For the first time in a long long time, I've actually planned out a couple of posts. Given Froome's positive test, I'm going to turn the post I'd planned to do after this one into a concise story that illustrates the point.
Sailors wear life jackets. They're sort of the helmets of sailing, although the sailing I've done in the past few seasons also means you're wearing a helmet. See the pic of Ben Ainslie (the Eddie Merckx of cycling, although he's closer in age to Sagan) taking Kate Middleton out for a sail (there were rumors). They are both wearing helmets and life jackets.
Anyhow, a friend of mine runs a big sailmaking company. One day, prepping to go out for a day of racing, my brother asked him why he was wearing a different life jacket than his usual. Dan's reply was "you know how sometimes people wear a Brady jersey, but on other days they wear a Gronk jersey? This life jacket is my Pete jersey, and the other one is my Ed jersey." Dan's a world class, world champion sailor who runs probably the biggest company in the sport, yet he finds heroes in two local competitors (albeit, extraordinarily good ones) and not in America's Cup pros or whatever else. Dan likes Pete and Ed, they're really good sailors in whom he finds inspiration, and that's it.
I always found more inspiration in guys I knew than in abstract pros. Okay, we were fortunate to have Ben King and Joe Dombrowski as "local guys" for inspiration, but a guy like Super Dave Osborne (about to catch up with me in the pic below - I love this picture), a really really good and meticulous and disciplined racer who keeps hitting it in spite of father time? That's the side of my bread that gets buttered.
And that's what I have to say about that.
So I've never read Great Expectations. Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol are as far up the Dickens tree as I've gotten. But it's a great title for today's blog so we'll go with it. This is a topic that's almost been explored about 100 times but we've never gotten to it, but an email inquiry we got recently bubbled it up.
The question is simply what can you expect from a pair of wheels? The prospective customer gave some riding details and then noted that while the five year lifespan of his current wheels would have made a lot of people happy, it disappointed him. We didn't have enough details to know how the wheels had quit, nor what his annual mileage was, nor the riding conditions, but we could surmise that annual mileage was between 5200 and 5500. So the wheels likely had somewhere in the neighborhood of 27000 miles on them. There are certainly wheels that can reliably do that, so long as you aren't using rim brakes in a hilly and wet place like Seattle, but he had the wrong rims to make that happen. Basically, you almost always have to give something to get something, and if you want to ride around on very light wheels AND have them last a very very long time, it's awfully helpful to be light and ride on smooth flat roads where you don't have to use your brakes very much.
Unless otherwise told, we generally account that our customers are going to be fairly high mileage (call is 4000 or 5000 miles a year, give or take) and that if that build is done into the ground in five years, that's full value. If you race or do group rides it's sorta likely that an event is going to damage your wheels before they wear out. And if you ride in situations where the brakes are the most important part of your bike, or you ride in constantly crappy weather, it will be less because of one of those factors. But the "unless otherwise told" part is a big one, because if you'd like to maximize toward one corner of the box, that's easy to do. Want long life? There are rims for that. Want light weight? Ditto. Want a lower cost in a custom handbuilt wheel? We can do that, too. It all just depends on what you want out of your wheels.
This topic always reminds me of the scene in Team America where the woman says "but if you could promise me that you'll never die, I'd have sex with you right now." So the guy puts his arms akimbo in a Superman pose and says "I promise you. I. Will. Never. Die." And then one of the hairiest sex scenes ever ensues (keep in mind, the characters are marionettes). Someone is always willing to give you the wheel salesman equivalent of the "I. Will. Never. Die" promise, but it's awfully hard to back up. Which is why my answer to said inquiry almost certainly lost that sale.