The new Cannondale SuperX disc brake equipped cyclocross bike that I got a few weeks ago was really, really good out of the box. It fit great, was crazy light, the SRAM Red components work flawlessly and the brakes are amazing. It proved it's worth to me at the first cyclocross race I raced on it, Verge New England Green Mountain cyclocross race, which was hilly, dry and fast. The brakes made a huge difference at least as much in confidence as in performance. The bike is crazy light and super stuff and fits awesome. So how does one improve upon that?
For me there was only one obvious place, the wheels given that the bike came with clinchers, albeit tubeless compatible ones. A new set of tubular wheels and tires to be exact. For cyclocross racing the Holy Grail of tire choices has always been tubulars. Team TwoAdventures has been running them for a number of years and although there are some drawbacks, the advantages far outweigh them. The concept of tubeless was novel, but I quickly learned it to be much better in theory than in practice. This little life lesson was learned the hard way, during an important (aren't they all) race, where I had good position in the lead group better than half way through the race.
It was after this race, day 1 of the the Green Mountain cyclocross weekend. I was lamenting the tire setup choice and also discouraged at the fact that there appeared to be no physical offerings available for tubular disc wheels, beyond buying super expensive carbon hoops and lacing them to MTB disc hubs by hand. Not that big a deal but sourcing all of the parts was some work as was building up the deep section carbon rims. I mentioned this to Big Al from Bikeman and he quickly replied that he'd had the foresight to outsource a custom build of 38mm carbon tubular hoops laced to MTB disc hubs with double butted DT spokes for Bikeman to be sold under the Carver brand. Al said that the wheels were under 1400g per pair and that they are sold at a price-point that is very attractive. He also had them in stock and told me to give him a call on Monday. I did and two new sets of wheels arrived directly from the Maine coast at the house on Tuesday. The two sets were not all mine of course, one set is for Cathy's new bike, a 52cm Cannondale SuperX disc, just like mine, that Chris and the Bikeway Source hooked us up with as well. You know how it goes around our place, everything comes in pairs.
Cathy and I did marathon prep and glue sessions on Thursday and Friday evenings to get the new Clement PDX tires ready to roll on the new Carver wheels. The sets looked great and the construction and finish was very good. Tolerances seemed perfect, the wheels were true and the bearing rolled smoothly. We mounted up some new 140mm Ashima superlight disc brake rotors front and rear, switching from the stock 160mm on the front. My thought was that it would be plenty of force for cyclocross and it turned out that I was right, it was. The 140mm rotor afforded plenty stopping power and reduced the weight a bit. After a few rides a the sets still looked true and were silky smooth.
My bike is now 5/8 lbs. lighter than it was stock, which means that the 58cm bike is sub 17 lbs. complete with SPD pedals. It is incredible. I'd love to say that my performance in the mud this past weekend at the Gran Prix of Gloucester (story is on the way for those who care, really) was all about me and my mad MTB skills as a mudder. The truth is that the bike was a darn near unfair advantage. Many thanks to Chris and Al for the incredible equipment that we have this season. It's making a difference. I can't say enough good things about it. More info about the setup to come as the season progresses. For now though I need to try and find a PDX tubular to replace the one that I punctured on Saturday AM in my warmup at Gloucester. Not a great was to start the race weekend.