What Are We Riding?

These guys are teed up for a lot of upcoming milesWith so many options available to us, a lot of people wonder what Mike and I actually ride.  For the most part, we're pretty boring.  I'm still on the Rail 34s with WI hubs that I started with in March.  Nearly 3000 miles later, I love them (more on this later).  Mike anxiously awaits the return of his 34s, but has mostly been on a set of 52s.

Since our first week with the wheel deflection testing rig has opened up more questions than it's given us answers (this is a good thing, I assure you), and since we want to get more up close and personal with a few of the more popular custom alloy setups, and since cross season and a marathon mountain bike race are coming up, it's time to branch out a bit.  

Mike's chosen a set with Stan's 340 rims, 24/28 lacing, with red White Industries hubs, black CX Rays, and gold nipples.  I presume he chose this color combo to accentuate the quite cool graphics on the rims.  For road, I'm getting onto a set built with Pacenti SL23s, 28/32 lacing, black WI, silver CX Rays, and red nipples.  We'll each spend some time on the ones we've chosen, probably switch and compare notes, and then move onto another build. 

The Iron Cross set above will be my main cross wheels.  I'm going all tubeless this year.  For mountain biking, I'm going with a set built on Arches for my 29er.  Disc for cross wouldn't actually be my first choice, but I sold my beloved HOT BUNS to my buddy Raul after last year.  He wanted a pit bike, and I don't think he needs to turn a single wrench to set up my bike for himself - our setups are nearly exactly alike.  

Is our love affair with Rails cooling?  No. But we both pretty well know how they behave in any situation possible, and having learned that it's time to broaden our experience.   

So, after 3 months and change on 34s, here's a brief review.  First, I love the way they look, for whatever that's worth.  My road bike is well into its 4th year and I should be bored with it, but with 34s on it, I still love to look at it.  As far as being "daily drivers," they've been used in the complete array of conditions including monsoons, mountains, crazy amounts of wind, gravel roads, crits, road races, mellow rides, you name it.  They feel plenty fast, which the wind tunnel will either confirm or bust soon enough.  They laughed off being driven into a pothole that sprained both of my thumbs (neither of which is yet back up to speed), as well as another pothole that pinch flatted a tubeless tire (yes, seriously).  They corner flawlessly.  I've done most of the miles tubeless, which was great with Hutchinson tires.  After the aforementioned tubeless pinch flat, I switched the rear to a Michelin Pro4 with a tube.  A piece of glass put that tire on death watch the other day.  If I were made to use only 34s for the rest of my riding days, I'd be more than cool with that.  

What do they do wrong?   Not much.  Braking in a downpour isn't great.  It's functional, and combined with the SwissStop pads it's better than any carbon wheel we'd previously made, and let's face it braking on a road bike in a monsoon isn't so super fantastic in any case.  

Headed to VT later in the week for the field portion of our Rail heat test, combined with a photo shoot and some actual honest-to-god training.  Speaking of photos, check out the old (brand new) Instagram.  Haven't got a ton of photos up yet, but they're coming day by day.  

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I'm curious to read about your impressions of the Rail 34's compared to the Pacenti/WI wheels that you're switching to. I am currently running that exact setup (28/32 3x) but with DT double butted spokes. I absolutely love the wheels, but I'd love a nice set of carbon wheels too. I would probably go with your custom option and get a set of 34's built 24/28 just for a little more durability (I weigh ~190 lbs).


Inadvertently, I lied. I wound up having a 24/28 set ready to go, so I started using that. They honestly feel quite similar to the 34s I've been using since late winter. First minute or so on them, they felt a little softer, not necessarily in a bad way, that's just the first word that would have come out of my mouth had someone said 'sum it up in one word NOW!' The 34s feel a little easier to make go fast. Notably, standing climbing in a very low gear/high torque fashion while masquerading as a 200 pounder yesterday, 20/24 Rails showed no evident lateral flex. They stood up to me weighing 200# better than I did (see today's post for more).


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