As it’s getting closer to the day my new bike comes into existence, my thoughts turn to the question of what wheels to put onto it.

The original plan, as regular readers may recall, was to use my recently-acquired Zonda wheelset for special occasions and my venerable Open Pro on Tiagra wheels day-to-day. Unfortunately the Tiagra hubs are rusting from the inside: the rear skewer is noticeably reddish-brown when removed, wiping it and re-inserting it reveals that it’s definitely the hub and not the skewer. They were on borrowed time anyway, because the spoke/nipple threads are getting worn to the extent that they probably can’t be re-tensioned again. By the time you price a pair of hubs, 68 spokes and nipples and a good wheel-builder’s time they are essentially beyond economical repair. I will probably dismantle the rear wheel completely and try to rebuild it a few times in an attempt to teach myself some wheel-building skills for next time.

There is also a problem with using the Zonda wheels on the new bike: they are distinctly modern looking and the bike is meant to look traditional. Black hubs, black spokes, fancy lacing and v-section black rims are all fashions from this century. The traditional look of silver hubs, silver spokes and box-section silver rims would look much better.

In parallel with that there is a modern trend towards wider rims and tyres which is reported to improve ride comfort and mid-corner handling as well as reducing rolling-resistance and aerodynamic drag. I have noticed some improvements moving from Open Pros (19mm) to the Zondas (20.9mm) using 23mm tyres on both, but the magic combination is purported to be 25mm for both rim and tyre. I am particularly interested in this development for my new bike because the main point of it is to be more comfortable on long rides.

The main roadie-drool-magnet in the 25mm-rim arena is the HED Ardennes Plus but they are too expensive (they’ll be at least £700 once VAT is added in), and don’t seem to be available anywhere yet. I did find the equivalent “Belgium Plus” rims in stock for $150 each; that would still cost me over £600 once you add in delivery, VAT, spokes, hubs, nipples and build costs.

Happily there are plenty of other rims with 25mm outer diameter, you just have to look in the section labeled ‘touring’ rims rather than ‘racing’ rims. These are also a lot cheaper, available in silver, and are generally more traditional looking; all great things from my point of view. I have therefore gone for Ryde (formerly Rigida) Sputnik rims on Novatec hubs at a cost of less than £160 for the pair. They should give me the look I want, and all the ride/handling/rolling-resistance benefits of the wider rim; compared to the Ardennes Plus I am only foregoing a small reduction in aerodynamic drag, which seems acceptable when I’m saving £540.

As usual, I will report back once I have been able to test the theory.

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