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.
For my 650b wheelset I went with the WTB Venture; for my 700c wheelset/ offroad, the Maxxis Rambler 700×40 Tanwall; for my 700c wheelset/ road, the Maxxis Refuse 700×32. All are setup tubeless. I’ve had incredibly good luck with every Maxxis tire I’ve had, even for Cross.
I don’t really understand why anyone would ride any tire that isn’t a Rene Herse (other than tubulars). You used to pay a premium for a Rene Herse so I could understand picking a gravelking or something else more workmanlike but these days all the higher end tires cost $75-100 per tire so why not ride the best? What am I missing?
Thanks for the post. I’m curious whether you have a measured width for the 40 mm WTB Ventures. I’ve been looking at those but have clearance whereby some “40 mm” tires work, others are too wide.