Component Review Fail

Jun 11 2009

“…it won’t snap, either.”

-Lennard Zinn, on Mavic’s r-sys spokes, May. 8, 2009

I had a definite sensation that Lennard Zinn would end up ruing this tech story on Mavic’s “improved” R-Sys wheel design. I know Zinn’s got a heck of a reach, but at a beefy 190, I still wouldn’t put money against fellow VeloNewsie Ben Delaney kicking his ass—once the shoulder has healed, of course.

But seriously, I have to wonder what any domestic amateur rider is doing on a set of carbon-spoked rims. “Spinergy” has been a punch line in the cycling community for years. Other than the still hand-assembled, still ridiculously expensive Lightweights, all the wheels in wide use in the peloton have steel spokes. Badass, expensive steel spokes, but steel, none the less. So why would domestic amateurs think carbon fiber spokes were an awesome idea? Why, I simply have no clue.

The Zircal aluminum spokes that were the centerpiece of Mavic’s formerly awesome Ksyrium wheels held up pretty well, but for the most part, stainless steel is the only reasonable material for the vast majority of spoking applications. It’s not like regular old steel spokes, or any other “outdated” tech is a heinous performance hit—in my favorite pro races, box rims and 3-cross, 32 spokes are de rigueur. George Hincapie tried some fancy Bonti Aeolus wheels (still with steel spokes, though) back in ’06, but even before his crash, he didn’t exactly tear away from the peloton.

However, the point of this rant is not that steel spokes and retro-grouchery are awesome. It’s that bike publications put readers at serious risk when they publish reviews, test rides or other “news” features that are essentially promotional puff-pieces for the manufacturers whose advertisements line their pages. It may be this attitude that keeps component manufacturers from sending me stuff, but, in light of this incident, it seems like a small price to pay.

I’m truly bummed that Ben Delaney got banged up. Hard crashes suck, and doubly so when your riding had nothing to do with them. But I can’t help but feel like his tumble was a few long overdue chickens come home to roost in Boulder. Certainly, if I wrote for Pez, I might do my next few workouts on the trainer, just to be safe.

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