Monday, March 10, 2014
Here's the easiest product review I could ever write. It's for the Shimano Dura-Ace C35 carbon tubular wheelset for bicycles.
I acquired a set of these from a friend of the Jon Page, who was liquidating his cache of useless, antiquated ten-speed race wheels. Mildly used, they were a tremendous bargain and despite being in no way worthy of racing these, I resolved to race them anyway because otherwise what is the point.
In need of tires and having grown tired of caring for Challenge cyclocross tires (dude, I can't deal with sidewalls going to hell anymore, they go way before the tread does for me because I don't ride enough), I homed in on the Clement MXP. These were interesting in that they are all-rubber construction, meaning no sidewall treatment required. Also interesting because this construction yields a sealed membrane that does not require an inner tube. It is effectively a tubeless tubular, it is weird, it sounded durable, I was willing to pay for weird and durable wrapped in the idea of a do-it-all MXP tread pattern. People had been going nuts for the PDX and I was hedging that they couldn't screw up MXP.
I had the tires mounted by a competent LBS since I have a toddler and FULLY understand time/value propositions. The mechanic who worked on them told me they were exceptionally easy to work with, and I had heard that before.
Carbon rims and Dura-Ace hubs. In the beginning, I just stare at them a lot, the way a child covets a toy. You're kind of like, should I even ride these, or just keep them in my basement and cast lusting glances at them when I happen to be down there doing the laundry or cleaning the litter box. I should ride them.
C35 has been very popular in European cyclocross. I wondered what you may have wondered - it's what you wonder about most pro spec'd equipment - do mechanics just toss these in the dumpster every time Sven takes a pit bike, or can I beat the shit out of them.
They are the real deal. I raced them five times last year and once or twice had that moment where you hit something or run over something hard enough to remember to check them, because you're sure something happened to them. Nothing happened to them. Did not crack, did not break, did not go out of true. They are tough. They did not care that I am 180lbs. There are fragile carbon wheels out there, but these are not them.
Also worth noting, they had been raced before by an actual professional. They withstood the force of a nuclear reactor; now their lot in life is to hold up under the power of a 9-volt battery.
Also, they are fast. Some wheels are fast, and some wheels are fast but they also feel fast. These are feel fast. I first sensed this in a race where I had my head down, "trying to motor away". Before I knew it I was into the tape of a turn that I was expecting to arrive later than it did. You have to pay attention because if the terrain is straight and flat, they will go. I picked this up again during an on-road warm-up for another race; same kind of thing where I'm not really paying attention and then all of a sudden I realize hey, holy shit I'm really humming along right now. Right there I wished I had these on my road bike. To be totally honest, I wouldn't mind at all if, when the MXPs are finally worn out, I do just that. The C35s would be even more fun on pavement. A lot more of what they do well is sure to shine through once you peel off the tape, extra glue, and extra half pound or so of tire weight. With all of that "baggage" they still feel pretty damn light.
Brand new, all of it is sooo spendy. The wheels retail for $bonkers. If you can make it work, poach a deal somewhere, you are going to be a happy person. If you find them used, you could feel reasonably assured that, if in good shape, they'll stay that way.
The tires cost more than most; not as much as some you can argue, but generally on the high side of cyclocross tubulars. The grip in a turn is no-joke confidence inspiring. The sidewalls are not "dreamy compliant" (down pillows and boobs) at the same pressure as a cotton casing, but that is pretty well equalized by...taking some air out. Worth every penny with no reservations, this is a go-to tire.