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May 01, 2009
One of today's most thoughtful and thorough bike technology blogs is Cozy Beehive. There's something for everyone and more. Ron took a close look at this year's Handbuilt Show winner by Sam Whittingham, addressing every feature, and there are plenty to discuss. Some are artistic, some historic, some innovative, most are refreshingly original. Wood rims, of course, are a big part of the story.
Why did a small flurry of subsequent comments focus on the rims? Plainly, some observers simply didn't "get it." The questions and answers came and went until Sam was compelled to describe his experience:
Wheels: I am amazed that so much fuss is made over these wheels. To me, they are a proven piece of technology and are actually quite logical for a mountain bike. They are not as stiff but are VERY resiliant. Imagine an archery bow made from laminated beech and one made from aluminum. Now pull back on the string. What happens? The wood bow will bounce back to shape over thousands of cycles. The aluminum? Not even once.
I also strongly disagree that the suspension characteristic of the rims is irrelevent on a full boinger. This is is like saying tire pressure has no affect in the suspension characteristics. Good suspension is a fine balance between small very fast acting absorption of rims, spokes, tires, seat, post, handlebars, grips, gloves, shorts, fleshy bits and human joints, combined with the big relatively slow moving suspension of forks and swing arms. I mountain bike all the time in some very gnarly terrain here in British Columbia and if one of these suspension bits is mis-behaving or just missing, you feel it.
I have been using wooden rims for a few years now on my cyclocross bike in all kinds of weather. The feel is amazing. Yes they are solid (not hollow) but at 290 grams do they need to be any lighter. I get asked so much about there toughness that I decided to do everything wrong to see how much abuse they could take. After 2 years, I have managed to find their short comings but all in all, love them. They do change with climate so they need fairly frequent truing. I have run all kinds of brake pads in all kinds of weather. The rims will not wear down! This surprised me quite a bit. The pads melt away though just as carbon rims do to standard pads. Disc brakes obviously helps with the pad issue as noted elswhere. I left the rims to get quite wet at one point and did notice a problem with spokes pulling a bit into the rim on the rear drive side (makes sense).
Are wood rims better? Worse? Just different. Like owning a wooden boat."
I entirely agree with Sam and appreciate his forthright comments. He's a guy who doesn't mince words. You might consider perusing Ron's thoughtful post and the string of comments. I think he's due for a set of wood rims. Certainly more practical than a wood boat.
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