14 November 2010

Mad Fiber wheels

Back in the day I used to race on wheels with 36 straight gauge spokes (laced 3x of course) and 700x28 Specialized touring II tires. Hahahahaha... Those days are LONG gone.

Today I'm on some tubular Zipp 404s that are getting mighty long in the tooth (I can't keep them true or round) so it's a shopping I go.

After doing some browsing/reading/research, I decided that the wheels from Mad Fiber 1) looked cool as hell, 2) were light as hell and 3) were hella strong. With this perfect trifecta and seeming to recall that a friend of mine was involved with the company I gave him a shout and faster than you can say, "demo program" I'm being offered a set to take out for a spin. Complete with some Tufo tubulars already glued on. Nice.

roadwheels

On paper these wheels are fantastic, so good it makes a skeptic like me wonder if it's all really possible. Here are some numbers I dug up.

  Weight Depth MSRP Warranty
Mad Fiber 1085 g 60/66 mm $2,599.00 4 years
Zipp 404 1278 g 58 mm $2,300.00 2 years
Edge 65 (DT 190) 1221 g 65 mm $3,043.95 2 years
Edge 65 (DT 240) 1447 g 65 mm $2,515.95 2 years
Reynolds 66/46 1422 g 46/66 mm $2,450.00 2 years

If you throw out the ridiculously expensive Edge with the light weight DT hub, the cost seems pretty on par with everything else.

So why are these wheels so great?

  • The Mad Fiber wheels are lighter. Not only are they lighter, they did not cut corners to make this so. It's easy to build a wheel with a microscopic hub and equally tiny bearings to meet some number goal but what do you get? Crap, that's what. The hub flexes and the bearings wear out. Mad Fiber uses proven White Industries hubs and goes so far as to use the MTB hub guts which have oversized chromoly axles and oversized bearings. Both of which will ensure that you get less flex and more life.
  • The mad Fiber wheels are deeper and thus more aero in a head wind than all the others except for the Edge front wheel.
  • The Mad Fiber wheels have a lower moment of inertia. In case it is not obvious, if the hub weights more AND the wheel weighs less, this rim has got to be wicked light. That means faster acceleration so quicker sprints and easier climbing.
  • Strength tests are not standardized but the Mad Fiber wheels seem incredibly strong. No rider weight limit speaks volumes. Especially in this era of CYA and minimalist (read: fragile) designs.
  • 4 year warranty. Need I say more? For most people that's about the useful life of fancy wheels so knowing you are not going to get thrown under the bus after one or two is pretty sweet.
  • Aerodynamics. Even though you need to take most any aerodynamic study with a huge grain of salt, the Mad Fiber wheels seem to excel in cross winds which is almost always the case in real world riding conditions.
  • Maintenance. With no traditional spokes and nipples you never need to true your wheels. Ever. In fact, the only way these things can get knocked out of true is by breaking.

But enough of that, I'm not getting paid to blow up Mad Fiber, I just want good wheels. So I put them on my Road Bike, pumped the tires up to about 105-110 psi and headed out. It was cool, the ground was wet and I rode them almost four hours.

After the shock of not being on my piggish Rain Bike wore off I tried to see how these wheels really felt. I have never ridden Tufo tires before (I use Vittoria) so comparing apples to apples is not always super easy. But I can say this.

  • I did a couple of out-of-the-saddle accelerations, one of which was pretty long, and they felt rock solid. There was no undue flex or vague feeling. For reference, I weight about 180 lb.
  • We rode over lots of pebbly pavement today and in true rental car mindset I hit several cracks and holes on purpose. Not a problem. Even with tires that I suspect are less supple than Vittorias, these wheels were very comfy.
  • I could ride with no hands no problem. Except the first time when I got reminded myself that I was on a sub-30 lb. bike and on crazy light wheels and that any input would result in a direction change.
  • The cork brake pads that come with the wheels worked exceptionally well in the wet. So good I never thought about the conditions at all.

It makes HUGE sense that the price for a pair of Mad Fiber wheels includes quick release skewers, valve extenders and cork brake pads. How logical is that? Very, it was a rhetorical question. And if you do the math, it adds about $150 (they come with Titanium skewers) to the cost of all the other wheels.

As if it couldn't get any better, with no spoke holes water can't get into your rim. "Water...?!" That's right, I live in the NW and it's been known to rain here during the occasional race. And with no spoke holes you also can't accidentally spluge excess glue into your rim thus keeping your light wheels light when you add tires..

I want some.

Here are the wheels on my bike after my ride.
CIMG6861

Here are some more real-world close-ups for your enjoyment.

CIMG6862

CIMG6863

CIMG6864

Note (among other things) the super cool quick release skewer!
CIMG6865

CIMG6866

CIMG6867

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2 comments:

One Piece said...

they also looked great on your bike, as i beat you up stallion hill.

Martin Criminale said...

@One Piece - luckily being slow does not inhibit my ability to appreciate top drawer equipment. You might have been first up that hill but I was feeling fancier.