26 Jul 2010
Tasty Like Butter – Equipment Review
I had no plans this last weekend but Friday night I got a call to go for a MTB ride. Little did I know there were not-yet-released 2011 XTR wheels in my future and I sure do like me a good set of wheels. I think if there is one single thing you can do to your bike that truly effects the ride, it’s upgrade the wheels. Do it. Do it now. Do not wait. Whatever money you have, spend it all on a great set of wheels.
Whew! Ok, I’ll get off my soap box. So…
We headed out to Tokul East early on a beautifully clear, warm and glorious Saturday morning, got kitted up, swapped wheels and away we went. It’s been a while since I’ve been out to Tokul. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve done any riding in Washington at all. Gear aside, what sheer pleasure it was to be back on familiar ground.
Except for Flowtron, I don’t know Tokul well enough to know all the trail names, (they change a lot anyway), and I usually feel pretty lost at some point in this ride but when you’re just following the wheel in front of you, knowing where you are is not important. Being on home turf is relaxing. You know what to expect from the roots, rocks, divots, trees, etc. Even the trail as a whole is familiar. No matter where you ride in our area, chances are pretty good it was a core group of trail builders that did the building. Our trails have a particular flavor you don’t find everywhere else – or maybe anywhere else. Since you don’t have to use your spidey-senses on a trail you have no history with, riding at home gives you the opportunity to get a good feel for anything new happening with your bike.
Right out of the gate the new M988 XTR wheels rode light. The supple, super compliant ride quality is an improvement over the current M975 model, which is something because those M975 wheels kick ass. Climbing seemed easier and smoother and the technical climbing was amazing. The best way to describe it is like the difference between tubular and clincher tires. Like good butter, there’s a finesse and richness to these new wheels that just isn’t there in the old ones. Being 70g lighter, the weight difference shouldn’t make that big of a difference, but it does.
And, they are stiff… ok, boys love, love, love to use the word, “stiff,” in any way they can and it comes up a lot in describing bikes, usually followed by fits of girlish laughter. Torsional rigidity, stiff rear triangles, stiff frames, stiff wheels… “Is it stiff? How stiff is it?” … and it goes on and on. I diverge. These wheels are stiff. Not that I ride hard enough or heavy enough to have been flexing the old model, but it definitely adds to the overall feel of the ride. Did I mention butter yet?
After about 4 or 5 laps, I was desperate for a different set tires so we headed back to base camp and swapped wheels again. Now I was on the all-mountain XT wheels with Schwalbe Rocket Ron’s which is a great tire for our terrain. Being a light rider, I like a grippy tire that hooks up. Sliding around every turn is rough unless it’s on purpose. Call me crazy but I like to be the one riding the bike instead of the bike taking me for a ride and I just wasn’t feeling it with the Schwable Racing Ralphs’s. They kept getting away from me.
We went back out and did a bunch more laps. I think we did one section of trail like 6 times. Pretty neat to try the same section over and over with different equipment. 4 hours later it was beer drinking time and we did that.
I took the new XTR wheels home with me and put the Rocket Ron’s on and then went back out to Tokul the next day. After another dizzying 4 hours of riding around in circles, (this time we also added in Tokul West), I was toast. But the new wheels with the right tire were great. People are going to love this wheelset. It comes with the 15mm or standard QR and in 2 widths.
Now, if I could have just grown another 6 inches over night so I could fit onto the fully equipped 10 spd XTR bike that we have on loan… Oh well, guess I’ll just have to wait for it. I bet it’s good like butter too.