I mentioned last time that a lot of the value we add is not actually in providing wheels to customers, but helping them decide which wheels will most make them happy. That's deliberate language - "make them happy," consciously different from "perform best" or "last longest" or "go fastest"' or "look most awesome on their bikes." Because we've found that wheelset choice for our customers is a cocktail of some or all of those attributes, and the presence or weight of each varies by customer to customer. We could have 2 people of the exact same size and exact same weight with the exact same bike come to us and learn after a few questions that the ideal wheelset for one is the GOAT 28-23i, and the other will be happier with the Cafe Racer 46-22i.
Obviously aesthetics are important (like I touched on last time) and we won't weigh in there because people want what they want. Where we can help is on the performance aspect - helping you find a wheelset that will squeeze out the full potential of joy in your rides. Terrain, riding surface, vertical gain (and loss), event type(s), frame clearance - all of these can figure into it. But as we probe around all these we're really just aiming to get to one thing - what tires are going to work best? If we can narrow down the tires - width mostly, but it's fun also to talk about brand and tread pattern - then we can have a productive conversation about the pros and cons of each wheelset.
So the best thing our customers can do to help us help them is a little research on tires. Begin trying on in your minds how you feel about 28s vs 32s, or 32s vs 40s. Think about how important traction, aerodynamics, weight are you you based on the kind of riding you do, and what parts of it you want to optimize. Without that there are too many variables to narrow options. But if you only isolate the tire variable the rest can fall into place pretty quickly.
Obviously we don't expect everyone to choose a single tire and be done with it. Lots of customers tell us they switch tires a couple of times per year, and even on a more frequent, almost occasion-by-occasion basis. The more frequently you find yourself switching (or wanting to switch) tires, the stronger a candidate you probably are for our 1-bike, 2-sets of wheels approach, and the very reason our Centerlock disc rotor shims exist. But if your wheelset is going to need to accommodate a horses for courses approach to tires, it's good to know that also.
I wouldn't call myself a tire snob, but working with Dave has certainly made me a tire nerd. If you're inclined, drop a note in the comments with your favorite tire and why you chose it. I'll start:
On my gravel bike I ultimately selected 40mm WTB Ventures as my do-almost-everything tire. I give up some straightline speed on the road but that's easy because I don't have much of that anyway. In exchange I get enough tread and - critically - side knobs that let me ride singletrack, and give me more cornering confidence at speed on gravel. What about you?
Next time I'll offer the counterpoint on why everything I said today sometimes doesn't matter.
Roadbike 1 – Vittoria Corsa G – 23 front/25 rear + Vittotia latex tubes. Wheelset – A33
Roadbike 2 – Specialized S-Works Turbo tubeless 24. Wheelset – Rail 52
Roadbike 3 – Michelin Comp 3, 23 (they’re pale blue and almost match the frame of the Marinoni). Wheelset – Mavic Open4 CD (circa 1987)
Gravel Bike – Specialized Power Pro 700×38. Tubeless. Durable, fairly light, good off-road & fast enough to keep up with road bikes in a group ride.
Road Bike – GP5000 & Vitoria latex tube. Fast, durable, grippy & look great!
Gator skin 32’s on your GOAT wheels. Only 1 flat in 3 years
I ride recumbent and have a lot more weight on the rear wheel. I’m riding with a 80psi 25mm Conti GP5000TL on the front and a 32mm rear. Unfortunately the newer tubeless version isn’t speced for the 84lbs I put in the back so I’ll move to something else or ditch tubeless when my stock is gone. These are on Belgium Plus rim brake rims.
I used to default to 38mm Panaracer Gravelking SKs on my gravel bike. That said, around Minneapolis, a lot of the gravel could be done on a 32mm GP 5000 if you wanted, or maybe a slightly bigger slick. A semi slick would probably have been better as a general purpose tire.
On my road bike, it’s 25mm GP 5000s all the way. That one is a rim brake bike. I will someday get a disc road bike. That’s going to most likely wear 28-30mm GP 6ks or whatever the best high-performance non-TT road tire is.