I have learnt something this morning. You cannot underestimate the importance of good wheels. I would never have thought in a million years that a change in wheels could make such a phenomenal difference to the way one’s bike performs. I have ridden 20,000 km on the VR2 over the past five years, and so you could say that I know this bike very well. When I am on it, it becomes me. Well, riding it this morning with the new Campagnolo Eurus wheels was eye-opening and awesome!
I felt the difference as soon as I mounted the bike and took the first pedal strokes. It was unbelievable. The bike felt so completely solid. That’s really the only word that sums up the feeling. There was no give, flex, rattle, hum, jiggle, niggle or anything else. Just silent, solid rolling. The difference is also immediately visible in the appearance of the wheel. The spokes are joined to the rim by some impressively large nipples (yeah, insert your own joke here). Yet despite their size they do not look out of place on the wheel. The spokes themselves are blade-like in their construction and you simply cannot flex them (unlike the flimsy super-thin spokes that came on the FSA RD-600s). The front wheel features a traditional spoke configuration, but due to the strength of each Campy have managed to get away with only 16 of them. Perfectly spaced, alternately going from one side of the hub to the rim.
The rear wheel is a masterpiece. It’s art. Pure and simple. A gorgeous triple spoke pattern repeated seven times around the wheel gives it a unique look. This wheel looks fast, and it looks like it loves nothing more than to spin very quickly. The aluminium nipples (OK, you’re still on that?) mean that the peripheral weight of the wheel is reduced and therefore the reaction time is increased. This was very noticeable when standing in the pedals and applying the power in a sprint scenario. I shot off like a scalded cat. I didn’t realize I had it in my legs to go that fast.
Now how much of this is the placebo or ‘mental’ affect of having a really good set of wheels? I have no idea. I think there’s a little bit of that certainly, but you can’t take away the fact that these wheels are brilliantly designed and beautifully handmade (each comes with a signed inspection card from the maker) making them a true performance wheel. My ride this morning has opened my eyes to the possibilities ahead – finally I’ll be able to keep Andy within spitting distance!
As my friend from Down Under pointed out to me just yesterday, I am lucky that I have the wheels while there are still a few months of riding remaining. Last year I got my Kona Paddywagon in late November and so I could only stare at it and dream for three months before finally getting outside. The only staring I am doing now is as I catch my breath after a good ride and admire my bike.