My name is Tim Gribble and I’m an age group triathlete, TT cyclist and an active product tester. Recent products I’ve tested include Rudy Project Wing 57 and Boost 01 helmets and the TitanFlex TF-20 boom bike.
My testing philosophy is simple: Go out and ride! Wing Tunnel data is good, but race conditions can’t be simulated in the tunnel and often times the aero profile changes completely once you have an actual rider versus a dummy on the bike (or wearing the helmet).
My testing procedure is all based on power numbers and time to ensure accuracy. I’ve recently relocated due to work and have the ideal environment for product testing. I ride on a three mile, closed to traffic course, loop. It’s paved and the only vehicles allowed in the vicinity are work related and they only move during specific times of the day.
Blade X Cycle has done an incredible job with the new packaging method used to protect their products. They use an innovative and space saving bubble-wrap that protects the wheels from side impact that will inevitably occur during shipping. My package was shipped from the warehouse in China to the U.S. and then forwarded to Europe and ultimately made it to Qatar. Not only did this package travel all over the world, it was roughly handled (as was evidenced by the indentations in the box), but the wheels came out perfectly! I filmed the opening and it can be seen on Youtube. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCbp2waGQMw ).
The box itself contained the wheels, two skewers, extra spokes & nipples and specially designed brake pads. All of the items were in perfect shape and the quantities shipped, matched the amounts found on the shipping invoice. So far my SDM 6X9 wheels have over 1000miles, 4 triathlons and two cycling races on them and I haven’t needed to replace any of the spokes or nipples, but it’s great have extras just in case.
Speaking of the spokes and nipples, I want to take a few lines and talk about how tru these wheels are. Before getting into that though, let me validate this opinion by stating that I was a professional bicycle mechanic in THE most high-end triathlon store in the Mid-West of the United States for several years. With that now established , let’s get back to the wheels. Due to the nature of supply chain distribution and delivery, it’s guaranteed that regardless of the carrier, all packages are very roughly handled. So much in fact, that every wheel shipment I received while working in the industry had to be checked for truness before the product went on sale. Well over two-thirds of ALL shipments from the “major” wheel manufactures had to be re-trued before the wheels could go on display. Not the case with my BladeX wheels. They were perfectly tru right out of the box and maintained that state until very recently when I peddled right into a 5 inch deep hole at 35 miles per hour. The wheels absorbed the shock very well and only slightly developed a lateral pull on one side. A very simple truing adjustment took care of this problem and the wheel has maintained its truness ever since. ALL wheels will eventually lose their tru. Quality wheels will be responsive to adjustments AND maintain that adjustment for a very long period of times. These wheels do exactly that!
Let’s talk about “wheel spinning.” What is “wheel spinning,” how is it tested, what materials are responsible for quality wheel spinning and how can it be maintained? Those are questions that need to be answered because they impact EVERY wheel and are factors in EVERY ride.
“Wheel spinning” refers to how well the wheel rotates around its axel or hub. While that seems pretty straight forward, there are several factors that influence the quality of spin; the leading factor being the hub bearings. When wheel hubs need rebuilt, it’s usually because the bearing have gone bad. That can be caused by a number of factors, primarily the bearing material. The three main type of bearings are; polymer composite (basically just plastic and carbon), steel and ceramic. The composite bearings wear our quickly and need replaced often. They are typically used in very cheap wheels. Steel bearings are the most common because they are cheap, have a decent shelf-life and are easy to maintain. Ceramic bearings are the highest quality and produce the smoothest, most consistent ride in all conditions.
BladeX wheels are built using high quality ceramic bearings with two casings in the front wheel and five in the back. The bearings are nearly perfect in roundness and will essentially spin forever. Despite riding in all weather conditions and on several road types, my wheels have ZERO spin issues and are nowhere near needing to be repacked.
One of the biggest issues with carbon wheels-specifically with carbon braking surfaces is rim failure due to excessive braking. Back in July, I raced in a 20mile road race and a 10 mile time trial on the same day. The courses were incredibly hilly and it was raining the whole time. Those are the conditions that riders have to brake in…a lot. I did have to break a lot, especially on the down-hills leading into turns to safely maneuver around. Despite the speed and wet roads, the wheels remained responsive to the braking and I was never worried about them overheating (and subsequently failing). BladeX has coated the brake surface with an extra layer of specially formulated basalt fiber to reduce overheating, while maintaining responsiveness. That extra layer is the difference between safe, high-speed braking versus rim failure and a crash. Another key safety aspect with these wheels is how well-balanced they are when descending at fast speeds. I recently completed a block of altitude training and hit a couple of stretches where the downhill speeds topped’ 48mph. The wheels remained balanced and never developed a ‘wobble’ throughout the ride. It’s much easier to ride at fast speeds, especially downhill knowing the wheels will respond appropriately. Trusting my equipment allows me to focus on going fast and winning races! and winning races!