Tuesday, February 17, 2009

When sponsors collide

I read with interest an overview of the team Ouch bikes on cyclingnews.com today. It's definitely a nice bike and I'm sure it rides admirably but you have to admit that it is on the heavy side at 16.2 lbs compared to what other top teams are riding. Most of the other teams are safely within the UCI weight limit (14.9) to the point where they are free to add non-rotating mass in the form of useful things like SRM cranks or PowerTap hubs in order to make the bikes "legal."

So where is this heft coming from?

"Carbon tubulars still hold a firm upper hand in terms of weight, though, as the clincher setup still gives up at least 500g in comparison."

Yeah, 500g - safely over a pound in rotating weight. I thought that had to be a misprint so I checked and sure enough, the Carbone SLRs are listed at 1600g, 415g more than the tubular version. Add in the weight difference between clincher/tube/rimstrip vs. tubular/glue and a total difference of 500g is certainly reasonable.

So why not use tubulars or lighter clinchers? Sponsor obligations. Bear with me here because this is one of those rare instances where you can say to yourself, "Thank god I'm not a fully sponsored professional cyclist."

You see, the tire sponsor for Ouch is Maxxis and the wheel sponsor is Mavic. These are fine brands in and of themselves. But, Mavic doesn't really make a light, aero clincher (who does?). Maxxis makes some really great road clinchers and I'm personally a big fan of the Raze for a cross clincher. For some reason, though, they hate tubulars and have no interest in manufacturing them (or putting their logo on someone else's). And that's how Floyd and friends get stuck with an extra pound of rotating handicap as they make their way around the state of California.

In other Mavic news, judging by the wheels ridden by Ag2r at the AToC, it looks like the new R-Sys will still use carbon spokes but use a blend of woven and unidirectional fibers (the recalled version was completely unidirectional). This should, in theory help prevent catastrophic failures. Woven carbon is more resistant to impact because if it is damaged in some way, the damage is limited to the length of the weave. The woven fibers around it can easily pick up the slack. Unidirectional carbon, while having its own benefits, does not have this protection. If the fiber is damaged at any point, the entire length of the fiber is compromised. This is why, in the original iteration, a teeny bit of damage to one spoke could cause the whole front wheel to fail.


colin said...

i was thinking the same thing when i read that feature, but i noticed that you guys really like to rip on mavic. it's all legitimate criticism but maybe spread it around a little

gotta say though, i'm digging the FAQs. hopefully i'll be riding your rev-22s by late spring

-JK said...

Oh, man. I thought I was being pretty nice. I referred to them as a "fine brand," and even graciously pointed out that the purchase of a new r-sys is much less likely to result in serious injury. But yeah, it's an easy target - I'll try to be more general.