Friday, April 29, 2016

Dusting off the Keys to Defend 650b Wheels

So the Genius' over at Velo News are doing their best to screw over the 650b wheel size before it is adopted by the market. Granted, it's on a Cannondale with a stupid fork, but that in itself does not a bad wheel size make.

Not only do the give this bicycle a very derisive, "Meh..." but they even go as far as to almost insult the type of person who would want to ride something like this...

"That’s not to say the Slate isn’t a fun, versatile bike. It just seems like a complicated design that tries to do too much for a very specific person. But maybe you’re that person."

Well, I AM that person so as I often do, I call bullshit.

As most of you know, I have been riding 650b wheels for some time now and have gone as far as to race them.

Not only is this the most comfortable bike I own, it also held up to the rigors of dirt road racing to a point that even I was amazed. I must say I am not surprised to see that a company attempted to utilize this size in what appears to be a "money grab" sort of way, but really hoped that an outlet with as much influence as Velo News would at least have realized that the tire was not the problem so much as the bike's design.

 But I am putting my two cents ahead of the review here, so let's start with the very obvious, complete ignorance that exists in the author's logic:

"Overall, road feel is smooth and pretty quick, EVEN THOUGH the Slate has those SMALL WHEELS."

The assertion that the wheels are "small(er)" is somewhat correct, but only the rim itself is smaller. With a 650b wheel we can use a much larger tire which is not only much more comfortable but much taller and therefore almost exactly the same diameter overall as a 700x23c wheel and tire combo.

This similarity in size is, you guessed it, similarly efficient.
The difference is literally measured in centimeters.

A simple roll-out shows us that there is almost no difference between the two tire/wheel sizes where efficiency is concerned. Where the 650 really has an advantage is in the larger tires; a larger pneumatic device allows us to run lower pressure, increasing traction. Unless of course, the geometry is bullshit which can make it feel like crap...

The 42-millimeter Panaracer slicks are a big (literally) reason for the Cannondale’s quickness, but at recommended pressures (35-40psi), THEY OFFER A WEIRD CORNERING FEEL on pavement."

First, it is the fact that you have a suspension fork on a low psi tire is why it feels weird. It's putting suspension on top of suspension which is going to feel very unstable.
You can't blame the 42mm Panaracers either. Well, I suppose you can but you would be wrong. 

"The tires are neither here nor there, delivering little in the way of grip on loose dirt, which leaves us wondering if they’re actually good at anything."

Panasonic makes great tires but if they didn't like them, rather than dismissing them (and the size) all together, perhaps they could have at least tried another brand. I mean, I currently ride Compass tires and they have grip for days!
Just seems like a rush to judgement to me.

"The Lefty Oliver Carbon fork is another component choice aimed at the adventure set. Its 30 millimeters of travel helps take the edge off, but it seems unnecessary, and we sometimes smacked our left knee on the fork crown (usually on a steep, loose climb, when the Panaracers failed to grip)."

They got one part right which is the unnecessary nature of the fork but hitting your knee on it is less a problem with the stupid fork as it is a problem created by our intense need to "1 by" every damn bike in the world. 

"Oh, and you didn’t really want a front derailleur either, right?" 

If you had a front derailleur, perhaps you could actually shift the fucking thing in to a useable gear and therefore negate the need to stand up at all!

"...good luck keeping up on a fast group ride with that single-ring drivetrain. Even with a 44-tooth ring and a 10-tooth cog, the Slate falls short of a compact-chainring 50/11-tooth combo by nearly four gear inches, and the jumps between the SRAM cassette cogs can be as great as six teeth."

So to paraphrase the author's question; if you can't go fast on it and can't climb without standing up, 

"is the drivetrain actually good at anything?"

It had better be if I am going to drop this type of coin on one:

Price: $4,620

Component highlights: SRAM Force 1 drivetrain and hydraulic brakes; Lefty Oliver fork with 30 millimeters of travel; Slate Disc rims laced to Formula 142×12-millimeter hub
Weight: 20.08 pounds (size M)
This abomination is the ultimate example of a great concept executed in the worst possible way which makes me sad believe it or not.

As much as I did not want Cannondale to be successful in this venture (because I could see them claiming that they invented the concept or something), I was really hoping it would open some peoples eyes as to a truly versatile wheel/tire size that allows "that person" to feel the comfort it offers both on and off the road. I am certainly disappointed to hear that the folks over at VNews couldn't see it for what it is and instead, stuck their nose up at an over-spec'd, over-priced, poorly executed concept that has been around longer than they have.

So whether you want to mix it up with your buddies on the local club ride, or full on dirt road race you can...

And you can do it on a 650b WITHOUT disc brakes, WITHOUT an expensive drive train and WITHOUT the pretension that comes with owning a "state-of-the-art" Wunderbike forced down your throats by those who need to sell you new shit.

Then you can be just like me!