gone disc. The Meilenstein C Disc is a thing of beauty but was a bit disappointed to find out the rim width is still 20mm external and 17.8mm internal. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Giro's Factor Techlace sure looked different but it made a lot of sense after checking it out at the booth. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
I have to admit I was drawn to the Orbea booth by the dazzle paint job on this prototype Terra gravel bike. Looks even better in person. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
A 3D-printed Syntace FlatForce stem and a real Syntace FlatForce stem photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Let's admit it, skinsuit is a pain to put on. But Giordana might have an answer with their Quick On zippered suit system. More aero than a bib/jersey combo but easier and more versatile than a traditional skinsuit. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Dario Pergoretti's paint work never ceases to impress and this Responsorium in Ravenna finish is just so fresh. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Just can't get enough of this 3T Exploro. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Slovenia-based Unior tools might not be a household brand here in the States, but they've been around since 1919 and chances are you will see the tools a lot more in the States this coming year. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Australia-based Knog brought their newest Oi bell to Interbike. It's dramatically different than one's image of a bell, but it's an interesting take just like their line of LED blinker lights. photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Old-school-esque e-bike, anyone? photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Poor tire, its one and only job is just to be poked. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
We had a glitch on the site in the days after InterBike, so this post is way past due but the unplanned slow down also meant more time to relive this year’s InterBike
While the gallery above is going to highlight all the fun stuff… Below are the observations from the show floor.
– First, the appointments. I got smart this year and did a bunch of appointments in advance to check out offerings from various brands. So my InterBike was more structured, with shots of adrenaline from random drive-bys to booths I didn’t know much about.
– The buzz I kept hearing was “it’s pretty quiet this year.” Well, that was true. The show was smaller than last year’s. I honestly could have just spent a day there. One industry veteran commented on how he/she was checking out people’s badges and noticed there weren’t as many buyers at the show as there used to be, and he/she would be pretty pissed if they got a booth… All about the ROI, guys.
– On the outskirts of the show floor was arguably where the fun was… I got a pitch about a solar USB charger stating “looks like you can use one of those” during day one. At the other end of the hall was also a booth that sells handheld electric massage devices. The massage device booth definitely saw an uptake in traffic on Thursday, possibly due to the walking from day one on the floor + CrossVegas hangover collab.
Really thought the days of scantily-clad booth women were a thing of past. But I was wrong. I mean, okay, sex (allegedly) sells. But wouldn’t money be better spent on making a better product instead of having models promoting shitty products (and offending the female attendees while at it)?
Amount of broken arms/legs: It dawned on me during day two that there were quite a few people in slings/braces. Guess adventure shows must have a few of those around. As one rep put it “they’re getting after it”.
Reception of e-Bike: Last year was all about e-bike bashing and all of a sudden e-bikes are the future this year.
The international aisle. Probably the quieter, less buzz sections but everyone there was pretty cool to talk to (knowing Mandarin and Cantonese definitely helped) and they really deserve more recognition for their efforts of travelling across the globe to Las Vegas to showcase their products, whether it’s the gazillion lights, matte carbon fiber parts, or aluminum parts in all the imaginable anodized colors one can possibly dream of.
Best snack from the show: Vanilla Ice Cream at the Skratch booth made with their new recovery drink mix. Not only was the line 4,000 times shorter than the Starbucks line outside but it was also freaking delicious. Way different than the typical “come by our booth for free booze” hook too.
Last thing I did at the show: tried an e-bike at the rep’s prudent suggestion, only to make it 30 plus feet before a security guard rolled up and warned “no biking on the show floor”. Returned the bike to the booth, walked down the aisle, and was greeted by two bros zipping past on motorized scooters.