Wednesday, 11 March 2009

GamJams Reviews: The Wheels I Want - The Ones I Earn

Even today, we aren't that far removed from events that seem far in the past. My mother is the child of German immigrants who thought that life could be better than it was in the Wiemar Republic and beat leather out of there and moved to Maspeth, Queens, where they opened up a deli. Maspeth was a huge German community then, with the ones who really made it heading to Forest Hills. Forest Hills is nice and has gotten nicer. Maspeth, well, not so much. Anyhow, they busted their asses and by the time my mother was in college they had moved to Long Island. They also found a way to send whatever they possibly could back to their family in Germany, whose lot in life had somehow found a way to go even deeper into the crapper after the Wiemar. They also helped a lot of people come over from Germany, and maintained a strong role at the center of a large extended family.

For my grandparents, leisure meant working in their garden, which was a thing of wonder, and hanging out in the grape arbor. The person whom I also called "Grandpa" was not actually my mother's father. My mother's father was killed in a car crash when my mom was 8. My grandmother got remarried to a family friend a couple of years later. My Grandpa was a pretty good athlete when he was younger, a gymnast, shooter and bowler. How good he was depended on how much schnapps he'd had to drink when he was telling the story, but he was somewhere between competent and Ernie McCracken.

My mom, in turn, got into sports, mostly basketball. She wasn't the nexus of UConn's women's basketball dynasty, but to this day has a wicked mean old school set shot that she can drain from freaking anywhere. I inherited absolute none of that talent. She also played a lot of tennis. Some of that I got. I'm a cagey bastaige on the tennis court.

What does any or all of this have to do with wheels? I'll tell you what it has to do with wheels. I come from a long line of people who would laugh their freaking asses off if I was enough of a poser to show my Cat 4 ass up to a start line with a pair of Campag Boras.

As sexy as these are, I would feel like the ultimate asshat if I rolled with these. I know we're just spitballing here, and ultimate gear is fun to imagine. How much of a loser would you feel like if you were rolling along on a set of these pimp masters and some talented dude rolled up on the (very nice, even probably too nice in this context, but still perfectly reasonable and capable) wheels on which I now race and dropped you? You'd feel like a complete knob.

That said, maybe there does come a time when it matters, and everyone else around you is buying some speed so you might as well. Who knows. Maybe when I get my upgrade and vanish forever to the Master's ranks I get a set of what I consider to be just about the ultimate wheels that wouldn't make me feel like an ass: Williams 38 tubulars. They're light, they're aero, they're dead sexy and they make you faster. They also have a practical, almost lunchpail-type message to them. They kind of say "I'm here to do a job." I like that point on the cost-benefit curve, where it really flattens out and any increment of increase in performance really starts to go far out to the right along the price axis. These wheels live right in the meat of that bang for the buck zone, and wouldn't make me feel like Happy Gilmor in golf pants (needing to kick my own ass, that is). So maybe someday I will actually get a set of these since it's not too hard to drop a grr on a set of wheels anyhow, and if you're going to do it you might as well have that whole k helping you get down the road. Fast.

Heck of a ride down at the point this evening. Should have been windsurfing instead. It was HOWLING!


Sigberto said...

Well said all around DaveK. You gotta earn it, and Cat 4s have no need for uber sexy expensive race wheels.

TTs aside, I guess...

But if you're depending on wheels to get out of Cat 4, you're gonna need desperate help to get anywhere in this sport.

Anonymous said...

We all live somewhere on the continuum of training time/money-making time; if your money-making time permits you to buy nice parts to make up for some lost training time, good on you. You should enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Your theory of embarrassment on getting dropped with bling wheels applies all down the line of bike parts -- carbon frames, power meters, shoes, pedals. Why single out wheels as something that should be reserved only for upper-category racers?

Chuck Wagon said...

Good question, anonymous. If I were so inclined, I could afford to get a Look 585 with Super Record 11 and Bora Wheels.

I do have a Powertap. I feel it makes the time that I have available for training more efficient and valuable. Having no endurance sports background, it's been helpful. Sailing, windsurfing, skiing, tennis, lacrosse - there's not a lot in my athletic background on which I can fall back for inherent knowledge about what bike racing requires, effort wise. My balance and hand-eye coordination are off the freaking chain though.

I also have a carbon frame, which I would not have if I hadn't sailed into the mother of all bargains, purely by accident. Otherwise, it would be CAAD 9 (which I had originally intended to buy when I walked into said deal) all down the line for me.

If you saw the flippers at the bottom of my ankles you'd know that my shoe choice is limited indeed. Specialized or Side. Currently Specialized. Their cost is probably down to about $.25/per ride since they've lasted a long time, and thus are good value.

The pedals I have (Zeros) are durable and obviate knee pain. I never mind paying for durability and serviceability. Thanks to last year's little mishap, a knee replacement is nearly fete accompli for me, but I'd like to forestall that as long as possible.

The biggest reason why I'll say that super high end frames and wheels should be reserved for higher end categories is that the lower categories can be kind of a sketch fest, and sketch fests + sharp end frames and wheelsets = crazy expensive.

You don't happen to sell carbon wheels, do you?