In yesterday's blog, I praised one of the majors for going rogue, and expressed "splitting hair fatigue" about brake track width. Have I been possessed? Maybe, but I believe in what the alien overlords wrote on my behalf.
The Allez Sprint is a cool bike, and if we're going to have a bike for every ride, the ride that this bike is for is a ride worth having a bike for. There's a bifurcation going on between "a bike for every ride" and "a bike for every ride," by which I mean the pressure exists to have a separate bike for each ride you do (rain bike, crit bike, climbing bike, cross bike, TT bike, gravel bike, commuter bike, hardtail mtb, full squish mtb, fat bike), and one bike that covers everything you do. Of the bikes you see that are fit for very specific purposes, the Allez Sprint is a bike that covers a narrow use band that's pretty wide. They've executed it well at a nice price point, taking advantage of a piece of tech/gear that helps them accomplish the bike's mission. Well done to them, I say.
On the other hand, I certainly implied that the difference between 18.75mm inside width and 20.12 inside width wasn't meaningful. This deserves some further explanation. We were early adopters of the wider bead seat width. The reason that there's a Rail today is that we tried rims with 18mm bead seat widths, loved them, and committed to them. The difference, to us, between a 14- and 18mm bead seat width was immediately apparent and quite noticeable. I vividly remember a road race early in my use of Rails where I felt SO ridiculously confident in the technical turns preceding the sprint that I actually had a great finish in a sprint-finish race. That never happened before Rails. So, yeah, it makes a difference.
The thing is, the change from 14mm to 18mm is over 28%. The change from 18 to 20 is just above 10%. We've measured A LOT of tires on Grails, SL23v2, SL25, and other 20mm bead seat rims, and also on Rails and other 18mm inside rims, and there isn't much there there. There are at least 2 molds from which GP4000 23s are produced, and a tire from the narrower mold will be narrower on a 20mm rim than a tire from the wider mold will be on an 18mm rim. The difference in width from identical tires on an 18 to 20mm rim is vanishingly small - the 1mm in tire width gain per 2mm of bead seat width gain dynamic that exists in narrower rims starts to tail off hard when you get above 18. There is, indeed, a point of diminishing returns. The "if some is good, more is better" philosophy eventually fails. Not saying we've reached the fail point yet.
I switch from Rails to Grails to DT460s to SL23s to SL25s all the time, and the same tire on each will feel just about exactly the same to me. Put that tire on an Open Pro and I'd pick it out in my sleep (if I could ride a bike in my sleep, which would be a pretty cool thing to be able to do, although dangerous).
In saying that, I'm not arguing for one or against the other. It just seems that the bike industry often does nothing so well as split hairs and create meaningless points of differentiation. We like to execute good products well and save people a meaningful amount of money, which we think are very important points of differentiation.
And I welcome my new alien overlords.